Church of England appeals to Philip Hammond to keep plan to reduce FOBTs stakes

  • Bishop Alan Smith appeals to Philip Hammond not to give up on plan to reduce FOBTs stakes
  • Chancellor Hammond and the government find themselves in a very peculiar position over FOBTs

The drama surrounding fixed odds betting terminals (FOTBs) in the UK continues. In the latest developments, a senior bishop of the Church of England appealed to Chancellor Philip Hammond ‘not to go soft on FOTBs,’ because they represent a big evil for the society.

Bishop Alan Smith emphasized that lives of many people are damaged by the presence of FOTBs, and asked the government not to stay undeterred in their intentions to drastically lower the maximum bet amount.

 Chancellor Philip Hammond and Bishop Alan Smith
Chancellor Philip Hammond and Bishop Alan Smith

Between the rock and a hard place

UK ministers have been considering the idea of lowering the maximum bet amount for fixed odds betting terminals for a few months now. The idea that’s being tossed around is to lower the limit from the current £100 stakes all the way down to £2. By doing this, the government hopes to significantly reduce the damage done by FOTBs.

However, the plan isn’t that easy to implement, as there are numerous factors to consider. First and foremost, by reducing the stakes, the Treasury would create a situation where they would lose around £400 million in revenues every year, which could be a crippling blow for the budget.

Figuring out priorities

In his appeal, Bishop Smith explained he understood the government concerns, but he emphasized that the damage done by FOTBs is just too great. According to several reliable sources, UK players lost around £1.8 billion last year alone, and he warned the minister the effects of these losses are felt every single day.

Since 2009, FOTBs losses have increased dramatically, soaring 73%, although the number of terminals in the country has increased by just 9%. Right now, there are around 35,000 FOTBs scattered across the UK, although critics claim that there is a much bigger concentration of these slot machines in poorer neighborhoods.

Philip Hammond, who is current Chancellor of the Exchequer is thus faced with a tough task of determining priorities. On one side, numbers cited by the Church of England and other critics speak for themselves. On the other, the government is in a tough spot as several other ideas to pump more money into the budget have been abandoned, and the government borrowing adds even more pressure to keep the money rolling in.

On top of it all, many of the High Street bookmakers have expressed concerns that these drastic measures could force them out of business, which would mean many UK residents would lose their jobs.

So, despite strong pressure coming from different sides, the UK government will have to carefully weigh their options before making a decision with such far-reaching and overwhelming consequences.

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