Bingo games initially started in Italy in the year 1530 courtesy of the “Lo Giuoco del Lotto D’ Italia, an early form of lottery or lotto that eventually crossed over to France sometime in the 1700’s. Renamed Le Lotto, the game featured several new additions, including the use of playing cards, tokens, and a game presider who served as the official number caller. It was then a highly exclusive game as getting to play it was restricted to wealthy Frenchmen.

Nevertheless, when Le Lotto reached German shores sometime during the 1800’s, the game assumed an entirely different personality. Under German hands, the game became more of an educational tool as it was used to help students learn the basics of math and spelling with relative ease.

Vintage Bingo
Bingo History

In 1929, the game came to North America where it re-assumed its gaming personality. Initially, it was given the name beano by the Native Americans in reference to the dried beans often used to mark the numbers found on the lotto cards.

Beano was said to have been first played at a carnival in Atlanta, Georgia. Its present name bingo was largely a result of an accident when an anonymous player shouted bingo rather than beano, an incident overheard by Edwin Lowe, then a visiting New York-based toy salesman.


After examining the game basics, Lowe sought the help of Carl Leffler, then a math professor at Columbia University, in creating more game card combinations. Apparently, the work interested Leffler so much that by 1930, he has successfully come up with 6,000 different number combinations. Unfortunately, the feat was also said to have been the reason why Leffler eventually went insane.


Not long after that, Lowe got to meet a Pennsylvania-based Catholic priest who found bingo games an interesting way to raise church funds. This led to the eventual close link that bingo consequently developed with the church and with charitable activities in general. More significantly, however, this further added to the growing popularity that bingo, at that time, was enjoying, with about 10,000 games being played per week in 1934 alone.


From North America, bingo moved over to the United Kingdom where it likewise enjoyed immense popularity. In 1968, UK legalized bingo with the passage of the Gaming Act of 1968. Shortly thereafter, numerous bingo halls started sprouting in many parts of the British islands.


Interestingly, the UK bingo games, as played today, appear to be modern interpretations of the original bingo games initially played in Italy. The Italian version, quite popular during the 1800’s, involved the use of a card having 100 squares arranged into 12 rows, three horizontal and nine vertical.

The horizontal rows were composed of four blank squares aside from five additional ones that carried numbers. For a player to win, he has to completely fill one horizontal row with wooden chips, a process quite similar to how bingo is being played today by the British.  

Additionally, when playing UK bingo, some common nicknames are usually attached to certain numbers which callers often make use of to add spice to the game. For example, instead of saying “six”, a caller will refer to the number as “chopsticks” or “just a click”. Other popular calling nicknames used in UK-based bingo games are hope in heaven and lucky for some for #7; knock at the door for #4; Dixie Lee, my little fly, one little flea, and cup of tea for #3; one little duck for #2; and on its own, Kelly’s Eye, start the game, and at the beginning for #1.  

Nevertheless, the use of nicknames in bingo games, particularly in the UK, has somewhat decreased as more convenient drawing systems like the RNG became the norm. Additionally, simple repetition patterns like “three and five, thirty five” has also allowed many bingo centers to speed up the game and offer more exciting opportunities for bingo fanatics.