Home Business Government to accelerate crackdown on fixed-odds betting terminals in face of rebellion

Government to accelerate crackdown on fixed-odds betting terminals in face of rebellion

0
0

The government has announced it will bring forward a crackdown on betting machines in the face of a Commons rebellion.

In a written statement, Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright confirmed that a reduction in the maximum stake on fixed-odds betting terminals will be brought forward from October 2019 to April 2019.

Sky News earlier reported that a u-turn was imminent.

It comes after Tracey Crouch quit as sports minister over the policy and a Sky News report that Theresa May was facing a mass resignation of ministerial aides if she did not change course.

More than 70 MPs, several former cabinet ministers among them, had tabled amendments to government business in a bid to force Downing Street to bring forward the reduction from £100 to £2.

Appearing on Sky News, Ms Crouch was told “you’ve got your way, but you’ve lost your job”.

She replied: “That is true, but people were losing their lives over these machines.”

Ms Crouch added that “common sense has prevailed” and she was “very grateful” to the government for listening to the concerns expressed by MPs, faith leaders, charities and members of the public.

Labour’s Tom Watson said the climb down highlighted the government’s “disastrous political judgement”.

“It’s very sad that it took an honourable resignation of a good minister and a cross party revolt to achieve the blindingly obvious and necessary reforms to fixed odds betting terminals,” the shadow culture secretary said.

“Whilst this is a personal humiliation for Jeremy Wright, this is a very good day for the many thousands of people whose families and communities are blighted by gambling addiction.”

In his statement, Mr Wright said: “The government has been clear that protecting vulnerable people is the prime concern, but that as a responsible government it is also right to take the needs of those employed by the gambling industry into account and provide time for an orderly transition.

“Parliament has, however, been clear that they want this change to be made sooner. The government has listened and will now implement the reduction in April 2019.”

Mrs May hinted at a u-turn in the Commons when she was asked about the issue by former Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith, who co-led the revolt.

He said: “I was enormously proud of my government for agreeing to lower the stake on fixed-odds betting terminals to £2 because they have caused endless harm, terrible damage to families and it was the right decision.

“Since then, there has been a hiatus about the date at which this would start.

“Can I ask my right honourable friend: is it a reality that now we have put down an amendment, that the government will accede and we will get this process started on 1 April next year?”

The PM replied: “I know he has campaigned on this issue with a passion because, as he said, this question of the maximum stakes for FOBTs (fixed odd betting terminals) is one which does have an impact on vulnerable people as well as their families and loved ones.

“I recognise the strength of feeling on this issue. I know gambling addiction can devastate lives.

“Our priority is making sure that this change delivers the result we all want to see, we are listening to the concerns being raised by colleagues, and if my right honourable friend will have a little patience I can tell him my right honourable friend the culture secretary will set out further details later today.”

An impact assessment in May 2017 suggested the new policy should come into force in nine months to a year.

But Chancellor Philip Hammond told the Treasury committee last week that after talks with the betting industry, October 2019 was a “sensible” date to bring in the change.

(c) Sky News 2018: Government to accelerate crackdown on fixed-odds betting terminals in face of rebellion