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To cut fixed-odds betting terminals’ (FOBTs) maximum stake could be delayed by the decision after an MP protested against the measure.
The maximum stake on FOBTs has been under the spotlight for quite some time in the UK, with politicians and executives expressing their stance on the subject. Now it seems as though the decision could be delayed once again as Tory Benefits Minister, Esther McVey, is protesting against the machines’ regulation.
A source close to the cabinet said that the MP has strongly objected to plans to limit the maximum stakes on FOBTs to £2. Earlier this week it was reported that Tracey Crouch, Sports Minister of the UK, was firm on her decision to reduce the stake from £100 to £2, ignoring the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) recommendation to allow £30 bets.
While Crouch’s decision is expected to be announced soon, it is believed that the Minister is giving bookies time to make representations. A group of 40 MPs wrote to The Times and urged Prime Minister Theresa May to act: “FOBTs cause much social harm and huge losses for those who can least afford it. It is of profound concern that last year there were more than 230,000 individual sessions in which a user lost over £1,000.” The letter insists that the government has a moral duty to reduce the maximum stake to £2.
The proposal to cut FOBTs’ maximum stake has been one of the pillars of Crouch’s campaign before she joined the government. While former PM David Cameron shelved her plans, Theresa May gave her the green light to move forward with the initiative.
Liverpool Councillor Nick Small (Lab) told the ECHO that he was disappointed in McVey’s stance on the issue: “I’m very disappointed that a Secretary of State for Work and Pensions doesn’t appear to understand the impact these machines have on families throughout the country. We have essentially got unregulated casino-style gambling on the high street and it is high time the government brought in legislation to limit FOBT.”
The £2 limit backed by 93 local authorities, the Royal Society for Public Health and the Church of England’s General Synod is expected to help protect vulnerable people from major losses, but industry experts consider the amount too low, making the machines practically unplayable.
Earlier this month, executives from different leading UK betting firms have sent a letter to Culture Secretary Matt Hancock in an attempt to prevent the £2 stake limit on FOBTs. William Hill, Betfred, Scotbet, GVC and Jenningsbet said that a £2 limit would have a “catastrophic impact on jobs and the economy,” and they called on the Culture Secretary to not sacrifice betting shops. “A maximum stake of £2 on FOBTs is a de facto ban on the machines as the games are not feasible at that level,” they said.
The executives said in the letter that a KPMG analysis estimates that a £2 stake would result in 21,000 direct job losses and that half the betting shops would close. That would also result in an HM Treasury loss of £1.1 billion over the next three years, a £45 million loss to local authorities and £50 million to the British Racing every year. Earlier this year, the UKGC also recommended that the maximum stake for FOBTs should be cut to £30 or less.
Source: European Gaming Industry News