UK Chancellor of Exchequer Reportedly Blocks Gambling Machines Crackdown

British Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond has reportedly blocked attempts for a fixed-odds betting terminals crackdown, The Daily Mail wrote on Saturday. The story was later on branded as ‘fake news’ by Tracey Crouch, the Under Secretary of State for Sport and long-time opponent of the controversial gambling machines.

FOBTs or B2 gaming machines, as they are designated under UK gambling laws, play an important role in the retail business of high street betting shop owners, including William Hill, Ladbrokes Coral, and Betfred. The controversial devices generated £1.8 billion in gross gambling yield in the period between October 2015 and September 2016, according to official information by the UK Gambling Commission.

For several years now, FOBTs have been seen by multiple opponents as a plague that needs to be eradicated for gambling customers’ safety and well-being. The machines are considered to be highly addictive due to the fact that players can wager up to £100 every 20 seconds. Proposals have emerged that the maximum stake allowed be reduced to just £2, or at least reduced significantly.

The UK government commenced last October review of the country’s gambling industry, confirming that it would be particularly focused on the gaming devices.

The Daily Mail reported that Chancellor Hammond had labeled a potential crackdown on FOBTs “financially crippling” for incoming tax revenue. It was also pointed out that the official had himself made sure that there would be no such crackdown.

Ms. Crouch took the matter to Twitter on Saturday, claiming that The Daily Mail story was ‘fake news’. The Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Sport has been among the British politicians to have called for FOBTs reforms and curbs.

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport issued a statement later on, saying that the government’s review of the betting machines was still underway and that results from it would be published this fall. Ms. Crouch has herself said recently that the report’s findings would be disclosed no earlier than October. Chancellor Hammond has not himself commented on The Daily Mail story.

The results of the review were actually expected this spring. However, political turmoils before and after the UK general election necessitated a change of plan. Although a reduction in the maximum stakes to just £2 is not likely, it is believed that certain curbs will be implemented in relation to the contentious machines this fall.

Any change will have an immediate negative effect on bookmakers’ profitability, particularly given the fact that a huge portion of their retail gross gambling yield comes namely from FOBTs. What is more, reforms are coming at a time when some gambling operators are still trying to establish themselves on the digital gaming and sports betting space, which too affects their financial performance.

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