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NEWS 14 November 2018

FOBT u-turn is a wake-up call for the gambling industry, says analyst

By Tim Poole

Gambling consultant Steve Donoughue believes the UK government’s u-turn on fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBT) is a “wake up” call for the gambling industry.

Chancellor of the Exchequer Phillip Hammond had initially delayed a reduction in maximum FOBT stakes from £100 to £2 until October 2019, with an increase in remote gaming duty to 21% being implemented at the same time.

However, the government has responded to opposition – including the resignation of Sports Minister Tracey Crouch – by moving the policies back to April, the initial date expected.

Donoughue feels this change in policy proves the government is easily swayed, leaving operators in a vulnerable position.

He told Gambling Insider: “The gambling industry needs to wake up to the fact that all it needs is some Trumpian campaign group to convince a few MPs that sector X or device Y is supposedly causing problem gambling and it won’t be long before they get a thorough kicking.”

The consultant also believes the compromise is actually the government’s “third in a row” and is neither based on evidence nor common sense.

Donoughue said: “The government's cave in on bringing the date of the reduction of FOBT stakes from October 2019 to April 2019 is now the third in a row. First there was the move to a £2 stake, which was the one level the government’s advisor on gambling policy, the Gambling Commission, argued it shouldn’t be set at.

“The next was the setting of the date for the reduction at October 2019 when it was originally set at April 2020 by the Treasury, to give both the betting and racing industries time to acclimatise to what will undoubtedly lead to a loss of 50% of betting shops and an almost similar amount of horserace betting levy.

“This third cave-in shows when there is no government majority they need everyone's support for their Brexit plans, and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport is now looking like a fully paid-up member of the anti-gambling brigade. Common sense and evidence-based policy making doesn’t get a look in.”

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