The discussions over gambling in the UK are now heating up as Nicky Morgan, chair of the influential Treasury committee recently condemned the delays in slashing the FOBT maximum stakes to 2 pounds. Morgan also noted that the chancellor is prioritizing jobs in the gambling industry over the gambling addicts’ lives.
Morgan launched an aggressive attack on the gambling sector regulations, saying that the decision to delay stake reduction in fixed offs betting terminals until next October puts several lives at risk. She cited warnings from former sports minister Tracey Crouch, who suggested that at least two people take their lives every day due to their addiction to gambling Crouch resigned due to the delays last week. The move is widely understood as retaliation against the belief that pro-gambling MP Philip Davies, went out of her way to delay the implementation of the stake reduction.
Morgan went on to quote the government’s own assessment of the impact of the policy, published in May this year, which indicated that the bookmakers needed 12 months to prepare for the change. This indicates that the changes could be implemented by May 2019. Hammond, on the other hand, commented that he had not read the document during his appearance before the committee.
Hammond said that he had “no love for these machines” and called them terrible. However, he cited sources from the gambling industry, saying that anywhere between 15,000 to 21,000 jobs will be lost owing to the FOBT curbs. Bookmakers will be significantly impacted due to the reduced stakes as they collect over 50% of their annual revenues from these terminals. He said that the October 2019 date is a “sensible compromise” that allows better transition.
Morgan countered Hammond’s views, saying that their rational analysis doesn’t help 300 people who will be losing their lives and suffering from mental health problems because of their gambling addictions. Interestingly, when asked about a Guardian report about an early budget draft readying for April 2019 by Labour MP Alison McGovern, Hammond noted that he was unaware of the draft as he is not involved in the document drafting within the Treasury.
The government now faces the prospects of introducing a cross-party amendment to the finance bill, which Crouch had earlier agreed to support. Morgan also said that the FOBT debate had caused an “unnecessary row” amongst the members of the House.