Wednesday 23 January 2019

Bookmakers’ shares tumble on reports of £2 gambling machine limit

Betting firms suffer as Government mulls slashing the maximum bet for fixed-odds terminals.

Fixed odds betting terminals
Fixed odds betting terminals

By Ben Woods, Press Association Chief City Correspondent

Investors have dealt a blow to Britain’s bookmakers as the Government looks set to slash the maximum stake on fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs).

Paddy Power Betfair was among the biggest fallers on the London Stock Exchange following a Sunday Times report that Culture Secretary Matt Hancock is a mulling a steep cut to the maximum bet from £100 to £2.

Paddy Power Betfair was down more than 1% on the FTSE 100 Index, while its second-tier rivals Ladbrokes Coral and William Hill dropped 10% and 12% respectively.

Foxy Bingo owner GVC, which has agreed a takeover by Ladbrokes Coral, sank in excess of 3% on the FTSE 250.

Betting firms are bracing for a profits hit, and have warned of potential shop closures, if the Government enforces the lowest stake proposed when a public consultation finishes on Tuesday.

Mr Hancock believes FOBTs are a “social blight” and “wants the new stake to be at the bottom of the range”, a source told the Sunday Times.

The consultation has mooted cutting the maximum stake on FOBTs – the so-called “crack cocaine” of gambling – to somewhere between £50 and £2.

It was part of a package of measures resulting from the Government’s gambling review, with the high-stakes, high-speed electronic casino games said to be dangerously addictive, allowing players to wager up to £100 every 20 seconds.

A spokesman for the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport said: “We are clear that FOBT stakes will be cut to ensure we have a safe and sustainable industry where vulnerable people and children are protected.

“We are currently consulting on what the exact cut should be, and will make a final decision in due course once all the evidence has been considered.”

Press Association

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