Home FINANCE Row over ‘delay’ to fixed odds betting terminal changes

Row over ‘delay’ to fixed odds betting terminal changes

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Reuters

MPs have criticised a “delay” to a planned crackdown on fixed-odds betting machines in bookmakers shops.

Labour claims a cut in the maximum stake from £100 to £2 had been put back by six months.

It has prompted speculation about the future of the minister who first announced the plan, Tracey Crouch.

But Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright denied the policy had been delayed – saying it would come into force earlier than many people had expected.

Labour has told the BBC that they will put down an amendment to the Finance Bill to try and bring in the changes next April.

Chancellor Philip Hammond announced in Monday’s Budget that the change to fixed-odds stakes would come into force in October 2019, at the same time as changes to duty charged on gambling firms based abroad but operating in the UK.

Mr Wright said that coordinating the date of the two changes would mean the government would not be hit by the fall in tax it was likely to suffer when the maximum size of the betting terminals stake is cut.

Campaigners for action noted that Ms Crouch had told an all party parliamentary group in September that the implementation would be in “the financial year starting April 2019”.

Deputy Labour leader Tom Watson raised the issue in an urgent question in the House of Commons, but despite leading on the policy, Ms Crouch was not present to answer it or listen to her departmental boss Jeremy Wright answer it.

Mr Wright resisted calls to tell the Commons if she had resigned, but said: “I think that [Ms Crouch] is doing an outstanding job as the Minister for Sports and Civil Society and [Mr Watson] is right that she deserves a large part of the credit for the substantive change that this Government is making.”

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HoC

Image caption

Tracey Crouch was not in the Commons to answer questions on the implementation date

Mr Wright said that the timescale set out would give the industry time to prepare for the changes and help prevent job losses in bookmakers’ shops.

But Mr Watson told MPs: “Everyone, both sides of the house was led to believe that the cut would take place in April 2019.”

He said the delay would save the Treasury £900m and accused the government of “capitulating to the gambling industry”.

But Mr Wright pointed to an early day motion from June when MPs were concerned that the reduction would not come into play until April 2020.

“We agree – hence the decision taken is not to make this change in April 2020 but to make it earlier than that,” said Mr Wright.

‘It’s not too late’

MPs on all sides warned any delay to the cut would further fuel the misery of gambling addiction and could even cost lives.

Former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith said he had been “under the impression” the industry needed 12 months to prepare, meaning the policy could be in place by April 2019.

“It is not too late,” he told the minister.

“For the sake of those people whose families and lives have been destroyed – and there may yet be more, many more, to follow them – I urge him to think again and bring forward the date so we may end this scourge.”

Labour MP Carolyn Harris, who chairs the all party parliamentary group on fixed-odds betting terminals said she was “incandescent”, adding: “Don’t give me warm words, give me action – April 2019 – we cannot lose any more lives because of these dreadful, dreadful machines.”



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