Online slots, online pokies, online pokies machines, while they are referred to as many things by locals, they have one thing in common. That is, everyone agrees, pokies are a much beloved pastime in Australia. We certainly see many people playing pokies in places where such machines appear like offline casinos and bars. And from what it seems, there’s a whole lot of online pokies playing going on as well.

But it’s one thing to have a hunch, and another thing to back it up with facts. So what’s the truth about pokies in Australia, and more particularly online pokies games? Are pokies really the most popular casino game around and does that popularity transfer to online play?

How pokies machines got their start in Australia 

To understand our national love of pokies, it’s important to start with a bit of background. Gambling games have been here in Australia for a few centuries now, basically since the time when European settlers initially made their way overseas. The first gambling games were those that were popular at the time and easiest to transport. These of course included classic dice and card games such as craps and blackjack.

Pokies are a newer addition. That’s primarily because they weren’t around when the settlers first came. The original pokies machine, known as the Liberty Bell, was invented somewhere in the 1890s, developed by a bloke called Charles Fey in San Francisco. A better version quickly evolved and the mechanism gained popularity across the US. Eventually it made its way to us in Oz, though at the time the one armed bandit was yet to be legalised here. But that didn’t stop local pokies development efforts, starting with the Aristocrat machine which came out in 1953, followed by the Clubman and Clubmaster games which were released in quick succession soon after.

While pokies play was popular underground for many years, it really took off when the government of New South Wales officially legalised pokies in 1956 within the confines of registered clubs. Next came the legalisation of casinos in 1973, where pokies took centre stage. After that the machines themselves, as well as the Australian casino industry as a whole, kept on growing and improving, with more lights and whistles added plus bigger potential payouts than ever to attract more players. 

The rising popularity of slots in Australia 

People in Australia are known to love a good gamble every now and then. In fact, some 80% of Australians engage in some sort of gambling. If you’re keeping count, that’s considered the highest gambling rate in the world! And why not? Gambling is legal here on all kinds of activities. For example, there’s horse racing, sports betting, the different lotteries, land based casinos, and tonnes of pokies – all done completely above board.

When it comes to pokies, there seems to be nothing short of a national fervour surrounding these machines. Recent statistics claim that 4% of Australian adults play pokies each week, and far more when you calculate on an annual basis (some say up to 30% or higher). There are no similar statistics making their rounds in terms of roulette play or blackjack bets, so that certainly says something as to which casino game leads. More indicative than the play rate, however, is the spend. That is pokies gambling accounts for over 60% of the amount locals spend on gambling each year. It also in turn accounts for a huge chunk of change in terms of taxes, with government bodies collecting billions of dollars each year from the 5% tax levied on pokies machines in hotels and clubs.

All of this makes pokies the uncontested most popular form of gambling in Australia. To meet this local love, it takes a whole lot of pokies machines. Luckily we’ve got the highest number of pokies machines per capita as well. The number to-date is quoted as somewhere around 200,000 pokies spread out between New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland. The count includes bars and similar venues as well as licensed casinos like the highly rated Pullman Reef Hotel Casino, the Star Gold Coast, the Ville Resort, and the Crown Melbourne. This means when you combine all the machines across Australia, you’ll come out to around one pokies machine for every 114 people or so. And again, this is in land-based casinos and other licensed venues alone. There are far more pokies available when you add online casinos to the equation.

Online casinos help increase our pokies love 

Online casinos made their way to Australia almost immediately. That is, around 1994 when the first online casinos made their debut on the internet, word reached us here in Australia right away. Needless to say, we quickly took a liking to this convenient format. And why not really? Everything about it appeals to local tastes. As a country that’s long had a good relationship with casinos and a strong love for the pokies, online gambling and Australia were a natural match from the get go.

At first there wasn’t much legislation around online gambling. Whoever had an internet connection could play. Eventually the Australian government got involved and created legislation to match this new pastime, and in 2001 passed the Interactive Gambling Act. Much of the legislation has to do with the operators themselves. For us casino lovers the important part is that we can now play without worry of offence.

This means that we are now freer than ever to enjoy more pokies than ever. True all online casinos we’ve encountered have a huge array of other casino games. And kudos to that. We certainly wouldn’t want a site to have online slots alone. But as local tastes have proven time and again, it’s the pokies we love and most want to play. This enduring popularity of pokies is seen in each casino’s offering. Sure it could be a question of “chicken or egg”. That is, you might ask: Do the casinos offer more pokies because we love them so much or is it that we play pokies so much because there are more pokies games available? We’d have to say the former. That is that pokies are the biggest offering of online casinos because they know our local preference.

6 reasons online pokies beat out other casino games 

With the numbers in, there is no denying that pokies are the most popular form of gambling in Australia, and online pokies are the most popular online casino game. There are a few reasons for this:

  1. There are hundreds of pokies options at every online casino – As we just mentioned, pokies are the most prolific game type at any online casino. So much so that it’s not unusual to find 300, 500, or even 800 pokies machines at a single site. This alone accounts for why there’d be more people playing online pokies than say online table games, of which there are usually only a couple of dozen choices at most.
  2. Amazing themes – It’s not only that there are so many pokies games available, it’s that they’re each so different from one another. With an amazing array of themes, brought to life by awesome programming featuring stunning animation and engaging sound effects, you can be endlessly entertained. Whether it’s fruit machines, Batman, circus clowns, tennis matches, race cars, or panda bears you love you’ll find all of these things and more each time you log on.
  3. Quick thrills, low skills – While there is a time and a place for games of skill, sometimes you just feel like an easy thrill. With pokies that’s exactly what you get. There’s no great thought involved, with an outcome based entirely on luck. And often, that’s exactly what you want. Easy and quick. You just spin and hope for a win.
  4. Serious winning potential – All online casino games can be played for real money prizes. That’s why you’d visit an online casino in the first place. But pokies machines tend to have the highest jackpots, and progressive pokies can reach numbers even higher, easily creeping into the six-digit dollar range and more. So if you’re after a big payday, these are the games you’d want to play.
  5. Multiple ways to win – When you play online roulette, you either bet on the right number or colour or you don’t. If your guess is off, your money is gone. Blackjack is similar. You either beat the dealer or you don’t. Each video pokies game on the other hand gives you more than one way to win. In other words, it’s not an all or nothing game. There are different paylines with different prizes, giving you more ways to win with every spin.
  6. Free spins – Another, very compelling reason that makes online pokies more popular than other online casino games is the prevalence of the free spin bonus. This is a bonus given by most casinos either absolutely free, or as part of a deposit offer. What it does is give you more chances at a win on the-house. This is something you don’t find in other games, for example blackjack, where we haven’t come across many offers to play a free hand. Also, within many video slot games there are programmed free spin wins. Again this is unique to pokies. You certainly don’t win another round on the roulette wheel. 

The online pokies Aussies love best

The Australian population is a mixed lot. The stereotypes have it that we’re a fun loving bunch, with a sense of humour and a touch of the travel bug. Sporty, down to earth, laid back, and freedom loving folks, we’re proud of who we are. And the way we spend our recreational time, reflects that.

So when it comes to online pokies, it’s only natural we’re picking to play at online casinos that offer a lot of choice to reflect our many sides. For example, the classic fruit machines appeal to our old-fashioned values, while the animated video slots speak to our more adventurous side. Sports themes are always much appreciated and so are those blockbuster slots with video clips rolled in.

In other words, more than anything, we like variety and the freedom to choose when it comes to online pokies play. And of course certified safe and reliable software is essential to our peace of mind and overall sense of personal protection. 

And what about mobile pokies? 

If online pokies are popular, nowadays mobile pokies are on their way to surpassing them. That is, in all likelihood, mobile pokies will soon be the number one way we enjoy our pokies play. As casino software development has progressed, mobile games have become as ubiquitous as online casino games. This means you can now access the full casino offering direct from your mobile phone. And since we’re so attached to our iPads, smartphones, and tablets these days it only makes sense that’s where Australian players are logging in more than ever. So while online slots are the most popular online casino game today, mobile pokies are fast on their way to becoming the most popular casino game of all.

 The enduring love affair between Australians and pokies machine

While other casino staples like dice and table games have a longer history in Australia, over the years, pokies have come to persevere. Undoubtedly the most popular gambling game in Australia, you’re hard-pressed to find a person who hasn’t given the pokies a spin at some point, many within the past week, and many more within the last year.

And it’s not only in the land-based casinos that this affinity continues to flourish. With the advent of online gambling, the local love affair with pokies has only grown. This of course makes sense. Convenient to access, fast to play, and packed with hundreds of options in terms of themes, online pokies are an attractive choice and the clear leader in the local online casino gambling space.