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History of Bingo: One Aspect of the Game that has been Forgotten

Bingo has a really interesting history. It’s probably much more sophisticated than you’d imagine too.

Bingo as we know it today was born out of the Renaissance in 16th century Italy. Historians pinpoint the exact date at around 1530, so we’re fast approaching the 500th birthday of this popular game – play now.

However, it doesn’t stop there. The Italians didn’t call it “bingo”. It was called “il gioco”, which translates as “the game”. They may have invented it, but no prizes for inventive names.

The evolution of bingo’s iconic name meant it had to travel a bit first. First, it spread across Europe, and then followed the mass migration to the New World in the 19th Century. 

Who thought of the name “bingo”? 

Initially, when bingo first arrived in America, it was known as “Beano”. This was probably because it was played using beans instead of real money, as gambling was illegal. The first time it popped its head up was at a carnival near Atlanta, Georgia.

As fate would have it, New York toy salesman Edwin S. Lowe is the man credited with the “bingo” name. He allegedly overheard someone excitedly yell “bingo” instead of “beano” when they’d discovered they’d won. 

Sensing that money could be made, Lowe hired a Columbia University mathematics professor, Carl Leffler, to help him increase the number of combinations in bingo cards. By 1930, Leffler had invented 6000 different bingo cards. 

The Forgotten Aspect of Bingo

While its five centuries of history are certainly interesting, they’re well-established facts that everyone remembers. The aspect of the game that seems to have been forgotten in all the fun is that bingo is essentially a form of advanced mathematics.

Back in the early days of “beano”, too many people were winning each time, resulting in less excitement and divided prizes. To prevent this from happening, the number of squares on the ticket needed to be increased. Hence, the aforementioned Carl Leffler from the University of Colombia was roped in. 

The resulting game meant that it became a well-balanced phenomenon in mathematical probability. With the addition of a RNG (random number generator), it is statistically impossible to predict a winner. This helps mathematicians decipher more about the concept of randomness, which remains a relatively unexplored field in mathematics.

What’s more, just by playing bingo, the sequences of numbers and patterns that you aim for can improve the brain’s capacity to solve problems. That’s why bingo is often used in recall and recognition tasks.

This is evidently useful for both adults and children. Players often notice an increase in their mathematical ability after a few games, and tests show that people who play regularly are more likely to approach complex concepts more logically.

This spans across the fields of algebra, multiplication and even division. It’s no wonder that bingo has been implemented into schools’ curriculums all over the world. 

So the next time you log onto an online bingo site, consider the weight of history that stands behind this humble game. You could even convince yourself that by playing, you’re giving your brain a mathematical work-out!