A vibrant Call Slots machine displaying cherry and lucky seven symbols on its reels, highlighting the play credits and winnings on a dimly lit casino floor.

Slot machines are referred to as “pokies” in Australian slang. Although the phrase might appear odd to anyone outside of Australia, it is essential to that nation’s distinct language and culture. 

Knowing the roots of this phrase is crucial for tourists and non-Australians who wish to comprehend the Australian language and culture intricacies fully. 

The term “pokies” results from linguistic, cultural, and historical influences. Its roots may be found in Australia’s history of gambling, the nation’s fondness of acronyms and nicknames, and the distinctive characteristics of Australian English. This article by John Gold of the BetPokies editorial team discusses how such influences explain why Aussies call their slots pokies.


Gambling has a lengthy and convoluted history in Australia. Horse racing and other types of gambling were popular among the working class in the late 1800s. Mechanical slot machines, commonly called “one-armed bandits,” were first introduced in the nation in the early 1900s. These devices gained popularity fast; by the 1950s, they were commonplace in pubs and clubs all around Australia alongside:

  • Lotteries
  • Bookmaking
  • Casinos
  • Two-up

Nonetheless, there have been changes to the regulations governing slot machines in Australia. They are now permitted in many areas of the nation. The term “poker machines” was not widely used to refer to them. Nevertheless, many Australians still connected them with illicit gambling. Instead, the shorthand name “pokies” was chosen and has since been widely used.

When video poker machines debuted in Australia in the 1980s, mechanical slot machines were swiftly eclipsed in popularity. The devices were first developed to get around gambling rules that forbade standard slot machines when they were first introduced in New South Wales. Because of their increasing popularity, video poker machines were subsequently made legal in other regions of Australia.

Slot machines weren’t allowed in Australia until the early 20th century, yet plenty of people still wanted to play them. Some business people started making slot machines that looked like vending machines that gave out sweets or gum to get past these regulations. These were frequently installed in stores and other public areas. They quickly gained enormous popularity, eventually earning the moniker “pokies.”

Nowadays, Australia frequently refers to slot machines as “pokies,” This use has shaped the nation’s distinctive cultural character.


In Australian culture, acronyms and nicknames are frequently used. Shortening words and phrases is a common practice among Australians. They also add “i.e.” or “o” to the end of words to create nicknames, such as roadie, sickie, truckie, and rollie. The name “pokies,” which is short for “poker machines,” describes this trend.

Why do Australians Call Slots "Pokies" 1

Another important aspect of Aussie culture and society is gambling. It is a popular pastime in bars and clubs, and Aussies are famous for their love of horse racing and sports betting. Pubs and clubs are essential to Australian social life because they provide a setting for individuals to congregate, mingle, and communicate. Up to 35% of the adult population participates in various types of gaming in a ‘typical’ month, demonstrating the country’s strong gambling culture. Slang phrases like “pokies” further emphasize how casual and friendly gambling is in Australian society.


As mentioned earlier, the Australian English slang term “pokies” originated from the phrase “poker machines,” which was used to describe early slot machines with poker symbols on their reels. The popularity of card game poker in Australia at the time and the influence of American English contributed to the adoption of this phrase. The term “pokies” has now become the widely accepted slang term for slot machines in Australia, reflecting the evolution of language in response to changes in society, culture, and technology. For instance, Australians are known for using diminutives, shortened forms of words, often ending in -i.e. or -y. For example, “barbecue” becomes “barbie,” “breakfast” becomes “brekkie,” and “bottle shop” becomes “bottle-o.” Similarly, “poker machine” was shortened to “pokie,” which is easier to say and has a more informal and friendly connotation.


In conclusion, a variety of historical, cultural, and linguistic factors explain why Aussies call their slots pokies. The term is generally considered a short form of the word poker and has been in use since the 50s when poker machines were first introduced to the country. It is essential for anyone planning to play at casinos while there to understand this reference, especially considering how deeply the gambling culture is rooted in Australian society.

Remember, gambling can be addictive and should only be practised by adults in a controlled manner. If you need help keeping your gambling in control, reach out to the gambling helpline 1800 858 85 in Australia.

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Annabel Johnson

Part time gamer, reviewer and blogger. Full time geek and tech expert!

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