The History of B-I-N-G-O

Posted on December 13th, 2015 by John OKeeffe

Did you know that the month of December marks the 86th Anniversary of the game of B-I-N-G-O? I didnt know that either! I was curious one day, thinking, how did this game come about? Our elderly Clients LOVE Bingo! And they always play it. And it amazes me how every time I go to the Senior Centers, the one thing that gets everyone there, rain or shine, is Bingo! Here are some of the fun facts I discovered about Bingo, and if you want to read the full article, you can do so here:

The Early Roots

Bingo as we know it today is a form of lottery and is a direct descendant of Lo Giuoco del Lotto dItalia.When Italy was united in 1530, the Italian National Lottery Lo Giuoco del Lotto dItalia was organized, and has been held, almost without pause, at weekly intervals to this date. Today the Italian State lottery is indispensable to the governments budget, with a yearly contribution in excess of 75 million dollars.

In 1778 it was reported in the French press that Le Lotto had captured the fancy of the intelligentsia. In the classic version of Lotto, which developed during this period, the playing card used in the game was divided into three horizontal and nine vertical rows. Each horizontal row had five numbered and four blank squares in a random arrangement.


It was an evening in December of 1929 when a very tired New York toy salesman, Edwin S. Lowe, decided to drive on to Jacksonville, Georgia so that he might have an early start for his next days appointments.

A few miles from Jacksonville, Lowe came around a bend in the road and was greeted by the bright lights of a country carnival. he was ahead of schedule, so he parked his car and got out. All of the carnival booths were closed except one, which was packed with people. Lowe stood on tiptoes and peered over the shoulders of the participants. The action centered on a horseshoe shaped table covered with numbered cards and beans. The game being played was a variation of Lotto called Beano. The pitchman, or caller, pulled small numbered wooden disks from an old cigar box and, at the same time, called the number aloud. The players responded by eagerly checking their card to see if they had the number called; if so, they would place a bean on the number. This sequence continued until some someone filled a line of numbers on their card either horizontally, vertically or diagonally. This feat was marked by the shout of Beano! The winner received a small Kewpie doll.

Ed Lowe tried to play Beano that night, but, he recalls, I couldnt get a seat. But while I was waiting around, I noticed that the players were practically addicted to the game. The picthman wanted to close up, but every time he said, This is the last game, nobody moved. When he finally closed at 3:00 a.m. he had to chase them out. After locking up, the pitchman told Lowe that he had run across a game called Lotto while traveling with a carnival in Germany the previous year. His immediate thought was that it would make a good tent or carnival game. He made a few changes in its play, and a change of the name to Beano.


Returning to his home in New York, Lowe bought some dried beans, a rubber numbering stamp and some cardboard. Friends were invited to his apartment and Ed Lowe assumed the pitchmans duties. Soon his friends were playing Beano with the same tension and excitement as he had seen at the carnival. During one session Lowe noticed that one of his players was close to winning. She got more excited as each bean was added to her card. Finally there was one number left and it was called! The woman jumped up, became tongue tied, and instead of shouting Beano, stuttered B-B-B-BINGO!

BINGO Cards and Insane Mathematicians

Problems developed immediately when it was found that each game produced half a dozen or more winners. Lowe could immediately see the tremendous fund raising possibilities of Bingo, but at the same time, he realized that to make the game workable on this large of a scale, a great many more combinations of numbers would have to be developed for the cards. To accomplish this, Lowe sought the services of an elderly professor of mathematics at Columbia University, one Carl Leffler. Lowes request was the the professor devise 6,000 new Bingo cards with non repeating number groups.