Bingo History: From Beano to Bingo

It may be a surprise to find out that bingo started out in Italy, it being a household name today. It would be hard to find someone who does not know what bingo is, how it is played, or how it is played.

But it is more surprising to note that the game started of as a lottery upon the reunification of Italy. The Italian government sponsored a state lottery that they called "Lo Giuoco del Lotto D'Italia," which is still being played even today.

The game traveled to France, where it became a popular game among the French nobility. They called the game Le Lotto, and played it using numbered cards and wooden chips that also had numbers written on them.

The players each held a numbered card and the caller would then draw out a wooden chip, read the number on the chip out loud for all to hear, and the players would mark the number on their cards. Whoever was able top make a horizontal line with his marked numbers won.

The game was also a big hit in Germany in the 1800s, but for a different reason. German parents used the game to help their children learn math.

The game was first played in America in a carnival near Atlanta, Georgia. A traveling salesman named Edmund Lowe stopped by the carnival one night, and saw the game being played in one of the carnival booths. Intrigued, he asked the operator what the game was about, and how it was played. The game was called 'beano' by the operator. Players each held a card that was filled from top to bottom with numbered squares. A caller would then draw out a wooden chip from a cigar box and call out the number on the chip. The players would then mark the number on their cards with beans, hence the name 'beano'.

Soon Lowe was making his own 'beano' game set, and playing the game with his friends in New York. The game was a success among his friends that he decided to market it. He created beano cards that he sold for one or two dollars, and soon the people became hooked.

There was one problem however. Lowe was approached by a priest from Pennsylvania who told him that his church wanted to use the game as a fund raising activity for his church. The problem was, their games usually turned up with a dozen or more winners. He requested that Lowe create a series of cards with more complex combinations so that less winners will come out after each game. To help him solve this problem, Lowe approached a Columbia U. math professor named Carl Leffler, who agreed to take on the task.

By 1930 , he was able to create 6000 cards with non-repeating number combinations, but at the expense of his sanity. It is widely believed that he soon became insane afterwards.

The popularity of bingo soared when it started being played in churches for fund raisers. Now even young children love to play the game, and continues to be as popular today as ever before in bingo history.