Why Are Pokies Popular in Australia

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Aussies are known as fervent gamblers and regular casino visitors. The numbers show that 30% of adult Australians gamble at a casino at least once a year, while one in four of them visit gambling sites on a weekly basis. 

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The beloved casino game my mates rush to play are pokies or slot machines. Their fascination with pokie machines started the day they appeared on the gambling scene in the fifties and has been growing ever since. There are many reasons for the Aussies’ obsession with these colourful and exciting casino games, and I will try to rationalise some of them. 

The Appearance of Pokies 

It all started in the early fifties when the “Aristocrat” company produced their first pokie machines. “Clubmaster” gambling machines were the shiny novelty on the gambling market that offered fast-paced gameplay and excitement that no other casino game could match. These games lured many in with their simplicity and fun they offered to players. It was refreshing to know that all you had to do was pull the lever of this shiny gaming machine and wait for matching symbols to appear on the reels. 


Furthermore, the first slot machines had three reels and poker card or fruit symbols that had to match to make a winning combination. These classic pokies responsible for the pokie machine frenzy that overwhelmed Australians are now collectible items that you can buy online, while some of them are even displayed in museums.

The Expansion of Pokies

After this first wave of the gambling fever that struck the Aussies, people in the gambling business have realised how lucrative pokie machines can be, so they gave their best to improve pokie games and make them irresistible to gamblers. This is how video slot games first appeared on the gambling scene in the 80s. They were the next generation of pokies that offered so many favourable novelties to players. 

  • First of all, there was a video display that replaced the classic reels, where the player could see the symbol combination accompanied by other slot functions. Additionally, the “Start” button appeared and replaced the lever. Also, these slot games offered 5 reels instead of 3, which increased the players’ chances of hitting a winning combination.
  • Another thing that attracted numerous players was the abundance of paylines video slots offered. While in classic slots you only had one to five active paylines, there are up to 100 paylines you can activate during your game in these modern slot games. 
  • And last but not least, video slots offer interesting and compelling storylines that can completely captivate players. These pokie machines are also quite generous, as they offer various no deposit bonus rounds and prizes you can get if a wild or a scatter symbol hits your screen in a particular combination. 


All of these are reasons why video pokies are such a beloved game that many Australians adore.


The Legalisation of Pokies

Besides the appearance of improved video slot games that were an irresistible novelty to gamblers, the legalisation of pokies throughout the country that happened during the nineties was another incentive for millions of Australians to try their luck at these highly addictive games.


Apart from the New South Wales, where gambling on pokies became legal in clubs and pubs in 1956, other states and territories, including Victoria, Queensland, and South Australia waited until the early 90s to legalise gambling on pokies. However, to this day, Western Australia remained the territory where pokie machines are allowed in casinos only.

The Growing Popularity of Online Pokies

Gambling industry gave its best to keep track of the whirlwind advancement of technology by working on the online gambling scene. Online gambling started in the 90s and soon became the favourite form of gambling worldwide.


The online pokies followed suit and conquered the Internet and became the most popular and the most prominent game category in online casinos. In addition, gambling sites nowadays try hard to offer a wide range of online slots that are only becoming more interesting and complex every day. 


It didn’t take long for Australians to get hooked on online pokies as well. Here are some reasons why:

  1. The online pokie games have a higher RTP than the one offered in land-based casinos. In other words, the return to player in a brick-and-mortar casino ranges from 85% to 92%, and this is regulated by law in Australia. On the other hand, online slots are more generous, offering even up to 95% RTP rates.
  2. Online casinos offer an incomparably wider range of slot games to their players than regular casinos.
  3. The advancement of technology enabled online casinos to create apps you can download to your desktop or smartphone and gamble on the go.


For all these reasons, Australians soon became the leading nation in gambling, spending thousands of dollars on gambling annually. The stats say that there are more than 197,000 pokie machines in Australia, which is intimidating information if you know that there are only around 97,000 pokie machines in Canada, which is much larger and more populated than Australia.

Tackling the Gambling Problem in Australia

The whole Aussie obsession with playing pokies has its ugly side. The Productivity Commission, an independent body that helps governments in devising efficient solutions regarding economic, social, and environmental issues, has estimated that 30% of gamblers who visit casinos on a weekly basis are problem gamblers that are just a step away from slipping into gambling addiction.


They are looking for ways to minimise harm and are recommending measures to curb the devastating effects of compulsive gambling, like limiting the wagering requirements or making gamblers set their bankroll before the game that they will not break.


The Alliance for Gambling Reform also deals with this severe issue. They stand for recognising gambling addiction as a public health issue and are also making serious efforts to help people who have this problem. They also want to encourage problem gamblers to speak up about their issues and to seek help.


Although I think that Australians’ love for pokies will never fade away, for obvious reasons, I also believe in responsible gambling that won’t leave you totally broke in a cardboard box under some bridge. So, my fellow Australians, feel free to enjoy gambling on your favourite pokie machine but remember to always stick to your bankroll.


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