Matt Hancock, the man behind the reduction in FOBT stakes and Conservative leadership hopeful, has pledged to impose a levy on gambling operators in a bid to tackle problems within the industry.
The West Suffolk MP has previously held two cabinet positions, as health secretary and as culture secretary. In the latter role, he was in charge of the government’s decision to cut the maximum stake on a fixed-odds betting terminal (FOBT) from £100 ($127) to just £2 ($2.54). The lower stake came into effected in May and has been credited with a downfall in the land-based casino sector.
Now Hancock hopes to become the next leader of the Conservative party, which would make prime minister, thanks to Theresa May’s resignation last week.
Speaking to The Sun newspaper, Hancock said that the current restrictions on the gambling market aren’t working when it comes to issues stemming from problem gambling.
He insisted that he would call for a compulsory 1% levy to fund research and treatment. This would raise around £100m ($127m) to tackle the issue, more than 10 times the amount that the current voluntary contributions.
He said: “I’ve seen first-hand how gambling addiction blights lives and damages our society. The betting industry has not taken this issue seriously enough and has failed to take enough responsibility for addressing the harm gambling causes.
“Since voluntary contributions have not worked, I will use the powers the government already has to make it happen.”
The charity GambleAware receives contributions from operators that amount to 0.1% of their annual gross gaming yield after they pay out to punters. The voluntary scheme brought in £9.6m ($12.2m) last year, just under the £10m ($12.73m) target.
Hancock isn’t the first politician to have these thoughts. Labour’s deputy Tom Watson has also been vocal on the theme of a gambling levy, along with Gambling Commission Chairman Bill Moyes.
It seems that the call for action has been well received, in theory. The Remote Gambling Association responded to his announcement by declaring that they would be happy to receive other donations if required but thought that the voluntary system was working well for the moment.
With Hancock’s previous background as health minister, if elected to Prime Minister he would have a wide experience to draw on when it comes to making decisions that affect the gambling community. However, the odds on that becoming a reality are just 100 to 1 at the moment.