William Hill’s newly appointed Chairman has penned a letter to Prime Minister Theresa May in a last-ditch effort to convince Britain’s top lawmaker that the planned massive crackdown on fixed-odds betting terminals would have catastrophic consequences, The Telegraph reports.
The British government completed its triennial review of the country’s gambling industry last October. The highly controversial gambling machines that annually produce gross gambling yield of £1.8 billion were the main focus of that review.
British MPs recommended that the maximum FOBTs be reduced from the £100 it currently is to £50, £20, or £2 and launched an additional consultation period to review each of the three options. Despite multiple delays caused by protests from key politicians, including Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond, who has previously expressed concerns that a massive cut would hurt tax revenue, it emerged in April that the stake would be reduced to £2.
The decision could have been announced last Thursday, but it was reported that Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Esther McVey has lodged a protest against the planned crackdown. It is now believed that the move could be confirmed as soon as Monday.
In his letter to Prime Minister May, William Hill’s Chairman, Roger Devlin, has pleaded for a last-minute change of mind, as a reduction of the maximum stake to £2 would cost the Treasury £1 billion and would threaten 20,000 jobs.
According to The Telegraph, Mr. Devlin has requested a meeting with Mrs. May, during which he would explain why he believes the proposed cut is disproportionate and “lacking in evidence”.
The controversial machines have long been blasted for being highly addictive. A number of former FOBT addicts have come forward to talk about their problem and to educate politicians and other involved parties about the effect the machines have on those who gamble on them as well as on their loved ones.
Betfred Managing Director Shares Thoughts on the Crackdown
Betfred’s Managing Director Mark Stebbings, too, pleaded with MPs to reconsider their decision to cut the maximum stake to just £2. The industry senior told the Racing Post Saturday that the government should be made aware of the fact that the move would result in 4,000 betting shops featuring FOBTs being closed and more than 20,000 people being made redundant.
Mr. Stebbings went on that the looming crackdown would also affect indirect jobs, as the industry works with multiple suppliers.
According to the Betfred official, any of the government’s decisions should be based on evidence and evidence alone and that it should be noted that the industry has already made responsible gambling its main priority.
William Hill is the second largest operator of FOBTs in the country and Betfred is, too, among the major owners of such devices. While the latter might not be that much dependent on revenue from the controversial machines, but these geneate a third of William Hill’s revenuee. The pending clampdown could thus release a new wave of consolidation in the sector, with companies seeking to cement their positions in other sectors as the FOBTs is about to become much less profitable.