A governmental review of fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) has been delayed until October following a disagreement concerning regulation of the machines between the UK's Treasury and Government.
The Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) is conducting a review of FOBTs amid concerns that they are highly addictive and can result in gamblers losing thousands of pounds in a matter of minutes. Indeed, last year alone FOBT terminals took a record £1.8bn from British gamblers.
However, the UK’s 34,388 FOBTs contribute around £400m in taxes every year, money which the treasury can ill afford to lose and it is therefore concerned about the impact that cutting FOBT stakes will have on this revenue stream.
This difference in opinion has been further exacerbated by the general election result, which forced the Conservatives to enter into a “confidence and supply” arrangement with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) in order to maintain its parliamentary majority.
Many of the DUP’s 10 MPs are strongly against the concept of FOBTs and are in favour of cutting the maximum stake from £100 to as low as £2. As a result of this polarisation and the need to preserve its majority, the Government may be forced to agree to this concession.
Following the announcement during House of Commons proceedings on Friday, DCMS Under Secretary Tracey Crouch, who is overseeing the review took to Twitter to respond criticism regarding the decision to delay, claiming that it was: “Definitely not in long grass. Process is really important on this issue.”
In an interview with the Guardian newspaper, John White, Chief Executive of amusement arcade trade body BACTA said: “The news that the DCMS will now not announce the review into maximum stakes and prizes on FOBT machines until October is disappointing.
"Given that the ministerial team is identical to the one that was in place prior to the election and that the review is well underway we had hoped the document to be out before the summer recess.
"£1.8bn is lost per year on these dangerous machines. To put this into perspective, over the course of the 12-week government sign-off process the review has to go back through, £34.6m will be lost on FOBTs per week, totalling £415.2m by October.
"We urge government to expedite the process and get on with it. The evidence for change to the status quo is clear and compelling.”
A spokesperson for the Association of British Bookmakers (ABB) said: “Any decisions affecting an industry that serves six million customers and employs over 52,000 people, more than the rest of the gambling industry combined, should be taken on the basis of the facts and evidence.
"We remain committed to working with the Government and regulators on our responsible gambling agenda.”
The ABB have previously claimed that reducing FOBT stakes could force the closure of thousands of bookmakers and cost 20,000 jobs.
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