Betfred boss makes last-ditch plea against FOBT stake reductions
Reducing FOBT stakes to a £2 maximum would lead to misery not just among betting shop staff but thousands employed indirectly by bookmakers, the government was on Saturday warned by one senior industry figure.
A verdict from the government's long-running gambling review, which was launched in October 2016, is imminent and could arrive as early as Monday.
It is widely expected FOBT stakes will be reduced to £2, a figure culture secretary Matt Hancock, the minster with ultimate responsibility for gambling policy, is said to favour.
However, that limit, bookmakers claim, would result in 4,000 betting shops being shut and more than 20,000 jobs being lost.
The sport's finances could be hit to the tune of £50 million, an amount racing figures are working to but which some observers believe is a conservative estimate.
"I want to be sure when the government makes its decision it is aware of the consequences on people's jobs, livelihoods and families, if it decides to propose a £2 maximum stake," said Betfred's managing director Mark Stebbings, who also stressed that non-gambling businesses aligned to the sector would also feel the effects.
"These are people we have employed, trained and worked with for many years, and much upset and heartache will go into having to make them redundant," he continued.
"In addition, there will be a huge impact on indirect jobs, with Betfred having 592 suppliers alone. As managing director, I owe it to the thousands of staff to make sure the government knows that when it comes to jobs the stakes are high."
Stebbings added: "Any government action should be based on evidence alone and it must be recognised that responsible gambling is already, and will remain, the industry's number-one priority."
There had been speculation the announcement was going to be made to parliament on Thursday, but reports suggested an intervention by work and pensions secretary Esther McVey against a £2 stake had caused a further delay.
Bookmakers also took the opportunity to take two full-page adverts in Saturday's Racing Post, encouraging people to write to their MP to urge the government to reject calls for a £2 maximum stake.
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