Hancock signals £2 FOBT ruling
New UK Culture Secretary Matt Hancock is keen to lower the maximum stake on fixed-odd betting terminals (FOBTs) to £2 (€2.27/$2.78), according to reports.
Punters are currently able to wager as much as £100 per spin on FOBTs, but the government has been under pressure from various campaign groups to lower this amount.
In October, the government announced that it was to consider proposals to cut this stake to either £2 or £50 after an in-depth review of the gambling sector as a whole by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).
Now, according to the Sunday Times newspaper, an ally of Hancock has said that the new Culture Secretary is keen to opt for the lower of the two amounts, after an “overwhelming” response to the review.
“Matt wants the new stake to be at the bottom of the range,” the source said.
“His attitude to (the terminals) is very negative because it takes money from reasonable, mature betting, like on the horses”.
Hancock was recently appointed to the role as part of a major reshuffle by Prime Minister Theresa May.
As Culture Secretary, in addition to playing a major role in the ongoing DCMS consultation into the review of the gambling sector, Hancock will oversee the completion of the reform of the levy in the UK.
In a statement issued in response to the report, the DCMS said the government is “currently consulting on what the exact cut should be, and would make a final decision in due course once all the evidence has been considered”.
The DCMS added: “We are clear that FOBT stakes will be cut to ensure we have a safe and sustainable industry where vulnerable people and children are protected.”
Jim Mullen, chief executive of Ladbrokes Coral Group, has also responded to the reports, saying that a cut in the maximum stake will “fail to adequately address any issue of problem gambling”.
Mullen said: “The triennial review has been running for over 15 months and throughout that time there has been constant rumour and speculation about potential outcomes, of which this is yet more.
“It should be noted that the current call for evidence is yet to conclude and industry responses have not yet been submitted to Government.
“We are very clear that stake cuts will fail to adequately address any issue of problem gambling; the industry has also always made it clear that a cut to stakes will have serious consequences – resulting in shop closures which will ultimately affect jobs, tax revenue and the funding of racing.
“There is also no evidence that machine customers will switch their spend to sports betting such as horse racing, and our experience is that they won't; any policy made on this assumption would result in a significant reduction in the level of funding for horse racing.
“We will continue to make the case for a sensible measured, evidence led and proportionate response to the public concern regarding these issues and this will be the basis of the evidence submitted as part of the ongoing review.”
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