MPs call for FOBT rethink after Crouch quits
Tracey Crouch has drawn praise from various quarters over her refusal to back down on her demands for FOBT changes, despite Prime Minister Theresa May insisting “there has been no delay” in the process.
Last night (Thursday), Crouch confirmed that she had tendered her resignation to the Prime Minister in response to Chancellor Philip Hammond confirming the changes to the £2 maximum stake would not be implemented until next October, when Remote Gaming Duty rises to 21%. Some had hoped it would be April 2019.
In her resignation letter, Crouch said that this move represents a delay, “due to commitments made by others to those with registered interests”. However, the question of a “delay” is debatable with Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright yesterday claiming the original date for the change had been April 2020.
Crouch said the decision by the Treasury to align the FOBT changes with the new tax rate “is not a technical necessity, so there is no reason why implementation cannot come in sooner than October”.
The Prime Minister’s official line on the matter is that there “has been no delay in bringing forward this important measure”. May also called for implementation to take place in an “orderly and effective manner”.
Crouch is not alone in her belief that the government has delayed the measures. Carolyn Harris, chair of the All Parliamentary Group (APPG) on FOBTs, has spoken out in support of Crouch, accusing the government of siding with bookmakers on the matter.
Harris told iGamingBusiness.com: “Tracey Crouch has shown great passion and leadership on this issue and I and my colleagues on the FOBT APPG commend her for all hard work and commitment to reducing the harm caused by these machines.
“To delay cutting the stake on FOBTs to October 2019 is wholly unjustifiable. This will lead to many more vulnerable people’s lives being harmed while the bookmakers will continue to make millions from FOBT machines.
“The bookmakers must be delighted and we now know for sure where the priorities of this government lie. We hope that the government will have a re-think and bring forward the implementation date to April 2019.”
Brian Wright, director of business at the Remote Gambling Association, also had praise for Crouch, but told iGamingBusiness.com the organisation is committed to working to the timeline set out by the government in terms of new tax rates.
Wright said: “Tracey was a capable and knowledgeable Minister. Whatever her reasons for leaving we wish her well for the future.
“The government has already made its next steps clear in the Tax Information and Impact Notes, so we will work towards that.”
Crouch’s resignation came on the opening day of Responsible Gambling Week in the UK, an initiative being backed by a number of leading bookmakers, industry groups and charities.
GambleAware is one of the charities supporting the effort and its chief executive, Marc Etches, told iGamingBusiness.com that he hopes Crouch will continue her work in raising awareness of problem gambling.
Etches said: “Gambling is a public health issue and Tracey has done an excellent job of raising awareness of this across government. GambleAware has valued her involvement with the charity, both speaking regularly at our annual conferences and offering support for our work.
“We certainly hope she will continue her interest in our work as a constituency MP who has seen the impact of problem gambling first hand.”
Image: Stephen Sweeney