BY decreeing that the maximum amount people can stake on fixed-odds betting terminals should be lowered to £2, the Government has shown that it does still have a social conscience.
Not only has Culture Secretary Matt Hancock ignored regulators who advocateed a £30 cap, but he’s also ignored the betting industry’s warnings over job losses.
Mr Hancock could not lose. So-called FOBT machines – dubbed the “crack cocaine” of gambling – can lead to punters placing bets of up to £100 every 20 seconds and are a legacy of Labour’s decision to liberalise high street bookmakers. Yet inadequate safeguards, coupled with a preponderance of betting shops in areas of high deprivation, meant the more susceptible were gambling away their money, livelihoods and dignity, with the resulting indebtedness causing great misery for them and their families. Given this, the Minister had to act and Labour’s blessing was a welcome show of cross-party unanimity.
However the challenges do not end here. With the Treasury due to be out of pocket as a result of this announcement, Mr Hancock is now considering the rise of online gaming platforms and their tax liabilities.
It’s not straight-forward – firms like Sky Betting & Gaming warn that any rise in Remote Gaming Duty will be a tax on hi-tech Yorkshire jobs and Ministers should seek a fairer contribution from other tech companies who, they argue, don’t pay their share of tax to the Treasury.
As the MP for Newmarket, he’s also aware that horse racing’s finances are allied to the betting industry. But Mr Hancock did make a profound point when he said: “Racing should not be financed on the back of this misery. It’s a glorious sport and should not be based on machines which mean that gamblers cannot win.” Few would disagree.