Last week we looked at the campaign to reduce the stake that can be placed on fixed odds betting terminals from £100 to £2. (£100 is eight times the hourly minimum wage). The Treasury strongly opposes the drastic cut, warning it could slash tax receipts.
These terminals contribute more than £400 million to the Exchequer every year, according to figures recently released. A Whitehall source said the Treasury fears that cutting the stake to £2 would be ‘financially crippling’.
Since the Government lost its majority at the General Election in June, several other revenue-raising measures have been abandoned. Government borrowing has also risen this year, putting pressure on Mr Hammond to keep the purse strings tight.
Nevertheless, an intervention by the Bishop of St Albans has led the Chancellor to suggest that he may back tighter regulations on FOBTs after all. They have been blamed for driving thousands of people into gambling addiction, bringing untold misery to families and children. Mr Hammond has assured the bishop that the needs of “vulnerable people” would be taken into account. He continued, “I welcome the work that the Church of England is doing in this area”.
The Bishop pointed out that British gamblers lost a record £1.2 billion on these machines in the 12 months up to last September! Much of that came from poor families.
Let’s keep this subject as a matter of prayer. The review is expected to take place in October and there will be strong representation from bookmakers to keep things as they are.