Bookmakers' FOBT plea to Theresa May: don't throw us on scrap heap
More than 50 independent bookmaking firms have written to prime minister Theresa May pleading with her not to throw them on the "scrap heap" by cutting the stake on FOBTs to £2.
The government has said it will cut the maximum stake on the controversial machines – which campaigners say raise social concerns including problem gambling – with a decision expected in the coming months on how deep that reduction will be, with options of £2, £20, £30 and £50.
In their letter, the bookmaking firms said: "At a £2 stake many of our family enterprises will close, our staff – including members of our own families – will lose their jobs, and all the monies to government, local councils and racing will be lost. The consequences for our businesses would quite simply be disastrous."
The Association of British Bookmakers has said that if ministers take the option of cutting stakes to £2 from £100 it would lead to thousands of betting-shop closures and job losses, as well as a hit amounting to tens of millions of pounds for racing through lost levy and media-rights payments.
In their letter the group of 53 independent bookmakers, who run 350 shops employing 2,500 staff, warned the prime minister of the results that decision would have on their businesses.
"Customers will not play FOBT games at this staking level as they are unable to spread their bets and de-risk their play," they said.
"These are gaming customers who will not switch to betting on horses or football but will simply go online or to other venues and we will not be able to compete or trade as viable businesses."
The bookmakers informed May that the government's own advisers, the Responsible Gambling Strategy Board, had told ministers there was "no compelling evidence that a reduction in maximum stakes would necessarily make a material contribution to reducing gambling-related harm".
They insisted they were best placed to help tackle problem gambling because they knew their customers so well.
"We implore you not to throw small businesses like ours on the scrap heap by imposing a £2 maximum stake," they added.
The letter was organised by Dominic Ford of Roar Betting, who is also vice-chairman of the Association of British Bookmakers.
He said: "Independent bookies are small businesses who take pride in providing a personal, welcoming environment to enjoy gambling responsibly.
"Small bookies like ours are already facing huge pressures and a £2 stake would be too much to take. Many would simply not be able to carry on trading and would be forced to shut up shop forever.
"The prime minister says small firms like ours are the backbone of Britain – she has the chance to prove it by making sure a disastrous £2 maximum stake never sees the light of day."