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Bingo - It's Origin and History

If, in the U.K., horse-racing has been described as the Sport of Kings, and football pools as a part of the British Way of Life then, surely, Bingo is The Housewives' Choice.

Many years ago Bingo cards, or Tombola cards as they were then better known, had 15 out of 90 numbers printed on them. Players bought cards and a caller drew tokens representing the 90 different numbers from a bag. First to cover with counters or bits of paper all the five numbers in a line across won a consolation prize, and then it was 'eye's down' for a Full House and a bigger prize for the first to cover all the card numbers.

This was a lottery, and as the participant had no choice in which numbers were constituting his own game, it wasn't even a lottery which was also a 'game of chance', as is Roulette or American Keno. Nevertheless, following the relaxation in the U.K. Gaming and Lotteries laws which came about in the 1960s culminating in the Gaming Act 1968, Bingo became commercialised, and due to the decline in cinema-going with the growth of T.V. viewing, many cinemas in Britain became licensed bingo halls over which the Gaming Board of Great Britain now holds a watching brief.

The entrance covers a small fee for playing and the balance is distributed as prizes. Ultra-modern equipment has been installed in present-day halls to ensure that the draw for the numbers takes place under impeccable conditions.

The American-style cards with 24 numbers on a 5 x 5 matrix are more usually the basis of play than the old-fashioned 15 from 90, the centre square of the 25 on the cards being left blank as a 'free play'. The first column on the card has five of the numbers 1 to 15, and is indexed B, the second column five numbers between 16 and 30, indexed I, the centre column four numbers only between 31 and 45, indexed N, the fourth column five numbers between 46 and 60, indexed G, and the fifth column five numbers between 61 and 75, indexed O. These types of cards lend themselves to a variety in the style of game which can be played. Cards for all the games of which the programme for the session is to consist are bought at the beginning of the session. To assist players, the caller gives the index letter with each number called - e.g. 'Underneath the N, 33'.

The Gaming Board expressed some concern in one of their reports about the growth in the use of electronic systems of playing the game which enables, in some cases, a complete game to be finished in 40 seconds, and 40 games, each having a participation fee, to take place in a period of 45 minutes. The speed of this operation tends to detract from the social atmosphere in which the industry developed, and of which the Gaming Board approved.

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