UK government delays FOBT review until autumn

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The UK government has announced that a planned review of fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs) will now take place in October.

The machines have come under heavy criticism from various sectors over claims that they are addictive and make it easy for punters to lose large amounts of money in a short period of time.

At present, consumers are able to place a maximum stake of £100 (€114/$130) per spin, although campaign groups have called for this to be cut to just £2.

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) is examining the machines in response to criticism and is due to carry out an in-depth review, but, according to The Guardian newspaper, a rift with the Treasury over regulation of FOBTs has led to a delay.

The Guardian said the Treasury is concerned over the impact that a cut could have on tax receipts, after FOBTs last year took in a record £1.8bn from punters in the UK and have seen consumers lose £11bn since 2018.

The newspaper added that the decision has also been complicated by the fact that a number of MPs in the Democratic Unionists Party (DUP) are in favour of cutting the stake.

The DUP recently struck a confidence and supply deal with the Conservative party that will give the latter a small majority in the House of Commons. As a result, the Northern Irish party now have a much stronger voice in Parliament.

Tracey Crouch, the Conservative minister leading the review that was also look at gambling advertising, said the decision is “not in [the] long grass” and that the process is “really important on this issue”.

The DCMS is under pressure to ensure the review is evidence-based and follows procedures or risk calls from bookmakers for a judicial review should it result in a cut in stakes.

“Any decisions affecting an industry that serves six million customers and employs over 52,000 people, more than the rest of the gambling industry combined, should be taken on the basis of the facts and evidence. We remain committed to working with the government and regulators on our responsible gambling agenda.”

Association of British Bookmakers in response to news of the delay

 

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