Will online curbs follow £2 ‘crack cocaine’ victory?
SLASHING the stakes allowed on betting shop machines may result in problem gamblers going online instead, the Government admits.
An official ‘impact assessment’ of this week’s cut in the maximum bet on fixed- odds betting terminals from £100 to just £2 says that many high- stakes players may now migrate to betting websites.
As a result, Culture Minister Tracey Crouch is considering moves to crack down on the internet gambling industry, including stronger age and affordability checks.
She also wants to stop operators appealing to children by using cartoon characters. Using credit cards to bet online could also be outlawed, she suggested yesterday.
Her boss, Culture Secretary Matt Hancock described betting shop machines as a ‘social blight’ as he announced the stakes cut this week. The move was warmly welcomed by campaigners who call fixed- odds terminals the ‘crack cocaine of gambling’, but condemned by bookies.
The impact assessment says the change in the law could cost the industry £540million a year and the Association of British Bookmakers says this will result in 4,000 shops closing with 21,000 jobs lost.
Shares in gambling firms fell drastically after the announcement but the losses were later clawed back.
The government has also told the Gambling Commission to begin talks with the industry on limiting the money and time spent on other betting machines in casinos and arcades. Firms could be told to track people’s playing patterns in a bid to spot those punters most at risk of developing a problem.
Asked by MPs yesterday about betting websites which use cartoon characters, Miss Crouch said: ‘There’s a great deal of further work that needs to be done in terms of protecting vulnerable people, particularly children from the harms of online gambling.’
She added that the Commission would also consider ‘whether gambling using credit cards online should continue to be permitted’.