Why Are Pokies Called Pokies: Deep Dive into Australian History of Gambling

By Sarah Thomas
June 01, 2023

Pokies, also known as slot machines, are an integral part of the Australian casino landscape and have been around since the late 19th century. In recent years, pokies have become increasingly popular throughout Australia, with over 200,000 machines operating in pubs, bars and clubs throughout the country. While their popularity has grown in leaps and bounds, there is still some confusion about why they are called ‘pokies’ in the first place. This article will delve into the history of pokies and explain how this name came to be.

pokies Australia

Why Are Pokies Called Pokies

Pokies are also known as slot machines, fruit machines and poker machines. The name “pokies” is most commonly used in Australia and New Zealand. The word’s origin is uncertain, but it may have been derived from the slang term “poking machine”. This likely came from players poking buttons to spin the reels.

These early pokie machines were fundamental in their design, with only three reels and a single payline. Still, they quickly grew in popularity due to their easy-to-learn gameplay and relatively high payout rates compared to other casino games. Over time, technology advanced, and slot machine manufacturers added more reels, lines, and other features, such as bonus rounds and multipliers, leading to “modern” slots.

Pokies have existed for over a century, with the first slot machine developed by Charles Fey in 1895. Since then, they have become an Australians love due to their entertaining nature and big payouts. They are now the most prevalent form of playing in land-based casinos and pubs worldwide. Today, the term ‘pokies’ is used worldwide to refer to any online and offline slot machine. The popularity of slots continues to grow, with more players trying their luck at these exciting games daily. With technological innovations making them even more entertaining than ever, it looks like the future of pokie machines is bright!

Early History of Gambling in Australia

Gambling has been part of Australian culture since the country’s early days. Traditional forms of playing at the casinos, such as card games, horse racing and sports betting, have a long history in Australia. The first recorded casino gaming in Australia was a horse race on October 10th, 1810, near Parramatta, New South Wales. This event is considered the beginning of organised casino gaming among Australian players.

Casino gambling at Australian casinos became increasingly popular throughout the 19th century, with more and more venues offering games such as roulette and blackjack. In 1892, the first legal casino was established in Hobart, Tasmania. By 1901, there were over 400 registered casino venues across the country. The 20th century saw a rise in the casino playing across Australia and New Zealand. The introduction of Tattersall’s sweepstakes and state lotteries during the 1950s fuelled an increase in the public interest and more opportunities for people to gamble. In 1973, federal legislation was passed that legalised off-course betting on horse racing, further increasing the popularity of playing at casinos nationwide.

Today, Australia has over 200 casinos, numerous racetracks and sports betting venues. Also, there is a great possibility to play pokies online for those who want to spend time at home. Playing casino games remains a popular pastime for many Australians and is integral to the country’s culture and economy.

Regulation of Pokies in Australia

In recent years, increasing efforts have been made to regulate and monitor poker machine activity due to evidence that suggests some players are at risk of developing problem gambling behaviour. This includes restricting access to specific machines and limiting how much money can be gambled at any time. However, the regulation of gambling is at a record high in Australia.

The Australian Government has also put in place various initiatives to help those at risk of developing problem behaviour, such as providing counselling and support services, banning certain types of advertising, and introducing measures to restrict underage casino gaming.

Despite the increasing regulation and awareness campaigns aimed at reducing the risks associated with pokie games, the game remains popular throughout Australia. This is partly due to its convenience—players can enjoy a quick game on their terms without waiting for their turn or relying on others for entertainment. This convenience has helped make pokies one of Australia’s most common forms of gaming at casinos.

Popular Types of Pokies in Australia

Australia’s most popular types of pokies are the classic 3-reel and 5-reel games. These slot machines offer a variety of exciting game features, including:

  • Wilds
  • Scatter symbols
  • Free spins
  • Bonus rounds

Multi-line online slots have also become increasingly popular in recent years due to their enhanced animations, sound effects, and unique features. There are also progressive jackpot pokies available that offer life-changing sums of money each time you play them. Finally, some online casinos offer virtual reality pokies, which allow players to immerse themselves in a virtual casino environment while playing their favourite slot games. No matter what type of pokie you choose to play in Australia, it will provide hours of entertainment and potential financial rewards.

Pokies can also come in the form of tournaments and other special events organised by the online casino. These allow players to compete for large prizes, such as cars, vacations, and cash. Pokie tournaments are usually held on specific days at different casinos throughout Australia. You can find out which tournament is closest to you online or at your local casino. Tournaments can be great fun and provide an excellent opportunity to win some of those huge jackpot prizes!


Pokies are a unique part of Australian culture and have existed since the early 1900s. They have become integral to socialising in pubs, clubs and other establishments. The name ‘pokie’ is derived from the word ‘poker’, which was very popular in colonial Australia before electronic games were invented. The popularity of these slot machines has only increased over time, with considerable amounts wagered on them every year across Australia. While there are legal restrictions on who can play pokies, their presence in public spaces has become a source of entertainment that enriches local life. Pokies may be called different things depending on where you live, but they remain one of Australia’s most-loved forms of casino games.



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Sarah Thomas poker author
Written By.

Sarah Thomas

Sarah Thomas is a content writer for entertainment websites. In her free time she enjoys playing all sorts of games, both live and online.

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