Government slashes amount punters can stake on fixed-odds betting terminals from £100 to £2


Maximum stakes of £2 for fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs) have been announced.

Ministers have caved into pressure from campaigners to tackle the machines dubbed the crack cocaine of gambling which can devastate lives in minutes.

David Cameron shelved plans when he was PM – but Theresa May gave the go-ahead when she moved into Downing Street.

Punters can currently pump £100 every 20 seconds into the machines for games such as roulette and blackjack.

But today Culture Minister Matt Hancock described the machines as a “social blight” and say they have taken the decision to do “everything we can to protect vulnerable people”.

Sports Minister Tracey Crouch said that a large number of people seeking treatment for addiction say FOBTs are “their main form of gambling”.

The machines took £1,000 from a gambler on more than 233,000 occasions in a single year.

And individual losses have been known to reach nearly £14,000 in a single session of play.


Interim findings by the Gambling Commission suggested cutting the maximum stake to £30.

But campaigners have demanded the stake be slashed to £2 tackle addiction and linked crimes.

Bookies claimed jobs will be lost, profits cut and taxes paid to the Treasury will fall if the Government bows to pressure and announces a new £2 minimum.

Earlier this week, William Hill’s boss wrote to Theresa May claiming slashing the stakes would be “catastrophic”.

Roger Devlin wrote: “Sadly, I fear that your Government is about to make a decision that is unnecessary and lacking in evidence – a decision that will also be catastrophic for a retail betting industry employing over 40,000 people.”

“Consolidation within our sector continues and I would also not want to see the impact of a disproportionate… outcome being a factor in the name of William Hill being added to the list of companies now in foreign ownership.”

While Betfred warned that 900 of the firm’s shops would become loss-making overnight, forcing it to axe 4,500 jobs in a letter to MPs this week.

Matt Zarb-Cousin from the Campaign For Fairer Gambling
Matt Zarb-Cousin from the Campaign For Fairer Gambling outside one of the may betting shops in Hounslow High Street

But today Ministers risked the ire of the gambling industry by introducing the cap by taking the dramatic measure.

Announcing the maximum stake, Culture Secretary Matt Hancock said: “When faced with the choice of halfway measures or doing everything we can to protect vulnerable people, we have chosen to take a stand.

“These machines are a social blight and prey on some of the most vulnerable in society, and we are determined to put a stop to it and build a fairer society for all.”

Tom Watson said he was “absolutely delighted” and that he hoped it would “alleviate some of the misery caused by problem gambling in Britain”.

He said bookies had “boxed themselves into a corner” by refusing to back down on the issue and diversify into less dangerous forms of gambling.

Maximum stakes will need parliamentary approval before it comes into action and the government have said they want to give the gambling industry “sufficient time” to make the changes.

But the move has cross-party support and will likely be nodded through parliament.

As well as the cap, ministers have taken moves to toughen up protections around online gambling including stronger age verification rules.

They are also examining proposals to require operators to set limits on consumers’ spending until affordability checks have been conducted.

While Public Health England will carry out a review of the evidence relating to the public health harms of gambling

Last year a report found more than two million people were addicted to gambling or at risk of developing a problem.

It said about 430,000 people suffer from a serious habit.

Campaign for Fairer Gambling spokesman Matt Zarb-Cousin was previously addicted to FOBTs.

“It’s no exaggeration to call FOBTs the crack cocaine of gambling,” he has said.

“If we had a gambling product classification, similar to that of drugs, FOBTs would be Class A.”



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