Pension Secretary Esther McVey Leads Last-Minute FOBT Revolt

Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey has broken rank and urged the government not to impose a £2 betting limit on fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs).

Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey.

Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey has reportedly led a revolt against planned FOBT changes. (Image: PA/BT.com)

In a move against the recent consensus among 40 MPs, McVey has lodged an objection at the final hour. According to information obtained by The Times, the senior Conservative minister led a cabinet revolt just hours before a planned announcement on the fate of FOBTs.

Long-Running Debate Hit With Last-Minute Drama

The subject of reducing the maximum stakes for high street betting terminals has been under review since 2016. Following pressure from factions both inside and outside of Westminster, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport moved to change the current wagering limits.

Consultations with interested parties were followed by a formal review at the close of 2017. Since that time, lobbyist groups, politicians and the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) have all given their perspective on how to best manage the situation.

With all the comments taken into account, Sports Minister Tracey Crouch was expected to announce a reduction in the betting cap from £100 to £2 on May 10. However, sources close to McVey and The Times have said a last-minute protest may have thrown a spanner in the works.

At this stage, it’s unclear what McVey’s motivations are given that she’s been quiet on the issue since it became a public debate. She has said, however, that she and her supporters are “very strongly” opposed to the proposed £2 limit.

Industry Insiders Braced for Change

Back in March, the UKGC published its recommendations and attempted to strike a balance between the betting industry’s needs and the critics’ comments.

“In our view, a precautionary approach should involve a stake limit at or below £30 if it is to have a significant effect on the potential for players to lose large amounts of money in a short space of time,” read the UKGC’s March report.

Even though the report called for FOBT slot bets to be capped at £2 per spin, those opposed to machines weren’t in favour of allowing roulette (the most popular game) to have a £30 spin limit. Echoing these sentiments, The Times has reported that 40 MPs from all parties wrote to Prime Minister Theresa May on May 9 calling for immediate action.

Whatever outcome the latest political infighting provides, operators across the UK are bracing for change. As well as putting more money into their online services, the major brands will be looking to merge and consolidate their assets in the coming months.

For GVC in particular, the outcome of the FOBT report will be of interest because a £2 limit would see it pay £3.2 billion to take control of Ladbrokes Coral rather than the upper limit of £3.9 billion.

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