People that have been lucky enough to go to New Zealand will know that our dear Kiwi friends have their own accent and local slang which is yet another reason to love the English language as it is so diverse, changing, evolving, and varying depending on the geographical location of the speaker. 

One of the coolest Kiwi words can be found in the six casinos operated in NZ which is something most gamblers will highly enjoy learning more about. People wanting to try their luck on slots or fruit machines in NZ may want to look up the New Zealand definition first before they head to a casino, as they call them “pokies” down under. 

The origin of the word, however, is unclear, but seems to be explained by many people in NZ as an abbreviation for video poker machines, often referred to as poker machines. Kiwis then started to shorten and use the word to refer to all sorts of electronic casino games, including online pokies that have become increasingly popular in this part of the world in recent years. Pokies are widely used in New Zealand, but the word is not exclusively used in NZ. Neighbouring Australia also uses the same word for what other people would call slots or slot machines – at least that’s how they’re called online. 

The origin of the word ‘pokie’

Just like Americans, Brits, Canadians, and people from other English speaking countries, New Zealanders love to abbreviate words. Perhaps, words like g'day (good day) with a strong Kiwi or Aussie (yep, there you have ‘m again) accent will ring a bell. Abbreviations are exactly what happened with the word pokie as well. The word is widely said to be derived from the word poker machine and for this reason it probably makes sense to people from other countries that the word ‘poker machine’ was later shortened into “pokie”. 

This brings us to the next question, as pokies, or pokie machines, are technically video poker games and not slots. So is there a difference between the two in NZ? There sure is, but in New Zealand the first poker machines are said to look more like slots than actual video poker machines, which caused some confusion among players and later in popular speech. Even in the first commercials of the early 1900s, slot machines were referred to as pokies and the term eventually became widely used in both New Zealand and Australia. 

But even though slots, or slot machines started to gain popularity and became a separate game of chance, in addition to the first-generation video poker machines, they were still called pokies. At the same, video poker is still referred to as a “pokie game” and New Zealanders don’t tend to distinguish between the two although every seasoned player will know they are technically different and have their own game rules. 

There is also a second theory that is less used in the country, but also tries to explain the origin of the term in its own way. Back in the days, all slot machines were operated by using coins. A player would need to put the coins in the machines and in case of a win, new coins would fall out for the visitor to collect. As a consequence, this alternative theory suggests that the term pokies came from visitors poking their fingers at the machines – either collecting their coins or making a wager with new coins.

Pokies around the world

The word “pokie” has also found its way into the world of online gaming, despite the fact that there is no such thing as a regulated Australian or NZ online casino as the latter country only accepts offshore online casinos, the local online gaming industry has not yet been regulated. This means that most New Zealanders who play online on foreign-operated websites will be familiar with the more widely accepted word “Slot” as well.

Other English-speaking countries have their own words to refer to the same game. Pokies are called slot machines in American English and fruit machines in British English which may be a bit easier to recognise than “pokie” or “online pokies”. Now, “fruities” as used in England might be a bit more tricky while the Scots call a pokie a “puggy” which will probably not sound half as familiar as the alternatives used in other regions. 

Playing online pokies in New Zealand

In both Australia and NZ, pokies are very popular. Pokies are therefore not only located in the casinos but can also be found in local pubs and bars. Australia alone is home to a staggering 197,000 pokies. Those in NZ can find pokies in land-based casinos in cities like Auckland, Christchurch, and Hamilton. Interestingly, online pokies have not yet been regulated in neither Australia nor NZ.

While it is still illegal for online gambling to be provided domestically, except by authorised providers (such as Lotto NZ), New Zealanders are allowed to gamble on offshore websites, creating a rather remarkable situation as no-one prevents New Zealanders from making their wagers on the internet. Nevertheless, the New Zealand government does warn its citizens of the risks of online gambling, especially pointing out the danger of unregulated sites by stating the following on its website:

“Offshore gambling sites may not be regulated at all and have no harm minimisation mechanisms in place to protect players. In addition, unlike domestic gambling, offshore online gambling provides little to no return to New Zealand communities.”

Nonetheless, pokies don’t only have a unique name down under, they still hold a special place in the hearts of Kiwis players. You will therefore find numerous legal online casinos that have decided to turn their attention to New Zealand and it is expected that more and more brands will follow. Players of 18 years and older that are based in New Zealand are free to sign up at casinos and the good news is that there are heaps of operators offering tailored bonuses to Kiwi players, available in New Zealand Dollars and with fair terms. One of the most popular online casinos available is Rizk Casino NZ that has opened its service to users that are located in NZ and want to play at a licenced online casino that is situated in Europe. Not only does Rizk Casino allow players to sign up on their platform and there is a special welcome package for users in NZ, it also offers thousands of pokies/poker machines/slots/slot machines/puggies, or whatever you want to call ‘em. 

Disclaimer: Play responsibly. Players must be over 18. For help visit

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