90 Ball Bingo – A Short History

In American bingo halls, 75 ball bingo is the dominant game and has been for decades. In the UK and parts of Europe preferences are different and 90 ball bingo is the most played bingo variant. Other variants on the traditional 75 ball game include 80 ball bingo and the fast paced 30 ball version of the game.  Sometime around 1880 the ancestor of 90 ball bingo arrived in Germany. The 90 ball game reached the UK and by 1900 90 ball bingo games known as Tombola, housey-housey and lotto were common. During the postwar years the 90 ball game became widely known as bingo. Across the Atlantic Edwin S. Lowe introduced the 75 ball version in the 1920’s. The game was originally known as ‘beano’ because of the beans used to cover the numbered squares on the game cards. The game achieved widespread popularity in the United States and was marketed as a box set game for home use.

In the UK, parts of Europe and the United States just about everyone has played bingo at some point in their lives. Bingo has been used in schools to teach a variety of subjects and the home version of bingo was very popular until the advent of video games. Over the years bingo has become a mainstay for the fundraising efforts of charitable organizations. In postwar England bingo became a popular activity at holiday camps around the country. By the 1960’s bingo had hit its ‘golden age’ in Britain and today 90 ball bingo is the most popular UK bingo game. The internet bingo industry is now worth about two billion dollars a year and 90 ball bingo is a favorite at sites targeting the UK.

As the name indicates 90 ball bingo uses 90 numbered bingo balls. At sites of internet bingo games, a random number generator selects the numbers called. 90 ball bingo cards are different than traditional 75 ball bingo cards. 90 ball bingo cards are marked with a 27 square grid containing three rows and nine columns. Cards are marked with 15 random numbers, five to a row. Players can win three ways when playing 90 ball bingo. If one row of numbers is marked the player will win the lowest level prize. Two rows marked also wins a prize and a ‘full house’ where all the numbers are marked wins the jackpot.

90 ball bingo has made the transition to the internet nicely. At most UK internet bingo sites like BingoHouse 90 ball bingo is the main game and is now big business in Britain.