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Gambling Commission ducks £2 max stake calls for fixed odd machines

Calls for a £2 maximum stake on highly addictive betting machines have been ducked by the Gambling Commission which has recommended a £30 cap.

Fixed odd betting terminals (FOBT) are said to be dangerously addictive and currently allow punters to stake up to £100 every 20 seconds – and theoretically gamble away £18,000 an hour. 

MPs have called for the maximum stake on FOBT to be reduced to £2, but it’s estimated that the Government could lose £5.5bn loss in tax revenues over the next 10 years if it was to go through with it.

Fixed odd betting terminals currently allow punters to stake up to £100 every 20 seconds (stock image)

The Gambling Commission will not explicitly back a maximum £2 stake, instead they plan to suggest measures to tackle the risk of harm and raise awareness.

The move is significant because the watchdog is the government’s statutory advisory on the gambling industry and ministers would be expected to agree with its recommendations. 

In October last year the government announced the maximum stake on fixed odd machines would be reduced to £50 or less but it has yet to commit to a specific limit. 

The terminals generated more than £1.8bn in tax revenue last year.

A trio of MPs questioned the reasons for not reducing the stake to £2 and called the large tax gains ‘questionable’.

Iain Duncan Smith, Carolyn Harris and Ronnie Cowan have all been part of the FOBT all-party parliamentary group, which has scrutinised the use of the machines.

In their current form fixed odd betting terminals allow players to gamble away £18,000 an hour (stock image)

In their current form fixed odd betting terminals allow players to gamble away £18,000 an hour (stock image)

The MPs said they also feared that the government was using data sponspored by bookmakers, who have it in their best interest to keep gamblers using their machines. 

Gambling 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.

‘In our judgment, a stake cut for fixed-odds betting terminals alone doesn’t go far enough to protect vulnerable people.

‘That is why we have recommended a stake cut plus a comprehensive package of other measures to protect consumers.

‘We have proposed actions that will tackle both the risk of harm and provide solutions that are sustainable in the longer term.’

Share prices in British betting shops rose today after the Gambling Commission made its recommendation.  

Shares in prominent bookmakers William Hill and Ladbrokes Coral, which have the biggest presence on the high street, were up 3 per cent each.

The maximum stake was a lot higher than campaigners had sought.  

An FOBT is a touch-screen machine that allows players to bet on the outcome of various games such as roulette. 

The machines are dubbed the ‘crack cocaine’ of gambling by campaigners who argue that they let players lose money too quickly, leading to addiction and wider social problems.