Everything and more about the pokies

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Pokies. Also called slot machines in the rest of the world, these machines have been loved among the people of New Zealand since the late 1980s. In the following years, pokies were introduced to pubs, clubs, hotels and land based casinos. Like everywhere, the slot machine at that time had much smaller winnings and very low return to player rate compared to the slot machines today.

To this date, non-casino gambling machines are the most common way to engage in gambling activities. In 2018, more than 2 billion New Zealand dollars were put into pokies at various locations. This does not include pokies inside land based casinos.

How did Kiwis end up calling slots as pokies?

The real question probably is though as to why slot machines are called pokies. The first guess is often that pokie refers to the act of poking the button. However, that is not the case.

Slot machines were not called as pokies when they arrived on the island. Rather, people referred to them as poker machines, one armed bandits or gaming machines. The most popular name, a poker machine, was later shortened to a pokie. Although no one really knows why people found the name better compared to slot machines or slots, calling these machines as pokies became the standard in New Zealand. Besides New Zealand, slot machines are called pokies also in the neighbouring country Australia.

The legislation behind the most loved game

One may question whether it is responsible to place slot machines in public places instead of keeping them at land based casinos in a controlled environment. The topic is rather tricky partly due to the operating structure. The Department of Internal Affairs takes the charge in regulating the gambling sector within the country including the pokies. This department gives licenses to something called corporate societies which essentially are organizations that operate not for profit. The casino venues, pubs, hotels and other places are then choosing which corporate society they want to work with. The societies have different not for profit targets where the money is going towards. Thus, changing the structure would have an effect on funding of charities and similar organisations. Although the system has received some criticism from various stakeholder groups, so far it is supported by most locals. Around 40% of the revenue of each corporate society goes to the actual cause. The rest goes to society expenses, gaming duties and venue payments.

Are online pokies the future?

During the past few years there has been a clear shift from offline environments to online platforms. Although online casinosare deemed as illegal, the law only touches upon those who aim to operate an online casino within the country. The global gaming industry has recognized the loophole and is currently utilizing it to attract Kiwi players to their casinos while acquiring a new customer base. Due to this, New Zealand’s land based casino giant SkyCity took a radical step and established an online casino subsidiary in its name that operates from the island of Malta and under the license of Malta Gaming Authority.

The basic idea of online pokies is similar to the old slot machines. There is a button to click and the player spins the reels in hopes of winnings. The basic function has not changed but everything else has. Online pokies have multiple features, game-like features such as points and leaderboards and oftentimes they are visually impressive. With the vast options of pokies available from the comfort of one’s home, bigger prizes as well as various promotions it only makes sense that Kiwis are slowly shifting towards the online gambling environment.

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