Having recently won praise from various local government groups and prominent campaigners for its positive and proactive approach to responsible gaming, it now looks like the treasury has been persuaded by bookmakers to increase the transition period on maximum stake betting, hurting societies poorest and most vulnerable.
The Treasury has long had concerns about how curbing FOBTs would impact its intake of tax, whilst high-street bookmakers have asserted that reducing the maximum betting stake from £100 to £2 would cause their revenues to half and put increased pressures on the industry leading to loss of jobs and the closure of stores. So with both parties having a lot to lose, could this be the cause of such a lengthy delay?
High Stakes Game
With the Treasury and the gambling industry playing a very high-stakes game, the only people who seem to be losing are those who are trapped in a negative cycle and battling gambling addiction that can very quickly take hold.
Fixed-Odds betting terminals (FOBTs) have been described by Tom Watson’s deputy leader as having the ability to “ruin lives” and has criticised the government, accusing it of being “fundamentally weak” in its two-year delay to curbing these controversial machines.
FOBT’s differ from online slots, found at websites such as www.SlotGames.co.uk and have been likened to ‘crack cocaine’ with the power to completely ruin lives.
Many government ministers are now seeing these machines as a “social blight” as described by culture minister Matt Hancock and feel that the only way forward is to introduce restrictions to help protect the poorest individuals.
By delaying the implementation of the restriction until 2020, gamblers could lose an additional £4 billion whilst allowing bookmakers to still bring in a further £3.6 billion.
The Treasury’s plan to offset any losses of revenue from FOBT’s by collecting a higher tax rate on online gambling and could still be implemented even before the curb on fixed-odds betting terminals comes into effect, resulting in an increase in funds for the Treasury.
A Lengthy Wait to Update
The Treasury has been criticised heavily for the comments it has made regarding the gambling industries need for a two year period to ensure that all of their machines are properly updated, especially in the light of opposing remarks from FOBT manufactures quoting an estimated 6-8 weeks maximum.
A spokesperson for Fairer Gambling expressed their disbelief at the situation commenting that it is unbelievable that to think bookies believe it will take them two years to “…run a software update”.
The debate is seeing a shift in cultural attitudes towards gambling and many recognising that our ideas about the industry as a whole have been misguided.
The question still remains as to why this change is taking so long to come into effect especially as there is such an urgent need for restrictions on this highly addictive form of gambling – only time will tell if the government will put people’s welfare above the need generate revenue.