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Why Are Pokies So Popular in Australia?

Anyone who is not aware of Australia’s obsession with pokies is missing an important history lesson. But have you pondered on why that is the case? No other form of gambling can top pokies in the island continent.

Sure, Australia only ranks seventh in the amount of slot machines it contains but heck, that is not exactly saying anything contrary because those machines number at some 196,000. If Australia was any bigger, you can bet there would be more, and for once, your bet would not be a one in a gazillion chance.

And besides, Australia really is ahead of the rest of the world when you stop looking at broad numbers and focus more on proportions. The United States may have more slot machines within its landmass but Australia has approximately six times more machines per capita. It houses a good 2.8% of all working slot machines globally.

But anyway, returning to the question. How did pokies become so popular here?

They are pretty entertaining… but why?

There are a number of sales pitches that draw players to a slot machine. There are the flashing lights, bright colors, big prize money if you happen to get lucky, and just some pretty cost efficient fun. It is a deal good enough for the majority of gamblers in Australia.

The machines have been here since the early 20th century but were not made legal until 1956 and still remain to be made legal in Western Australia, where they strictly limited only to the casino.

In the beginning these machines were simple. They had no lights, just three spinning reels and five pay lines. But they were still jolly good fun and began working their way in as a cultural staple for many communities. With the advent of computers, things would gradually liven up.

Now there could be at least 5 reels and a whole lot more pay lines. So their popularity was gaining tremendously and as they became legal, they exploded into casinos, pubs and hotels. The games these days are usually based on a popular theme – movies, comic books, TV shows and so on.

And it was not like they were the sole attraction anyway because there was always the elusive possibility of hitting the jackpot and receiving prize money worth hundreds of millions in currency. Few are those who could resist.

The other key attraction to know about pokies is that do not really require skill on your part to afford you some good returns. It is purely a game of chance, something that renders your thinking faculties about as useful as a rock.

So it is equally accessible to just about anyone and does not make the winners seem any smarter the losers. Everyone is simply playing the game.

And then they went online

Internet casinos first became a thing in the early 90s. Australia was initially behind on grasping this online concept mostly due to regulations imposed by the government. Now though, there are literally hundreds of online casinos to try which offer you the entertainment of playing pokies and dealing with really currency straight from your bedroom. No legal bindings to worry about either.

Accessing pokies online cuts all those additional costs like parking tickets, food and drinks and so on. And players will also be treated to a greater assortment of slot titles compared to the land-based machines. You can also count on them to be way more technically advanced than what they would be at the local pub.

What else is popular about online casinos? Land-based venues are only required to dish out a payout rate of 85% or 87% if you are in Victoria. With online casinos there is no real competition there. With online casinos, those rates must be publicly accessible and should be upwards of 95% when it comes to pokies games. Not bad, not bad at all.


So as you can see, there are plenty of reasons why pokies really took off in Australia. While the same reasons would apply to people in other countries, we have not seen anyone take so kindly to this form of gambling as Australia has.

Steve Thompson

I live in Melbourne. I have a Masters degree in Economics. I am a full-time gambler since 2007. Pokies is my favorite.

Page Updated: September 27, 2017