The Origins of Bingo!

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The history of bingo!

The history of bingo, unlike many other casino games such as blackjack and baccarat, isn’t shrouded in history. In fact, bingo has a very clear and simple timeline which is well documented.

In 1929, Edwin S. Lowe – New York Toy salesman – decided to drive ahead of his schedule so he could catch some sleep before his next appointment. As he was leaving Jacksonville, Georgia, he decided to stop of at a carnival that had attracted a large crowd, as late as it was in the evening. As he approached the only stall that was open he felt an atmosphere of excitement he never experienced before. Standing on his tip-toes he looked over to see a lone man, a cigar box and five individuals sat a table hunched over number tables. This was beano, and it was to set off a craze never experienced in the US.

The gentleman stood with the cigar box would pull small disks out and read the numbers out loud. The players at the table would then cover their number – if matched with the caller – with a bean, and the first person to completely cover their table shouts ‘beano.’ They would win a teddy!bear – a far cry from what’s on offer nowadays!

Lowe couldn’t get a seat that night, but when he caught the business owner at closing time he was informed that he came across the game in Germany and after a few tweaks was so popular he brought it back over to the States. Lowe had found his game, and made way to New York with a spring in his step.

Bingo!

When Lowe returned to his home in New York, he armed himself with a numbered rubber stamp, some cardboard and a selection of dried beans. He then invited his friends over for a game of beano and as predicted, they were hooked. He recalls one night when one of his friends was a few beans off winning. As she got closer and closer to winning he noticed a look of joy on her face he had never seen before. When she won she got so tongue tied that she didn’t say ‘beano’, but ‘bingo’. At that moment Lowe knew he had a name for his game.

Lowe initially sold bingo cards (along with beans) in two ways: 1 dollar for 12 and 2 dollars for 24. The game took off instantly and within a few months Lowe became extremely wealthy indeed. Soon enough everybody wanted bingo cards, including one Father Wilkes-Barre, who hoped to use bingo as a means of funding his church. Unfortunately, Lowe’s game was producing too many winners per game and needed a way to diversify. So, to create a bunch of cards that were unique he acquired the help of Carl Leffler, mathematician at Columbia University, to create 6000 unique cards. This was an easy job for the professor and in just a few weeks Lowe had his cards, and his new business.

In just a few years, there were 10,000 bingo games being played each week and Lowe’s business had thousands of employees, attempting to keep up with this new found craze. It just goes to show that games such as keno and bingo have the strangest of origin.