Chief Minister Andrew Barr has signalled a possible crackdown on the continuing expansion of the big clubs, accusing them of predatory behaviour in using poker machine profits to "swallow up" smaller clubs.
Also on Tuesday, it was revealed the new owners of the Canberra casino want to bring fully automatic table games to the city, a move Greens minister Shane Rattenbury said was "of significant concern".
"These games are high-profiting machines, which turn games over rapidly and allow multiple players at once, delivering high profits to the owners," he said.
If Aquis was to be allowed automatic table games at the casino, they would need to come with "an appropriate tax" and consideration of how many people were able to play them, he said.
In explaining the government's move to reject the casino's bid for as many as 500 pokies, Mr Barr took a swipe at the clubs, saying there was a "lot of concern in the community" around their expansion.
"As the larger clubs get larger the purpose and community benefit of the smaller clubs that have long standing in the community tends to be diminished," he said.
"In a context of a broader look at the future of the club industry that is a concern to me... smaller clubs are being squeezed out almost in a predatorial way by larger clubs."
The Labor Party-owned Labor Club is the fourth biggest poker machine owner in the city with 503 pokies, but has ruled out selling any to the casino.
On Tuesday, the third biggest owner the Raiders also ruled out selling any of its 526 pokies, but the second largest the Southern Cross Club and the CFMEU-linked Tradies left the possibility open.
Southern Cross chief executive Ian Mackay said the club had "no immediate intent" to sell any of its 680 pokies to the casino, but couldn't rule out the board changing its mind.
After off-loading 80 pokies, Tradies chief executive Rob Docker said he had no interest in selling more machines as his venues had reached an "optimum level" with 460, but he did not rule out future sales.
Mr Barr said, on Tuesday, if the government allowed poker machines in the "for-profit" casino for the first time it would be "significantly less" than the 500 requested.
The casino would face a tougher tax regime than clubs, higher community donations, and more stringent harm minimisation rules.
Mr Rattenbury said the Greens did not oppose the casino's bid outright, but did "not want to see companies profiting from the exploitation of problem gamblers".
Opposition gaming spokesman Brendan Smyth said his party opposed any pokies in the casino.
He hit back at Mr Barr's swipe at takeovers by the big clubs saying they had saved many smaller and medium clubs from closure.
"The should be congratulated, not condemned," he said. "He needs to table a list of the clubs he thinks have behaved in a predatory manner or withdraw."
Clubs ACT chief executive Gwyn Rees said Mr Barr was misinformed and the increasing pressures of rates, taxes, licensing changes and diversification restrictions had forced at least seven clubs to close or merge in recent years and the situation would worsen if the casino "wins" its bid for pokies.
Mr Rattenbury said the casino bid was "an opportunity to introduce best practice harm minimisation", such as pre-commitment, where gamblers nominate their spend before beginning, and $1 bets.
The city has a relatively low concentration of pokies, he said, releasing figures for the major centres:
- City 132 (Hellenic 40, Labor 61, Magpies 31)
- Woden 689 (Southern Cross 295, Hellenic 254, Tradies 140)
- Tuggeranong 378 (Southern Cross 195, Vikings 183)
- Gungahlin 463 (Raiders 238, Gungahlin Lakes 225)
- Belconnen 282 (Labor 282)
- Weston Creek 176 (Raiders 90, Labor 50, Irish Club 36)
- Kippax 250 (Raiders 153, Magpies 97)
Mr Rattenbury said the Greens were concerned suburban clubs focused on attracting families while also containing significant numbers of poker machines, normalising "gaming in a family environment".
He suggested it might be preferable to have pokies in the casino rather than "peppered through the suburbs".
A spokesman for Acquis declined to comment.