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Church speaks out on FOBT delay

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A senior figure in the Church of England has criticised the UK Government’s delay in introducing limits on the maximum stakes of Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs).

Writing in the Observer, the bishop of St Albans, Dr Alan Smith, said that the new limit of £2, replacing the previous maximum of £100, should be put in place at the earliest opportunity.

Dr Smith, who has responsibility for the issue within the church was speaking at the end of a week in which the Sports Minister Tracey Crouch has resigned as a result of the government’s decision to delay the implementation of the FOBT changes until October 2019. He questioned the argument of betting companies that jobs would be lost as a result of the FOBT changes, saying that the social consequences of FOBT addiction were more serious than job losses, with many gambling addicts losing their homes, their savings, and in some cases, their lives as a result:

Bookmakers taking huge profits and football clubs taking sponsorship from gambling and leaving the NHS to pick up the bill and families to face grief is privatising profit and nationalising consequences. It has to stop.”

Backlash

The backlash against the government decision comes at a time when the gambling industry is on the back foot on a number of fronts, including the question of advertising during live televised sport, and the links between football clubs and gambling companies. SKY television has announced that they will be restricting gambling advertisements during the next Premier League season, and the Chief Executive of the NHS, Simon Stevens, recently criticised a number of gambling companies for failing to pay towards the cost of treating gambling addiction.

The delay to the FOBT stake reduction was announced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond in his Budget last Monday, and was timed to coincide with an increase in the Remote Gambling Duty paid by betting companies who operate online casino games.

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