UK Government No Longer Split on FOBT Issue

A review into Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs) hasn’t been brushed under the carpet according to government sources.

Philip Hammond FOBT review

A report by The Times claims the Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond has dropped his opposition to a review on FOBTs. (Image: cityam.com/Getty)

Following a report that Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond had moved to block a review into FOBTs, the government has confirmed otherwise.

At the start of August, the Daily Mail suggested the head of the Treasury wasn’t keen on a reducing the maximum stake for FOBTs.

However, following backlash over Hammond’s potential objection to the FOBT review, sources speaking to The Times have said he’s “dropped” his opposition.

Consternation Over FOBT Review

As part of the review into FOBTs, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has been canvassing opinions relating to the betting shops machines. The main change anti-FOBT campaigners want to see is a reduction of the maximum bet from £100 to £2 per round.

The Treasury initially formed the opinion that this move would hit the nation’s coffers too hard. In 2016, FOBTs generated £400 million in tax revenue and a cut in stakes would drastically reduce this figure.

Although sports minister Tracey Crouch dismissed the Daily Mail’s article as “fake news,” the issue hasn’t gone away. Indeed, as well as a letter of concern from the Church of England, poker player and broadcaster Victoria Coren-Mitchell penned an opinion piece in The Guardian lambasting the government’s weak stance over FOBTs.

Internal Division is a Misnomer

In addition to The Times’ suggesting Hammond is now in favour of the review, the FOBT issue was raised in the House of Lords by Liberal Democrat Peer Lord Clement-Jones.

Pointing to an “internal debate” among government ministers over the state of FOBTs, Clement-Jones asked Lord Ashton of Hyde to clarify the state of play.

In response, Hyde stated that his counterpart had several “misunderstandings” about the situation. As well as pointing out Hammond has previously stated that he’s in favour of a system that aims to “balance” the needs of vulnerable players, he explained that the review contains a lot of data.

“The review generated a lot of interest from the general public as well as from a variety of interest groups, local authorities, trade bodies and industry,” said Hyde.

In line with the apparent wave of responses, Hyde concluded by pointing out that the person in charge of the report, sports minister Crouch, has said the report isn’t due until early October.

Until the review is finally published, the debate between the government, opposing parties and those wanting new conditions in place will almost certainly rage on.

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