Church of England Expresses Concern Over Possible FOBT U-Turn

the Bishop of St Albans.

The Bishop of St Albans, the Right Reverend Alan Smith, has called on the government not to stop a review into FOBTs. (Image: lordsspiritual/churchinparliament.org)

The Church of England is pushing the government not to go back on its plan to publish a review into fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs).

Picking up on the Daily Mail’s recent report that the Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond has rallied against curbs on FOBTs, the Right Reverend Alan Smith has voiced his concern.

Taking a line that’s previously been pushed by the Church of England’s parliament, the General Synod, Smith asked for reassurance that the FOBT review will be published as planned.

FOBT Review Could be Put on Ice

The Mail’s report claims that Hammond believes tax revenue from FOBTs is too significant to warrant a reduction of the max betting limit from £100 to £2.

Figures show that the Treasury receive around £400 million in tax revenue thanks to the £1.8 billion wagered on FOBTs each year.

Reducing the amount players can stake would naturally reduce the amount of tax revenue and, if reports are to be believed, this is something Hammond wants to avoid.

In line with this, sources claim Hammond has told the Department of Culture, Media and Sport to abandon its review into the industry.

Smith believes this would be a mistake and, while he stopped short of saying the betting limits must be reduced, he did advise Hammond not to put the review on ice.

“I would be grateful for reassurance that the review will publish this autumn as planned, and that proposals to curb the effects of FOBTs will feature within it,” wrote Smith.

No Win Situation for Hammond

While the Church has made its position clear, Hammond hasn’t yet addressed the issue. A debate has long been something anti-FOBTs campaigners have sought. However, with Hammond’s approval rating among Tory members at an all-time low, it’s unclear whether he’ll want to rock the boat in either direction.

Cutting the £400 million in tax revenue wouldn’t have a negligible effect on the economy; especially in light of the UK’s impending break away from the European Union.

However, if the rumours are true that Hammond has called for the review to be scrapped, it won’t sit well with a number of powerful organisations, including the Church of England.

Whichever way the Chancellor moves, it appears as though he’ll upset someone. Whatever happens, the issue is one that’s not likely to go away any time soon.

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