Greens leader Shane Rattenbury has signaled a bright future for Canberra's clubs which involves less of a reliance on poker machine revenue, as the industry expressed optimism about his appointment as the ACT's new gaming minister.
A long-time campaigner for pokies reform, Mr Rattenbury's appointment to the position in Andrew Barr's new cabinet sparked immediate questions about the future of the clubs sector.
It came after the Greens successfully lobbied Labor to include a number of gambling harm reduction measures in their parliamentary agreement, including a commitment to introduce $5-bet limits and $100 load-up limits within the next four years.
The Greens had gone to the October election with an even more aggressive agenda, which Clubs ACT and the Canberra Liberals feared would bankrupt clubs if implemented.
Mr Rattenbury on Wednesday has sought to allay fears that his appointment would spell danger for a sector which is still reeling from the COVID-19 pandemic.
While acknowledging there would need to be "hard conversations" between government and industry, Mr Rattenbury said he was committed to ensuring clubs were still a part of the Canberra community in the decades to come.
"Our issue is not with the clubs, it's with the fact that they have been overreliant on gaming machine revenue," he said. "We want clubs to have a successful and sustainable future without the harm that comes from a reliance on poker machines.
"There will be some hard conversations, there is no doubt about that. But that is the nature of an evolving industry. I think the clubs understand that the world is changing, and the role of clubs is going to change.
"The job we have all got to do together is make sure clubs can make that change and that they are still here in a couple of decade's time."
Canberra Community Clubs chairman Athol Chalmers said the sector and Mr Rattenbury had a number of shared goals, including that venues should be aiming to reduce their reliance on gaming revenue.
Mr Chalmers was pleased the planned introduction of $5-bet limits would be subject to extensive consultation with industry.
He also welcomed the establishment of a ministerial council, which will include representatives from clubs, unions and government, to help guide the future of the sector.
Mr Chalmers said the industry should not be concerned at the prospect of a Greens gaming minister.
"People just need to remove the Greens stigma from their mind and realise we are working with a minister who in my experience is very sensible, very good to work with," he said.
Clubs ACT chief executive Gwyn Rees, who it was on announced on Wednesday night would be stepping down from his position, said the organisation looked forward to working with the next ACT government to help reduce gambling harm without "irreparably damaging the sector".
Mr Rees, who has been a critic of Mr Rattenbury, said the measures included in the parliamentary agreement were in large part reasonable. But he said it was important the government consulted with clubs to reduce "injurious financial impacts".
"Our club sector has already taken huge steps towards reducing reliance on gaming," he said.
"Since September 2015, the number of machines on gaming floors has been reduced from 5022 to just 3700 - well on its way to the government's stated goal of 3500.
"Clubs have demonstrated their commitment to reducing gambling harm in our community and we hope the government embraces the input and expertise the sector can offer moving forward."
In a statement issued on Wednesday night, Clubs ACT president Kim Marshall said Mr Rees would step down from his position on January 29, ending his eight-year tenure with the organisation.
"Gwyn is moving on to pursue new challenges and to devote more time to his young family after the birth of his second son last year," Mr Marshall said.
"On behalf of the board, I commend Gwyn for his efforts and all that he has achieved on behalf of clubs, including significant concessions through water charge waivers and bulk energy procurement.
"Gwyn has worked determinedly on behalf of our industry during his tenure as CEO, however, he has made the decision the time is right for him to find new challenges, and a balance between his professional goals and family life."
Mr Rees said: "It's been an absolute privilege to serve the ACT club industry, I am sad to be leaving but will remain steadfastly a club man".