Australia is home to hundreds of thousands of pokie machines, the largest majority of which are situated in New South Wales, boasting over 60,000 pokies across 1,500+ clubs and accounting for approximately $12 billion in revenue in 2013. These machines have been present Down Under since the earliest 1900’s, shortly after Californian Charles Fey was credited with inventing them in the 1890’s. But playing them didn’t become legal until 1956 when NSW became the first state to permit pokies in registered clubs. So that’s where our timeline will begin.
There are several major competitors in Australia’s poker machine manufacturing industry. Some of them are globally recognized brands, while others deliver the majority of their supply to territories throughout The Land of Plenty. We’ll discuss the most prominent pokie machine manufacturers, their most successful launches and what advantages each has with the Aussie population.
Aristocrat Leisure Ltd.
If you’ve played a variety of poker machines anywhere Down Under, chances are you’ve tapped into this company’s market. Aristocrat is the leading developer of pokies in Australia, and always has been. Aristocrat Leisure Ltd was founded by Len Ainsworth (make a mental note of that name) and introduced its very first poker machines in 1953, just 3 years prior to their legalization in NSW. In 1984, the company broke the mold by releasing its first modern, fully electronic poker machine, the technology for which is still in use today. Finally, in 1996, Aristocrat Leisure Ltd. hit the big time by appearing on the Australian Stock Exchange under the acronym ALL.
Aristocrat is headquartered in Sydney, Australia, but also has offices around the world in Japan, South America, Russia and the USA. It is the largest pokie machine manufacturer in Australia, and second largest in the world behind IGT. The company has produced a plethora of popularly themed pokies, including its most epochal creation, Queen of the Nile, and the extensive locomotive-themed Cash Express series of networked progressives.
International Game Technology (IGT)
International Game Technology is the most recognized brand in pokie machine manufacturers, but the majority of its products are maintained in the United States, where IGT has managed to grab nearly half of the US market share for electronic gaming machines (EGMs). The company operated privately for three decades, dating back to the 1950’s, but chose to go public in 1981, selling shares on the NASDAQ in order to expand its portfolio of EGM archetypes , especially video poker, and branch out into new regions. In 1986, IGT Australia was born when the company broke into the club scene after establishing a head office in Sydney. IGT Australia now operates out of 8 offices Down Under.
IGT is heralded for spearheading the evolution of player tracking and player rewards systems in poker machines. They technology was being developed by a much smaller company, Electronic Data Technology, but IGT acquired the business in 1984—the first of many, many more acquisitions to come—and integrated the software’s computerized player tracking system on its poker machines. The roots of that system are still used today in the universally popular VIP loyalty rewards programs that all major casinos and poker machine operators are famous for.
Ainsworth Games Technology (AGT)
I told you to remember the name Ainsworth, and now you know why. The Ainsworth family still owns a significant portion of the Aristocrat company, but founder Len Ainsworth left Aristocrat in 1995 to pursue a new brand of self-titled poker machines. Thus AGT was born. Headed by the ‘Pokie King’ himself, AGT quickly rose in the ranks and is now the third largest manufacturer of pokies in Australia.
The company is headquartered in Newington, Australia, but holds offices in key locations around the world including North America, South America, Europe and Asia. AGT is responsible for the A560 cabinet pokies found throughout Australia’s casinos, clubs and hotels. They also developed the popular standalone and linked jackpot Game Plus series, which includes its iconic Double Shot, Triple Shot and Quad Shot, and the customized thematic titles Reels of Wheels, Red Wolf, Inca Reef Grand and Tower of Fortune under its Premium Plus series.
Chances are you know this name for a different reason – video games! Breath of Fire, Castlevania, Dance Dance Revolution, Silent Hill, Frogger and Yu-Gi-Oh! are just a few of their more celebrated titles. The Japanese company has been in operation since 1969 and has dipped its proverbial toes into many different waters, everything from arcade cabinets and console-based video games, to tokusatsu films/television and anime, to trading cards and children’s toys. Konami even owns a fitness club franchise. And, of course, they manufacturer pokies.
Konami started producing pokies for Australia in 1996 and there was a brief period of time in which the brand ranked in Australia’s top three pokie machine manufacturers, but as their competitors expanded into further production, Konami had a bigger picture to focus on. The company is by no means struggling, and continues to maintain some very popular pokies, like Money in the Bank, Cash Inferno and the acclaimed Rocky Slots, themed around the blockbuster film franchise.
One of the oldest poker machine manufacturers still in existence is Bally Technologies, though its roots go much further back than it current moniker. The company started out as Bally Manufacturing, established in 1932 as a fabricator of pinball machines. Since then, the company has grown enormously, and undergone numerous changes, including the recent merging of three major gaming system brands, Shuffle Master, Star Games and Bally Technologies, (the new company name undertaken in 1995).
Bally Technologies is a global leader in poker machine manufacturing with an especially strong hold in the United States as per its base of operations in Las Vegas, Nevada. Bally announced in 2010 that it would enter the Australian market, and took with them Aristocrat’s 18-year managing director and 10-year sales manager. With trusted experience at the helm, Bally has already risen to title of 5th most productive pokie machine manufacturer in Australia and continues to extend its reach with each passing year.