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Gambling machines to be limited to £2 stakes

Gambling machines to be limited to £2 stakes

Fixed-odds betting terminals will have their maximum stakes limited to £2 in a crackdown on harm caused by excessive gambling, the government announced today.

Culture Secretary Matt Hancock said ministers had chose to "take a stand" despite dire warnings from the betting industry- which reacted to the announcement by saying 21,000 people were expected to lose their jobs as a result.

It is possible that the maximum stake will be change to £2.

The decision follows complaints that the machines, which enable people to bet up to 100 pounds ($135) every 20 seconds on electronic games such as roulette, were highly addictive and had led to gamblers building up big losses.

Tom Watson, deputy leader of the Labour party and shadow secretary of state for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, told the BBC's Today programme: "For five years now pretty much everyone in Westminster, Whitehall and in the country has known that these machines have had a very detrimental effect in communities up and down the land.The bookmakers have chosen to take a defiant approach, trying to face down parliament, really, with a very aggressive campaign". "These machines are a social blight".

He said: "I've have heard first hand too many stories of individuals who have lost their jobs, their homes, their families and tragically in some cases their lives".

The decision will come as a blow to betting companies, who have warned that shops could close as a result.

In 2015, the £1.75bn earned by the bookmakers from FOBTs resulted in £438m in taxes for the Treasury.

The Gambling Commission will toughen up protections around online gambling including stronger age verification rules and proposals to require operators to set limits on consumers' spending until affordability checks have been conducted.

Shares in bookmakers tumbled in early trading, with William Hill and GVC, which swallowed up Ladbrokes Coral earlier this year, among the fallers though they recouped some of the losses later.

"Despite the challenges presented by this decision, our teams will compete hard and offer great service to William Hill customers".

But what exactly are FOBTs and why has the government seen fit to step in and make the huge change?

Paddy Power Betfair said it expected a 33% to 43% hit to gaming machine takings, or £35m-£46m on 2017 figures, though this only represented around 2% of revenue for the total group.

Changes to the stake will be through secondary legislation and remain subject to parliamentary approval, while the government said it will also engage with the gambling industry to ensure operators are given enough time to implement and complete the technological changes.