Fixed-odd betNews machine delay is ‘disgraceful’
A six-month delay in cutting the maximum stake on fixed-odds betting machines has been labelled “disgraceful” by a Labour peer and former Newcastle City Council leader.
Jeremy Beecham hit out at the Government’s decision to postpone a crackdown on fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs), which would bring down the maximum stake from £100 to £2, until October 2019.
Ex-sports minister Tracey Crouch resigned from her post over the issue last week, having expected the tougher rules to come into force next April.
Speaking at Wednesday’s meeting of Newcastle City Council, Lord Beecham said: “It is disgraceful that the Government, having accepted the recommendation to reduce the limit to £2, is deferring that to the autumn, presumably on the basis that it will generate £2billion in revenue for the Government.
“I am sure there will be strong support across the chamber for sending a strong message to the Government.”
The Labour peer, who is also a long-serving councillor for the Benwell and Scotswood ward, added: “Not only are these places where a great deal of money is lost, they are also places that are the scene of much violence.”
Coun Nick Kemp, cabinet member for environment, added that the Government had put the concerns of the Treasury above those of vulnerable people, adding that local MPs have been contacted to lobby the Government.
In her resignation letter, Ms Crouch said: “Unfortunately, implementation of these changes are now being delayed until October 2019 due to commitments made by others to those with registered interests. From the time of the announcement to reduce stakes and its implementation, over £1.6bn will be lost on these machines.
“In addition, two people will tragically take their lives every day due to gambling-related problems and, for that reason as much as any other, I believe this delay is unjustifiable.”
She added: “It is a fact of Government that ministers must adhere to collective responsibility and cannot disagree with policy, let alone when it is policy made against your wishes relating to your own portfolio.”
Chancellor Philip Hammond has denied that the delay, announced in his October Budget, has been introduced to protect tax revenues. He told the Treasury select committee this week that the October implementation date was a “sensible compromise”
Sir Jeremy Beechan