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The history of bingo

Bingo became especially popular in the UK in northern and seaside towns throughout the 20th century. And although the game had entered something of a decline in the 1980s and 1990s, it has enjoyed a huge resurgence with the advent of the internet. Today, there are thought to be over three million players playing online Bingo with operators such as Jackpotjoy Bingo regularly in the country!

Do you know that bingo has been with us in one form or another for close to five centuries. It can trace its origins back to 16th Century Italy and the "Lo Giuoco del Lotto d'Italia" which has been held weekly in the country ever since – almost without exception.

From Italy, the game gradually spread north to France where it became known as "Le Lotto" and was played mainly by the aristocracy. In 1778 the French press reported that Le Lotto had become popular with France's intelligentsia. The Lotto game during this period consisted of three horizontal and nine vertical rows of playing cards. Each horizontal row included five numbered squares and four blanks at random arrangement, whilst the vertical columns were numbered 1 to 10 in the first row, 11 to 20 in the second row etc., all the way up to 90.

No two cards were alike and chips numbering 1 to 90 completed the game's requisite equipment. Players were dealt a single card, then the Lotto caller would draw a numbered token from a cloth bag and read the number out as with modern bingo. The players would then cover the number if it was on their card and the first to cover an entire row won.

Meanwhile, a form of tombola was widely used during the 19th century in Germany as an educational tool to teach children maths (mainly multiplication) and spelling.

Versions of what we know as Bingo or Lotto evolved gradually throughout the western world. In America, Hugh J. Ward standardized the modern US game at carnivals around Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania areas during the early 1920s, going on to copyright "Bingo" and to write a book on the rules in 1933.

Meanwhile, toy salesman Edwin Lowe further popularized bingo. He discovered just how popular it was when visiting a carnival near Jacksonville, North Florida, in 1929. Returning to New York , he introduced the game to his friends and managed to gradually popularise it further across the northern United States. "Bingo" Lowe produced two versions of the game – one with a 12-card set for $1 and another with 24 cards for $2. By the 1940s, there were bingo games all over the country. Lowe even requested that his competitors paid $1 a year to conduct games and to use the Bingo name – with mixed success. Nevertheless, the name "Bingo" is known to have been used in the UK as far back as the 1770s, though no-one is entirely sure of its exact origins.

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