The government has brought forward the implementation date for the reduction of FOBT stakes to £2 from £100 to April from October 2019. Betting shop operators have warned as many as 4,500 betting shops could close as a result of the decision to go to £2, with the loss of 21,000 jobs. Bookmakers set to test new FOBT limits next month By Nathan Joyes UK bookmakers have opted to trial the new £2 ($2.56) stake limit for fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBT) in betting shops across Birmingham next month, in preparation for the upcoming law change on 1 April.
The UK government is on collision course with FOBT critics after reports it will delay the introduction of new B2 rules and regulations until next October.
Chancellor Philip Hammond is set to announce the plans during next week’s budget according to a report in The Guardian newspaper. The All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on the issue has blasted the suggestion, saying it was driven by bookmakers “misleading” officials over how much time they need to adapt.
In May, the government accepted Gambling Commission recommendations to set a new maximum stake of £2 (€2.26/$2.58) on FOBT machines, a sharp cut on the current limit of £100.
Various bookmakers have warned that the changes will lead to widespread job losses across the gambling industry, while the Treasury is set to lose around £475m in tax income as a result of the new limits.
However, the government has stuck by its pledge to cut the maximum stake, but questions remain as to when the changes will come into effect.
A delay until October 2019 would represent a six-month delay on the initially proposed start date, but swifter implementation than a 2020 launch that was reported earlier this year.
The idea behind the delay is to grant bookmakers an extra six months to prepare for the changes, with gambling companies expected to rake in £900m from FOBT machines in that period.
A spokesperson for the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) told the Guardian: “We will make the legislative change required as soon as possible”.
However, the APPG on the issue has hit out at the planned delay, publishing a report that states such changes can be done “as quickly as three months”.
The report, commissioned after the DCMS first announced the changes in May, sets out other key findings such as if an implementation date earlier than the original April 2019 was set, bookmakers and games manufacturers would be able to make the required changes in time.
The APPG has also said that bookmakers and games manufacturers are the only parties that will benefit from the delay, adding that, contrary to belief, jobs could be created by the changes, including 2,800 jobs in “far more profitable areas of employment”.
Carolyn Harris, chair of FOBT APPG, said: “From the evidence we heard, it is clear to us that the bookmakers are being misleading and disingenuous to claim such a long time is required to make the technical changes to FOBT machines.
“Clearly the profit they make from FOBTs provides an incentive to delay the reduction as long as possible.
“The harm being caused by FOBTs cannot go on. It is now time for the Government to do the right thing.
“It is time for it to stop bending to the will of a large corporate interest, namely the bookmakers, and implement a £2 stake on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals now.”
Reports of the delay comes after it emerged this week that the Chancellor is set to increase the current tax rate of 15% on gross gaming yield to between 20-25%.
The FOBT APPG said it is “not morally justifiable” to continue to gain revenue from FOBTs for another 12 months when an alternative revenue stream will have been put in place
The Chancellor is due to deliver the Budget on October 29.
The Gambling Commission has recommended the maximum stake for fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) should be set at £30 or less.
Shares in bookmakers William Hill and Ladbrokes Coral rose by 4% and 3% respectively as the proposals stopped short of speculation that the commission would go further.
Anti-FOBT campaigners - who call the terminals the 'crack cocaine of gambling' - have criticised the regulator for failing to adopt a maximum stake of £2.
High-speed electronic casino games are said to be dangerously addictive and currently allow a stake of up to £100 every 20 seconds, enabling a player to theoretically gamble away £18,000 an hour.
The £30 limit would apply to 'non-slot' games such as roulette - by far the most popular FOBT game.
The Commission's investigation was launched to try to reduce the risk to consumers.
It found that there should be a stake limit of £30 or less 'if it is to have a significant effect on the potential for players to lose large amounts of money in a short space of time'.
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There are more than 30,000 fixed-odds betting terminals around the country, which currently have a maximum £100 stake limit.
A long-awaited review published last October recommended this should be cut to £2, £20, £30 or £50. Cutting the stake limit across FOBTs to £2 could have resulted in a sharp reduction in revenues for many bookmakers.
Labour MP Jim McMahon said he was 'disappointed' with the latest guidance and tweeted: 'I hope Gov go further'.
Fellow Labour politician Carolyn Harris described it as 'outrageous' that the watchdog was not 'brave enough' to adopt the £2 limit and said the machines 'blight' lives.
Ministers must now decide whether to implement the recommendations, which also included game limits per session, tracked play and player limits. Mustang money jackpots.
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The Gambling Commission said the stake limit should be £2 on FOBT slot games, such as fruit machines.
Commission chief executive Neil McArthur said: 'We've put consumers at the heart of our advice - advice which is based on the best available evidence and is focused on reducing the risk of gambling-related harm.'
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The Association of British Bookmakers said: 'We remain committed to introducing further measures to address problem gambling and will continue to work with all interested parties.'
George Salmon, equity analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said: 'While certainly not the outcome the bookmakers would have originally hoped for, this is better than what had been feared following January's news sharp cuts in stake limits was on the cards.
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'Gambling machines are big money-spinners for the bookies.
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'The new limits will likely see this fall in the future, but a higher cap on roulette-based games could help protect some of the huge revenues these machines make.'