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Hot topic: your questions answered

Bookmakers claim thousands of betting shops could close if FOBT stakes are slashed
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What has the government announced?

Following a year-long process the government has said it will reduce the maximum stake on FOBTs – fixed odds betting terminals – from £100 to a figure somewhere between £2 and £50 in order to tackle concerns about problem gambling.

What are FOBTs and why are they so important?

FOBTs are electronic gaming machines in betting shops which offer a number of games such as roulette. They have overtaken traditional over-the-counter business in importance in shops, with bookmakers retaining £1.8 billion after paying out winnings. Bookmakers claim 4,000 shops will have to shut if the stakes are reduced to £2, the desired outcome of many campaigners and politicians.

What has the reaction been to the government's recommendations?

Mixed. Opponents of the machines have said the announcement was disappointing and has just kicked the issue into the long grass. Bookmakers have been circumspect, but on the stock exchange shares in William Hill and Ladbrokes Coral have risen.

What else did the government say?

Betting operators will have to provide funding of up to £7 million for a responsible gambling advertising campaign, but the announcement did not meet demands for curbs on the amount of gambling advertising on television.

Why has it taken so long to get to this point?

The announcement was due to be made in the spring but the snap general election delayed it until now.

What might it mean for racing?

Large-scale closures of betting shops could mean millions in lost income for the sport through levy and media rights, although gambling minister Tracey Crouch said in the Commons on Tuesday she did not believe the consultation would affect racing.

What happens next?

There will now be a 12-week consultation on the proposals, said to be in order to avoid the chance of a judicial review from bookmakers, during which time interested parties will lobby for their desired outcome. It is likely that whatever is decided will not be implemented until autumn 2018.

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Opponents of the machines have said the announcement was disappointing and has just kicked the issue into the long grass
E.W. Terms
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