Why Do Kiwis Call Slot Machines ‘Pokies?’

Pokies in New Zealand

New Zealanders speak English with their own twist, blending Aussie and Brit vibes with their distinct Kiwi flair.

Naturally, gambling in New Zealand has its own lingo, too!

Forget slot machines, mate. Kiwis play ‘pokies.'

It might sound odd at first, but, it's a pretty snazzy word.

But, the real head-scratcher is how the heck did they come up with that one?

Blast From the Past: The Juicy Origin of  ‘Pokies' in New Zealand

Well, it's a bit murky, but chances are it started as a casual nickname for old-school video poker machines that were among the first games to grace NZ casinos.

Now, Kiwis have an undying love for abbreviations—they're like the kings and queens of shortening words.

You know, like turning ‘good day' into ‘g'day' with that unmistakable Kiwi twang. Or ‘brother' into ‘bro' and ‘cousin' into ‘cuz'—ah, the classic Kiwi staples!

This thing is called hypocorism—first noticed among Kiwi whalers of the yore.

Whaling, you see, is a big deal in Māori culture—a world of its own!

Early whalers had their own slang, some of which have stuck around. For instance, they still call pigs ‘grunters' and tobacco ‘weed.'

With a borrowed language dominating, this attempt to jazz up their own lexis by making new words from shortened or split ones seems only natural.

There's a particular obsession with slapping an ‘-ie' or ‘-o' at the end of words to make them sound informal and friendlier.

That's how Kiwis got words like ‘barbie' (barbecue), ‘pressie' (present), ‘sunnies' (sunglasses) ‘hottie' (hot person), ‘tantie' (tantrum), and our favourite—'pokies' (poker machines)

Seriously, ‘pokies' just roll off the tongue better than ‘video poker machines,' don't you think?

Of course, nowadays, the term is used for electronic casino games of every kind, including what's commonly called slots and fruit machines in other parts of the world.

What's interesting is that Kiwis never tried to come up with a new word for video slots.

Perhaps they were lazy.

Or perhaps they just loved the word ‘pokie' so much they'd use it for everything similar, from the classic three-reelers to those fancy video slots with more bonuses and paylines.

Anyway, ‘pokie' is definitely better-sounding than ‘slotie' or ‘sloto.'

Now, there's another fun theory that explains the word's origin.

Back in the day, slots were all about coins: you pop some in, pull the lever, and if luck was on your side, coins would come tumbling out.

So, players started poking at those machines, hoping to coax out a few extra coins at random. And just like that, the term ‘pokie' was born!

But hey, whether it's poking or abbreviating, Kiwis sure know how to keep things interesting!

By the same token, ‘bingo' is ‘housie' in New Zealand.

The source of inspiration is perhaps the game's ‘house rules' or players yelling ‘house' when they win.

‘Bingie' was on the table, too, but where's the fun in that? Gotta keep it uniquely Kiwi!

Are Pokies Any Different From Slots? 

Technically, the original pokies are like distant cousins to slots.

That's because the first poker machines in New Zealand started off looking more like slots themselves.

Back in the old days, this would often confuse players. Even the ads were mixed up, calling slots ‘pokies' and adding to the mayhem.

But as they say, once a nickname sticks, it's harder to shake than a stubborn cold.

The term eventually entered popular speech for good and became widely accepted in the country.

Fast forward to today, pokies and slots are basically synonyms.

Walk into any Kiwi casino and ask about pokies, they'll just point you to the slot section. Use the word ‘slots,' and they'd still do the same.

The only difference it'd make is how the locals see you.

So, if you're trying to blend in, stick to calling them pokies; it's like the secret handshake of the Kiwi gambling world!

But remember, whether you call them pokies, slots, or even cash cows, it won't change your luck.

Oh, and don't go thinking video poker gets left out of the fun.

Kiwis still call it a ‘pokie game,' blurring the lines between the two.

But hey, as long as you're having fun and maybe winning a few bucks, who cares what you call them, right?

What Are Pokies Called In Other Parts of the World?

In Australia, both the English language and video poker machines share a similar history.

That's why you'll hear Aussie casinos tossing around the word ‘pokie.'

Check out Ignition Online Casino for instance—they've got a whole tab dedicated to ‘online pokies' right on their menu!

Now, down under, locally regulated online casinos don't exist. Kiwis across the ditch hit up foreign casino sites where ‘slots' is the name of the game.

So, even if online gambling in New Zealand has caught onto the ‘pokie' craze, Kiwis will probably know the term ‘slots' as well.

Meanwhile, Americans call them ‘slot machines' and the UK prefers the classy term ‘fruit machines,' with England calling them ‘fruities.'

Up in Scotland they call them ‘puggies.' Over in Japan, they've got “pachisuro” and “pachislo” instead of slots.

It's like a whole new language just to spin some reels!

Love For Pokies in New Zealand 

Pokies are all the rage in New Zealand.

You can hunt them down in land-based casinos across the country, from Auckland to Christchurch, and even in little old Hamilton.

Yet, online pokies are like the Wild West of gambling in New Zealand.

They're not offered or regulated locally, but Kiwis are free to chase their luck at offshore casinos.

As a result, international online casinos are lining up to cater to Kiwi players, popping up like mushrooms every day.

Most of them are licensed elsewhere, so they're legit and safe. Plus, they dish out juicy bonuses with fair terms and take payments in New Zealand Dollars.

Of them, our favorites are the NZ casinos that pay out fast.

They've got tons of pokies or slots or fruities or puggies—whatever term floats your boat. And they don't make you wait around to meet your money. That's the real deal for playing pokies online!

Bringing extensive expertise in the professional iGaming industry and a deep understanding of online casino gambling, Mattias Fröbrant is a highly regarded iGaming journalist. With experience working with industry giants like Betsson Group and a track record of compiling thousands of casino articles, including hundreds of casino reviews, Mattias has established himself as a trusted authority.


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