How Bingo rose to fame in the UK

Bingo is one of the oldest forms of Lottery games out there. Although the game hasn’t always been known by this now-popular name, it’s thought to have had roots in Italy in the 16th century – estimated around 1530.

Bingo originated from the Italian lottery, known as Il Gioco del Lotto d’Italia. The popularity of this game caused it to spread to France, where it was known as Le Lotto and was enjoyed by the French aristocracy.

However, Bingo got off to a rocky start in Britain, when the earliest version of the Lottery, hosted between 1558 and 1603, was aimed purely at rich people, despite gambling being increasingly popular amongst the poor.

Read on to discover just how Bingo became so popular in the UK, and continues to be one of the most famous games of all time, travelling from underground dens to our computer screens that now allow us to play Bingo online – any time, and anywhere!

Made by working women

The first game that resembled Bingo, with gameplay comprising of random numbers, was first played in the UK in 1716. The game was created by, and for, working women, but was quickly frowned upon and women were prohibited from gameplay by an order raised by the Lord Mayor of London. The women, however, found a way to get around the law. Despite the national Lottery being hosted from 1710, during the reign of Queen Anne, in the hopes to boost the government’s income, many of the poorer gamblers – especially women – would still not be able to afford to take part in these potentially life-changing games.

Illegal, private Lotteries were popular amongst women and poorer people, with tickets available for just a halfpenny. These were run throughout the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, but players soon faced consequences. Women caught playing the games were often accused of witchcraft, and on some occasions over 300 women would be arrested each night.

By 1808, roughly every servant in London was spending 25 shillings a year on illegal Lotteries.

A life-changing chance

The great thing about the state Lotteries, and even some illegal ones at the time, was that it offered many poor people the chance to win a sum of money that would be potentially life-changing. At this time, Britain saw a huge divide in the upper and lower classes, and regulated Lottery games seemed to be one of the only ways for the poor to close this divide.


In 1914 the First World War broke out, just eight years after the government had attempted to stop poorer people gambling. Because of this,Lottery games resembling Bingo were used as an effective way to raise money for soldiers. There are reports, dating back to 1915, of veterans playing a game of Housey-Housey at Catterick Barracks in Yorkshire. The game was played with the same rules we know as Bingo today – random numbers between one and 90, being crossed off on a grid. Housey-Housey was also popular in the trenches.

To the fair!

Housey-Housey was played, alongside Tombola and Lotteries, as fundraising within churches, clubs, and eventually at fairgrounds. Between 1918 and 1960, Housey-Housey was starting to be known more commonly as Bingo, and was frequently played at the seaside. Then, in 1934, the Betting and Lotteries Act was enforced, allowing small lotteries to be played in permanent venues. These games faced a lot of restrictions, but when the government realised the popularity of the game would persevere, launched the Royal Commission on Betting, Gaming and Lotteries, who in 1949-1951, were able to ensure the fairness and safety of the games, keeping Bingo regulated and more accessible to all. Eventually, in 1961, commercial Bingo was born.