Britain slashes top stake on gambling machines to £2

Britain slashes top stake on gambling machines to £2

The UK Government has introduced rules that will reduce the maximum stake on fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) from £100 to £2.

The government's announcement was welcomed by Cllr Vince Maple, Medway Labour Group leader and a long-time campaigner against fixed-odds betting terminals.

Users can now gamble away up to £100 every 20 seconds on the machines, which campaigners say are dangerously addictive and have been dubbed the "crack cocaine of gambling".

Its chief executive, Philip Bowcock, has told the BBC that a £2 FOBT limit would have a devastating impact on the High Street betting industry, with up to half of Britain's betting shops facing threat of closure and about 20,000 jobs going.

"It is a pity they took quite this long to come to a decision, but each and every move is welcome if it means we do something to tackle the issue of problem gambling which causes difficulties and hardships for so many families".

In a statement on the United Kingdom government website today, Matt Hancock, secretary of state for the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS), commented: " When faced with the choice of halfway measures or doing everything we can to protect vulnerable people, we have chosen to take a stand.

In proposals published on Thursday, the maximum stake for a single play on FOBTs will be cut to £2.

The industry had previously been hopeful of less drastic action after the Gambling Commission recommended a maximum stake of £30.

He said: "I've have heard first hand too many stories of individuals who have lost their jobs, their homes, their families and tragically in some cases their lives".

But the Association of British Bookmakers (ABB) said: "This is a decision that will have far-reaching implications for betting shops on the high street".

FOBTs generated over £1.8bn in revenue for bookmakers in 2016, and, as a result, have been labelled the 'crack cocaine of gambling'.

"Despite the challenges presented by this decision, our teams will compete hard and offer great service to William Hill customers".

Sky News revealed earlier this week that the company had warned ministers that the stake cut could leave it vulnerable to a foreign takeover.

Changes to the stake will need to be brought through leglislation and will need to be approved by parliament.

Paddy Power Betfair said it expected a 33% to 43% hit to gaming machine takings, or £35m-£46m on 2017 figures, though this only represented around 2% of revenue for the total group.

The measure, which requires parliamentary approval, is being taken for the controversial Category B2 machines following a consultation involving the public and the gambling industry.