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Why Are Pokies Called Pokies & Not Slots?

Why Are Pokies Called Pokies & Not Slots?

If you've ever visited a casino, you've probably come across the term "pokies." This term is commonly used in Australia and New Zealand to refer to slot machines. But what is the origin of the word, and why is it used instead of "slots" in these countries? In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into the fascinating history, similarities, and differences between pokies and slots. We will also explore some other international terms for slot machines and discuss the popularity of pokies in Australia and New Zealand.

The Origin of the Word "Pokies"

The term "pokies" is believed to have originated from the word "poker" or "poker machine." It is thought that when slot machines first arrived in Australia and New Zealand, they were initially called "poker machines" because of their resemblance to video poker games. As Australians and New Zealanders are known for their love of abbreviations and shortening words, it is not surprising that "poker machine" eventually evolved into the slang term "pokie."

The History of Pokies and Slot Machines

Slot machines have a long and fascinating history that dates back over a century. The first mechanical slot machine, the Liberty Bell, was invented by American car mechanic Charles Fey in 1895. Within a decade, these machines were being shipped all over the world, including Australia and New Zealand.

In the early 20th century, slot machines were gaining popularity in Australia and New Zealand. The first poker machines were introduced to these countries, and they quickly became popular as well. As more and more video slots were developed, these two types of games were often placed side by side in casinos, making it easy for players to use the term "pokies" for both slot machines and poker machines.

Over time, as slots became increasingly popular and the casino industry evolved, the term "pokies" began to refer exclusively to slot machines. Today, pokies are massively popular in Australia and New Zealand and can be found in various establishments, including casinos, pubs, restaurants, and hotels.

Pokies vs. Slots: Is There a Difference?

Although the terms "pokies" and "slots" are often used interchangeably, there are some minor differences between the two. One of the main differences is that pokies typically have more reels than traditional slot machines. This is particularly true in Australia and New Zealand, where modern pokies often have up to 12 reels, compared to the classic three-reel slot machines.

Another difference is that pokies are more commonly found in Australia and New Zealand, whereas slot machines are prevalent in other parts of the world, such as the United States and the United Kingdom. However, it's essential to note that the gameplay and mechanics of pokies and slots are virtually identical, regardless of their name or location.

The Popularity of Pokies in Australia and New Zealand

Pokies hold a special place in the hearts of Australians and New Zealanders. They are the most popular form of gambling in these countries, with millions of people playing them every day. It is estimated that around 4% of Australians play pokies at least once a week, making them a significant part of the country's gambling culture.

There are several reasons for the popularity of pokies in Australia and New Zealand. One is their simplicity and ease of play. Unlike other casino games, such as blackjack or poker, pokies do not require any skill or knowledge to play. They are purely luck-based, making them accessible and enjoyable for people of all ages and skill levels.

Another reason for the popularity of pokies is the wide variety of games available. Land-based casinos in Australia and New Zealand offer hundreds of different pokies, ranging from classic three-reel games to modern video slots with multiple bonuses and hundreds of paylines. Online casinos also provide a vast selection of pokies, with thousands of different games available for players to choose from.

Finally, the potential for big wins and jackpots is another significant factor in the popularity of pokies. Many pokie games offer progressive jackpots, which can reach life-changing amounts. The thrill of potentially hitting a massive jackpot keeps players coming back for more, contributing to the enduring popularity of pokies in Australia and New Zealand.

The Evolution of Pokies: From Mechanical Machines to Online Gaming

Pokies have come a long way since their inception as mechanical slot machines. Over the years, they have evolved and adapted to new technologies and trends, making them even more popular and engaging for players.

Mechanical Slot Machines

The first slot machines were mechanical and featured spinning drums with symbols on them. Players would insert a coin and pull a lever to start the drums spinning, with the goal of lining up matching symbols on the machine's single payline. These early slot machines were simple and straightforward, with few special features or bonuses.

Electronic and Video Slot Machines

With the advent of electronic and video technology, slot machines underwent a significant transformation. Electronic and video slot machines replaced the mechanical drums with digital screens, allowing for more intricate and engaging gameplay. These machines also introduced new features, such as bonus rounds, free spins, and multipliers, which added even more excitement and potential for big wins.

Online Pokies

The rise of the internet and online gaming led to the development of online pokies, which allowed players to enjoy their favorite games from the comfort of their own homes. Online pokies offer an even greater variety of games and features, with thousands of different options available for players to choose from. They also provide the convenience of being able to play anytime, anywhere, making them an increasingly popular choice among pokie enthusiasts.

Pokies Around the World: International Terminology

While "pokies" is the most common term for slot machines in Australia and New Zealand, other countries have their own unique names for these popular casino games.

Fruit Machines

In the United Kingdom, slot machines are often referred to as "fruit machines." This term dates back to the early days of slot machines when many games featured fruit symbols, such as cherries, oranges, lemons, and watermelons. Despite the wide variety of modern slot games available today, the classic fruit machine theme remains popular and is often used in both land-based and online casinos.


In Scotland, slot machines are sometimes called "puggies." This term is thought to have originated from the word "puggy," which is a Scottish slang term for a small, mischievous child. It is unclear exactly how this term became associated with slot machines, but it is likely due to the playful and exciting nature of the games.

One-Armed Bandits

Another term for slot machines that has its roots in the early days of the casino industry is "one-armed bandits." This nickname comes from the fact that the original mechanical slot machines featured a large lever on one side, which players would pull to start the spinning reels. The lever resembled an arm, and the machines were known for "stealing" players' money, hence the name "one-armed bandits."

Playing Pokies Responsibly

Although pokies are an enjoyable and exciting form of entertainment, it is essential to remember to play responsibly. Gambling can become addictive, and it is crucial to set limits on the amount of time and money you spend on pokies or any other form of gambling.

Many casinos, both land-based and online, offer resources and assistance for players who may be struggling with problem gambling. It is essential to seek help if you feel that your gambling habits are becoming a problem or negatively impacting your life.


Pokies and slots are essentially the same thing, with the term "pokies" being more commonly used in Australia and New Zealand. The popularity of these games in these countries is due to their simplicity, wide variety of options, and potential for big wins. As pokies continue to evolve and adapt to new technologies and trends, their popularity is likely to endure for many years to come. So, whether you call them pokies or slots, enjoy these thrilling casino games responsibly and have fun!

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