Esther McVey Opposes UK Government Crackdown on Controversial FOBTs

The crackdown that was planned to be imposed on addictive fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) today, got delayed once again, after the British Conservative Party member and current Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Esther McVey protested against the measure.

Following a number of postponements, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has planned to roll out the measure, under which the maximum stake allowed at FOBTs is to be reduced from £100 to £2, today. However, according to media reports, the Work and Pensions Secretary McVey has strongly objected to the Government’s plans. As reported by The Times, people close to the situation revealed that Ms. McVey has lodged a protest against the move against tighter regulation of the machines which have been considered highly-addictive.

Members of the Government who have backed the maximum stake reduction to £2, including the DCMS Secretary Matthew Hancock, now expressed fears that the British Prime Minister Theresa May may decide to move on with a higher maximum limit. Rumour has it that one of the sources familiar with the matter said that the £2 limit was “not over the line yet”.

Reportedly, a cross-party group of members of the Parliament who backed the FOBTs stake reduction wrote to The Times today, urging PM May to act. The letter, signed by Iain Duncan Smith and over 40 other members of the Parliament, blames fixed-odds betting machines for causing serious social harm as well as huge financial losses to affected players.

Tracey Crouch Promised Reduction of FOBTs Maximum Stake

The machines, which have been blamed for being too addictive to more vulnerable individuals, currently allow players to place a maximum stake of up to £100 every 20 seconds. According to anti-FOBTs campaigners, the way these terminals work has turned out to be encouraging to players to bet more and more every time – something that often ended up not only with massive losses generated, but also with gambling-related crimes, mental health problems, depression, family breakdowns, unemployment and even suicide attempts.

The Sports Minister Tracey Crouch has earlier revealed that the maximum fixed-odds betting machines’ stake of £100 that is currently allowed, is to be reduced. Still, local bookmakers were provided with the opportunity to share their opinions before the final decision of the Government is unveiled. As a result, heads of leading UK gambling companies have approached the Culture Secretary Matthew Hancock with a letter in an attempt to prevent the expected crackdown on FOBTs.

At the end of April, a number of local bookmakers, including GVC Holdings, William Hill, Betfred, Scotbet and Jenningsbet opposed to the Government’s intentions to slash the maximum stake allowed at the machines to £2. According to the operators, such a move would have a detrimental impact on their gambling revenue, as well as on the number of jobs in the industry, saying that the maximum stake reduction could lead to massive lay-offs across local betting shops.

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