The Budget: Delay to reduction of Fixed Odds Betting Terminal stakes despite Tower Hamlets mayor’s pleas

The reduction in stakes of Fixed Odds Betting Terminals has been delayed until October 2019. Picture

The reduction in stakes of Fixed Odds Betting Terminals has been delayed until October 2019. Picture: Hackney Council - Credit: Archant

Ahead of Monday’s autumn Budget, the mayor of Tower Hamlets wrote to the chancellor urging him not to delay changes to Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs).

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, instead of April when it was originally due to come into force, to coincide with the new tax year.

The letter, which was signed by leaders of 27 councils and headed by the mayor of Newham, Rokhsana Fiaz, urged Mr Hammond to make reducing the stakes a priority.

It said: “As local authority leaders, we sadly know first hand the devastating impact these machines have had on our residents and high streets, clustering in deprived areas, fuelling problem gambling and indebtedness, and creating real misery to people’s lives.”

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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.

Research from the Institute of Public Policy suggests problem gambling costs the country up to £1.16bn a year in health, welfare, employment, housing and criminal costs.

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The delay in reducing stakes 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.

Elsewhere in the Budget, the chancellor announced an extra £650m of social care funding, for local authorities to support the elderly and adults with learning disabilities. Only £240m of this is earmarked for adults, with councils free to use the rest on children’s services.

The chancellor also pledged to increase work allowances for Universal Credit claimants by £1,000 each, making working parents £630 better off a year.

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