The Budget: Newham mayor urged chancellor not to delay changes to fixed Odds Betting Terminals

The reduction in stakes of Fixed Odds Betting Terminals has been delayed until October 2019. Picture

The reduction in stakes of Fixed Odds Betting Terminals has been delayed until October 2019. Picture: Hackney Council - Credit: Archant

Ahead of yesterday’s autumn Budget, the mayor of Newham wrote to the chancellor urging him not to delay changes to Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs).

It was announced in May that the maximum stakes of FOBTs would be reduced from £100 to £2. The machines, which have been dubbed the “crack cocaine” of betting, allow people to gamble up to £100 every 20 seconds on games like roulette.

In the Budget, chancellor Philip Hammond announced the reduction in stakes would be delayed until next October, instead of April when it was originally due to come into force.

The letter, which was signed by leaders of 27 councils and headed by Rokhsana Fiaz, urged Mr Hammond to make reducing the stakes a priority.

It said: “As local authority leaders, we sadly know first hand the devastating impact these machines have had on our residents and high streets, clustering in deprived areas, fuelling problem gambling and indebtedness, and creating real misery to people’s lives.”

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Newham has one of the highest concentrations of betting shops across London, with 81 in the borough and 12 on one street alone. In a council survey, 99 per cent of Newham’s residents said they thought there were too many betting shops in the borough.

Research from the Institute of Public Policy suggests problem gambling costs the country up to £1.16bn a year in health, welfare, employment, housing and criminal costs.

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The delay in reducing stakes is to coincide with a rise in remote gaming duty which was also announced in Mr Hammond’s speech. The duty is a tax on companies offering online games like poker, and is increasing from 15 to 21 per cent of the industry’s profits.

Elsewhere in the budget, the chancellor pledged to increase work allowances for Universal Credit claimants by £1,000 each, making working parents £630 better off a year.

He also announced an extra £650m of social care funding, for local authorities to support the elderly and adults with learning disabilities. In the final Budget report, it states that only £240m of this is earmarked for adults, with councils free to use the rest on children’s services.

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