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Bingo – History of the Game and its Origin

The Origin Story of Bingo

Bingo halls are a traditional form of mixing socialising with entertainment, and one of the few forms of betting that has more women than men into it. But where did bingo start, and how did it evolve into the modern game?

Bingo Variations

Just as some common birds have the same name in the United Kingdom and the United States but are actually completely different species, so too is bingo not quite the same deal. The difference between the two is not quite so stark as the difference between football on opposite sides of the Atlantic, however. The UK version (with which this history is concerned) is a 90 ball game, whereas the US edition is 75 ball which does lead to some ticketing differences and other variations in basic concepts.

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The Origins of Bingo

A lot of the oldest gambling games originated in France, including multiple card games and roulette, but bingo’s birthplace seems to be Italy (although it’s so long ago that being completely certain is impossible). The likeliest genesis of bingo is the Italian lottery in the 16 th century, with the game spreading to France and then other nations (taking until the 18 th century to cross the English Channel).

Much as in a modern bingo hall, the Italian lottery involved numbers being called out and marked off. When it comes to the modern version of the game (despite being in the early 20 th century) things are oddly even more opaque, but seem to involve what is recognisably bingo being played initially at carnivals and fairs. The name itself seems to derive from the exclamation of success after a search, and was attached to the game as a marketing ploy.

The 1960 Betting and Gaming Act

A watershed moment in the evolution of bingo within the British Isles was the Betting and Gaming Act of 1960. This enabled the winning of significant prizes (in cash) and in 1961 one of the names synonymous with bingo betting in the UK was launched: Mecca Bingo. Eric Morley was the owner of both the brand and a large number of dance halls, into many of which he introduced bingo.

Mecca Bingo was not the only show in town at this early stage of bingo’s popular growth, as The Rank Organisation was also bringing bingo into both dance halls and cinemas. Although it came along much later (1991), Gala Bingo is another of the major players in the UK market, with Mecca now part of The Rank Group.

In more recent years, bingo halls have offered electronic gaming which facilitate the purchase of more tickets (previously half a dozen was the limit). In addition, the electronic tickets are automatically marked as numbers come up, which some consider a convenience and others view as technology eating into the fun a little. The overall cost tends to be higher, but the price per ticket is lower.

Recent Challenges and Resurgence

Online bingo certainly makes playing more convenient, but there is a certain charm to the traditional way of playing, which also has certain tips and tricks players adopt to try and finish ahead that do not translate into online versions.

It’s a little ironic that many online casinos focus on having the latest slots and newest technology, from smartphone support and live dealer tables to a few VR games, given that bingo (originally from the 16 th century) has recently become increasingly popular to play online. Part of this was enforced, of course, by pandemic restrictions which meant that bingo halls were suddenly totally inaccessible, and betting sites have never been slow to take advantage of opportunities. Thankfully things have since recovered, and it’s now possible to play bingo in person once again.

From the depths of history in Renaissance Italy to the modern era of using the internet to cope with pandemic restrictions, bingo has been hugely popular throughout Europe for many years, and is now offered at more and more online betting sites.

About the Author: overthings

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