The government will today announce if it is to cut the maximum stake allowed on fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs), described as the “crack cocaine” of gambling.
Currently, gamblers can bet up to £100 every 20 seconds on the machines.
A review by the Gambling Commission, published in March, recommended that FOBT slots stakes should be limited to £2, with a stake limit for FOBT non-slot games (which includes roulette) set at or below £30.
Culture Secretary Matt Hancock is widely expected to accept the review’s findings, despite opposition from some Cabinet colleagues who fear reduced tax revenues and dire warnings of job losses from bookmakers.
Betfred has said 4,500 jobs will go and 900 of its shops become loss-making overnight if the restrictions are implemented.
In a letter to members of the Home Affairs Sub-Committee, Mark Stebbings, Betfred’s managing director, warned that “much upset and heartache will go into having to make… redundant” close to 4,500 people who work in the potentially loss-making betting shops.
William Hill has warned that new regulations could leave the company at risk of a foreign takeover and
jeopardise 20,000 British jobs.
But organisations such as GambleAware point to the financial and social impact of gambling addiction.
A 2016 report by the charity and The Institute for Public Policy Research suggested that up to 1.1% of the adult population has a gambling problem, with the prevalence higher among homeless people, the unemployed and black or Asian people.
Earlier this year analysis by the Centre for Economics and Business Research suggested that each year roulette-style betting machines cost £116m in hospital inpatient services alone, £32m in mental health services and £16m as a result of criminal behaviour.
It also estimated that problem gambling associated with the potentially addictive machines resulted in £13m in additional housing costs, while associated work difficulties cost £30m.