Ministers to slash maximum stake on 'crack cocaine' gambling machines to £2
The maximum stake on fixed odds betting machines will be slashed from £100 to £2 in a major blow for the gambling industry.
The Government has accepted the recommendations of a recent review to slash the top bet of £100 every 20 seconds by a whopping 98%.
But the Daily Mail reports that it could be up to two years before the change is implemented.
Fixed-odds betting terminals have been labelled the “crack cocaine” of the gambling world and campaigners have been waging a bitter war against them.
The Gambling Commission recently recommended the maximum bet should be cut to between £2 and £30 - which according to research would cut Treasury revenue by £1.1bn over three years.
Bookmakers have warned that the cut to £2 could see thousands of high street outlets closing - with some major brands currently making about half their revenue from the fixed-odds machines.
Announcing the change, Digital Minister Matt Hancock said: "When faced with the choice of halfway measures or doing everything we can to protect vulnerable people, we have chosen to take a stand.
"These machines are a social blight and prey on some of the most vulnerable in society, and we are determined to put a stop to it and build a fairer society for all."
The Campaign for Fairer Gambling has argued the terminals would be rated “class A” if gambling had product classifications similar to drugs.
A Spokesperson said today: “Allowing high stakes roulette machines in such an easily accessible environment has had disastrous consequences, impacting levels of gambling related harm and crime.
"The Government’s decision to cut the stake back to £2 is the right one, and we commend the work of Tracey Crouch, the Minister who pushed for this review, and Carolyn Harris, who led the All Party Group against FOBTs.
"The evidence shows this policy will reduce harm for those experiencing it, and eliminate the most addictive roulette content, significantly reducing problem gambling associated with FOBTs.”
'WILL ALLEVIATE MISERY'
Deputy Leader of the Labour party Tom Watson, who has been campaigning for the change for a number of years, said: "I’m absolutely delighted… We think it will help alleviate some of the terrible misery caused by problem gambling in Britain."
He added: "The bookmakers have chosen to take a defiant approach trying to face down parliament with a very aggressive campaign...They have only got themselves to blame.
"The Government has actually listened to public opinion - so they [bookmakers] have really boxed themselves into corner."
Sports Minister Ms Crouch said: "Problem gambling can devastate individuals’ lives, families and communities.
"It is right that we take decisive action now to ensure a responsible gambling industry that protects the most vulnerable in our society. By reducing FOBT stakes to £2 we can help stop extreme losses by those who can least afford it.
"While we want a healthy gambling industry that contributes to the economy, we also need one that does all it can to protect players.
"We are increasing protections around online gambling, doing more on research, education and treatment of problem gambling and ensuring tighter rules around gambling advertising.
"We will work with the industry on the impact of these changes and are confident that this innovative sector will step up and help achieve this balance."