Chancellor urged to act now on FOBTs

Posted On: 
18th October 2018

A cross-party group of more than thirty MP and peers call on the Chancellor to live up to the government’s pledge and implement the £2 stake on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals – or they will seek to amend the Finance Bill 

FOBTs "For financial and moral reasons we must implement the FOBT stake reduction without hesitation," write a group of 30 MPs and peers
Credit: 
PA

Why are we still waiting for the reduced Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs) £2 stake to be implemented?

In May 2018, the Government committed to reduce the stake from £100 to £2 in a courageous move, “to reduce the risk of gambling-related harm.”

Five months later, we are still waiting.

Earlier this month, a cross-party group of Parliamentarians wrote to the Chancellor of the Exchequer outlining the overwhelming economic arguments for the immediate implementation of the £2 stake. According to a recent Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) report, the Treasury will lose £98-132 million every year this move is delayed.

But it is not just about money. Available estimates of the serious societal impacts are striking, and we should be paying more attention. Figures suggest that in the UK 1.4% of all gamblers become problem gamblers, whereas 11.5% of regular FOBT users go on to become problem gamblers. Crucially, in our country an estimated two people commit suicide in connection with gambling every working day.

The founders of the charity Gambling with Lives reinforce this: “every year the implementation is delayed sees tens of thousands more young people becoming addicted, and another 500 gambling-related suicides. The Chancellor would be morally bankrupt should he continue to side with the bookmakers and allow them to profit at the expense of young people’s lives.”

Parliaments around the world are watching with interest how we address this. We have an opportunity to lead on what is becoming an increasingly pressing policy area. Australia’s campaigners have called for greater protection for consumers on gambling policy and legislative changes in the context of the UK taking the lead and, when referring to the implementation of the UK’s FOBT reduced stake, outline: “its effect on high street betting shops in the UK is expected to be profound.” How can we then allow ourselves to delay this?

So, for financial and moral reasons we must implement the FOBT stake reduction without hesitation.

The pressure on MPs and Peers from the families of those who died and whose lives have been blighted by these machines grows greater by the day. As MPs and members of the House of Lords we feel it vital we respond. On their behalf we urge the Chancellor to act urgently to establish the date of commencement as 1 April 2019.

If, however, that is not forthcoming in the upcoming 2018 Budget announcement then those MPs who have signed this letter feel honour bound to seek an all-party amendment to the Finance Bill to do that.

We no longer feel that we can support further delays on this when there is clear backing for these changes both cross-party and cross-House as well as our long-suffering public. How many more lives need to be lost before we finally act?

Signatories

Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe (Labour)
Lord Brown of Belmont (DUP)
Baroness Chisholm of Owlpen (Conservative)
Lord Clement-Jones (Liberal Democrat)
Baroness Benjamin (Liberal Democrat)
Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist (Conservative)
Baroness Bonham-Carter (Liberal Democrat) 
Lord Chadlington (Conservative)
Lord Forsyth of Drumlean (Conservative)
Lord Foster of Bath (Liberal Democrat)
Lord Griffiths of Burry Port (Labour)
Baroness Howe of Idlicote (Crossbench)
Baroness Jones of Whitchurch (Labour)
Lord Sugar (Crossbench)
Lord Stevenson of Balmacara (Labour)
Hannah Bardell MP (SNP)
Mhairi Black MP (SNP)
Deidre Brock MP (SNP)
Sir Peter Bottomley MP (Conservative)
Sir Vince Cable MP (Liberal Democrat)
Lisa Cameron MP (SNP)
Ronnie Cowan MP (SNP)
Judith Cummins MP (Labour)
Marion Fellows MP (SNP)
Neil Gray MP (SNP)
Carolyn Harris MP (Labour)
Drew Hendry MP (SNP)
Stuart McDonald MP (SNP)
Carol Monaghan MP (SNP)
Alison Thewliss MP (SNP)
Tom Watson MP (Labour)
Sarah Wollaston MP (Conservative)