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Online bingo's rich history

Bingo cards by sarae, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License  by  sarae 

Today bingo is one of the most popular games you'll find being played on online gaming sites and casinos worldwide. People of all ages and both sexes play bingo on their way home from work, when they've got some time to kill waiting for an appointment, or as a way to relax during the evening or at the weekend. Whereas only a decade ago, it seemed like bingo was going out of fashion and the number of places you could play had drastically reduced, now, with the proliferation of different gaming sites, bingo has undergone an online renaissance.

Now, not only can you play to win huge cash jackpot prizes on many bingo games, but you can also play some free bingo games just for fun when the mood takes you. Some of the top prizes really are life-changing amounts, but many of the people who play aren't thinking about winning mega-bucks with bingo, they're playing more for the entertainment value and the chance it gives to socialise with other players online.

Many younger bingo players will only ever have played bingo online, and they may be unaware of its historical roots. But bingo is a game that has been around for centuries, in one form or another. The oldest game that bears a close resemblance to bingo as it is played today is an Italian lottery game played back in the 1500s. 'Lo Gioco del Lotto d'Italia' was a game that quickly grew in popularity and spread to other countries in Europe. One of the early game cards had three rows and nine columns, and there were four empty spaces on each row. Players covered numbers on their cards as they were called out, by a caller with wooden counters numbered from 1 to 90. To win, a player needed to be first to cover an entire row.

When Edwin S Lowe spotted a similar game being played in Georgia at a county fair, he saw the potential in this simple game. The game he watched had players covering the numbers on their cards with dried beans as they were called out, and the first to cover all their numbers shouted out 'Beano' and was declared the winner. According to legend, one lady was so excited to win that she shouted out 'Bingo' by accident. Lowe took the idea and worked together with mathematician Carl Leffler, who increased the number of different playing cards for bingo to more than 6,000 different combinations by 1930. Lowe's Bingo game spread through the States really quickly, driven by its popularity as a fundraising tool for US churches. By the mid-1930s, over 10,000 games were being played every week.

Bingo made its way to Britain and was legalised under the UK Gaming Act in 1968. By the mid-1980s, the National Bingo Game was being played simultaneously all over the nation and the prize amounts were enormous. Today, although 'the National' still goes on, there are numerous different places to play online bingo, and the variety of games that you can find is staggering. It looks like bingo has a long way to go yet!


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