Today, thousands of Britons still head to their local bingo hall for a night out, while millions more log on to the internet to play the hugely popular game.

According to independent online bingo reviews website WhichBingo’s 2017 report, more than a third of those who head to the web to play log on for more than four hours every day. The average player is getting younger too, with the website reporting a 20% increase in numbers among the 25-34 and 35-44-year-old age groups.

So what is it about bingo that has led to it surviving the true test of time and how exactly did the trend start out?

The origins of bingo
Bingo is widely believed to have started out in Italy, from the country’s version of the lottery. Lo Giuoco del Lotto d’Italia began in 1530, growing in popularity and spreading to France in the 1700s, where the gentry played Le Lotto.
Unsurprisingly, as the game crossed the continent, it was adapted by players and this is closest to the version still enjoyed today. There were 27 squares on each board with the numbers 1 to 90 randomly assigned a place. In Le Lotto, a caller chose a wooden number token and read it aloud – players with the corresponding number would cover it on their board. The first to complete a horizontal line was the winner.

Bingo’s popularity grew rapidly, crossing the seas to the USA, where it really caught on in 1929. A New York car salesman, Edwin Lowe, apparently saw a very basic version of the game being played and he adapted it to play with his friends, naming it ‘beano’.

It’s said that we have one of Lowe’s friends to thank for the eventual name of bingo; he’s said to have got so over-excited at winning a game that he accidentally shouted ‘bingo’ at the end – and the new name was born.

In the UK, we cottoned on to the trend in in the 1950s, choosing it as an alternative form of entertainment to going to the cinema or theatre. Once TV took off and people started staying in to watch the box, some cinemas closed down and were made into dance halls, concert halls and then bingo halls. And bingo was here to stay!

How has it changed?
The advent of the online version of the game has led to a new generation of Brits getting involved in the popular game, with an increasing number of men also joining in – previously, it was considered to be a fairly female dominated game.

Online providers are leading the way when it comes to changing the face of the game. There are games available to players 24/7 and some bingo websites even run special offers and deals to entice people, such as buy-one-get-one-free games, free bingo games or extra money when you make your second or even third deposit into your online account.

Online, the number of winners is infinitely higher than in a bingo hall – with millions of players playing all at once, there’s the potential for a far greater shared jackpot on any given day.

Interestingly, however, the recent WhichBingo report found that 47% of those polled aren’t necessarily in it to win it, as they don’t consider it ‘gambling’. Instead, they enjoy the experience and the buzz of the online game.

The future of bingo
The chatroom-style aspect of the modern-day bingo hall (now online) seems to be one of the draws for the younger players nowadays. There are forums that run alongside the games online, whereas the traditional bingo hall demands silence from its players. Online bingo is a social hub for many players and this is one of the many appeals of the internet version.

While websites themselves have really taken off, the mobile technology isn’t invested in quite as heavily at the moment, according to the data. Most online sites are targeting mobile, tablet and desktop users, but developers will have to keep their eye on the ball – so to speak – to keep up with demand in the ever-changing landscape of the internet in 2017 and beyond.

Lead image: “BINGO!” (CC BY 2.0) by Average Jane

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