Why Endorphina Discontinued Its ‘Maori’ Online Pokies Game

Endorphina has pulled its online pokies game Maori
Endorphina ‘Maori’ Online Pokies Game

Endorphina released the pokies game Maori. This gaming software brand is based in the Czech Republic and has established a reputation for producing high-quality casino games for its clients over the past few years.

The company’s pokies are available through a variety of clients. It has even expanded its scope as the software supports Bitcoin transactions. Endorphina has pulled its online pokies game, Maori—know more about it here.

Maori Pokies Went Online in December 2016

Maori Pokies game
Maori Pokies was released in December 2016

This title was released in the gaming market in late December 2016. It included pokies reels depicting Maori men and women, waka, pounamu, stylized bone carvings, and a rendition of the haka Ka Mate stylized bone carvings. Hapai Te Hauora, a public health agency, quickly noted it as cultural appropriation.

Purposeful Introduction

At the time of the game’s release, Endorphina announced that it “celebrates the cultural heritage of Maori people living in New Zealand, a visually mastered pokies that features full 3-D modelled characters in HD that allows great immersion into the game and the culture of the people.”

The Maori pokies game was officially introduced to celebrate New Zealand’s cultural heritage. The remarkable culture, traditions, and symbols were shaped over hundreds of years in complete isolation, and we intended to pay tribute to them.

After months of research and weeks of finalizing the finest details, the project resulted in a visually attractive and culturally on-point game that soon gained much attention.

About The Game

Endorphina, a Czech developer, released a slot machine-style game that features depictions of Māori men and women, incorporating iconic imagery such as pounamu, waka (canoes), bone carvings, and the haka Ka Mate.

The game includes symbols described as a “golden symbol with stuck-out tongue” and a “canoe with Māori voyagers.” However, the release of this game has faced criticism from anti-gambling advocates who raise concerns about the potential negative impact of gambling on Māori communities.

These advocates argue that the game’s availability to children and its use of culturally significant imagery could exacerbate gambling-related issues among the Māori population.

What Made Endorphina Withdraw From the Pokies Game?

What made Endorphina to withdraw the pokies game
What made Endorphina withdraw from the pokies game

The unauthorized use of cultural icons such as the pounamu constituted a breach of the intellectual property rights of the Ngai Tahu, a Maori tribe. The game also featured Ka Mate, a haka – or traditional dance — belonging to the Ngati Toa. Maori public health advocacy organization Hapai Te Hauora slammed the game for cultural appropriation.

On 2 February, Hapai Te Hauora posted a press release detailing Endorphina’s unauthorized use of cultural symbols. Hapai Te Hauora chief executive Lance Norman said the association drawn between Maori symbols and gambling is an “insult” as Maori suffer disproportionate harm from problem gambling in New Zealand.

According to him, Maori intellectual property has been used as comforting and familiar inducements, with the potential to lure vulnerable people to online gambling. Its use is particularly offensive to Maori.

  • Cultural appropriation concerns:
    • Appropriation refers to adopting elements from a marginalized culture without understanding or respect.
    • Concerns were raised about the portrayal of Maori culture in the game.
    • Potential exploitation or misrepresentation of Maori traditions and symbols.
  • Hostile public and community reactions:
    • Social media platforms saw significant backlash and criticism directed at the game.
    • Maori community and cultural advocates expressed offence and dissatisfaction.
    • Public outcry highlighted the potential harm caused by the game’s portrayal of Maori culture.
  • Ethical Considerations and Responsible Game Development:
    • Game developers have an ethical responsibility to represent and respect cultural heritage accurately.
    • The withdrawal demonstrates recognition of the potential harm caused by misappropriation.
    • Commitment to responsible game development and cultural sensitivity.
  • Impact on perception and understanding:
    • The game’s portrayal of Maori culture could lead to misunderstandings or trivialization.
    • The offence was caused to the Maori community due to the commodification of their cultural heritage.
    • Recognition of the need to prevent perpetuating harmful stereotypes or inaccuracies.
  • Lessons learned and future considerations:
    • Importance of cultural consultation and collaboration in game development.
    • Need for comprehensive research and understanding of cultural sensitivities.
    • The game’s withdrawal is a response to community feedback and ethical considerations.

Maori People Are More Likely to Become Problem Gamblers

Maori people are more likely to become problem gamblers
Maori people are more likely to become problem gamblers

Do you know Maori and are five to eight times more likely to become problem gamblers than New Zealanders? This is the result of a study published in 2016 found? The Ministry of Health followed 3000 randomly selected people over two years. They recorded how many of them developed clinical gambling problems.

Lead researcher AUT University Professor Max Abbott said the Maori were over-exposed due to their more exposure to electronic gaming machines. And a lower standard of living.

A similar 2015 study by Te Runanga o Kirikiriroa into Maori problem gambling found that gambling significantly affected the cohesion, cultural identity, and financial stability of Maori families.

Electronic gaming machines, in particular, were identified as isolating Maori from families and the community. Norman said that the use of Maori cultural icons was not only insulting but also illegal.

Sovereignty over representations of cultural icons significant to Maori was enshrined in the Treaty of Waitangi and remains in legislation in New Zealand.

Norman said Endorphina’s “abhorrent and unsanctioned misuse” of Maori culture in this way breaches not only New Zealand laws but is likely to breach similar laws in other jurisdictions.

Hapai Te Hauora called for Endorphina to apologize to all Maori and to offer an apology to Ngati Toa Rangatira and Ngai Tahu, whose relationships with Ka Mate and pounamu, respectively, are protected by New Zealand law. Endorphina’s other culturally themed pokies games include Voodoo, Viking, and Geisha.

Endorphina’s Response and Actions Taken

Endorphina responded immediately to the cultural appropriation concerns surrounding their “Maori” pokies game. They issued a company statement acknowledging the concerns raised and expressing regret for any offence caused. Endorphina sincerely apologised to the Maori community and those affected by the game. In response to the public outcry, the company withdrew the game from circulation.

They followed regulatory requirements to ensure compliance and that the game was no longer accessible to players. Moving forward, Endorphina recognized the importance of cultural consultation and collaboration in game development.

They committed to implementing responsible practices, conducting thorough research, and understanding cultural sensitivities to avoid perpetuating harmful stereotypes or causing offence in future games.

Endorphina’s response aimed to address the concerns, demonstrate accountability, and pave the way for more culturally sensitive and inclusive game development in the industry.

Impact on Endorphina and the Industry:

Reputational Impact on Endorphina

  1. The cultural appropriation controversy surrounding the “Maori” pokies game significantly impacted Endorphina’s public perception and brand image.
  2. The negative publicity and backlash may have resulted in potential financial implications, such as loss of customers or damaged partnerships.

Broader implications for the gaming industry

  1. The controversy highlighted the importance of cultural sensitivity and accurate representation in game development.
  2. It served as a wake-up call for the industry to be more aware of the potential impact of cultural appropriation and the need for responsible game development practices.

The fallout from the “Maori” pokies game directly affected Endorphina’s reputation, potentially affecting its market standing and financial performance. It also had broader implications for the gaming industry, raising awareness about the significance of cultural sensitivity and the importance of responsible game development practices.

This incident reminds developers and industry stakeholders to prioritize accurate representation and cultural respect in their games, fostering a more inclusive and responsible gaming landscape.

Endorphina Latest Press Release:

Endorphina latest Press Release
Endorphina’s Latest Press Release

According to Endorphina’s latest press release, the game was available at online casinos. It was warmly welcomed worldwide and received a very positive response from players.

Despite globalization and its successes and achievements in certain areas; there are still many countries where people haven’t yet heard about Maori. Through the pokies game, they wanted and managed to change that and raise awareness about this outstanding culture and its people.

Unfortunately, everyone did not receive the game well. Some New Zealanders and the authorities of certain tribes were distressed by the theme of the game and the fact that their culture and symbols were depicted in such detail in an international online game.

Hapai Te Hauora, the Maori public health agency, demanded the withdrawal of the Maori pokies from the game portfolio and their official apology.

A press statement by Endorphina said that their main intention with the Maori game is always to broaden their cultural knowledge, to explain people’s open-mindedness and understanding.

The games are made to entertain people. They want to allow them to travel to different worlds and experience the realities of not having to leave their homes.

It also tries to convey the experience of exploring and discovering new countries, as not everyone is lucky enough to be given the privilege to travel and see the world themselves.

A Culture-Based Game

When creating a culture-related game, the software gamer does not intend to target people related to this culture specifically. They want to attract foreign players and give them an exclusive insight into different cultures—those that exist nowadays and those that don’t—like their Urartu pokies.

This game was appreciated worldwide, and positive feedback came from Armenia and local players. When they receive positive feedback from the country the game was designed after, it is the most valuable recognition they can ask for as developers.

Got a Positive Response Initially

Got positive response initially
Got a positive response initially

Edgar Mkrtchyan, Casino Manager at BetConstruct, stated, “Players in Armenia were truly delighted when we started offering Endorphina’s pokies Urartu to our partner V bet. So far, it has been the top-performing Endorphina pokies available in this market.

It is exciting that Endorphina has created a game about Armenian culture and the 3,000-year-old Kingdom of Urartu, which has earned them favour with local players.”

Endorphina’s team is wholeheartedly sorry for this unfortunate situation. Their official apology has already been sent to Maori authorities. They never intended to insult the Maori or cause any cultural misinterpretation.

After the negative feedback, the game was withdrawn from their game portfolio. Necessary changes in the design are being made to remove all elements that could evoke any connection to the Maori people and their culture. Even Robert Novak, Head of Development at Endorphina, said it’s deplorable that the game couldn’t stay in its original design, as it was one of their most detailed and elaborate games.


The withdrawal of Endorphina’s “Maori” pokie machine serves as a poignant reminder of the impact that cultural appropriation can have on both companies and the gambling industry. The controversy surrounding the game highlighted the need for cultural sensitivity, accurate representation, and responsible game development.

The incident prompted Endorphina to issue a statement of apology, remove the game from circulation, and commit to future improvements. Moreover, it sparked broader discussions within the gaming industry about respecting cultural heritage and avoiding offensive portrayals.

Ultimately, this incident underscores the ongoing evolution of ethical considerations and the growing recognition of the significance of artistic representation in gaming.

Mamta Sharma

Mamta is a spirited writer hailing from Wellington, bringing a youthful zest to the world of digital content. Merging her love for narrative with an eye for detail, Ella crafts stories that resonate and engage the modern reader.