Tory rebels force Theresa May into major U-turn over fixed-odds gambling machines

Written by Matt Foster on 14 November 2018 in News

UK Government backstracks over 'crack cocaine' gambling machines issue which made Tracey Crouch resign

Gambling - PA

Theresa May has been forced to bring forward a clampdown on fixed odds betting terminals after a major revolt by Tory MPs.

In a humiliating U-turn, the Government announced that the maximum stake on the controversial machines - which have been blamed for suicides by gambling addicts - will be cut from £100 to £2 from next April, not October as had been set out in the Budget.

The Prime Minister sanctioned the climbdown after scores of her own MPs - including some ministerial aides - said they would back an amendment to the Finance Bill which would have overturned the official government policy.

Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright confirmed the change of heart in a written statement this afternoon.

He said the feelings of Parliament had been made clear and "the Government has listened".

"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 said. "The cross-government group that has been set up is ready to assist.

"Finally, the Government will continue to take action to protect vulnerable people, including strengthening protections around gaming machines, online gambling, gambling advertising and treatment for problem gambling."

Tracey Crouch, who resigned as the minister in charge of the policy over the row, said "common sense had prevailed".

She said: "This is right and sensible on FOBTs and will, without doubt, reduce harm from these machines on our high streets."

Labour seized on the Government's change of course, saying it showed the "disastrous political judgement of Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright and Chancellor Philip Hammond".

Shadow Culture Secretary Tom Watson added: "It’s very sad that it took an honourable resignation of a good minister and a cross party revolt to achieve the blindingly obvious and necessary reforms to Fixed Odds Betting Terminals.

"Whilst this is a personal humiliation for Jeremy Wright, this is a very good day for the many thousands of people whose families and communities are blighted by gambling addiction."

Theresa May hinted at the climbdown earlier today when pressed by former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith, who organised the amendment along with Labour's Carolyn Harris.

The Conservative MP said the terminals had "caused endless harm" and "terrible damage to families" and urged the Prime Minsiter to bring forward the cap to April next year.

May said she recognised the "strength of feeling on this issue".

She told Duncan Smith: "I know gambling addiction can devastate lives so our priority is making sure that this change delivers the results we all want to see. We are listeing to concerns being raised by colleagues and if my right honourable friend will have a little patience I can tell him that... the Culture Secretary will set out further details later today."

Harris was meanwhile seen punching the air in the Commons chamber as May suggested a climbdown was immiment.

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