Historian Questions The USA's Claim To The Name Bingo

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A newly published history of bingo looks at the history of the game in the UK from its earliest origins to the birth of the modern era and the 1968 Gaming Act. Dr. Carolyn Down's research uncovers a wealth of history on the game's development, such as its use to raise morales in the trenches of World War One and its growth as a political and social fundraiser in the mid 20th century. The research also questions the wide held belief that the name Bingo was coined in the USA, suggesting it was in use in the UK prior to the 1929 incident where Beano became Bingo.

The UK bingo site Playing Bingo set out to remedy the lack of information available online about the history of bingo by commissioning the historian Dr. Carolyn Downs to write a comprehensive history of the game for the site. The newly published article A History Of Bingo In The UK is based on the research Dr. Downs did for her PHD around the game's development and popularity in the UK.

It looks in depth at the game's origins in the UK, looking back as far as the 16th century lotteries and later random number games of the 17th and 18th century. The bulk of the research focuses on the games development through the 20th century up to the Gaming Act of 1968, uncovering a few surprises along the way. For instance, many will be surprised to learn that bingo was a regular game played amongst the soldiers of the British army, and was used as a morale booster in the trenches of World War One. There are a number of other revelations about the game as well, such as where the famous naming rhymes for the numbers came from, and the game's use as a social and political fundraiser despite its at times illegal nature.

Probably the biggest surprise for many will come from the history of the game's name itself, bingo. Searching the web will reveal that the word bingo was thought to have been coined in the USA at the end of the twenties by Edwin Lowe, when a Beano player accidentally cried Bingo instead of Beano, and the name stuck. Dr. Carolyn Downs' research suggests that the name bingo was already in usage in the UK prior to and concurrent with the time of the USA event. The matter requires further evidence, but just goes to illustrate that the existing consensus on the game's history may be misplaced and in need of serious revision.

The article goes on to trace the development of commercial bingo in the post war years, terminating with the impact of the implementation of the 1968 Gaming Act. The 1968 act gave bingo the legal footing and regulation it required to become the mainstream entertainment it is today, but it was not without a fight. The article follows the political moves to control the game, and the entertainment industry's attempts to side step legislation and give the game an acceptable and mass market appeal. David Lloyd, Playing Bingo's founder had this to say about the commissioning of the piece and its importance to the site:

"For years I've struggled to find solid information on the history of bingo for articles and pieces I've wanted to write about the game. For such a popular social activity as bingo, there is little in the way of documentary material and information readily available. I learned about Carolyn's research after seeing her on the BBC 2 Money Programme about bingo. I initially contacted her to do an interview her for the site. After speaking with her about her research, it became apparent that her knowledge of the game's history could make for an engaging piece at Playing Bingo. With that in mind I commissioned Carolyn to write the history piece for the site and she graciously agreed to do so. The resulting work is a comprehensive and fascinating piece about bingo in the UK, and to my knowledge such a well researched and in-depth history of bingo has not been seen online till now."

Playing Bingo is one of a few websites that has information on the High Street bricks and mortar arm of the bingo industry in the UK. Its self appointed aim is to be the leading location for sharing and recording information about the UK's bingo culture. Dr. Carolyn Downs' History Of Bingo In The UK is the perfect addition to the site alongside Ian Grundy's photographic pieces on the architecture of UK bingo halls and the lost bingo halls section, where people can send information and pictures of closed clubs. The site aims to bring readers more articles of this nature and other unique bingo related content in the future, striving to be the preferred destination for fans of bingo and its culture in the UK.


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