Bingo! With a near 500-year history in the bank, it is fair to say that this iconic pastime has stood the test of time.
The game’s roots can be traced back to Italy in the 1500s, although it took another 200 years before it found its way into France.
Its popularity mushroomed thereafter, with bingo becoming one of the most popular social activities in the United States and the United Kingdom during the 20th century.
Changes in consumer habits saw the game’s fortunes decline as the new millennium approached, but the emergence of bingo sites soon turned the industry around.
The simplicity of bingo is one of its most enduring features, with people able to quickly learn how the game works.
It also an excellent vehicle for socializing, providing a platform for people to meet up with friends and family in either land-based venues or on the internet.
As befits a pastime that has been around for nearly five centuries, bingo has spawned some unusual stories during its existence. Here are five of our favorites.
Celebrities Love Bingo
One of the most fascinating aspects of modern bingo is its diverse audience, with the game shedding its working-class roots to now appeal to a wide demographic.
That point is perfectly highlighted by the number of celebrities who love bingo, with soccer players, film stars and royalty among the game’s fans.
For instance, former Manchester United star Cristiano Ronaldo famously picked up particular English words and phrases by playing a DVD version of bingo.
Actress Catherine Zeta-Jones is another star who has shown her passion for bingo by holding bingo parties for her family every Christmas.
“It’s something Catherine has done since she was a little girl growing up in Wales,” a source close to Jones said.
“She used to make all the balls with numbers on them, the cards and organize the prizes, and she still plays now only she probably doesn’t have to make it.”
Her late husband, Michael Douglas, was said to think that bingo was bizarre, although he did once win a bottle of aftershave at one of his wife’s parties!
Arizona Venue Sets Big Bingo Records
A casino in Phoenix, Arizona, broke two Guinness World Records in 2019, staged a game with the largest bingo balls and the biggest bingo card.
The 75 bingo balls were four feet tall, and the card was an enormous 20 square feet for a game that was hosted by Arizona Coyotes mascot, Howler, and former Cardinal, Michael Bankston.
The event was organized to celebrate the venue’s 25th anniversary and saw 200 specially invited guests join the festivities.
A spokesman for the venue said: “We wanted to mark the milestone with a big event where our incredible guests and partners could come out and have a great time with us.
“We are so proud of all we’ve accomplished in the community since we opened our doors in 1994.
“We are glad we were able to celebrate by bringing two Guinness World Records titles to Arizona and make bingo history.”
McConaughey Calls the Shots
Actor Matthew McConaughey used a break in movie production during 2020 to become a bingo caller for an assisted living community.
The star of numerous top films including The Lincoln Lawyer hosted an event via Zoom for residents at The Enclave in Round Rock, Texas.
The residents asked McConaughey to join them for a game during the previous fall, and he belated took them up on the offer along with his mother, wife and children.
He held a question and answer session after the game, allowing residents to quiz him about his background and future projects.
“This was a wish come true,” said Molly Davis Nedley, a sales director at the facility.
“The residents absolutely loved seeing Matthew and his family and enjoyed hearing him talk about what he’s doing.
“It gave them hope and was the boost that they needed to get through this lonely, challenging time.”
Welsh Club Puts a Man up for Grabs
A bingo and social club in Barry, South Wales, had a reputation for offering unusual prizes and promotions to boost business during the 1970s.
For example, the venue once offered a man as the prize for a full house. The winner could use the man for 24 hours however they pleased.
The club, which was aiming to raise additional funds for charitable causes, employed the services of a London-based man who excelled across numerous athletic disciplines.
“I have done pretty well everything in the way of spare time jobs from washing dishes in a cafe to working in a ladies’ hairdressing salon,” he said before the event.
“I have worked as an ice-cream salesman, managed a tailor’s shop and worked as an extra at Elstree. At Easter I am taking a job on an oil rig and in the summer will try my luck in the United States.
“I am prepared to do anything, except murder, for whoever wins me.”
Bingo Hall Stages Black Cat Trial
Superstition often plays a part when people play bingo, with players often carrying good luck charms whenever they play the game.
One club in Scotland took that ethos to another level back in 2016 by recruiting a pair of black cats to join the club’s meet and greet team.
The trial was run to coincide with National Black Cat Day and Halloween, and was designed to test whether the animals could help people win big.
A spokesperson for the venue said: “Many Brits have lucky charms, rituals and superstitions when it comes to sports and games, be it a four-leaf clover, a precious pair of pants or even a pre-game routine.
“To put one of the UK’s most ancient superstitions to the test, we’ve taken on black cat team members to see if they bring good fortune for customers.”
“We’re very excited about the new additions to our team. It’ll be very interesting to see if our customers see a change in their luck thanks to our new four-legged furry additions.”