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Maximum stake on ‘crack cocaine’ gambling machines slashed from £100 to £2

The maximum stake on ‘crack cocaine’ gambling machines will be slashed from £100 to £2, ministers announced today

The maximum stake on ‘crack cocaine’ gambling machines will be slashed from £100 to £2, it was announced today.

Culture Secretary Matt Hancock said the government was ‘taking a stand’ by imposing the dramatic cut on the amount which can be wagered and lost on fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs).

A raft of proposals could also see the age threshold for playing the National Lottery raised from 16. 

The long-awaited decision on FOBTs follows months of Whitehall wrangling and a fierce lobbying campaign by bookmaking firms.

They warned that it could cost thousands of jobs and lose the Treasury £1.1billion over three years.

But Culture Secretary Matt Hancock said: ‘When faced with the choice of halfway measures or doing everything we can to protect vulnerable people, we have chosen to take a stand. 

‘These machines are a social blight and prey on some of the most vulnerable in society, and we are determined to put a stop to it and build a fairer society for all.’

The move – which is not likely to come into force until 2020 – sent share prices of bookmakers tumbling, but was hailed by campaigners who branded the machines a ‘scourge on high streets’. 

The Bishop of St Albans, Alan Smith – who played a leading role on behalf of the Church of England in the campaign to cut the maximum stake on FOBTs – welcomed the decision. 

He said: ‘Fixed-odds betting terminals are a scourge on high streets that have taken advantage of the vulnerable for too long.’ 

Labour’s deputy leader Tom Watson said he was ‘absolutely delighted’ by the decision, which he said would ‘help alleviate some of the terrible misery caused by problem gambling in Britain’. 

‘The great tragedy of this is that for five years now, pretty much everyone in Westminster, Whitehall and in the country has known that these machines have had a very detrimental effect in communities up and down the land and the bookmakers have chosen to take a defiant approach and try to face down Parliament with a very aggressive campaign,’ he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. 

What are the key points in the government’s gambling overhaul? 

  • Cutting the maximum stake on FOBTs from £100 to £2; 
  • The Gambling Commission to toughen up protections around online gambling including stronger age verification rules and proposals for customer spending limits;
  • A multimillion-pound advertising campaign promoting responsible gambling;
  • Responsible gambling messages to appear for the duration of all TV adverts;
  • A Public Health England review of the public health harms of gambling; 
  • A review of age limits for National Lottery games at the time of the next licence competition. 

However, bookmaker William Hill warned it would be a ‘tough challenge’ for the industry.

The firm said 900 of its betting shops become loss-making, with a ‘proportion’ at risk of closure after the new £2 limit comes into effect. 

Currently gamblers can bet, and lose, £100 every 20 seconds meaning potentially thousands of pounds in a single session.

Since Labour’s 2005 Gambling Act the number of FOBTs – which offer casino-style games such as roulette – has increased from 20,000 to nearly 35,000.

Each generates an average of £50,000 a year for bookmakers.

But the machines are blamed for addiction, crime, debt, violence and family breakdown and their users are concentrated in some of the poorest communities. 

The Government has also tasked the Gambling Commission to hold talks with the industry on potential limits on spend and time on other so-called gambling machines in casinos and arcades.

Alongside the FOBT stake announcement, it confirmed a raft of measures to clamp down on gambling, including plans to toughen up online protections, such as introducing stronger age verification rules and affordability checks.

A multimillion-pound advertising campaign promoting responsible gambling will be launched later this year.

A raft of government proposals could also see the age threshold for playing the National Lottery raised from 16

A raft of government proposals could also see the age threshold for playing the National Lottery raised from 16

Culture minister Tracey Crouch (pictured in the Commons today) said problem gambling could devastate lives

Culture minister Tracey Crouch (pictured in the Commons today) said problem gambling could devastate lives

The age limit for playing National Lottery games will also be reviewed.

Concerns have been raised ever since the Lottery’s introduction 20 years ago that it can act as a ‘gateway’ for young people to get involved in betting.

But the proposals published today hinted that the limit could be increased to 18.

‘Unlike commercial gambling products, National Lottery games can be played from 16,’ the document said.

‘We intend to consider this issue as part of the next licence competition for the National Lottery. 

Age limit for playing National Lottery could rise from 16 

The age limit for playing the National Lottery could be increased, under plans unveiled by ministers today.

The government is to launch a consultation on whether the restriction should be higher than the current level of 16.

Concerns have been raised ever since the Lottery’s introduction 20 years ago that it can act as a ‘gateway’ for young people to get involved in betting.

The proposals published today said: ‘Unlike commercial gambling products, National Lottery games can be played from 16. 

‘We intend to consider this issue as part of the next licence competition for the National Lottery. 

‘We will aim to gather evidence on this issue in order to consider it fully in time for the next licence competition. The current licence expires in 2023.’ 

‘We will aim to gather evidence on this issue in order to consider it fully in time for the next licence competition. The current licence expires in 2023.’ 

The Government said it will fund the crackdown through an increase in remote gaming duty. 

Evidence compiled by culture minister Tracey Crouch found high rates of problem gambling by FOBT users.

When the Government launched policy proposals on FOBTs last year it was feared the stake could be kept as high as £30. 

But the shift to £2 was backed by council leaders, church groups, charities, gambling campaigners and MPs from across the political spectrum. 

Ms Crouch said today: ‘Problem gambling can devastate individuals’ lives, families and communities.

‘It is right that we take decisive action now to ensure a responsible gambling industry that protects the most vulnerable in our society. 

‘By reducing FOBT stakes to £2 we can help stop extreme losses by those who can least afford it. 

‘While we want a healthy gambling industry that contributes to the economy, we also need one that does all it can to protect players.’

Asked in the House of Commons when the new restrictions would come into force, Ms Crouch said: ‘Mr Speaker, I know that yourself and members of this House will recognise there is a process we have to go through. 

‘We expect the regulations to come before the House later this year and then with a reasonable time of implementation following that.’ 

Shares in William Hill fell 5 per cent following the announcement, while Paddy Power Betfair dropped 2 per cent. 

Fellow gaming group 888 Holdings dropped 6 per cent, with GVC Holdings off 4 per cent and Playtech 2 per cent lower. 

Ms Crouch confirmed the proposals - which have been warmly welcomed across parties - in a statement to the House today

Ms Crouch confirmed the proposals – which have been warmly welcomed across parties – in a statement to the House today

Since Labour’s 2005 Gambling Act the number of FOBTs – which offer casino-style games such as roulette – has increased from 20,000 to nearly 35,000 (stock image)

Since Labour’s 2005 Gambling Act the number of FOBTs – which offer casino-style games such as roulette – has increased from 20,000 to nearly 35,000 (stock image)



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