Four of the nine Canberra pubs with old-style poker machines have sold them, allowing two of the city's biggest clubs to boost their numbers.
The Raiders and the Tuggeranong Vikings can now convert the old licences to much more modern and profitable machines.
Pubs make no more than about $10,000 a year from each machine, and usually much less, because they're only allowed the outdated "class B" type of machine.
The big clubs make typically well over $30,000 a year from each of their machines. The Vikings rugby union club, already the city's biggest owner of poker machines, with 704 pokies, has now bought 11 more. It makes an average of about $35,000 from each machine before tax.
The Raiders have bought two new machines, bringing their numbers to 528. They make about $40,000 a machine (although they need to apply separately for permission to use more than 20 of their new machines, rather than storing them).
The Labor Club runs the city's most profitable pokies, taking more than $55,000 from each of its machines in its city and Belconnen clubs, although less from Weston Creek.
Now, the Fyshwick Tavern, Moby Dick's Tavern in Holt, the Wood Duck Inn at Hall, and P.J. O'Reilly's in Tuggeranong have sold out of their machines, selling them to two of the city's biggest clubs, the Vikings and the Raiders. The Wood Duck and Moby Dick's sold for about $18,000 a machine.
Moby Dick's owner, Darcy Henry, whose two machines took $4400 each in the most recent year, said the rules giving clubs exclusive access to modern machines were "lousy", with pubs forced to comply with all the paperwork but getting none of the pay-off.
"It's the equivalent of a Model T Ford," he said. "That's how obsolete they are. When they break down, it takes months to get parts for them."
Wood Duck Inn owner Allyson Wedrat, whose two machines made just $110 each in the most recent year, said they had been useless to her, and a significant paperwork burden.
"They were really just taking up space out here," she said.
The ACT government introduced the trading scheme last year, allowing clubs to buy and sell machines for the first time. The scheme also phases out the Class B machines owned by hotels and clubs, allowing them to sell them to clubs, which can then upgrade them to modern Class C machines, but banning hotels and pubs from buying new machines of their own.
Hotels and pubs have been limited to just two machines if they don't have accommodation, and 10 machines if they do. The Fyshwick Tavern, in the caravan park, had 10 machines, but has sold them all to the Vikings. Moby Dick's, P.J. O'Reilly's and the Wood Duck Inn each had two.
Since the trading scheme began in August, 116 machine authorisations have been bought and sold. One in every four is forfeit under the rules, designed to bring the overall number down over time. The Raiders have been the biggest buyers to date, buying 62 (with 15 of those forfeit).
The top four pokie owners are now the Vikings (715), the Southern Cross Club (620), the Raiders (528), and the Labor Clubs (503).
The latest sales leave just five pubs and hotels still owning Class B machines: the Civic Pub (10), the Kambah Inn (10), the Statesman Hotel (10), the Kingston Hotel (10) and the Mercure (10).