UK Treasury Plans to Block Measures to Reduce Maximum Limit Stakes on Slots

Slot machine closeup

The UK Treasury Department is reportedly planning to block plans to limit maximum stakes on slots, a move local authority leaders have said will hinder efforts to tackle gambling addiction.

In March, the UK’s gambling regulator, the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC), published a 97-page report providing recommendations to the Government on how to reduce risks that vulnerable consumers face from gambling. One of its proposals is to reduce maximum stakes on Fixed Odds Betting Terminal (FOBT) slot games from £100 ($140) to £2 ($2.80), a suggestion that has been welcomed by local authority leaders.

However, according to a report from the LocalGov, the Treasury may block plans to introduce the recommendations, according to a warning from the Local Government Association (LGA).

“We are extremely concerned by reports that plans to reduce maximum stakes on fixed odds betting terminals have been blocked,” said Councillor Simon Blackburn, chair of the LGA’s Safer and Stronger Communities Board.

Blackburn added that reports of the Treasury’s intentions will “hinder efforts to reduce problem gambling,” which will have a devastating impact on individuals and communities.

“Bringing the stakes down to £2 would help prevent vulnerable players from losing £100 in seconds in a single play, which many people cannot afford to lose,” he said.

Blackburn added that the Treasury should consider the “significant costs” problem gambling can have on the public purse, adding that money put into FOBT machines was money that wasn’t going into local businesses.

Losing up to £18,000 an hour

The second recommendation from the Gambling Commission is to reduce the maximum stake to £30 ($42) on FOBT non-slot games such as roulette.

Up until now, FOBTs have permitted players to stake up to £100 every 20 seconds, meaning they could theoretically lose as much as £18,000 ($25,000) an hour. In a February letter to Matt Hancock, secretary of state for digital, culture, media, and sport, the UK gambling regulator summarized its recommendations.

William Moyes, chair of the UKGC, wrote that action is required from the government, the Gambling Commission, and operators in order to achieve the aim of reducing gambling risks to vulnerable consumers.

In an announcement, Neil McArthur, CEO of the Gambling Commission, said:  “We’ve put consumers at the heart of our advice – advice which is based on the best available evidence and is focused on reducing the risk of gambling-related harm. In our judgment, a stake cut for Fixed Odds Betting Terminals alone doesn’t go far enough to protect vulnerable people. We have proposed actions that will tackle both the risk of harm and provide solutions that are sustainable in the longer term.”

As the regulator states, it’s up to the government whether the recommendations are implemented. However, a block on plans to limit maximum stakes on slots is going against what the regulator has suggested.

Credit card ban considered

Earlier this month, it was reported that the UK gambling regulator was thinking about introducing a ban on the use of credit cards for placing bets online.

In a 63-page report, the regulator stated that the use of credit cards in gambling “increases the risk that consumers will gamble more than they can afford.” As a result, it said that it would “consider prohibiting or restricting the use of credit cards and the offering of credit”.

This is a further move from the UKGC to make online gambling safer in Britain. Figures suggest that nine million people across the British Isles gamble online. It’s hoped that banning the use of credit cards will prevent vulnerable victims from seeing their losses spiral out of control.

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