Everybody familiar with a high level of English knows that the language can change from one country to another or even from one region to another. We have our fair share of local words in Asian English speaking countries and the same is true for the Americas, Europe, and Africa. The same is true for the ‘Kiwis’ and ‘Aussies’ amongst us and the linguistic differences are not only limited to accents. 

New Zealand English, as the variation of English in New Zealand is called, has a lot of Maori words incorporated into the language whilst there are plenty, or ‘heaps’ as they would say, local terms and sayings. Pokies (not to be confused with ‘hokey pokey’, the local New Zealand term for honeycomb toffee) are yet another example of how the same language can vary from one nation to another. Today you’ll learn everything about ‘pokies’.

The Origin Of The Word ‘Pokie’

Like North-American speakers, New Zealanders like to shorten their words. This is what exactly happened to the word ‘pokie’ as well the term is actually a short version for ‘poker machine’. Poker machines are not necessarily automatised versions of poker games, but are just another word in New Zealand and Australian slang for ‘slot machines’. Gambling enthusiasts from down under use the same word to refer to all gaming machines, without differentiating between ‘slot machines’, ‘arcade machines’, or other automated games of chance. The shift from ‘pokie machine’ to the shorter ‘pokie’ doesn’t need any explanation.

Grouping all gaming machines under one umbrella term does lead to a new question though, as industry experts have asked themselves whether other automated machines existed in New Zealand at the same point of time as in other countries. Based on literature studies and analysis of images, both slot machines and poker machines existed, and they very much looked alike — explaining why Kiwis used the same word for technically different machines. Even people from other nations largely agree that the first versions of slots and pokie machines shared a lot of visual similarities. The word ‘pokie’ has always existed in both New Zealand and Australia and the first printed advertisements used it as well. 

In addition to the most used theory, there is also a second version of the word’s origin, with a somewhat different explanation. Slot machines, at least the authentic versions, are played with coins. After inserting a coin the machine starts to spin and offers the player a chance to make a real money win. After winning a certain number of coins, they would fall out of the machine for the winner to collect. In order to get all the coins, players would often ‘poke’ their fingers at the machine, leading to yet another explanation of the word. Most modern pokie machines are played on with chips, cards, or online credits.

Pokies in Other English Speaking Countries

The definition of ‘pokie’ is widely used in New Zealand and Australia, whilst speakers from other countries wouldn’t have a clue what is meant in these countries. Websites that are aimed on players in New Zealand and Australia often adapt their websites to local words. This can lead to the same operator offering different landing pages for each English speaking country which is true for all industries. The main idea behind it’s that a potential client must feel comfortable with one’s products and services before moving on to conversion which is why businesses prefer to speak the customer’s local language. 

Other countries that have adopted online gambling in recent years are Canada and the US where locals tend to stick to terms slot machines or slots (predominantly Canada).

Most Brits however refer to the same game of chance as ‘fruit machines’ or even ‘fruitie’. The latter is comparable with the way the word ‘pokie’ was derived from ‘poker machine’ in Australia and New Zealand. People in Scotland have their own definition of the same word: ‘puggy’. This is probably the most difficult one to remember. Websites of online casinos that cater for the needs of an international clientele tend to stick to the more neutral word of “slot machine”. The word slot is also understood by most New Zealanders.

As we’ve started with the list of different words across the English speaking world, we might as well go ahead and tell you that a Brit, Australian, or Kiwi calls a bettor a “punter”, whilst in the UK, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand is an offcourse shop away from a racecourse, where one can legally place bets in person. Careful though with the word “punter” though as in Britain and Ireland it is also used to refer to a client of a sexworker whilst in Canada and the US it’s the one who kicks the ball in American Football.  

Pokie Offer in New Zealand

In New Zealand, pokies are available in both land-based casinos and on online websites whilst the same is true for local pubs and bars. Visitors to land-based venues will be most lucky if they stick around the bigger cities such as Auckland, Christchurch, and Hamilton where different casinos are found. Interestingly, the capital Wellington does not have a brick-and-mortar venue to offer but gaming enthusiasts can still find options in smaller settings such as bars. Online, there are more options available, with all the websites in the country being offered by foreign, offshore operators. 

Unlike their neighbours in Australia, playing online pokies is technically not allowed as the industry has not yet been legalised by the government. At the same time, New Zealanders are not prohibited from playing on foreign websites as long as they meet the minimum age requirement of 18 years. Local authorities do however recommend Kiwis to avoid playing on international websites as long as the industry has not been legalised as local institutions do not have the power to intervene on behalf of the New Zealand government. A lot of the international websites have incorporated the word pokie for their Kiwi visitors so don’t look surprised when you see the word being used by online casino websites.