The British government has today announced that it is restricting the maximum stake on a type of electronic gambling terminal to just £2. The announcement follows a campaign by the Church of England and others to lower the maximum stake on Fixed Odd Betting Terminals (FOBTs) from £100 GBP to £2. FOBTs are popular with British bookmakers, but campaigners warned of the dangers of users becoming addicted to the thrill of the machines, and losing thousands of pounds – the machines allow the maximum stake to be wagered every 20 seconds.
Following a government consultation on the issue, Britain’s Gambling Commission recommended reducing the level from £100 to £30: a significant reduction but still way ahead of what the Church of England had been calling for. This morning (Thursday) the government announced that the maximum stake would be reduced to £2.
In February last year, the C of E’s General Synod passed a resolution which began by recognition of “the destructive impact which accessible, high-stake machine gambling can have on families and whole communities and the widespread public concern about the very large amounts being wagered at fixed odds betting terminals located in high street betting shops.”
The resolution called on the government to reduce the maximum stake to £2 and to give local authorities “the power to make provision about the number and location of such terminals in order to reduce the risk of harm to large numbers of vulnerable people.”
The Bishop of St Albans, Alan Smith, today welcomed the Government’s announcement. Bishop Alan led the C of E’s campaign on the issue, and he had introduced a Private Members Bill in the House of Lords to give local authorities power to regulate the number of FOBTs in their area. The Bill fell before it could complete its passage through Parliament when the government called a snap General Election last year.
“Fixed-odds betting terminals are a scourge on high streets that have taken advantage of the vulnerable for too long,” Bishop Alan said. “I am very glad the Government agrees that a £2 stake is an essential part of the solution. Of course, there is more work to be done, but the Government has made the right decision.”
He thanked the Prime Minister and other government ministers “for their admirable moral leadership.”
The decision was taken despite an assessment by accountancy firm KPMG that it would cost the government £1.1 billion over three years in lost revenue to the treasury.