Britain’s Betting Limit WarJake Cooper | 13 Feb 2018
A war is raging in the UK Parliament. At the centre of it are controversial fixed-odds betting terminals, and it looks like there is still no end in sight.
The debate regarding the terminals, on which gamblers can play games similar to those available at online casinos, such as Blackjack and Roulette, has mostly centred on decreasing the maximum bet allowed by the law. The approximately 34 000 terminals in question are situated in betting shops throughout the UK.
Currently, gamblers may place single maximum bets of £100 at the terminals, which have been described by some anti-gambling campaigners as the industry’s crack cocaine. The review of the terminals was initiated by former culture secretary Karen Bradley, who has since been appointed Northern Ireland secretary. Bradley was replaced by a former junior minister, Matt Hancock, who previously raced as an amateur jockey.
Maximum Bet Slash Proposed
Following consultations and debates, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport looks set to reduce the maximum bet allowed at the terminals. It was initially thought that the review report would recommend dropping the maximum bet limit to between £10 and £20.
However, that was not good enough for anti-gambling MPs and campaigners. The department then said it was considering slashing the limit to between £2 and £50.
It was then reported in the Sunday Times that Hancock had been persuaded to push for a £2 limit. A source close to the minister allegedly said that Hancock opined that mainstream betting was suffering a loss of income due to the terminals. A final decision on the terminal maximum bet limit is yet to be made.
Anti-Terminal MPs Claim Victory
Swansea East Labour MP Carolyn Harris appears to have claimed an early victory. The MP has been a long-time campaigner against gambling and betting, and seems quite confident that the government will slash terminal maximum single bets to a paltry £2.
According to a cross-party letter, signed by Harris, as well as by other MPs, peers, academics, experts, and the bishop of St Albans, to PM Theresa May, the cut would be a triumph for those lives she described as being blighted by the terminals, as well as a triumph for common sense.
The letter recommends the government implement the low maximum limit, and calls into question the veracity of data in an Association of British Bookmakers report, which claimed the lowered single maximum bet limit would have a severely negative impact on the industry, to the point that betting shops would be forced to close.
MPs Steal the Show
As serious as the topic of debate is, the whole matter has been marred by accusations from both sides.
The review and report that first recommended slashing terminal maximum bets, commissioned by Bradley and supported by numerous MPs and politicians, pubs, casinos, and amusement arcades, has been found uncompliant with parliament’s standards.
The parliamentary standards commissioner found that breaches such as the report’s non-disclosure about advice received at no cost from a public affairs firm on the payrolls of several gambling or casino operators that do not offer fixed-odds betting terminals had occurred no less than 4 times.
Lest pro-gambling MPs feel too confident, a report in the Independent claimed Shipley Conservative MP Philip Davies received gifts worth upwards of £4000 from bookmakers, while Tory MP Laurence Robertson received upwards of £3000’s worth of hospitality.
The report further claimed that Labour MP Conor McGinn received gifts and hospitality worth more than £300. In response, Davies said his acceptance of the gifts was in full compliance with parliamentary rules and regulations.
In the meantime, gamblers throughout the UK wait to find out what will come of the betting limits on their beloved terminals.