Councillor Howard Sykes MBE, Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group and Leader of the Opposition on Oldham Council, has welcomed the Prime Minister’s change of heart on the timescale for the introduction of the promised £2 maximum stake on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals in betting offices.
In last week’s budget, Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond decided to put off the introduction of the changes until October 2019. This decision caused the resignation, in disgust, of Sports Minister Tracey Crouch MP and criticism from Nicky Morgan MP, Chair of the Commons Treasury Committee.
Councillor Sykes said: “Only in July Oldham Council supported a Liberal Democrat motion calling on the Government to introduce a £2 fixed stake. These machines, which are often located in the high streets of Britain’s most deprived towns and cities, are destroying lives, destroying relationships and, in some cases, literally killing people.”
A threatened rebellion by backbench Conservative Members of Parliament over the issue has forced Prime Minister Theresa May, already beleaguered over her Brexit plan, to backpedal on the introduction date and the £2 stake will now be introduced in April of next year.
Councillor Sykes added: “The Chancellor said that he made his decision because of his concern for the impact on bookmakers’ jobs, but I think this was more a case of the Chancellor not wanting to give up the tax raised by this activity. I am glad that Mrs May has changed her mind and said that the £2 stake will now be introduced in April 2019 as the change cannot come soon enough.”
“An estimated two people take their own lives every day because of problem gambling,” said Councillor Sykes. “We need to put more resources into gambling addiction treatment rather than squeezing yet money from problem gamblers, who are often amongst the vulnerable people in our society.”