The roll-out of the fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) crackdown is likely to be delayed. The implementation of the new £2 maximum stake on the controversial machines will probably be revealed in April 2020 following a secret agreement reached between the HM Treasury and local bookmakers, The Times reports.
Anti-gambling campaigners have expressed their disappointment with the fact that the measure is to be postponed, saying that the delay would provide the industry with the chance to generate a further £4 billion.
Last month, the UK Government said that the reduction of the maximum FOBTs stake from £100 to £2 was necessary in order for vulnerable individuals and local communities to be protected from the possible gambling-related harm. As soon as the crackdown on the controversial and highly-addictive gambling terminals was revealed, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) said that the new limit was expected to be officially rolled out in a period of nine to twelve months.
However, it seems that local bookmakers have managed to convince the HM Treasury that they need to be provided with an extended implementation period in order to bring the necessary changes to the fixed-odds betting machines they offer. Rumour has it that this has raised the concern of DCMS ministers, especially considering the fact that some machine manufacturers have revealed that no more than eight weeks would be necessary for the changes to be actually implemented to FOBTs.
According to a spokesman for the Campaign for Fairer Gambling, the HM Treasury seems to have believed that it would take two years to bookmakers to complete the necessary software update.
HM Treasury Considers Online Gambling Tax Increase
Fixed-odds betting terminals were officially introduced in the country more than a decade ago. Since then, players have been able to bet a maximum of £100 on electronic casino games every 20 seconds. However, for some time now the highly-addictive nature of the machines has been a major concern of the Government, with anti-FOBTs campaigners claiming that such high stakes allowed have resulted in massive increase in gambling addiction across the country.
However, the beginning of 2018 saw HM Treasury share its doubts that stricter measures imposed on the terminals would be good for public finances. According to the Treasury, the crackdown would result in a sharp decline in the funds or financial reserves of public organisations which have been focused on helping local residents who suffer from problem gambling behaviour. In addition, it has always shared that tax receipts in the country will undoubtedly be harmed following the implementation of the FOBTs crackdown.
The controversial betting machines have brought almost £2 billion to local bookmakers over the past twelve months, with about half a billion in tax being contributed to the exchequer. According to FOBTs opponents, the delay of the crackdown implementation to 2020 would allow gambling operators to generate further £4 billion.
The Times has also reported that HM Treasury has decided to roll out a higher tax on online gambling in April 2019. The step is considered to be taken as part of the Treasury’s efforts to compensate the exchequer for the future losses of FOBTs tax revenue as soon as the modifications in the machines’ software start bringing lower profits. According to media reports, the amount of the new tax is still under consideration. It a higher tax on Internet gambling operations is introduced, however, the Treasury will draw benefit from a year of double taxation.