The history of bingo tells us that the game can trace its origins back to 16th century Italy. The Germans also had a version of the game while the United States are very much responsible for developing bingo as we know it today. Many countries have contributed to a rich history, so just why is bingo largely thought of as being stereotypically British? Whether it’s 80-ball bingo, 75 ball or any other variant, the game is largely associated with a British following in the present day.
Bingo Takes Hold
Bingo is popular for many reasons: It’s fun to play and, because it’s based on chance, everyone has an equal chance of winning. It’s a level playing field and, when playing online, all those involved can walk away with the biggest prizes on offer.
This simple approach to gameplay saw bingo start to build dramatically in the US in the first half of the 20th century. When it reached the country in the 1920s it was known as ‘Beano’ and the game was first played at a carnival in Atlanta.
The man who takes credit for the game’s current name is a toy salesman from New York by the name of Edwin S. Lowe. It’s said that when a player completed their card, Lowe heard them call out ‘bingo’ by mistake.
The name sounded much better to Lowe, and he is responsible for taking bingo a stage further. Along with Carl Leffler, a math’s professor at Columbia University, Lowe extended the numbers on the card and his influence is pivotal to the game as we know it today.
So, bingo’s origins are in mainland Europe while development of the game gained most momentum in the United States. Why, therefore, is it considered to be so quintessentially British?
Bending the Rules
America has always enjoyed a mixed relationship with gambling: In most states, the practice has traditionally been outlawed with notable exceptions such as Nevada and New Jersey. Bingo has been something of a grey area there because it is a game of chance.
The nature of the game means that it is allowed to be played as a fund-raising activity in certain regions and it can be found in some unlikely places. Back in 1920s America, a pastor in Pennsylvania used bingo as a way of raising money for the church and many others have followed suit.
In the UK, churches would probably frown on such an approach but, across the region, bingo is thriving.
A Social Affair
Bingo’s great British boost began in the 1960s when laws pertaining to gambling started to be relaxed. The Betting and Gaming Act of 1960 led to the creation of the first physical betting shops while many famous bingo brands opened their doors to the public.
This was a nation that was rebuilding following the period of austerity that followed the Second World War. Rationing had ended in 1954 and the country was looking to a new decade to provide more fun and prosperity.
Bingo fitted that mood perfectly: It was fun, it helped players to make new friends and there was some significant prize money at stake. At that stage, the figures may not have been life changing but there was certainly enough of a prize fund for some lucky winners to pay for their night out.
The Digital Revolution
One of the toughest challenges for online bingo operators is to replicate that social atmosphere. Thanks to the lack of physical limitations, digital bingo can provide far more choice in terms of games and there can also be some serious jackpots in place.
In that sense, online play outstrips its physical counterpart and it’s also worked hard to provide a social platform for its players. Many sites now offer chat rooms where players can catch up and talk about any subject they like. Often, the topic of discussion will center on the latest games and where the best prizes might lie.
Online bingo play has thrived for a number of reasons and convenience is one, obvious aspect. Rather than make the effort of travelling to a physical bingo hall, players can access their favourite game from the comfort of their own home with just a few clicks of the mouse. Mobile play and apps have made the process even more streamlined, as you can literally play it on the go.
Online platforms also offer that wider choice of games together with great prizes, plus offers and promotions. It’s a growing sector and one that continues to look for new ways to innovate.
Staying ahead of the competition involves offering a better playing experience and one area that could play a part in bingo’s future is that of virtual reality. VR has been with us for some time and, while it’s yet to fully deliver on its potential, it could soon take a greater hold on some of our favourite pastimes.
In regard to bingo, that could mean offering the closest possible experience to that which the physical halls can produce.
While it may have been invented and developed in other parts of the world, bingo is seen as a British institution. This is where the game really took off from the 1960s onwards and the online community continue to embrace it in the present day. New technologies are definitely on their way, but they will always need to keep that social element alive when they look to improve on this classic game.