Bingo's origins go way back to Italy in the year 1530, then the game Lo Giuco de Lotto was run as a sort of state-run lottery. By the late eighteenth century, the game had migrated to France and mutated into something quite similar to the bingo of today, with the cards laid out as they currently are in Britain.
In the 1800s Germany used bingo variants as teaching aids in schools, to help children learn spelling and times tables.
In 1929, Edwin Lowe, a toy seller, visited a carnival in New York and observed a game where people put beans on squares of a card to mark numbers being called out. The first person to fill a line and shout "Beano!" won. Lowe tried the game out on his friends, and they all enjoyed it. At some point, one of the guests got a little over-excited when she won and shouted "Bingo!" instead. Lowe heard her and decided to call his game as Bingo
Lowe himself ran a Bingo hall in New York. He also franchised out the Bingo name to competitors for $1 a year. By the 1940 there were regular bingo games all over the USA.
In 1930, Lowe tried to devise a set of Bingo cards which prevented multiple winners in one game. He asked Carl Leffler, a mathematician at Columbia University, to design him a set of 6000 unique cards. Leffler was being paid per card, and in those (pre-computer) days, the only way to generate the cards way with slow, tedious algorithms. As time went on, it got harder and harder to find new unique cards, and Leffler was eventually charging $100 per card. There is a legend that the hunt for the cards caused his mental illness.
These days, in Britain at least, Bingo exists mainly to provide ladies of a certain age something to do on a Wednesday night. They go along with special marker pens with 1one inch tips, which they use to stamp their cards. Bingo is very competitive.
It has also taken over a lot of the old pre-WWII cinemas and converted them into Bingo halls, though their premises are nowadays being bought up by trendy sports clubs.
Uncle John's Bathroom Reader, The Bathroom Reader's Istitute, St. Martins press 1988