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Findings of gaming machine review delayed until autumn

Minister Tracey Crouch: updated the Commons on Thursday
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The government confirmed on Thursday that it will not publish the findings of its review of gaming machine stakes and prizes until October at the earliest, a year after it was launched.

Tracey Crouch, the minister with responsibility for gambling, revealed the news at Culture, Media and Sport questions in the House of Commons.

The findings of the review, which also includes an examination of gambling advertising and social responsibility measures, were expected to be published this spring.

However, the decision to call a snap general election and the subsequent period of 'purdah', which prevents the announcement of any new or potentially controversial government initiatives during the campaign period, has caused a delay.

Plans for limits on the controversial gaming machines found in betting shops, also known as fixed odds betting terminals, were detailed in a number of party manifestos before the election, with both Labour and the Liberal Democrats calling for the maximum stake to be cut to £2 from £100.

'Back at the start'

In answer to a question from Sir Peter Bottomley MP, Crouch said: "Although we launched the review in October 2016, purdah interrupted the final stages of our consideration of the evidence received and the subsequent internal cross-government process of approval and sign-off.

"So therefore I'm afraid that we're back at the start of that process and, as a consequence of that taking at least 12 weeks, I wouldn't expect any further announcement until October at the earliest."

Following a subsequent question asking when action would be taken from SNP MP David Linden, Crouch added: "I share the frustration of many people across the House. I have been dealing with this issue as a minister since I walked into the department in 2015.

"We must ensure that we have a proper evidence-based response to the issue of stakes and prizes. We are in the process of analysing that, but I should also point out that powers on the issue of FOBTs have been devolved to Scotland."

Reacting to the news, the Association of British Bookmakers said in a statement: "Any decisions affecting an industry that serves six million customers and employs over 52,000 people, more than the rest of the gambling industry combined, should be taken on the basis of the facts and evidence.

"We remain committed to working with the government and regulators on our responsible gambling agenda."

Although we launched the review in October 2016, purdah interrupted the final stages of our consideration of the evidence received
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