How America Shouted Bingo First
By Space Coast Daily // March 20, 2023
The expansion of bingo globally has been a long and winding journey. It started in Italy during the 16th century when the game was known as ‘Lotto’ before becoming popular all over the world.
The beauty of bingo is in the whole show. The balls being taken out of the machine one by one while you wait for your number to be called out adds a level of fun to this otherwise simple game.
The advent of smartphones and online casinos has grown the game further and developed immersive experiences beyond halls and land-based venues. When New York inventor Edwin S. Lowe developed a rotating drum in 1928 to randomly select numbers, he could not have envisaged the multiple variations now.
When Beano Became Bingo
Bingo has become one of the most popular games across North America because of one of its natives. Lowe cemented his place in history after plying his trade in the Deep South as a toy salesman. He was scouring the stalls at a Georgia carnival when he stumbled upon a booth where a crowd was playing a game of chance. The operator was calling out numbers that the players would put beans on to try and form a line either vertical, horizontal, or diagonal to win. The prize was a doll and it cost a nickel a go to enter ‘Beano’.
From the development of a hybrid called Slingo to the kaleidoscope of graphics, gameplay, and bonus win features that appear in online bingo at Paddy Power, the 21st-century version is a different beast. While the basic gameplay hasn’t changed much in the last 500 years, technology has revolutionized the way it is now presented.
When Lowe went back home to Brooklyn he played around with the concept although there were too many duplicates for it to work with so few numbers. After asking a Columbia University mathematician to come up with some new variables, the entrepreneur ended up with a 24-card set and 6,000 possible combinations which led to the game that changed his life.
One of his friends got so excited at winning that she called out “Bingo” by mistake. That eureka moment stuck and the game that we have today was born. By the 1930s, there were about 10,000 public bingo nights being played every week across America as Lowe’s status and wealth rose.
Edwin Lowe’s Connection to the One Armed Bandit
The New York entrepreneur’s innovation did not end there. Lowe set up a Tudor-style motel in Las Vegas. He even invented an early form of the slot machine with a toy called the One Armed Bandit. There was a metal lever on the side that moved back and forth when pulled with a flurry of different pictures worth a sliding scale of points. It doesn’t take much of a leap of imagination to see the connection with today’s fruit machines.
Ultimately, bingo is a game that has always retained its sense of straightforward fun which is why the appeal still resonates with churches and community centers.
It has come a long way from the carnivals of the 1920s. The United States of America was the nation that gave bingo its moniker.