FOBTs and the Brexit Factor
On the 14 November the Government reversed their decision, announced by Phillip Hammond in the budget on the 29 October that the much publicised reduction in the maximum stakes on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs) would not come in to force until October 2019. The change will now be implemented in April 2019.
This may be seen by some as a victory for the Brexiteers who, amongst others, have successfully put pressure on the Government to bring forward the date of the change and save it from the further embarrassment of the budget failing to get parliamentary approval for the first time in a century
The change to the maximum stake on FOBTs was announced back in May of this year as part of the Government Review of Gaming Machines and Social Responsibility Measures. The change had received cross party support and the then Sports Minister Tracey Crouch received much praise for pushing the reform through.
When Philip Hammond announced his budget on the 29 October it became apparent that the change in stakes would come in to force in October 2019, some six months later than many had anticipated. As a consequence of this Tracey Crouch stated that pushing back the date was “unjustifiable” and could cost the lives of problem gamblers. She commented that “politicians come and go but principles stay with us forever”. Her resignation was welcomed by the deputy leader of the Labour Party, Tom Watson who commented that there was “no reason why implementation cannot come in sooner than October” and accused Jeremy Wright, the culture secretary, of having “prioritised corporate interests over victims”
It wasn’t long before Brexiteers Jacob Rees Mogg, Boris Johnson and David Davis voiced their concern over the delay and on the 14 November the Government announced that the change in FOBT stakes would be introduced in April 2019.
John White, CEO at the British Amusement Catering Trade Association, was quoted as saying that: “It’s welcome news that implementation of the £2 stake limit has now been brought forward to next April. There was never any justification for it being delayed beyond this point. This is a victory for common sense. The right decision has been reached, one that is an important step towards reducing gambling-related harm.”
The financial markets also responded positively to the announcement with share prices in some of the major gambling organisations rising as a consequence.
The decision also provides a welcome clarity for the bookmakers who can now make contingency plans for the implementation of the forthcoming changes.