From Beano to Bingo

Bingo is one of the most popular games around the world. It transcends borders, cultures, age, and standards of morality.

The origins of modern bingo can be traced to the Italian national lottery game called "Lo Giuoco del Lotto d'Italia". In 1530, the newly united Italy found itself in need of increasing the state's revenue without aggravating its citizens by way of imposing new taxes, or increasing the current tax rates. One innovative solution to the problem was the creation of a national lottery game to be held every week, and the idea was an instant hit with the population. Today the "Lo Giuoco del Lotto d'Italia" is still being held every Saturday, and is considered one of the government's most reliable and profitable revenue-generating activities.

From Italy, similar lottery games spread in other parts of Europe. In France, the lotto game caught the fancy of the elite, and they came up with their own version called "Le Lotto". "Le Lotto" is played using cards with 3 rows and 9 columns; each row contains 5 random numbers, and 4 blank squares; the 1st column contains the series 1 to 10, the 2nd column 11 to 20, and so on. The Germans developed their own version of the game to help school children with their lessons.

In 1929, an enterprising salesman named Edwin Lowe chanced upon a lottery game while passing a country carnival near Jacksonville, Georgia. Lowe was awestruck by the excitement of the crowd and players over the game. He set out to create his own version of the game and gave it the name Beano, after noticing that beans were used to mark the drawn numbers. Friends and family were the first to play Lowe's Beano. In one of Lowe's dry runs, a participant was so excited over her win that she screamed the word "Bingo" instead of "Beano." Lowe felt he was struck by lightning twice and immediately changed the name to Bingo.

Lowe's brainchild spread like wildfire in the USA, and he had difficulty meeting the demand for cards with random combinations. He enlisted the help of a mathematician named Carl Leffler to produce 6,000 cards. Leffler was paid a certain fee per card produced.

The success of bingo was picked up by other enterprising individuals. Lowe negotiated with these operators to pay him a dollar and retain the name Bingo instead of filing suits.

Now you know how the game we know as "Bingo" got its start.

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