Changes to the UK’s FOBT limits have the potential to be ‘financially crippling’ according to UK Finance Minister Philip Hammond.
He suggested that the government can’t afford to lose revenues should legislation limit the maximum bets allowed as proposed.
The review had been instigated by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) back in October amid claims that fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) caused social harm as they allow gamblers to lose £100 every 20 seconds. The DCMS’s plan was to recommend bets be limited to a maximum of £2.
DCMS Minister Tracey Crouch slammed the newspaper report claiming the report on FOBTs was still being conducted and its findings would be released later this year.
The FOBT review was announced in October 2016 and was expected to take up to 18 months to complete.
Despite the news article being slammed as fake news by Tracey Crouch, it has reignited a war of words. The governments tie up with the DUP in Northern Ireland has promoted cries for the party to intervene.
Christian lobby group CARE’s Northern Ireland policy officer, Mark Baillie, said: “Now that the DUP play a significant role in ensuring the Conservative Government remain in power they must hold Theresa May and the Conservative Party to account over their commitment to create a fairer society. “FOBT’s do not fit into this narrative – they may work for the bookmakers and the taxman – but not for problem gamblers, their families or society as a whole.” He added: “This review is long overdue and much needed – the DUP must ensure that it goes ahead and the proposals recommended to reduce the stakes on FOBTs are introduced.” When asked if the DUP would seek to use its influence with the Government on the issue, the party pointed i to comments from one of its senior MPs, Sammy Wilson, last month in which he said that the proposal to cut the maximum FOBT stake from £100 to £2 has “the support of churches, local authorities, The Royal Society for Public Health and every political party in Westminster”. He added: “The case for this change is clear and I urge the government to act now to cut the stake.”
The Bishop of St Albans, the Right Reverend Alan Smith, wrote to Mr Hammond to warn of his ‘concern’.
He added: “I would be grateful for reassurance that the review will publish this autumn as planned, and that proposals to curb the effects of FOBTs will feature within it. Clergy and congregations are providing frontline support for a great many vulnerable people who are at risk of gambling-related harm, and whose lives are often blighted by the presence of FOBTs on our High Streets. They see daily the effects of the £1.82 billion that was lost on these machines last year.”