UK Minister Delays Plans to Cut Maximum FOBT Stakes on Slots

Slot machines in a casino

A proposed plan to limit maximum stakes on slots in the UK has been delayed after a senior minister led a cabinet revolt, according to a report.

After winning over Treasury members, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport was reportedly planning to announce yesterday a reduction on maximum stakes on Fixed Odds Betting Terminal (FOBT) slot games from £100 ($135) to £2 ($2.70), reports The Times. However, Esther McVey, the work and pensions secretary, has strongly rejected the plan.

At present, FOBTs in the UK allow players to bet up to £100 per spin on electronic online casino games. Some, such as Matt Hancock, the culture, media, and sport secretary, fear that this delay may allow UK Prime Minister Theresa May to choose a higher maximum limit.

In a bid to urge Mrs. May to act, a cross-group party of MPs has written to The Times. Signed by Iain Duncan Smith, a British Conservative Party politician who was formerly the work and pensions secretary, and 40 other MPs, the letter said: “FOBTs cause much social harm and huge losses for those who can least afford it. It is of profound concern that last year there were more than 230,000 individual sessions in which a user lost over £1,000.”

It stressed that the government has “a moral duty” to reduce the maximum stakes to £2. It’s reported that department sources expect Mrs May to make a decision in the coming days, which is expected to be revealed next week.

Gambling away £18,000 an hour

Late last month, it was reported that the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) had published a 97-page report providing recommendations to the Government on how to reduce risks that vulnerable consumers face from gambling. Notably, one of its recommendations was to reduce maximum stakes on FOBTs, a suggestion that was welcomed by local authority leaders.

However, despite the support, it was also reported that plans to introduce the recommendations might be blocked by the Treasury, according to the Local Government Association (LGA). Councillor Simon Blackburn, chair of the LGA’s Safer and Stronger Communities Board, said: “We are extremely concerned by reports that plans to reduce maximum stakes on fixed odds betting terminals have been blocked.”

With the delay to the proposed plans, some, such as Hancock and Blackburn, feel that efforts to reduce problem gambling may be hindered. William Moyes, chair of the UKGC, wrote to Hancock, saying that action is required from the government, the Gambling Commission, and operators to reduce gambling risks to vulnerable consumers.

The risk that FOBTs present to players is that every £100 they bet every 20 seconds means that players could potentially lose as much as £18,000 ($24,000) an hour.

Notably, though, Neil McArthur, CEO of the Gambling Commission, said: “A stake cut for Fixed Odds Betting Terminals alone doesn’t go far enough to protect vulnerable people.”

He added: “We have proposed actions that will tackle both the risk of harm and provide solutions that are sustainable in the longer term.”