Posted September 6, 2013 by John Baintree in News

The History of Bingo

Bingo (also known as Lotto) has long been a popular game in the UK – there are bingo halls on local High Streets everywhere.  We probably all remember visits to the funfair as kids where the adults would sit down at the bingo for a game or two, trying to win cuddly toys or household items that would be stacked high behind the bingo caller in all their glory.  Bingo is big business in the UK and even the National Lottery has got in on the act with its instant win, online bingo.

Buongiorno Bingo

It’s thought that Bingo began in Italy in the 1500s as a lottery to raise funds for government and then spread to the UK via France and other parts of Europe.  The Italian National Lottery (Lo Giuoco del Lotto Italia) began in 1530 and has been held every week since then almost without interruption.

In 1778 French press reports revealed that Le Lotto was all the rage with the aristocracy and the intelligentsia.  Bingo in the format that we know and love in the UK derives from a game played in 19th Century Germany that was used as an educational tool to help kids learn to count, multiply and spell.

In 1929 Bingo travelled to America where the game was ‘tweaked’ to suit an American market.  US bingo is played with 75 balls, rather than the traditional 90 ball bingo played in the UK and Europe.

A Salutary Tale

However, in most places Bingo is seen as a game of chance and primarily a commercial activity so it’s regulated by gaming laws.  UK law (Gambling Act 2005) only allows Bingo to be played on registered and licensed premises and you have to be 18 years of age or more to play.

Other countries around the world have their own gambling legislation as some British holidaymakers in Portugal discovered earlier this year.  A group of British and Irish expats were raided by Portuguese police recently when they were discovered in a Yorkshire Tavern in the town of Albufeira playing Bingo for biscuits!  The Yorkshire born landlady of the tavern was fined €700 (and received a suspended prison sentence) for illegal gambling.   In all 28 people appeared in the local court facing charges of ‘exploitation of illegal gambling’.  Other customers in the tavern who weren’t involved in the game were told that they could be fined €150 (with suspended sentences) just for the criminal act of ‘witnessing illegal gambling’.

online-bingoBingo Boom in the UK

Bingo in the UK enjoyed a boom in popularity in the post war fifties and sixties with a number of cinema companies opening halls as an extra source of revenue and, increasingly cinemas being converted to bingo halls as TV took over and theatre audiences declined.

Bingo Brought up to Date

Now we’re in the Digital Age, Bingo has grown up and online bingo games are growing in popularity both in the UK and abroad.  However, Bingo halls are still popular venues for an evening of entertainment.  And, it’s not just the blue rinse brigade who are filling the UKs bingo halls in the evenings – the young and trendy have come to enjoy the game.  It’s quite common to see groups of friends in their twenties and thirties on their way into the local bingo hall for a night out – it’s social and it’s fun – what more could you ask for?