Tory aides tell Theresa May they're ready to quit over 'delay' to fixed-odds betting crackdown

Posted On: 
14th November 2018

Theresa May could lose a string of ministerial aides if she refuses to back down over an apparent delay in curbs on fixed-odds betting terminals, it has emerged.

Critics have dubbed the machines the 'crack cocaine of gambling'.
Credit: 
PA

The Government is under mounting pressure to bring forward a cut from £100 to £2 in the maximum stake gamblers can bet on the controversial terminals every 20 seconds.

The proposals are due to come into force in October next year, six months later than campaigners had hoped.

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Blow for Theresa May as Tracey Crouch resigns as minister over delay to FOBTs crackdown

Sports minister Tracey Crouch resigned over the issue last week and accused the Treasury of caving in to gaming industry lobbying.

Sky News and The Times report that 12 parliamentary private secretaries have now written to the Government's chief whip Julian Smith making clear that they are willing to quit in a bid to force the Government to bring the clampdown forward.

More than 20 Tory MPs, including ex-Cabinet ministers Boris Johnson and Nicky Morgan have already signalled that they will back an amendment to the Finance Bill next week demanding a change of course.

The move is being led by former Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith alongside Labour's Carolyn Harris.

Mr Duncan Smith said: "These proposed amendments to the finance bill show the sheer strength of feeling in parliament on fixed-odds betting terminals. I hope the government now sees sense and does the right thing by bringing the FOBT stake cut date forward to April 2019.

"Any later than this would be an abdication of our responsibility to ensure we protect the most vulnerable in our society."

Speaking earlier this month, Chancellor Philip Hammond defended the Treasury's decision to delay the introduction of the gambling curbs, warning that "between 15,000 and 21,000" jobs were at stake.

"I have absolutely no love for these machines," he told MPs.

"I think they are terrible things. But Government has to manage this process in an orderly and sensible way. We are looking at a measure which will have a very significant impact on the industry."

Ministers have insisted that they never intended to bring in the FOBT curbs in April.

But, in her resignation letter, Ms Crouch said: “Unfortunately, implementation of these changes are now being delayed until October 2019 due to commitments made by others to those with registered interests.

"From the time of the announcement to reduce stakes and its implementation, over £1.6bn will be lost on these machines.

"In addition, two people will tragically take their lives every day due to gambling-related problems and, for that reason as much as any other, I believe this delay is unjustifiable."