Saturday 25 May 2019

UK targets machines dubbed 'crack cocaine' of gambling

UK Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond
UK Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond

The UK will announce a clamp down within days on the highly addictive roulette and poker machines that are profitable for the gambling industry, but also blamed for contributing to social and economic hardship.

UK Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond has dropped his objection to imposing a new maximum limit of £2-a-time (€2.3) on fixed-odds betting terminals, according to people familiar with the matter, paving the way for the measure to go through. The previous cap was £100 (€114.4).

The machines - dubbed the 'crack cocaine' of gambling - are used by thousands of betting shops across Britain, and have helped offset a decline in revenue caused by the growth in online gambling.

A £2 cap could force half of the UK's 8,500 betting shops to close, with 21,000 job losses, and cost the horse-racing industry £50m (€57.2m) a year, according to analysis by KPMG.

It would have a "catastrophic impact on the future of retail betting", said the Association of British Bookmakers, which commissioned the analysis.

Gamblers on the machines can currently stake £100 every 20 seconds, and charities including GambleAware have long called for the government to reduce the maximum stake to remove the risk of gamblers losing thousands of pounds in a single session.

Analysts see William Hill as the most exposed to the measure. The cap could mean a £1.1bn (€1.2bn) tax hit to the UK Treasury over the next three years.


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