Yesterday, the recently-appointed Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Matthew Hancock faced some questions related to controversial fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) raised in the House of Commons. According to him, the UK Government had to make sure that it found the right solution to the issues related to FOBTs and their maximum stake permitted.
As reported by The Racing Post, this was the first appearance of Mr. Hancock after he took over the position of the Department’s Secretary at the beginning of January. He took part in the hearing in the House of Commons and was put under pressure by some Members of Parliament who insisted that the maximum stake allowed at FOBTs should be slashed to £2.
At the time when the Government’s Department started the consultations on the fate of fixed-odds betting machines, local bookmakers raised their voices against the possible changes that could be made into the terminals’ regulation. According to gambling operators, a reduction of the maximum bet allowed at the FOBTs would be a massive blow for them, forcing them to close thousands of betting shops and cutting a large number of jobs.
Moreover, the money stream that the Treasury received from taxes imposed on bookmakers, is also to be seriously reduced according to reports made by local gambling operators. Bookmakers have previously shared that the reduction of FOBTs maximum stake from £100 to £2 would result in massive losses for the British horseracing sector through the levy and media rights. Other opponents of the stake reduction claimed that a £2 stake could have a devastating effect on the sport.
FOBTs-Related Issues Still in Consideration
Previously, Secretary Hancock was reported as a supporter of the £2 stake. At the Thursday hearing in the House of Commons, he responded to some questions about the possible impact such a reduction could have on the UK gambling industry. When asked by Labour MP Stephen Timms to bring more light on the matter, Mr. Hancock explained that he had held talks on the issue with Philip Hammond, the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
Mr. Timms has long been known as one of the most fierce opponents of fixed-odds betting terminals. He has asked whether the Secretary of State would put an end to the massive maximum stakes of £100 and cut it to £2. To this, Secretary Hancock answered that it was very important for the UK Government to find the right approach to the matter, as the machines raised a lot of controversy and concern across the local industry.
The DCMS Secretary of State further explained that some issues related to local betting shops were also thoroughly considered in the Government’s review. Last month, the Responsible Gambling Strategy Board (RGSB) shared its concern whether gambling-related harm would be reduced by reduction in the maximum stakes allowed at fixed-odds betting terminals.