Fixed odds betting machines maximum stake slashed to £2

Culture minister Tracey Crouch said problem gambling could devastate lives

Bookmakers should come under pressure on Thursday after the United Kingdom government confirmed it will cut the maximum stake on fixed odds betting terminals (FOBT) to £2 from the current £100 in a bid to curb problem gambling.

New rules will see the maximum stake reduce to £2 in a bid to minimise the risk of gambling-related harm, Minister for Sport and Civil Society Tracey Crouch announced today.

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.

The government said it was created to reduce the potential for large losses and cut the risk of harm to players and the wider community.

The opposition Labour Party's deputy leader Tom Watson said on his Facebook page: "This announcement signals the end of the reign of destruction and misery that FOBTs have brought on the lives of gambling addicts and their families and communities for too many years".

The industry had argued a dramatic cut could lead to store closures and job cuts but Matt Hancock, the Culture Secretary, said the machines were a "social blight" that "prey on some of the most vulnerable in society". It is right that we take decisive action now to ensure a responsible gambling industry that protects the most vulnerable in our society.

In March, the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) published recommendations to support the government with its review of FOBTs, including limiting stakes on slot games to £2 and non-slot games to £30.

Brian Chappell of Justice for Punters said: 'This is fantastic news.

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.

"While we want a healthy gambling industry that contributes to the economy, we also need one that does all it can to protect players".

The decision will come as a blow to betting companies, who have warned that shops could close as a result.

"The government has handed us a tough challenge today and it will take some time for the full impact to be understood, for our business, the wider high street and key partners like horse racing", said William Hill chief executive Philip Bowcock.

The government's action, which marks the biggest regulatory change in the United Kingdom gambling industry since rules were liberalised in 2005, was welcomed by charities, the church and opposition politicians.

The Gambling Commission will toughen up protections around online gambling including stronger age verification rules and proposals to require operators to set limits on consumers' spending until affordability checks have been conducted.

Campaign groups have always been pushing for changes in regulation for FOBTs, which now allow punters to wager up to £100 per spin.

And the age limit for playing National Lottery games will be reviewed under the next licence competition.

To cover any hit to the public finances, the government said the change will be linked to an increase in remote gaming duty, paid by online gaming operators, at the relevant Budget.

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