The history of bingo can be traced back to 1530 in Italy to the game called “Lo Giuoco del Lotto D’Italia” which can still be found in play to this day, in fact this was the Italian National Lottery and has been held at weekly intervals since the state with almost no interruptions. In fact, the Italian government receives in excess of $75 million in revenue every year from the lottery. The idea of winning money with such a simple game appealed to other countries and the next recorded mention of bingo (Lotto) was in 1778, when the French press reported that “Le Lotto” had captured the imagination of the higher classes. During this time the versions of bingo that was being played involved the card being divided into three horizontal and nine vertical rows, the vertical rows contain numbers 1 to 10 in the top row, 11 to 20 in the next etc. Each player was dealt a single Lotto card and covered the numbers as the caller gave them out, the caller had a bag containing tokens numbered 1 to 90. Cover all numbers on a line and you win the game. In fact Lotto was considered so educational that in the 1800’s versions started appearing designed to teach children maths, spelling, history and animals.To this day there are versions of bingo/Lotto created for children, either for fun or for educational purposes.
The popularity of the game continued to spread throughout the world and another mention is made of the game, at the time known as tombola, by the British Navy in around 1880. At the time the British Navy had a large garrison in Malta and the local population had taught the sailors to play their version, it became so popular amongst them that the commanders considered that allowing it was good for morale. Therefore the game, called Tombola, was officially sanctioned on British Naval ships. This decision lead to the British Army following suit around 1900 and officially allowing their version, known as House. By the time the first World War began the game was well established within the military as an approved way to pass the time. The British Military version differed from the game that was spreading across the United States though, the board used in the British version had three rows, with five numbers in each row. Again 90 numbers were in the callers bag though. One of the biggest advantages that bingo had was it didn’t require fancy equipment to play, as long as cards could be made on paper, cardboard or even drawn on walls and numbers could be marked off with whatever came to hand and bottle tops, buttons and even pieces of bread are recorded as being used within the Army.