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Mixed reaction to decision to slash maximum fixed-odds betting stake to £2

PUBLISHED: 08:47 17 May 2018 | UPDATED: 08:47 17 May 2018

Bookmakers have expressed their concern over the government 's decision to cut the amount people can stake on fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs). Picture: Daniel Hambury/PA Wire

Bookmakers have expressed their concern over the government 's decision to cut the amount people can stake on fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs). Picture: Daniel Hambury/PA Wire

The maximum stake on a fixed-odds betting terminal (FOBT) is be to slashed from £100 to £2.

The move by Westminster follows a lengthy consultation about the machines – branded the “crack cocaine of gambling” by critics.

The government said it was designed to reduce the potential for large losses and cut the risk of harm to players and the wider community.

It was one of a number of new regulatory measures revealed for the gambling industry.

But bookmakers have argued the dramatic cut could lead to the loss of jobs as well as revenue.

The announcement was made by sports minister Tracy Crouch, who said government would work with the industry to help it achieve a “balance”.

“Problem gambling can devastate individuals’ lives, families and communities,” she said.

“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.”

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.”

Bookmaker William Hill warned the decision could see around 900 of its betting shops become loss-making, with a “proportion” at risk of closure shortly after the new £2 limit comes into effect.

The group said the stake cut could also hit annual earnings by between £70m and £100m.

Philip Bowcock, chief executive of William Hill, said: “The government has handed us a tough challenge today and it will take some time for the full impact to be understood, for our business, the wider high street and key partners like horseracing.

“We will continue to evolve our retail business in order to adapt to this change and we will support our colleagues as best we can.”

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Labour’s deputy leader Tom Watson said he hoped job losses could be avoided.

“They [bookmakers] have really boxed themselves into a corner, but I would hope that now that we’ve got this decision, the bookmaking companies will be able to make sure there is investment in other forms of recreational gambling that don’t have such addictive qualities,” he said.

The chief executive of amusement machine industry trade body Bacta, John White, said a stake reduction had “long been needed” to protect consumers from “the harm” caused by FOBTs.

“This is a decision that puts player protection first, and will allow the gambling industry as a whole to move forwards and create a safer, more socially responsible environment for consumers,” he said.

Other measures announced by the government include:

– 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.

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