Once again, the UK Chancellor has been urged to proceed with the planned reduction of the maximum stake allowed on controversial fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs). A large number of local councils have called Mr. Philip Hammond not to delay the crackdown on infamous gambling machines in order to tackle gambling-related harm.
Chancellor Hammond is expected to officially reveal the deadline for the announced changes today, along with the next year’s budget. Only a few days ago, media reports emerged that the long-expected changes in the FOBT regime are most likely to be made in October 2019. Now, The Guardian has revealed that the leaders of 27 councils have called for him not to delay the implementation of the crackdown any more, and take urgent action to address the devastating effect the machines could have on people’s lived.
The councils’ leaders shared that local authorities such as themselves are very well aware of the detrimental impact of the addictive FOBTs on more vulnerable people. They also noted that the clusters of high-street betting shops in most disadvantaged areas could fuel problem gambling among local residents.
According to the councils which participated in the conjoint letter to Councillor Hammond, the FOBT crackdown should be carried out as soon as possible in order to “reduce the cost of problem gambling to public purse,” and of course, in order to make sure that vulnerable people in the country are protected against gambling-related harm.
FOBT Negative Effects Outweigh Positive Impact on Treasury
As previously reported by Casino Guardian, bookmakers have announced their opposition to the planned change, claiming that the crackdown would lead to the closure of many high-street betting outlets and respectively, massive job losses across the industry. In addition, gambling companies that offer fixed-odds betting terminals raised a red flag, saying that they would not be able to generate profits without the existing maximum stake of their machines.
Council leaders, however, used a study carried out by the Institute of Public Policy Research, according to which the positive impact which FOBTs could have, even including the taxes paid to the UK Treasury, were outweighed by the machines’ negative effects. The study has estimated the latter’s impact on the local economy to approximately £1.16 billion on an annual basis.
Jeremy Wright yesterday parroting nonsense bookie rhetoric about “job losses” to justify delaying stake reduction on FOBTs, as if these machines create rather than detroy jobs in communities. Coming from the same govt that would oversee a no-deal Brexit and resulting job losses!
— Matt Zarb-Cousin (@mattzarb) October 25, 2018
At the time when the UK Government’s Department for Culture, Media and Sports (DCMS) announced its decision to reduce the maximum stake of FOBTs from £100 to £2, local bookmakers have asked the UK Government to give them enough time to prepare for the negative impact which the cut would have on their business, saying that they needed at least a year to do so. If this pledge is taken into account, the implementation of the new rules should happen a year on from the announcement of the crackdown, or at the end of April 2019.
Rumour has it that UK bookmakers could be given an extra six months to prepare, until October 2019, a step that would provide them with a windfall of around £900 million.