Bookies will pocket £4bn over delay on fixed-odds betting restrictions

Top bets won’t be reduced from £100 to just £2 until 2020

The wait for restrictions on fixed-odds gambling to take hold will see bookmakers pocket £4 billion.

The government accepted recommendations to reduce the top bet on betting machines from £100 every 20 seconds to just £2 in a bid to minimise the effects of gambling addiction, but the new measures will now not come into effect until April 2020. An investigation by The Times found that, in the meantime, the gambling industry will rake in £4 billion from punters out of this “backroom deal” with the government.

Bookmakers have claimed that they need more time to update gambling machines, citing the upgrades as the reason for the delay. It’s left the the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee “dismayed” after it recommended only a year wait. But, according to the newspaper, machine makers have admitted that they only need eight weeks to make the changes.

Tom Watson MP, Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, commenting on reports that the £2 maximum stake on FOBTs will not be implemented until April 2020, said: “Capitulating to a two year delay is a pathetic move from a fundamentally weak Government. Those who praised the Government when the announcement was made will feel badly let down. They are already rolling back on their promises and allowing these machines to ruin more lives.”

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A spokesman for the Campaign for Fairer Gambling said: “Unbelievably, the Treasury thinks it takes two years for the bookmakers to run a software update. Somehow ministers have contrived to give the bookies a longer transition period than it will take to negotiate Brexit.”

The paper adds that Treasury officials look to recover lost revenue from the tax on machines by ramping up the amount paid on online gambling before next April. A Treasury spokesman said: “Changes to the stake will be made through secondary legislation.

“We will also engage with the gambling industry to ensure it is given sufficient time to implement and complete the technological changes.”

Image: Flickr/Quinn Dombrowski