UK forced to accelerate planned reform to gambling regulations

Britain's Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Jeremy Wright, arrives in Downing Street, in London, Britain November 14, 2018.REUTERS/Henry Nicholls

LONDON (Reuters) - The British government bowed to increasing pressure from lawmakers on Wednesday by bringing forward a planned reform of gambling regulations by six months.

Culture minister Jeremy Wright said a previously announced cut to the maximum stake on fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) would now take place next April.

Last month, the government announced in its budget that the cut, from 100 pounds to just two pounds, would take place in October 2019. That prompted sports minister Tracey Crouch to resign, accusing the government of delaying the change.

Several lawmakers have called for curbs on FOBTs, which have been widely blamed for allowing gamblers to rack up large losses in a short space of time.

“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,” Wright said in parliament.

“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.”

The government had been facing defeat on its budget legislation in parliament next week after many lawmakers from the governing Conservatives backed an amendment which would have forced them to bring forward the timing of the cut.

Wright said a planned increase in Remote Gaming Duty, paid by online gaming operators, would also be brought forward to April to cover the negative impact on the public finances as a result of the cut to the maximum FOBT stake.

“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,” he added.

Reporting by Kylie MacLellan; editing by Stephen Addison