Chancellor of the Exchequer Scraps Crackdown on FOBTs

Phillip Hammond, the UK Chancellor of the Exchequer, has reportedly blocked a government review into fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs) to preserve tax revenues.

The Daily Mail reported the Conservative MP has scrapped a review into betting limits on the highly profitable terminals that is being conducted by the Department for Culture, Media and Sports (DCMS) – which regulates the gambling industry in Britain.

A fixed-odds betting terminal

A fixed-odds betting terminal in the UK. ©SBC News

Currently FOBTs, often referred to as B2 gaming machines, allow players to stake up to £100 every 20 seconds. The government has been under pressure to reduce the maximum wager to just £2, as was expected to be recommended by the DCMS. CasinoReviews.co.uk recently reported that bookmakers in the country stood to lose millions from the new restrictions, and were showering MPs with hospitality tickets in an attempt to lobby government.

Hammond reportedly told the Daily Mail that the country could not afford to lose its tax revenues from FOBTs and that restricting the maximum bet to £2 would be “financially crippling” for HMRC. Between October 2015 and September 2016, gamblers lost £1.7 billion on FOBTs. It has been estimated that the machines bring in around £400m a year in tax revenues.

Tracey Crouch, the sports minister overseeing the review, later took to Twitter to out the Daily Mail story as “fake news”. When pressed by Reuters, Britain’s finance ministry declined to comment.

The Treasury should look at the unsustainable cost to the public purse of dealing with the problems of crime, addiction and social harm on Britain’s high streets. It is morally bankrupt to allow this situation to go on. – Labour MP Carolyn Harris, chairman of the all-party parliamentary group on FOBTs

The results of the DCMS review were initially scheduled for publication in spring, but pandemonium surrounding Theresa May’s snap election has delayed the report to the autumn.

The Association of British Bookmakers has threatened that should the change in legislation take place, it would lead to the closure of 2,500 betting shops if the limit was lowered from £100 to £20, and a further 800 closures would likely occur if it were reduced to £10.

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