| A cut in the maximum
stake on fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) will be brought forward to April
2019 after the government backed down in the face of a growing rebellion that
made allies of MPs across the political spectrum.
Philip Hammond, said in the budget that a reduction in FOBT stakes from
£100 to £2 would not take effect until October next year, a
decision that handed bookmakers a £900m windfall and triggered the
resignation of the sports minister, Tracey Crouch.
However, after days
of speculation about a U-turn, the culture secretary, Jeremy Wright issued a
written statement on Wednesday afternoon confirming that the stake reduction
would take place six months earlier.
The government has been
clear that protecting vulnerable people is the prime concern, but that as a
responsible government it is also right to take the needs of those employed by
the gambling industry into account and provide time for an orderly
transition, the written statement said.
however, been clear that they want this change to be made sooner. The
government has listened and will now implement the reduction in April
An increase in taxes on online casinos from 15% to 21%,
designed to make up the tax shortfall from the restrictions on FOBTs, will come
in at the same time.
The Labour deputy leader and shadow culture
minister, Tom Watson, said: This climbdown shows the disastrous political
judgment of Jeremy Wright and Philip Hammond.
Its very sad
that it took an honourable resignation of a good minister and a cross-party
revolt to achieve the blindingly obvious and necessary reforms to FOBTs.
Whilst this is a personal humiliation for Jeremy Wright, this is
a very good day for the many thousands of people whose families and communities
are blighted by gambling addiction.
Theresa May signalled the
potential climbdown during prime ministers questions on Wednesday, in
response to a question from the former Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith.
The prime minister said she recognised the strength of feeling on the
issue and that Wright would be setting out further details later on Wednesday.
Earlier, Whitehall sources said MPs involved in efforts to bring the
date forward had privately been told a change of policy was imminent.
The volte-face comes less than 24 hours after Whitehall sources said
the Treasury was holding firm in the face of a cross-party rebellion that left
the government facing the prospect of being the first to suffer a defeat on its
own budget bill since 1978.
More than 100 MPs including senior
Tory rebels such as Boris Johnson, Jacob Rees-Mogg and David Davis had
put their names to an amendment designed to force the government to bring
forward the stake reduction.
Labour said it would support the
amendment, meaning the government was all but certain to lose a vote that was
expected to take place next week.
The final straw is thought to have
been a letter sent to the chief whip, Julian Smith, on Tuesday night by 12
parliamentary private secretaries senior MPs who work for ministers.
They are understood to have urged the government to change course and
avoid a needless and embarrassing defeat, particularly given that fraught
negotiations over Theresa Mays Brexit deal are happening at the same
Matt Zarb-Cousin, spokesman for campaign group Fairer Gambling,
said it had been nonsensical for the government to label FOBTs a
social blight and allow them to continue collecting gamblers
cash for 18 months after the decision was made to curb them last May.
He said the government had been forced into a U-turn by Crouchs
resignation, saying she deserves the highest praise. Lives
will be saved and families wont be torn apart as a result of this