As bingo becomes more popular than ever… here are the top FIVE facts about the world’s favourite game


Bingo has been one of the most popular games in the world for almost five centuries. From it’s humble beginnings in the back streets of Italy, it has become a billion dollar industry, with glamorous casinos, online gaming sites and a host of celebrity fans.

And like millions of households around the world, Even the Royal family love to have a get-together and settle down with a fun game of bingo.

The popularity of the game is growing faster than ever, so SWNS has partnered with Posh Bingo to bring together five little-known facts about Bingo.

The world’s biggest Bingo win 

The world’s biggest ever Bingo win came in December 2012 when a Jobcentre worker scooped a staggering £5.9million.  John Orchard, 60, had been playing bingo online with hundreds of other games from around the world when his numbers came up.

He had only placed a 30p stake but after the win he banked a life-changing £5,883,044.43.

The world's biggest bingo win was from a British player who won £6million in December 2012
The world’s biggest bingo win was from a British player who won £6million in December 2012


The incredible win meant that John could comfortably retire with his wife Linda at their home in Long Sutton, near Spalding, Lincolnshire. He quickly swapped his old Renault Clio for a £40,000 Jaguar XF and began living a life of luxury – all thanks to a few balls and some numbers on a card.

John’s amazing win surpassed the previous record of £5.1million which was won by a Greek businessman in an online casino.

The world’s most famous bingo players 

Anyone who thought that bingo was a game for pensioners couldn’t be more mistaken. There are thousands of high-profile celebrity who all love a game of bingo.

At the top of the list has to be The Queen and Prince William. It is said that on family occasions the two Royals are first in line at Buckingham Palace when bingo cards are handed out.

Prince William was even seen on a night out with friends at the  bingo club near Sandhurst military academy where he had been training in 2006.

Robbie Williams is a fan of bingo
Robbie Williams is a fan of bingo
Prince William and the Royal Family also play bingo
Prince William and the Royal Family also play bingo

Other A Listers who enjoy bingo include Russell Crowe, who was once a bingo caller and Catherine Zeta-Jones, who learned the game in the Welsh valleys.

Take That starts Robbie Williams and Gary Barlow both play bingo, as does Sharon Osborne, Denise van Outen, Katie Price and Barbara Windsor.

The difference between American and British bingo 

One of the little know facts around bingo is that the game is played differently in Britain as it is in America.  The basic rules are the same, in that numbers are called out and players have to match them with their bingo ticket.<

But with America bingo, only 75 balls are used compared with 90 in the UK. America cards are 5×5 squares, with the columns labeled B-I-N-G-O and with spots containing numbers between 1 and 75. The center square has the word ‘free’ printed on it, they call it the free spot.

A set of British bingo tickets
A set of British bingo tickets with 15 numbers on them

The biggest difference is the way the game is won. Whereas in the UK, it’s lines or full houses, in the American version it’s won on patterns (which can include lines). At the start of the game the players are notified of the winning pattern, and then proceed to try and be the first to cover all the numbers on the card that correspond to that pattern. It could be a letter, a symbol, diagonals, or a pattern like the 4 corners or a star.

There is a noticeable with UK Bingo, or Housie, as it is sometimes called. In the UK, the cards are called tickets and differ greatly from America, Usually, the cards contain three rows and nine columns. Each row contains five numbers and four blank spaces. Each column contains one, two or three numbers.

Each ticket has 3 rows, each row with 5 numbers, giving a total of 15 numbers per ticket.

The game is played for a line across, two lines across (on one ticket) and a full house. The numbers are called as straight numbers, and the speed is fairly rapid. Once a line’s gone, you move on to the next prize (two line or the full house).

How did bingo begin 

Bingo’s history stems from an Italian lottery called ‘Lo Giuoco del Lotto D’Italia’ which started in 1530 and is still played every Saturday in Italy.

From Italy the game was introduced to France in the late 1770s, where it was called “Le Lotto”, a game played among wealthy Frenchmen. The Germans also played a version of the game in the 1800s, but they used it as a child’s game to help students learn math, spelling and history.

It was around this period that bingo crossed the Chanel and reached British shores, where it became known as ‘Housie’.

It wasn’t until 1929 that the game reached the U.S. where it was played at carnivals. At first it was called ‘beano’ but the name evolved into bingo. The popular of bingo spread and by 1934 there were an estimated 10,000 games played every week.

How many people play bingo? 

Recent studies have shown that there are over 100 million bingo players worldwide. This includes those who attend bingo halls but also people who play online.

Most surprising is that 80 per cent of all of the world’s bingo players are women aged between 30 and 50 years old. However, this is changing as more promotions attract younger players. Increasing numbers of men are also taking up the hobby.

In the UK there are believed to be around 3.5 million regular bingo players. Some 700,000 of these are aged between 18 and 24, and there has also been a big increase in the number of under 45s playing the game.


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