Pokies History in Australia
This short review has some facts about pokies’ invention, evolution and popularity in Australia.
The pokie machine inventor is considered to be Charles Fey. In the 1880s or 1890s in San Francisco, he created a mechanical slot, the Liberty Bell. It had a simple card design with a single row and 3 reels only, with a handle to trigger their spinning and without any extra features. Despite its simplicity, the slot machine conquered California but was banned soon.
In the early 1900s, the first slot machines came to Australia. They gained great popularity but stayed outlawed for the next half a century. In 1953 a newborn company Aristocrat saw excellent perspectives of the grey business and ordered an engineer Joe Heywood the first Aussie pokie machines – Clubman and, later, Clubmaster. The games achieved such great success that the NSW government had to legalize them in special pubs. Aristocrat became and even nowadays stays the biggest provider of land-based pokies in 200 jurisdictions.
For decades pokies stayed the same basic games with a single payline, later 3 or 5 ones, small jackpot and humble interactivity. Even the lights were added to the pokies in the middle of the 1960s only.
In the 1980s pokie machines became digital and got multicolour displays. It removed restrictions on mechanical equipment: video pokies could have any quantity of reels, rows, paylines and symbols. The games got an option of bonus games with different gameplay (for example, gambling features) and advanced settings. Moreover, the digital screen allowed the creation of any theme, grid design, symbols range and added soundtrack. All main themes and genres of modern pokies were born in the 1980s and bloomed in the 1990s, when Queensland, South Australia and New South Wales allowed installing pokie machines in pubs.
The first online casinos appeared in Australia just after the Internet boom in the early 1990s. Many of them are still in charge and attract new gamblers. These casinos offered customer support, free demo gambling, safe banking methods to deposit or withdraw AUD and huge welcome bonuses.
But the first Aussie online pokie was released only in 2004 – it was Thunderstruck by Microgaming. Nowadays, there are hundreds of companies with thousands of games in portfolios, and new pokies by Aussies and for Aussie players are released every month.
Pokies increased its average RTP from 80 to 95% and, thanks to the Internet, became available 24/7. The Internet made possible progressive jackpot games. Also, the huge computing power of modern servers allowed the process of any gameplay, and very complex pokies started to appear. For example, in 2018 Pragmatic Play released Bonanza – the first megaways pokie with immense payline and payout ranges, and the next year iSoftBet created Hot Spin Deluxe with 6 bonus game types.
In the 2010s the gambling industry was changed by the invention of iPhone and Android smartphones and tablets. All pokies games immediately got mobile versions, and since that time a rare pokie refuses them.
Some of the biggest companies have an Android or iOS app. But because of the variety of device screen sizes and RAM volumes, the developers prefer universal adaptive web pages, based on Flash or HTML5 technologies.
Thanks to mobile devices, the pokies were played anywhere and anytime. But smartphones and tablets had very small screens to adapt to. The numerous buttons, fields and settings of an average pokie were relocated to the submenus and extra tabs, and a device screen became almost totally taken for a grid.
Pokies continue their evolution, integrating high technologies. VR games already exist. Numerous casinos accept Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, and crypto blockchain will probably be integrated with pokies themselves in a few years.
The word “pokie” is another name for a poker machine. In Australia, it seems to appear together with the poker machines themselves. At least, when the first of them were installed in pubs and clubs, the advertising used “pokies” only. Pokies is a common name in Australia and New Zealand only, and their use on gambling sites is a good indicator for Aussie casino players.