The expected cut on the maximum bet on fixed-odds betting machines (FOBTs) has been delayed in the UK, and it probably won’t take effect until October 2019.
Cut from £100 to £2
It was reported in April that the government was going to decide on a new maximum bet on FOBTs after local elections in May. At the time, maximum bets were set at £100 ($128; €112), but proposals suggested that it could be lowered to as little as £2 ($2.56; €2.2).
In May, though, a proposed plan to lower the maximum bet on machines was delayed after a UK senior minister led a revolt against it. A few days later, reports indicated that the UK’s government had cut the maximum bet down to £2. Following the decision, Tracey Crouch, the UK’s sports minister, said that this “will reduce harm for the most vulnerable.”
Now, however, it appears that putting the new maximum into effect has been delayed.
A report from The Guardian suggests that the new maximum bet won’t take effect until October 2019. It was initially thought that it would take effect in April. The extra six months means that gambling operators will be able to collect £900m ($1.15m; €1.01m) from gamblers. This is based on the current rate of winnings. In addition, from the time the cut was announced until the October deadline, bookmakers will have generated a projected £2.7m ($3.4m; €3.04m).
According to Jeremy Wright, the UK’s culture minister, the cut to FOBTs was a “very good thing.” However, he also said it was necessary for bookmakers “to reorder their business to make sure people aren’t made redundant if it can be avoided.” Iain Duncan Smith, former work and pensions secretary, dismissed as “rubbish”the claims that bookmakers needed more time to reduce the impact on jobs.
He added: “Once that decision was announced, there was no way back. The idea they have to wait for the statutory instrument is complete rubbish. If they haven’t made the changes, it’s hard luck on them. They’re just playing for time, but there are people who are suffering.”
Protecting the most vulnerable
The move to reduce maximum bets on FOBTs is the first step in reducing the harm it can do to problem gamblers. Before the cut, FOBT players were allowed to stake up to £100 every 20 seconds, meaning they could lose as much as £18,000 ($23,000; €20,000) an hour.
Notably, back in March, the UK Gambling Commission recommended that the government cut stakes to £2. The commission also noted in its report that a stake cut alone doesn’t go far enough to protect vulnerable people from the risks of gambling. Another measure it recommended was to cut the stake limit for non-slot games down to £30 ($38; €34).
A credit card ban for placing bets online is also being considered. This, though, is not a scene that can change overnight. It’s hoped that, with more discussions and measures in place to protect problem gamblers, a solution can be reached that is suitable for everyone involved.