Ministers cut betting machine stakes from £100 to £2

Ministers cut betting machine stakes from £100 to £2

Bookmakers have warned that the measure will put 21,000 jobs and 4,000 betting shops at risk....

The decision follows a consultation launched in October a year ago after complaints that the machines were highly addictive and had led to gamblers building up big losses.

The BHA says it "recognises the potential impact on jobs" and also announced the Government may now bring forward a review of the levy, with officials planning to look at how a system based on global bets placed in Britain would work.

"When faced with the choice of halfway measures or doing everything we can to protect vulnerable people, we have chosen to take a stand", said culture minister Matt Hancock in today's statement. Ireland's Paddy Power Betfair said already on Wednesday it was considering merging its US business with fantasy sports company FanDuel.

Ladbrokes Coral, bought by GVC for close to 4 billion pounds late a year ago, operates close to 3,500 high street betting shops across the United Kingdom, employing over 25,000 people.

Bookmaker William Hill warned the decision to limit the maximum stake on FOBTs could see around 900 of its shops become loss-making, adding a "proportion" risked closure.

The long-awaited decision follows months of Whitehall wrangling and a sustained lobbying campaign by bookmaking firms which make a fortune from FOBTs.

GVC, which bought into retail exposure with its Ladbrokes deal late last year, said cutting the top stake on gambling machines would mean a reduction of around 160 million pounds ($216.5 million) in its core earnings in the first full year.

Kenneth Alexander, CEO of GVC Holdings, said: "Although we are ultimately disappointed with the outcome of the Triennial Review, it is a decision we accept".

In March, the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) published recommendations to support the government with its review of FOBTs, including limiting stakes on slot games to £2 and non-slot games to £30.

However Peter Jackson, chief executive at Paddy Power Betfair, said: "The wider gambling industry has suffered reputational damage as a result of the widespread unease over stake limits on gaming machines".

Shares in all three companies fell in early trading on Thursday, with William Hill, down almost 3 percent at one stage, hit hardest.

But the shift to £2 was backed by council leaders, church groups, charities, gambling campaigners and MPs from across the political spectrum.

The government has not revealed what level it plans to raise the online tax to at this November's Budget, but an increase to 20% from the current 15% would appear to be the minimum, and it may opt for parity with the existing Machine Gaming Duty of 25%. Following the announcement, the company's shares fell by 2.55%.

The government said the Gambling Commission would also toughen up protections around online gambling such as stronger age verification rules and proposals that require operators to set limits on gamblers' spending until affordability checks have been conducted.

- A multimillion-pound advertising campaign promoting responsible gambling.

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