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Maximum stake on fixed odds gambling machines cut to £2
17 May 2018, 02:02 | Erica Roy
Ministers vow to 'protect the vulnerable' by slashing maximum stake on 'crack cocaine' gambling machines from £100 to £2
Tom Watson, deputy leader of the Labour party and shadow secretary of state for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, told the BBC's Today programme: "For five years now pretty much everyone in Westminster, Whitehall and in the country has known that these machines have had a very detrimental effect in communities up and down the land.The bookmakers have chosen to take a defiant approach, trying to face down parliament, really, with a very aggressive campaign".
Bookmaker William Hill, which generates just over half its retail revenues from FOBTs, described the United Kingdom government's decision as "unprecedented" and warned that 900 of its shops could become loss-making, potentially leading to job losses.
Now punters can place bets of up to £100 every 20 seconds on electronic casino games, which critics say is a spur to problem gambling. "These machines are a social blight".
"We now need radical action from the Welsh Government to step up education about the dangers of gambling and to address flaws in the planning system which result in communities being besieged by multiple betting shops in our town centres", he added.
It comes after experts warned reducing the maximum stake to £2 would be "catastrophic" for the market.
He said: "I've have heard first hand too many stories of individuals who have lost their jobs, their homes, their families and tragically in some cases their lives".
Campaigners for stronger restrictions on the machines also expressed delight.
The decision deals a blow to bookmakers however, who had argued that the fixed-odds betting terminals were a major source of income for high-street betting shops which are struggling to stay afloat as younger gamblers move online, putting jobs at risk.
In 2015, the £1.75bn earned by the bookmakers from FOBTs resulted in £438m in taxes for the Treasury.
Measures announced by the government also included tougher rules for internet gambling, including proposals on age verification limits on consumers' spending.
Each generates an average of £50,000 a year for bookmakers.
Ministers are understood to have concluded that a £2 stake is needed to protect vulnerable gamblers.
Chief executive Peter Jackson said the announcement was a "positive development for the long-term sustainability of the industry" and the company highlighted factors that could mitigate the impact.
It vowed to engage with the gambling industry to ensure it was given sufficient time to implement and complete the technological changes.
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