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A brief history of bingo

editorial & artculture & photo…

24 August 2020


Some people have always loved a game of chance with a bit of excitement thrown in. And because that's bingo in a nutshell, that's the reason it is such a well-loved game. But although we understand what the game is today, along with its internet versions and with conventional bingo halls, do we know what it was like in the past? Here's a short history of bingo to give you more of an idea before you play online bingo for free.

16th Century

Bingo seems to have first come around in the 16th century, and it was in fact created by the Italian government in 1530. Initially it was a lottery, designed to make money for the authorities. As its popularity grew, it began to be played in different locations, and the original idea of why it existed was all but forgotten in this new, exciting pastime.


By the 1700s, bingo - or tombola as it was then known - had reached France. By this time, the game was much more like its current incarnation, along with a caller who would pull wooden chips out of a bag and shout out what he had in his hand. These chips, as you may expect, had numbers on them. The very first person to complete one row of numbers of their card was the winner.


It took a lot more time for the game to come across to Britain, first appearing in around the 1800s. It seems as though this came about via the navy who were in a position to travel and pick up a great deal much more info and practices from around the world and in foreign climes than most other people. Additionally, those on board ship were constantly searching for interesting and new ways to pass the time when they had been sailing; bingo was perfect as competitions might be set up and competition was rife.

US Influence

It appears that is it from America that the name' bingo' comes. In Britain it was more commonly known as ‘housey housey' so it's not surprising that the much more succinct and less hilarious ‘bingo' became a more used name.

The 1960s

Bingo actually really took off in the 1960s in the UK. This is when folks had a bit more disposable cash after the war, and when there was far more time to have some fun because there were numerous new pieces of technology which would assist with everyday chores. People would go with their neighbours, family, and friends to play bingo. It was a very social event,  and people would look forward to going and playing week after week. Everything stopped for bingo night!


Today bingo is quite different from its humble beginnings. You are able to now play online and on mobile apps which means more and more people are able to play. You don't have to head to a traditional bingo hall (although you can if you want to and can find one; they are closing fairly rapidly but they do still exist) and instead can play at home at any time you want to.