The number of gaming machine licenses in the ACT would be slashed by more than 20 per cent under a Greens election proposal.
In a bid to create a network of "pokie-free" venues across the territory, the Greens will push for the next ACT government to use financial incentives to encourage community clubs to surrender their machines.
The incentives would aim to grow or create new revenue streams for community clubs, helping them to offset lost gaming machine income - which the Greens say venues have become far too reliant on.
But industry group ClubsACT says the policy will drive clubs to bankruptcy, resulting in job losses, particularly among young workers, and dry up funding to local sports teams and community groups.
The Canberra Liberals have echoed those concerns, warning the Greens' proposal would be the "death-knell for many community clubs".
Under an as yet un-costed proposal, clubs willing to go "pokie free" would be offered taxpayer subsidies to position them as "venue of choice" for community groups, handed money to upgrade kitchens to help attract better restaurant operators and provided support to accommodate ethnic communities which don't have their own clubs.
The ambition is to reduce the overall number of machines in the ACT to 3000 by 2024, down from about 3800. That number has been reduced from about 5000 since the start of the ACT government's forced and voluntary poker machine surrender scheme.
The Greens' gaming harm spokeswoman Rebecca Vassarotti said the plan would help to tackle problem gambling, while assisting clubs in finding new and sustainable ways to generate income.
She said clubs' reliance on gaming revenue had been exposed during the COVID-19 pandemic, when a number of venues either shut their doors or cut hours as they waited for restrictions to be eased so they could turn machines back on.
ClubsACT chief executive Gwyn Rees savaged the plan put forward by the Greens, who he accused of reneging on a prior commitment to only reduce machine numbers to 3500.
"Clubs have worked hard to diversify their businesses and reach the goal set of less than 15 machines per 1,000 people," Mr Rees said.
"ACT clubs thought they had done the heavy lifting expected of them this political term, but it seems every time we reach the top of the mountain, the Greens roll the boulder back down."
Mr Rees warned of dire consequences for the sector should the Greens' proposal be realised, saying clubs already struggling amid the COVID-19 crisis would be forced to fold. Five community clubs had shut their doors in the past four years alone, he said.
Mr Rees also rejected the Greens' assertion that clubs had become too reliant on income from poker machines, saying revenue had declined in real terms by more than 60 per cent over the past 15 years.
Ms Vassarotti, who is a prominent anti-gambling advocate, said the Greens's plan was designed to support clubs, not destroy them. She denied the Greens' ultimate ambition was to remove all gaming machines from the ACT, insisting the party's "pokie free" push was designed to provide Canberrans with a choice.
An ACT Labor spokeswoman said a re-elected Barr government would continue to compensate clubs which surrendered machines until at least the end of the year.
But it won't force clubs to surrender machines, saying that would "impact clubs' ability to operate with certainty at a time when certainty is needed".
The spokeswoman noted that about one in eight ACT clubs had become pokie-free as a result of its compensation scheme, while a number of other venues had "very low" numbers of active machines. She highlighted the support extended to the sector through the pandemic, including the offer of $15,000 for every machine surrendered.