Bingo is one of those things like language, culture, civilisation, and Noel Edmonds that people take for granted have always existed. But, just like all of those things – yes, the legendary presenter hasn’t always been the bearded icon of today – bingo had a starting point. Allow us to take you on a journey right back to the very beginning, many years before the words Kelly’s Eye and Two Fat Ladies were ever uttered.
Some bingo historians pinpoint the earliest known bingo game to the year 1530 in Italy. It then spread over to France where it was known as Le Lotto. Bingo purists may argue that these games shared more similarities with lotteries than modern-day bingo, though. The tombola system of selecting balls was probably brought in around the 18th Century, and this is when the game began to spread to Great Britain as well.
The modern version of bingo that we know and love today is said to have come about in carnivals and fairs throughout the 1920s. The actual name, bingo, was a term used in British slang among custom officers when they completed a successful search. So it appears to have been appropriated as a way of announcing success in a game of bingo.
The man who claimed to have initially used the word bingo for the lottery-like game was Hugh J. Ward, who marketed games at carnivals in the 1920s. Much later, in 1942, Erwin S. Lowe patented the bingo card design that is so well known today.
One of the key players in the lead up to the golden age of bingo in the UK was Eric Morley, who introduced bingo to 60 of his dancehalls across the country in 1961. This was in response to the Betting and Gaming Act in 1960 that legalised large cash prizes. The rest, as they say, is history. Bingo became so popular in the country at this time that other buildings, such as cinemas and libraries, were even transformed into bingo halls.
Although we’ve given you a comprehensive rundown of how bingo became the behemoth of an industry it is today, you may have noticed that we haven’t actually got round to answering the main question posed at the start of this post. And that would be; who invented bingo?
Well, eagle-eyed reader, the problem with that is the fact that nobody really knows. The game’s origins can’t really be traced back to a heroic genius with one of the greatest ideas the world has ever seen. Instead, it has evolved and morphed into the wonderful game of today through decades of technological and societal advances.
You would have to argue that the game of bingo was invented by a few key players who pushed the industry on at the right times. These were Ward, who coined the name, Lowe, who patented the bingo card, and Morley, who introduced the game en masse across the country.
With everything considered, though, does it really matter who invented bingo? Let’s just be grateful that one of the greatest games in the world exists in the first place.