75 Ball Bingo History

Although the European version of lottery games (see before bingo – early lottery type games) did reach the US it was adapted into general lottery games and a children’s game called lotto. So the European/British version of Bingo (see the history of 90 ball bingo) didn’t happen in the US as such. However, the modern 75 ball bingo game, which is what people think of as American bingo, has a history of its own and this article is about that popular game – which has since gone worldwide with the advent of online bingo. Read more about the history of 75 ball bingo in the US below.
The invention and early growth of 75 ball bingo
In the late 1920s Bingo (at first called beano) was being played in the US as an adaptation of the European 90 ball game. It was found at carnivals and was proving very popular there. The original carnival game used beans as markers to place on the numbers that had been called out, hence the name beano. The name Bingo was created (as the name for this game) by Edwin Lowe, a New York toy salesman, as people occasionally called out ‘bingo’ instead of beano. When he commercialized the game, and sold it as a toy set, he chose and trademarked the name ‘Bingo’, although he did allow other commercial companies to use the name and create bingo cards and games for a nominal $1 fee. This generosity on Edwin Lowe’s part contributed to the spread of the game, and its rise in popularity.
It should be noted that calling out ‘bingo’ when a full house is made in 90 ball UK bingo was common from at least the time of the first world war onwards (see history of UK bingo) so it is possible that the use of ‘bingo’ rather than ‘beano’ in the US was influenced by travellers from the UK, especially as at this time the UK version of bingo was mainly played by the armed forces, mainly the Royal Navy. Alternatively the slang term ‘bingo’ can be traced back to the 1860’s in the UK at least. In any case the use of the term for the game itself was definitely created and popularized by Edwin Lowe’s commercialization.
The American carnival game had the format of modern 75 ball form (with the 5 by 5 grid of numbers – see how to play 75 ball bingo) and is the origin of this format of the game. Edwin Lowe hired a mathematician to work out the card combinations by hand, but as the game progressed and automation became possible then cards were generated by machine. Also with automation other patterns became possible. The US 75 ball bingo game grew during the depression years before the second world war and by the mid 1930s was very popular, mainly as a fundraising activity for churches and other organizations. Bingo offered a cheap entertaining escape from everyday life during the depression.
Post war bingo in the US
After war legalization spread from state to state in the US in the 1950s and 1960s, and mirrored the changes in legalization in the UK and Europe with that version of the game in Britain to some extent. However, with most laws being the province of state (rather than federal) legislature the legality and rules about whether bingo can be played and for what causes varied a lot between states as the popularity and legalization of bingo spread at this time. This variation remains with some states not allowing bingo, and most of them that do allow it only allow it for fundraising purposes rather than commercial gambling. One exception is Nevada obviously, and you can do a lot more than just play bingo in Las Vegas if you want to gamble!
Bingo goes online
As internet gambling and gaming became more established during the early years of this century online bingo rooms started to open up. Bingo was and is extremely popular in the UK where the 90 ball variant of bingo is common, but international online bingo sites offered the 75 ball US version of the game – and soon most sites offered this version, often alongside other variants like the 90 ball game and the new 80 ball bingo game.
The automated nature of online bingo means that it is easy to offer pattern variants with the 75 ball game, plus other more complicated games that would be hard to provide in a ‘brick and mortar’ bingo setting – therefore we are seeing and likely to continue to see an increase in variety and number of types of games.