Less than 2 weeks after the resignation of Tracey Crouch MP as Gambling Minister, in protest at the delay in implementation of the maximum stake reduction of FOBTs (Category B2 gaming machines) from £100 to £2, the Government has today bowed to pressure from all sides, including from within the Conservative Party’s own ranks, and announced that:
- it is bringing forward the date of implementation from October 2019 to April 2019 and
- the increase in the rate of remote gaming duty from 15% to 21% will also be brought forward from October 2019 to April 2019.
The announcement was made in the following written statement by the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Jeremy Wright:
The Government is today announcing that the implementation of changes to reduce the stakes of B2 Gaming Machines from £100 to £2 will take place in April 2019. This will be done through a Statutory Instrument, laid before the House this week.
Following the consultation on Gaming Machines and Social Responsibility measures, the Government decided to cut the maximum stake for Fixed Odds Betting Terminals to £2 to help stop extreme losses by those who can least afford it and protect the most vulnerable in our society.
After a thorough consultation with interested parties, including charities, campaigners and the gambling industry, across government we reached a decision to make this significant change in October 2019.
The Government has been clear that protecting vulnerable people is the prime concern, but that as a responsible government it is also right to take the needs of those employed by the gambling industry into account and provide time for an orderly transition.
Parliament has, however, been clear that they want this change to be made sooner. The Government has listened and will now implement the reduction in April 2019.
In order to cover the negative impact on the public finances, and to protect vital public services, this change is being linked to an increase in Remote Gaming Duty, paid by online gaming operators. The Finance Bill will also be amended so that the increase to Remote Gaming Duty comes into effect in April 2019.
The Government will expect the gambling industry to work with it to reduce the effect of any impact on jobs and to support employees that may be affected by this expedited timeline. The cross-government group that has been set up is ready to assist.
Finally, the Government will continue to take action to protect vulnerable people, including strengthening protections around gaming machines, online gambling, gambling advertising and treatment for problem gambling.
This change of policy was welcomed by Tracey Crouch in the following statement:
However, it did not receive the same welcome from Clive Hawkswood, CEO of the Remote Gambling Association who told iGamingBusiness.com:
From an online gaming sector perspective, the decision to bring forward the RGD increase by six months to placate the anti-FOBT lobby merely adds insult to injury. Nobody seems the least concerned that bringing the timetable forward without any warning or consultation will have the effect of adding up to £100m to the tax burden of online gaming operators next year.
UPDATE: Pursuant to The Gaming Machine (Miscellaneous Amendments and Revocation) Regulations 2018, made on 20 December 2018, the stake reduction on FOBTs/B2 gaming machines from £100 to £2 will come into force on 1 April 2019. The legislative context and policy background is set out in an Explanatory Memorandum (and accompanying Impact Assessment) that can both be downloaded below.