The Global History of Bingo, and Its Unstoppable Success

By: Gen Wright

In 1530, the country of Italy instituted a new lottery called "Lo Giuoco del Lotto D'Italia." The game caught on with such fervor that it remains a staple of the country even to this day. It took over 200 years for the lotto to make it from Italy to France, but once it arrived, it possessed the same passionate following as in its home country. From France, it didn't take as long for the sensation to spread to Germany and the United States, where it came to be known by another name.

"Beano" is still one of the most popular games in the known world. Still, few really know about it. How could one of the most popular games out there also be one of the least known? It can be because many know the game under another name: the word "Bingo," a title it should have by all means never had. In the United States, Bingo became quite popular under its original name as a staple of county fairs and such.

Its relatively recent name - a United States creation - came about purely by accident. A toy salesman from New York by the name of Edwin S. Lowe was observing the game at a carnival. When a lady nabbed the winning combination, she was so excited that she blurted out the wrong word ("Bingo!"), and a legend was born. Lowe loved the name and took it back to his company, developing it as a card game to be sold in retail stores.

From that circumstance, the game grew in popularity, but still possessed a problem that could quickly spell disaster if Lowe could not get it fixed. That problem was the ease with which it could be won. People loved the challenge and luck involved. They loved the idea of getting closer and closer in a race against time before the other players stole victory from them. It was obvious to Lowe when he saw how excited the player had been who inadvertently renamed a game that was already hundreds of years old.

His concern led Lowe to hire an Ivy League math professor, Carl Leffler of Columbia University. Leffler seemed up to the challenge and tackled the task of making Bingo a more competitive and challenging game by adding to the number of combinations the cards possessed. By 1930, Bingo was considerably more challenging than it had ever been before with over 6,000 unique combinations. Leffler was no doubt enthusiastic for the cause Lowe had charged to him, but he had trouble keeping it together. In fact, legend has it that shortly after Leffler's perceived success, he went insane and never returned from the trip.

Despite Leffler's sacrifice, the history of Bingo developed into a strong present and an equally optimistic future. Today, Bingo remains a popular game all across the world, and it has even been used as a great fundraiser for churches and other non-profit organizations. Too much winning is no longer a problem, which makes it even more special when someone finally does, and gets to shout the iconic word: "Bingo!" You can even play online Bingo, but you'll just have to shout it to yourself!

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