You would be forgiven for thinking that bingo was invented in the United Kingdom such is its connection with British culture. However, historians believe that the game originated in Italy in the 1530s under the moniker ‘Gioco del Lotto’.
The game slowly spread throughout Europe before making it to the British Isles in the Victorian Era. It wasn’t until the 1960s though, and the relaxation of gambling laws that bingo really began to take off in the UK.
However, the game that we all know and love in the UK is somewhat different to the bingo enjoyed in other European countries and farther afield. Grab your passport and pack your bags, because we’re about to embark on a world tour to explore how bingo is played around the globe.
Before we set off on our mystery tour of the globe it’s best to take a look at how bingo is enjoyed in the UK. Half a century ago the game was enjoyed by millions of players in the many bingo halls dotted around the country.
The 90-ball version enjoyed in the UK was originally called “Housey-Housey” and became renowned for it’s off the cuff, comic calls such as “two fat ladies, 88.” That humour proved popular in the 1960s and 1970s but had soon lost its shine at the turn of the millennium.
In 2005 bingo halls in the UK were closing on an almost daily basis and a world without bingo seemed increasingly inevitable. Fortunately, the game was offered a facelift in the digital era and moved online targeting a whole new demographic.
Gone were the foibles of classic bingo, replaced by fresh, cutting edge technology that introduced the game to a younger and more modern demographic. Bingo in the UK is now enjoyed primarily online, with a small number of bingo halls still plodding on. Many now enjoy bingo online due to the choice available for players. Some bingo sites now have many versions of bingo and offer players a list of bingo games to choose from.
Bingo in the UK is now often enjoyed online rather than in a traditional bingo hall.
When you think about the countries where bingo is enjoyed you could be forgiven for not immediately bringing Romania to mind. Well, the European country is actually ranked at number two in terms of bingo popularity.
Following the fall of Nicolae Ceausescu in 1990, Romania’s gambling laws were dramatically relaxed allowing popular pastimes like bingo to spread in popularity.
Playing at bingo halls remains more popular than the online alternative in Romania with venues throughout the country drawing huge crowds of players throughout the week to play 90 ball bingo. There is also a history of showmanship in Romanian bingo with many event organisers using bingo as an excuse to organise theatrical spectaculars such as ‘Bingo Romania’.
Whilst land-based bingo is expressly allowed by the Romanian government, the laws regarding online gambling are slightly less clear. As a result, online bingo hasn’t really taken off in the country and only a small percentage of players enjoy the game on their PC or phone.
Everything in the US is almost the same as the UK but at the same time, completely different. Take a Mars Bar as the perfect example, this tasty chocolatey treat is known as a Milky Way in the US whilst everywhere else in the world it’s called a Mars Bar.
Bingo is no different in that Americans enjoy the 75-ball version of the game rather than the traditional 90-ball variant. The game is quicker in the States and packed with more action than here in Europe, which has led many to claim that it is home to “modern bingo”.
Bingo can be enjoyed in various casinos in Las Vegas, but it tends to be more popular in Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania which is where the game first really took off in the 1920s.
Playing online bingo in the USA is not as easy as it is in the UK as online gambling has not been legalized on a Federal level. The legality of online bingo therefore differs on a state-by-state basis.
Despite having a population 50 million fewer than the UK, Sweden has a much larger and more profitable bingo industry than Britain. In Sweden, bingo does not have the same image problem as the UK. Rather than being viewed as a game for the older generation, it is synonymous with a younger and trendier crowd.
The 90-ball and 75-ball variants are equally popular by players who visit land-based bingo halls or enjoy their gaming online. Bingo is one of the few gambling activities that doesn’t come under state control in Sweden, so there is a more open and forward-thinking market that is certain to continue its growth in the coming years.
The bingo trend has been well and truly bucked in Japan with the game taking off first in its online form rather than growing through land-based bingo halls. The game first began to take off around a decade ago in Japan as players with a love of Pachinko machines naturally gravitated toward online bingo.
In terms of market size and share, Japan has the second largest online bingo market in the world. The popularity of online bingo has not gone unnoticed by gambling executives in the country who have been quick to invest in land-based bingo halls to cash in on the craze.
75-ball bingo is the most popular variant in Japan with players preferring the instant gratification of the shorter game.
Bingo in Germany is very similar to bingo in the UK and is enjoyed online and in the country’s many bingo halls. The Germans, however, have used bingo in a novel way as an education tool for younger generations.
Bingo is regularly played in German schools as a way to improve children’s mental arithmetic and as a way to help them with their spelling. Because of this, the game has remained broadly popular with successive generations.