FOBT: Maximum stake on 'social blight' to be cut to £2

By Geoffrey Riddle@Louchepunter
Thu 17 May 2018

Watch Lydia Hislop's in-depth and wide-ranging interview with the BHA"s Nick Rust after the government announced that the FOBT stake would be reduced to £2.

The government has confirmed the maximum stake for fixed-odds betting terminals will be cut to £2.

The government has also said it will consider bringing forward a review of the levy on betting on racing that returns money to the sport.

Minister for sport and civil society Tracey Crouch said: "In order to cover any negative impact on the public finances, and to protect funding for vital public services, this change will be linked to an increase in Remote Gaming Duty, paid by online gaming operators, at the relevant budget.

"Changes to the stake will be through secondary legislation. The move will need parliamentary approval and we will also engage with the gambling industry to ensure it is given sufficient time to implement and complete the technological changes."

Culture Secretary Matt Hancock revealed that ministers had decided to "take a stand" despite warnings from the betting industry that the change would cost thousands of jobs at high street bookmakers.

The Gambling Commission conducted a review in March and recommended the maximum stake should be £30 or less for machines such as roulette but the Government decided to act in a more draconian manner.

"When faced with the choice of halfway measures or doing everything we can to protect vulnerable people, we have chosen to take a stand. These machines are a social blight," Hancock said.

The MP for Suffolk later added on the BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "I represent Newmarket, which is the home of horse racing. I love horse racing and there is an interaction between the sport and the gambling industry.

"We are working with the British Horseracing Authority on a package of measures to mitigate the impact on horse racing.

"But I would say this to people in the horse racing industry, and who love that sport: Horse racing should not be financed on the back of this misery."

Tom Watson, Labour's deputy leader and shadow secretary of state for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, told the BBC's Today programme: "The great tragedy of this is (that) for five years now pretty much everyone in Westminster, Whitehall and in the country has known that these machines have had a very detrimental effect in communities up and down the land.

"The bookmakers have chosen to take a defiant approach, trying to face down parliament, really, with a very aggressive campaign."

The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) welcomed the government’s determination to address the issues raised by problem gambling.

The BHA called for change during the consultation and backed the government's tough and decisive stance.

The Secretary of State wrote to the Chairman of the BHA, Steve Harman, on Thursday morning to outline that the government recognises their decision has complicated ramifications for the racing industry and would like to work closely to address the risks.

The Secretary of State underlined that he has asked his officials to work with the BHA to look at how ‘a Levy on global racing bets placed in Britain could work’.

The existing levy, which was reformed in April 2017, only covers bets placed on British racing. The BHA believes this extension could partially offset some of the potential reduction in income to racing that is likely to follow from Thursday's decision.

The letter also makes clear that changes to the stake limits ‘will not be imminent’ and will allow ‘a period of transition’ in line with Crouch's comments.

Full statement on behalf of British racing regarding Government's review of gambling

17/05/2018 @08:20:00:00

The British Horseracing Authority (BHA), on behalf of the British racing industry, welcomes the government’s determination to address the issues raised by problem gambling. We called for change during the consultation and we can see the government has acted decisively.

We are pleased that the consultation response recognises the special and longstanding relationship between the betting and horseracing industries.

The Secretary of State has written to the Chairman of the BHA, Steve Harman, this morning saying the government recognises today’s decision is not at all straightforward for the horseracing industry and wants to work closely to address the risks.

In particular, the Secretary of State says he has asked his officials to work with the BHA to look at how ‘a Levy on global racing bets placed in Britain could work’. The existing levy, which was reformed in April 2017, only covers bets placed on British racing. The BHA believes this extension could partially offset some of the potential reduction in income to racing that is likely to follow from today’s decision.

The letter, which we have published alongside this statement, also says that changes to the stake limits ‘will not be imminent’ and will allow ‘a period of transition’ which we believe will allow the gambling industry and horseracing time to adjust.

The BHA Chief Executive, Nick Rust, said: “British racing has a strong social conscience and we support measures announced by the Government today to reduce the harm caused by problem gambling. We are also an industry that generates significant employment, provides education and training and funds charitable work, particularly in rural areas.

“Throughout this consultation process, we have aimed to protect these valuable social contributions from any potential adverse impacts from wider policy changes. We are pleased that Government has acknowledged the reasonable arguments we have made in the consultation process that jobs and revenues in the racing industry should not be adversely affected by changes to wider gambling policy.

“It is too early to say what the financial impact for racing will be. Our estimates before today’s decision ranged from £40 to £60 million per year, once the impact of the changes has filtered through into racing. These estimates did not take into account the Secretary of State’s suggestion that the levy could be extended to bets on global racing which could partially offset any reduction. We are also encouraged by the Secretary of State’s reference to a period of transition which will allow time for racing and betting to adjust.

“British racing shares a unique interdependency with the betting industry and we recognise that this decision will affect jobs in the betting industry, with which we work closely in partnership. We want betting on horseracing – on the High Street, at racecourses and online – to continue to be accepted as legitimate and socially responsible. Recreational betting has been a part of racing for centuries and is an accepted entertainment pursuit during a day at the races or on the High Street.

“Our industry’s leaders – who have worked together throughout this consultation – will now work with the betting industry and Government as to how we can grow such legitimate, socially responsible betting activity on racing and take measures to address problem gambling wherever we can.”

The BHA’s Chairman, Steve Harman, added: “We are grateful to the Secretary of State for his continued commitment to our industry. His letter today shows how he is planning to further support racing jobs, the rural economy and our future sustainability. We support his desire to reduce problem-gambling without harming Britain’s second-biggest spectator sport”.

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