FOBTs Continue to Drive Wedge in Government

The UK Government continues to be divided over the voted changes that will affect the so-called Fixed-Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs). After the resignation of British Minister of Sports Tracey Crouch, more defiance is building up between status quo and opposition.

FOBT’s Contested Implementation Date

The Fixed-Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs) measure is a piece of legislation that is intended to reduce the gambling harm these machines afflict on regular citizens. It has been one of the most stringent measures to be passed in the United Kingdom, effectively reducing the betting limit from £100 to £2.

However, during a Budget meeting last month, British Chancellor of the Exchequer Phillip Hammond said that the measures would not be implemented until October 2019. The announcement was met with defiance, prompting the Minister of Sports, Tracey Crouch, to resign, explaining that she could not condone the decision.

Ms. Crouch explained that FOBTs were directly linked to suicide and gambling addiction and every month the implementation of the measures was delayed was causing irreparable damage.

The FOBTs have not been the only stringent change in gambling taxation, with Mr. Hammond also announcing that the Remote Gaming Duty (RGD) will go up to 21%, with the measure also coming into effect in October 2019.

While nobody has contested the higher tax rate, FOBTs were met with stern opposition, leading to 70 Members of Parliament to sign a rushed bill that would move the deadline for the implementation o the measures six months ahead. As a result, the new timeline should see the measures implemented by April 2019 as opposed to the originally proposed date.

The UK Government is Pliable

At the same time, British Prime Minister Theresa May kept insisting that there had been no delay in how the government had handled the issue. The Prime Minister noted that Mr. Hammond’s statement was not fixed and the timeline was always open for debate.

However, the MPs will have to further discuss the implementation in April. The 70 supporters in Parliament from across the political spectrum will put two separate amendments for debate on November 21.

Meanwhile, the Guardian, a respected UK daily, noted that the FOBT were not mentioned in the Budget, with only the hike of RMG rates making it to the official documents. However, as matters stand, if the government wants to push through with the 21% increase in the remote gambling duty, it will have to agree to a timelier implementation of the FOBTs measures.

If the government refuses to agree to the new deadline, then it could be vetoed from raising the tax rate, which will mean a defeat not only for its reform of gambling taxes, but also for the entire budget, effectively making it the first government to have failed to pass a budget in 40 years.

However, in the overall bickering, it seems unlikely that Ms. May’s government would try to boycott any debates about the adopting of the FOBTs measures at a timeline that pleases everyone on a governmental level.

The Guardian did note that the government could have been mislead by a “false report” which claimed that estimated 20,000 jobs would be lost as a direct result of the FOBTs measures.

More information will become available following the debates in a week’s time.

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