UK Government Clamp Down On Gambling Machines Still In The Works

Guardian newspaper claims sight of a letter confirming change is on the agenda for Fixed Odds Betting Terminals

The Guardian newspaper, which has enjoyed a field day with generally anti-gambling articles this week following the heavy fine imposed on 888 Holdings plc (see previous InfoPowa bulletin), reported over the weekend that the UK government is preparing to clamp down on the much-maligned fixed odds betting terminals offered by High Street bookmakers.

The article reprises earlier reports that the Treasury and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport remain divided on the issue of reducing the maximum stakes on FOBTs, allegedly because the Treasury depends on the tax receipts from their use.

However, there is evidence of government intent on a future restriction, the newspaper claims, quoting from a letter it has been shown from Chancellor Philip Hammond to the Bishop of St Albans, who has been leading Church of England criticism of the machines.

The bishop apparently wrote to Hammond expressing concern at reports that the Treasury was opposed to cutting stakes on FOBTs and that it wanted a review of the issue scrapped before its scheduled publication in October this year.

The Chancellor reassured the bishop the review was on track, and that there was no conflict between Treasury and the DCMS on responsible gambling matters.

“Recent media reports on the status of the review of gaming machines and social responsibility measures are entirely without foundation,” Hammond reportedly wrote. “Both I and my department fully support DCMS’s work to ensure the UK’s gambling regime continues to balance the needs of vulnerable people, consumers who gamble responsibly, and those who work in this sector.”

Gambling addiction charities and anti-FOBT action groups want the maximum stakes on the touch-screen machines lowered to GBP 2, a radical reduction from the present GBP 100 every 20 seconds currently in force.