Wil­liam Hill in last-ditch FOBT plea to May

The Sunday Telegraph - Money & Business - - Front page - By Bradley Ger­rard

WIL­LIAM HILL’S new chair­man has is­sued a last-ditch plea to Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May as the gam­bling in­dus­try braces for a “cat­a­strophic” clam­p­down on con­tro­ver­sial bet­ting ma­chines.

Roger Devlin, who be­came the book­maker’s chair­man last month, ar­gues that the Trea­sury will lose £1bn and 20,000 jobs will be put at risk if max­i­mum stakes on fixed-odds bet­ting ter­mi­nals (FOBTS) are cut from the £100 they are now to £2.

A de­ci­sion is ex­pected this week. The FTSE 100-listed book­maker de­rives about a fifth of its rev­enues from FOBT ma­chines, which crit­ics be­lieve are a ma­jor cause of prob­lem gam­bling. But in a let­ter to Mrs May, seen by

The Sun­day Tele­graph, Mr Devlin said that a £2 stake was “un­nec­es­sary” and the case for it “lack­ing in ev­i­dence”.

“There is no ev­i­dence to war­rant a re­duc­tion in stakes to any­thing as low as £2,” he said, adding that such a move would push play­ers into less pro­tected en­vi­ron­ments. He said Wil­liam Hill sup­ported a ban on pre-wa­ter­shed TV ad­verts and the im­po­si­tion of a levy to fund re­search into prob­lem gam­bling.

How­ever, he urged Mrs May to “de­lib­er­ate be­fore mak­ing any de­ci­sion”. Mr Devlin re­quested a meet­ing with the Prime Min­is­ter’s team to “ex­plain why the level of stake you are propos­ing is so very dis­pro­por­tion­ate and will have such a neg­a­tive im­pact on jobs”.

The Gov­ern­ment pub­lished its tri­en­nial re­view in Oc­to­ber but opted for ex­tra con­sul­ta­tion on FOBTS, of­fer­ing stake op­tions rang­ing from £50 to £2.

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