Referred to as slots in many parts of the world, Australians have a unique affection for pokies. But why do we call slots pokies in Australia?

When Australians travel abroad we often encounter different words for pokies. The Americans call them “slots”, the English say “fruities” and some Scots even brand them “puggies”. If you’ve heard someone speak of a “one armed bandit” before then they’re probably talking about online pokies.

But what are pokies, and why do Australians called them this name instead of the generic “slots”?

Well, it all comes down to the history of the classic gambling machine and its origins in both Australia and New Zealand. And it’s this history of gambling in Australia that has ensured the term “pokie” has survived into the era of online gambling in Australia!

History Of The Word Pokie

The word “pokie” is a slang term that derives from “poker machine”, which was the initial name for automated gambling games when they were introduced to Australia in the early 1900s.

The first mechanical slot machine was the Liberty Bell, created by American car mechanic Charles Fey in 1895. Within a decade these machines were being shipped all over the world – and both Australia and New Zealand got its hands on the technology.

The Liberty Bell and most other early slot machines had just three spinning reels, making it easy to learn how to win on pokies! Players won by lining three matching symbols on the central line. Much like in online poker where you try and create a strong hand, the strength of your winning symbols in a slot machine determined your payout level.

Now, pokies weren’t actually legal in Australia until 1956 in New South Wales. Before then, these machines were played illegally in clubs and bars. They also changed dramatically over the five decades before legalisation – by the 1950s there was a wide variety of pokies, and a few decades later electronic slot machines entered the market.

Only very recently has online casino gambling become legal in Australia – and with this a whole new generation of pokies has hit the market. Now players can spin on win of games featuring high-quality graphic design, bonus games and other extra features that were unimaginable back in the early days of pokies.

Why Australians Call Them Pokies And Not Slots

It’s not known for sure whey the Aussies originally called them poker machines and not slot machines, but the name stuck. And very quickly the name was cut down to a less formal “pokie”.

One theory is that the illegality of poker machines meant that people who wished the play them had to use slang so as to avoid suspicion. Much like Cockney rhyming slang in the east end of London, altering the name of the machines may have helped evade suspicion from police authorities.

By the time electronic slots came along in the middle of the 20th century and gambling began to be legalised, the name had stuck and there was no going back. Pokies had become a cultural phenomenon long before the authorities began regulating them.

How To Play Online Pokies

These days you can still find pokies in bars and clubs around Australia but many Aussies now play pokies online instead.

Online pokies benefit from technological advancements in casino software that ensures far greater player safety and protection from fraud. They work in just the same way as a highstreet pokie: simply enter a game, select your bet amount and spin.

But the key difference is the gameplay itself. While highstreet and online pokies may boast the same ‘Return to Player’ (RTP) percentage, those played on the internet are far better developed in terms of gameplay, graphic design and bonus features.

What’s more, players can swiftly jump between games and chase big accumulative jackpots that are unavailable in traditional pokies. Not to mention, you can claim a casino bonus (such as a no deposit bonus) to claim some free spins!

Read our reviews of online casinos for the best pokies sites, or find the best mobile casino site for you.

Matthew Vanzetti

Pokie Professor & Casino Expert

Matthew Vanzetti is the go-to expert on pokies at Gamble Online Australia, bringing years of firsthand experience from Melbourne’s casino floors to his engaging articles. His expertise covers everything from traditional slot machines to modern jackpots, providing readers with practical insights and tips to enhance their gaming experience.

Matthew’s passion and detailed knowledge make his writings essential for anyone interested in the thrilling world of pokies.

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