Fixed-odds betting machine crackdown ‘to be delayed by two years following backroom deal’
Plans to slash the maximum stake on fixed odds betting machines will reportedly be delayed by two years after the Treasury cut a deal with industry bosses.
Last month the Government accepted the recommendations of a review to reduce the top bet of £100 every 20 seconds to just £2, in a major victory for campaigners.
The Times however reveals that the restrictions will not come into place until April 2020, prompting criticism from opponents to the machines, who say the industry will claim an extra £4bn in that time.
Bookmakers have defended the delay on clamping down on the supposed “crack cocaine of gambling”, saying they need an extended implementation period to adjust terminals.
However the paper says machine manufacturers have claimed privately that they need only eight weeks at most to roll out the change, while the DCMS committee was “dismayed”, having called for a year to bring the changes in at most.
A spokesman for the Campaign for Fairer Gambling said: “Unbelievably, the Treasury thinks it takes two years for the bookmakers to run a software update.
“Somehow ministers have contrived to give the bookies a longer transition period than it will take to negotiate Brexit.”
Labour MP Carolyn Harris, who is chairwoman of the all-party parliamentary group on FOBTs, said: “I am astounded that the Treasury has done a backroom deal that will be paid for by gambling losses from some of the most vulnerable in our society.
“To cosy up to a corporate lobby group like this and delay the implementation is totally unacceptable.”
The paper adds that Treasury officials will make up for lost revenue from the tax on FOBTs by ramping up the amount paid on internet gambling as soon as next April.
Robert Jenrick, the Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury, reportedly believes that about 90% of money currently bet on FOBTs will move to other forms of gambling after the limit is brought forward.
A Treasury spokesman said: “Changes to the stake will be made through secondary legislation.
“We will also engage with the gambling industry to ensure it is given sufficient time to implement and complete the technological changes.”