The origins of gambling
Anthropologists agree that data collected in the 20th century demonstrated that gambling took place within a large portion of the population of the greatest societies to have existed. Historical and archaeological evidence validate the existence of gambling throughout the ages and culture of most civilisations.
Earliest exhibits of gambling are dated as far back as 2300 B.C. in ancient China where gambling artefacts have been excavated.
A set of ivory dice dating from before 1500 BC were salvaged from Thebes, while specific writings mentioning gambling were found on a tablet in the Pyramid of Cheops.
First trace of gambling in England
In the UK, evidences in the form of legal documents show that in 1388, Richard II forced the people to spend money on military items rather than on gambling.
Further documents reveal that in the 14th century King Henry VIII was known as an avid gambler and dice player during his life time. He would gamble huge amounts of money ranging from 5,000 to 500,000 pounds! However the king did outlaw gambling on the ground that it weakened military ability and disrupted social order.
The origins of Bingo
Bingo is derived from lottery games. Some researches indicate that the early form of lotteries was played as far as the Roman time. Lotteries go so far back as the bible in which various paragraph mention the game. Caesar is known to have adopted lottery games to fund the repair needed to be undertaken in Rome. Legend has it that even the Great Wall of China was paid for by the proceeds of lottery games
An Italian Beginning
Many years had passed since the Roman era when the first Italian lottery in which tickets were purchased for money is often said to have taken place in Florence in 1530.
However, the Italian historian Alberto Fiorin refers to the Venetian chronicler, Marin Sanudo, whose diaries provide a vivid account of the origin of an earlier lottery and of its fascination for the worldly citizens of Venice. On February 18th, 1522, Sanudo identified the initiator of the paid lottery as Geronimo Bambarara, a second-hand clothes dealer. Geronimo created “a new method of commerce” by offering a chance at carpets and money prizes for any who ventured an entry fee—at first only 20 soldi, then an entire ducat. At first, the idea began in a small way but before long, an entire district in Venice (Rialto) was filled with nothing but lottery hawkers and players, and the cash prizes had increased from 200 to 1,500 ducats.
A further 5 City authorities soon moved to suppress these raucous draws and appropriated the lottery business themselves. The Venetian Republic began running its own lotteries with prizes of cash, merchandise, real estate, and even government offices, including the right to collect taxes and tolls. This form of lottery, though it offered bettors a chance to score huge prizes, was hardly gratifying. Lottery drawings were drawn out, in a numb and dull way , and far from efficient. Tickets were not numbered; each bettor instead wrote his or her name or personal motto on a slip of paper, which went into one urn. Into the other urn went slips of paper bearing the word pacientia, patience, meaning “better luck tomorrow,” or precio, prize, and a description of the prize won. Other Italian principalities, such as Venice, Milan, and Naples, copied the Genoese lotto model in 1665, and for a while it flourished both in Italy and Germany. Surviving initial papal denunciations, the lottery won a new measure of legitimacy when, in1732, the papacy permitted the establishment of a Roman lottery in 1732.
The lottery started to spread on all continents and in particular in France.
Birth of an early bingo form in France
Although the first public French lottery was organised by François I on 1st May 1539, the golden age are documented to be between 1715 and 1776.
At the time, it was the wealthy French bourgeoisie and elite who subscribed to the game. In 1774 the first attempt to a national lottery (“la Loterie de l’école Militaire) was created by the initiatives of Mme de Pompadour to finance the development of the “champ de mars” and build a military school (where a so called Napoléon Bonaparte would later study). Louis XVI decided to abolish it in September 1776 in orders in to create a Royal National lottery launched in October 1776 which would finance wars and other investment benefiting the monarchy. The concept was extremely successful and popular and each draw was eagerly awaited by both the people and a gambler elite prepared to spent large sum of money. Even the revolution events did not deviate the eagerness and passion for the game. Indeed, reportedly, 2 days after the Bastille was captured, a vast Parisian crowd gathered to play the monthly lottery draw.
The lottery is suppressed in 1791-93 and re-appeared in September 1797 by the name “loterie nationale de France”. It is during the golden age that the game imported from Italy, evolved and shaped into the modern bingo. The classic version of 'Le Loto' involved a playing card which was divided into 3 horizontal lines and 9 vertical columns (just like today’s Bingo 90 balls). Each row had 5 numbered and 4 blank squares in a random arrangement. The columns contained numbers from 1-10 (1st column), 11-20 (2nd column), and so on, up to 90; and, just like modern bingo, each card was unique. The numbers (1-90) were written on chips made from clay or wood, and they were drawn out of a bag or later on a dedicated device.
Bingo in Germany
Derived versions of “le loto” appeared in Germany in the 19th century, however instead of being played as a gambling game, the germans used the concept for educational purposes. It was used to teach children their time table but also geography, math, spelling and history.
Bingo began to spread across Europe, although the gambling aspect of the game as we know it was fairly dormant and non document until its discovery in the USA in 1929.
Beano Discovery by Edwin S. Lowe
Bingo or Beano as it was called at the time, was discovered in Jacksonville, Ga. In 1929 by Edwin S. Lowe a New York toy salesman. It’s 1929 and a weary and stressed toy salesman by the name of Edwin S. Lowe is driving to Jacksonville, Georgia to prepare for some appointments. Soon after starting his own toy company a year earlier, the market crashed and Mr Lowe’s prospects were looking very bleak indeed.
Before arriving in Jacksonville, Lowe decided to cheer himself up by stopping off at a country carnival, being a night early for his appointments.
Only one carnival booth was open and very crowded. The excitement seemed to be generated by a game that was a variation of Lotto, known as Beano.
A horseshoe table was covered with numbered cards and beans. Every time a pitchman pulled a wooden disk from an old cigar box and called the number on it, the players reached for a bean and covered the corresponding number on their card, if they had it. When they had totally covered a line, either diagonally, vertically or horizontally, they had to shout Beano! They then received a doll.
Lowe wanted to play, but the game was too popular and no seats were available.
What he did notice though was that all the players seemed to be addicted to the game. The pitchman was not able to close and had to eventually chase the players away at 3:00am. The pitchman had apparently picked the game of Lotto in Germany and decided to adapt and bring it to the United States and to rename it Beano. The success of the game on the carnival circuit proved to be highly lucrative
Edwin S. Lowe and Bingo
Back in New York, Lowe invited some friends to his apartment and introduced them to the game. The tension seemed palpable. One time, a player became close to winning and was getting more and more excited. When her final number was called she jumped up in a fit of ecstasy and in all her excitement got herself tongue-tied. Instead of shouting Beano she spat out “Bingo!” Lowe would later describe the “sense of elation” he experienced when he heard her cry. He knew from that moment he was going to introduce this game to the public and name it “Bingo”.
What a success it proved to be for Lowe and his company! As the game came out of the public domain it was hard for it to be trademarked. Entreponeurs emerged from all sides and began their own versions. Lowe graciously asked them to pay just one dollar a year and call their games “Bingo” as well. To avoid litigation, this seemed a small price to pay and hence the massive spread and popular interest in bingo.
Lowe became aware of the fundraising possibilities of bingo after he was approached by a parishioner who wanted to use the game to raise funds.
Bingo, a regular activity at churches!
However, there seemed to be a problem when he discovered that each game tended to produce at least a half a dozen winners. Lowe knew that in order for bingo to succeed and a larger scale he needed to develop a greater number of combinations for his cards. So he approached a mathematics professor at Columbia University by the name of Carl Leffler. Lowe wanted 6,000 new cards with different combinations. The professor agreed. What he may not have conceptualised was how much harder each card became to develop than the card before. The fee per card rose to $100 and the task was finally completed, much to Lowe’s delight and at a cost to the professor of his sanity! (Or so many people have speculated).
After that, bingo really began to take off. People started to approach Lowe in droves, asking him to help them develop bingo games. Newsletters and even a book were published. The stakes and prizes got higher and pretty soon bingo took its place in popular American culture.
Bingo games started to be played in churches it became even more popular. In the 1940s the game sprung across the country.
Bingo in the UK
From its 20th century American origins, Bingo began to move throughout the states as well as into other regions of the world, marketed as a fun game of chance. Bingo became especially popular in the United Kingdom in the 1960s. There were several events that led to its growing popularity in Britain which happened politically as well as culturally.
The dawn of the golden age for Bingo in the United Kingdom was with the Gaming Act of 1968. This gave several regulations in relation to gaming and gambling. The major rule that was set stated that gaming should be only in public places unless it was authorized as an exception. The second part of this act was that income that came out of gaming would need to be regulated with conditions applied to gaming in the public areas. From this Gaming Act, clubs were able to play cash Bingo with tabletop coin slots as well as provide awards for those playing the game.
The United Kingdom quickly began to build Bingo halls in order to accommodate the new policies as well as capitalise on the increasing popularity of Bingo. A number of people who were interested in Bingo in the UK looked at the Gaming Act as a quick opportunity to open a new business to the public with different card games available.
There was a rapid expansion of opening Bingo halls in the United Kingdom during the late 60s and early 70s. Many of the older cinemas, theatres and dancehalls that were not in use were transformed into shiny new Bingo halls. There were a number of hall who would split the use of the hall with gaming areas and cinema shows in other parts of the building, allowing for them to offer a wide variety of entertainment for different crowds.
The UK also took Bingo and made it fancier for the halls. Instead of drawing paper numbers from a hat, they would take
glass cabinets with Bingo blowers to select the numbers, then random number generators.
The halls took on the role of cheap and cheerful entertainment for many in the working classes, lured by big money prizes, glitzy decor and community spirit. Glamour and seaside entertainment became part and parcel of the Bingo experience.
By the 1980s, the game was firmly established as a social favourite in the UK. As well as the take over of old cinemas and ice rinks, there were a growing number of new halls built specifically for Bingo, adding more sophistication and a variety of games for the public.
In the decades following the gaming act of 1968, chains like Top Rank, Gala and Mecca as well as a number of regional chains grew their popular mixture of the large new halls as well as smaller older Bingo hall locations.
A range of regionally owned Bingo halls can be seen throughout the various areas of the United Kingdom and are as well know locally as the big chains of the Bingo industry. These days Gala is known to be the largest operating Bingo hall chain in the UK. All of these Bingo halls have unique atmospheres and cultures, but keep to the standard UK Bingo lingo and game style. The old style number names are most noticeable by their absence these days.
As well as the continuing popularity of real world Bingo halls, the online profile of the game is starting to explode. Online Bingo is becoming popular throughout the UK and the world, allowing for Bingo halls and online Bingo companies to grow with their options for Bingo players.
Online Bingo hopes to offer the same culture as real world Bingo halls. There are different types of Bingo cards that are being used, as well as prices and types that differ, depending on your level of expertise and individual desires. Whilst many worry about playing online, with sensible precautions it can be as safer than walking to the local Bingo hall. Not only that, but if you play online, companies should offer extra security on the sites to ensure that your money information won't be stolen from others.
Another popular part of the online Bingo culture is the ability to chat with others while waiting for your chance to win. This allows for the element of Bingo as a social event to be part of your online game.
Bingo has moved from a culture of being for a certain social status to being a popular game for all. Thanks to growing popularity with new market sectors and age groups, increasing big money prizes and a growing number of celebrity endorsements, the popularity of the game is not set to diminish in the near future. Its fair to say that for many years a number of online suppliers have failed to capitalise on the British audience's love of the game.
From 2005 to 2013 the number of online bingo operators has raised from 17 to over 350. The game which has lasted throughout centuries is continuing to grow and one can only predict that at the technological age we are in, Bingo golden age is at its infant stage!