Yesterday, UK Chancellor Philip Hammond confirmed that the long-expected crackdown on fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) would be rolled out in two years. After the information about the two-year delay emerged, Mr. Hammond faced strong criticism and was called “morally reprehensible”.
After several months of consideration, in May 2018, the UK Government revealed that the maximum stake of controversial machines would be reduced from £100 to £2. Last week information emerged that UK FOBT crackdown could be delayed until April 2020. Now, the delay has been officially announced, with anti-gambling campaigners being furious about it.
By the time the crackdown actually takes effect, the current status quo allowing punters to place a maximum bet of £100 every 20 seconds on the machines will be kept. The concerns of anti-gambling campaigners have been associated mostly with the fact that a two-year delay would provide the local gambling industry to generate a further £4 billion. This basically means that players’ losses would continue to pile up, with punters theoretically being able to lose thousands of pounds in a single session.
The official announcement of the delay provoked a Members of Parliament’s cross-party group called the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Fixed-Odds Betting Terminals, to describe the decision as “indefensible”. In addition, the group also launched an inquiry and called for the new rules to come into force in April 2019. The Chair of the Group, Carolyn Harris from the Labour Parliamentary Group, scolded Chancellor Hammond for the decision to delay the implementation of FOBTs by two years at a time when both players and their families, as well as entire communities, are affected by the harm caused by the machines.
Ms. Harris also reminded that it was 600 days since the beginning of the UK Government’s consultations on the matter, and amount of more than £3 billion had been lost, especially by the most vulnerable people in the society.
HM Treasury Makes Agreement with British Bookmakers
As reported by Casino Guardian, at the end of last week rumours for a possible delay of the FOBTs crackdown by April 2020 emerged. Previously, the HM Treasury protested against the reduction of the maximum stake of controversial fixed-odds betting machines over fears that the measures would have a negative effect on tax revenues. Last week it also became clear that the Treasury has reached an agreement with local gambling operators, with the delay allowing the industry raise other gambling taxes to compensate the difference.
Before the official announcement of FOBT crackdown, HM Treasury shared doubts that stricter measures imposed on the machines would be good for public finance, saying that the sharp decline in the gambling tax revenue would also affect the funds redirected to public organisations engaged in helping problem gamblers.
Now, with the announcement for the delay already made, anti-gambling campaigners called it “morally reprehensible”. They also reminded that approximately £1.8 billion was generated by bookmakers from these machines on an annual basis, and it was clearly in their best interest to delay the crackdown’s implementation for as long as possible. The fixed-odds betting terminals, however, have been long blamed for constantly increasing levels of gambling addiction, so now anti-gambling campaigners have shared their concerns that gambling addiction rates would continue to grow in the next two years.