Fixed-odd betNews ma­chine de­lay is ‘dis­grace­ful’

The Chronicle - - News Graphic - By DANIEL HOL­LAND Lo­cal democ­racy re­porter daniel.hol­land@ncjme­

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

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