DEBATE: Should the chancellor block the crackdown on fixed odd betting terminals?
YES – Daniel Pryor, The Adam Smith Institute.
If reports are to be believed, the chancellor has taken the right approach by blocking the ongoing review into FOBTs, which aimed to tighten regulations with measures such as lowering maximum stakes. GambleAware research suggests that previous legislation, which forced gamblers betting over £50 to pay over the counter or sign up for an account, had no impact on the frequency of high-loss sessions. The machines are frequently referred to as the “crack cocaine of gambling,” but there’s no hard evidence that FOBTs increase problem gambling rates, which have remained stable (at about 0.5 per cent of the population) since 1999, and are low by international standards. Further restrictions could push vulnerable gamblers into the comparatively unrestricted online market and curtail consumer freedom. The chancellor has highlighted the value of gambling revenues to the Treasury, but the overriding argument against stricter regulations is that responsible adults shouldn’t be punished on the basis of spurious claims about how FOBTs affect a small minority.
NO – Matt Zarb-Cousin, The Campaign for Fairer Gambling.
When reports emerged that the chancellor had blocked the review of FOBTs because of concerns over the loss of the revenue they generated, it was not surprising to see gambling minister Tracey Crouch tweet that the story was “fake news”. The chancellor must surely have more sense than to not look at the impact of £100 a spin roulette machines on the economy as a whole. Aside from the social cost of gambling addiction, Landman Economics has found that because FOBTs are “labour unintensive”, if the money lost on them was instead spent in the wider economy, around 30,000 extra jobs would be created, and the Treasury would see more revenue as a result. But if the chancellor wants to recoup direct tax revenues after reducing the maximum stake on FOBTs to £2 a spin, why not bring remote gambling tax into line with land based casinos at the next Budget by increasing it from 15 per cent to 50 per cent?