Home Home


The Oxford English Dictionary dates the word 'raffle' used in this sense as 1350-1450 and gives the primary meaning as a winning throw of three dice alike.The origin is given as French but obscure beyond that statement. The idea of a 'raffle' as sweeping the pool is continued in our modern usage of the word. Three-dice games were common in Italy in the 1500s and often used elaborate printed sheets to set out all the combinations of throws. The game of Pela Il Chiu' (pluck the owl) was of this kind. Each dice combination has a definitie instruction to pay or take a specified number of counters from the pool - but the main winning throws are those where all three dice are the same. Three sixes (honoranza) takes the pool; other triplets take half. Three sixes is the raffa maggiore (major raffle) the others are minor raffles. This game is also called civetta and another version is called carico l'asino (load the donkey). There are French versions, too.


Lotteries dates back as far as 1530, with "La Lotto de Firenza" as the Italians referred to it. It was played in a very similar way to the lotteries of today. Citizens bought tickets, and prizes were allocated according to a percentage of the money taken. The Italian government used the money raised for public projects such as building roads or schools - so even in this sense national lotteries haven't changed much in five centuries. The game rapidly spread across Europe and the first British lottery was created under the reign of Queen Elizabeth I with 400,000 being available for sale.

Privately run lotteries also appeared before long and of course many of them were not run entirely properly or where run downright illegally as a scam. Governments were unable to regulate them properly and corruption was widespread which led to a number of countries banning private lotteries completely in the nineteenth century. These days things have improved and most most countries around the world now run their own state lottery.

Lotto & Tombola

Lotto is several centuries old and is based in turn on the game of Tumbule which was derived directly from the Italian national lottery which has been going since 1530.

The rules of Lotto are so simple that I can tell you in a couple of sentences. Each person is handed a card and one person designated as caller picks counters out of a bag one after the other and reads them out. There are 90 counters. Players mark off the numbers on their card as they are read out. 1st player to mark all the numbers on their card wins.


A version of Lotto reached America in 1929 where it became known as "Beano" and was to be seen in country fairs, carnivals and other events of that nature. Around this time, Edwin S. Lowe, a salesman overhead someone shout "Bingo!" instead of "Beano!" upon winning by mistake. He decided this was a much better name for the game and he undertook to re-launch a new version of the game called Bingo which was also improved by increasing the number of combinations of cards that could be played upon. American Bingo is still hugely popular to this day but is generally taken less seriously than in the UK and mostly events are organised as charitable fund-raising exercises.

In the UK, Bingo is taken more seriously. In 1960, a Gaming Act was passed by the British government that allowed gambling games to be played in members-only establishments and it was around now that the game was brought over from America and promoted by Eric Morley, the chap who gave us "Miss World". This co-incided with the sudden availability of a many large halls that had previously been used for cinema, theatre and social activities due to the rising popularity of television and some of these halls began to be used regularly and eventually exclusively as "Bingo Halls". The UK improved the Bingo "experience" by using special Bingo cabinet with numbered balls that were blown around with fans, some of which eventually pootled out one by one into a little runway to be read out by the announcer. The announcers, too, began to razzmatazz things up by beginning to use little familiar rhymes when reading out the numbers. Some of the more famous ones are:

  • Kelly's Eye, Number One
  • One little Duck, Two
  • Cup of Tea, Three
  • Knock at the Door, Four
  • Jack's Alive, Five
  • Legs Eleven
  • Sweet Sixteen
  • Seventeen, Never Been Kissed
  • Two little Ducks, Twenty Two (enthusiastic players often shout 'Quack, Quack' when this one is read out - yes, really)
  • Droopy Drawers, Fourty Four
  • Fifty Seven Heinz Varieties
  • Two Fat Ladies, Eighty Eight
  • Almost There, Eighty Nine
  • Top of the Shop, Ninety.

Later electronic Random Number Generators (or the RNG) and more recently Internet Bingo replaced the original Bingo cabinets, although some Home Bingo Sets still evoke the old way of doing it with a similar mechanism. None-the-less, the game is still enormously popular in Britain where it has become both a way of life for many elderly people and for some their only means of meeting and socialising with others.


Beetle is not a traditional game. However, it is fun so here are the basic rules: Each player takes turns to throw a single die which is utilised as follows: 1 - Body (must throw this before anything else can be drawn) 2 - Head 3 - Three legs 4 - One eye (can't draw until have head) 5 - One feeler/antennae (can't draw until have head) 6 - Tail First player to draw a complete beetle with 6 legs, 2 feelers and 2 eyes wins. Rules vary slightly during a Beetle Drive but usually each table has 2 sets of partners facing each other and everyone throws dice frantically trying to get their beetle first. There is generally only one dice per table and it's passed around. Whichever partnership gets a Beetle first shouts Beetle! very loudly and the whole room stops. People then move onto the next table in rotation.