Philip Hammond ‘blocked curbs on betting machines’ over lost tax revenue fears
Philip Hammond reportedly stepped in to block a maximum stake for highly addictive betting machines amid fears the Treasury would be unable to replace lost revenue.
The move to reduce permitted stakes on fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs) is said to have sparked disagreement among ministers as the loss in taxes could cost hundreds of millions of pounds.
Campaigners have pushed for the maximum stake that can be played at one time to be cut to £2, down from bets of £100 which can currently be made every 20 seconds.
The Times reports that bookmakers, who make on average more than £50,000 a year from every machine, are set to use the Chancellor’s imposed delay to press for a “backroom deal” to halt the drastic cut.
The paper says Mr Hammond had agreed to the cut as long as ministers came forward with proposals to plug the gap in revenue for the exchequer.
But he apparently rejected a proposal from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport last month, leaving ministers including Sports Minister Tracey Crouch “dismayed”.
Following the Spring Statement, the OBR said FOBTs would provide £74m of the forecast £119m growth in receipts from gaming duty levied on machines up to 2023.
Carolyn Harris, chairwoman of the MPs’ all-party group on FOBTs, told The Times: “Any suggestion that the bookmakers may be looking to a backroom deal with the government is of deep concern.
"This is not a matter of protecting bookmaker profits or corporate interests.”