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Sports minister resigns over delays to reducing Fixed Odds Betting Terminal stakes

PUBLISHED: 17:10 02 November 2018

Sports minister Tracey Crouch, who resigned over delays to a reduction in stakes of FOBTs. Picture: Andy Payton

Sports minister Tracey Crouch, who resigned over delays to a reduction in stakes of FOBTs. Picture: Andy Payton

, © Andy Payton

The sports minister has resigned over delays to changes to Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs).

Tracey Crouch, the MP for Chatham and Aylesford, called the delay to a reduction in stakes from £100 to £2 “unjustifiable”.

Ahead of the Autumn Budget, in which the delay was announced, Tower Hamlet’s mayor, John Biggs, sent a letter to the chancellor with 26 other local council leaders, urging stakes to be reduced without delay.

In Ms Crouch’s letter, which she published on Twitter, she said: “It is with great sadness that I write to tender my resignation.

“From the time of the announcement to reduce stakes and its implementation, over £1.6bn will be lost on these machines, a significant amount of which will be in our most deprived areas, including my own constituency.”

It was announced in May that the maximum stakes of FOBTs would be reduced from £100 to £2. The machines, which have been dubbed the “crack cocaine” of betting, allow people to gamble up to £100 every 20 seconds on games like roulette.

In the Budget, chancellor Philip Hammond announced the reduction in stakes would be delayed until next October. This is to coincide with a rise in remote gaming duty which was also announced in Mr Hammond’s speech. The duty is a tax on companies offering online games like poker, and is increasing from 15 to 21 per cent of the industry’s profits.

FOBTs are said to disproportionately affect deprived areas. Mayor John Biggs previously called himself “puritanical” about the issue of fixed odds betting, claiming people needed to be protected against addiction. Tower Hamlets Council was part of a lobby, led by the former mayor of Newham, Sir Robin Wales, for the maximum stake to be cut.

Ms Crouch, who has represented her Kent constituency since 2010 and has been digital, culture, media and sports minister since 2015, was praised on social media for her resignation. The Archbishop of Canterbury, former foreign secretary Boris Johnson, and Tottenham MP David Lammy were among those to commend her decision.

A spokeswoman from the department for digital, culture, media and sport said they would not comment on individual resignations.

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