I welcome the decision to bring forward a reduction in the maximum stake on fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTS) from October 2019 to April 2019.
Following last month’s budget the Chancellor of the Exchequer was criticised for delaying the reduction until next October, leading to the resignation of Sports Minister Tracey Crouch. However, pressure from campaigners saw the Government make a U-turn, supporting cross-party amendments to the Finance Bill this week which move the long-awaited reduction forward to April.
There are an estimated 33,000 FOBTs located in betting shops across the UK, all allowing gamblers to part with up to £100 every 20 seconds. Last year there were more than 230,000 individual sessions on FOBTs where the user lost more than £1,000.
The Government has dragged their heels for too long on this issue, and Ministers have been far too willing to listen to the powerful voices of the gambling lobby rather than focusing on the huge losses FOBTs cause for those who can least afford it. The machines may be highly profitable for bookmakers, but they are also highly addictive for ordinary users. Across the UK, including here in Gwent and beyond, there are individuals who have lost vast sums of money – and in some cases homes, jobs and family relationships –after falling into the trap of problem gambling. I pay tribute to the campaigners, including my Welsh Labour colleague Carolyn Harris, for forcing the Government to change course and answer their moral duty by reducing the maximum stake.