The managing director of Betfred is the latest to come forward in protest against the expected decrease in the stake allowed on fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs).
For weeks now, protests have emerged across the United Kingdom as the government is preparing to cut FOBT stakes from £100 ($137) to a mere £2 ($2.75). Employees of betting operators such as William Hill, Ladbrokes Coral and, JenningsBet began protesting peacefully last month as news of the cutbacks emerged. Now, Betfred’s managing director is asking employees to lobby their MPs to oppose the expected cut, according to a recently leaked email.
In the email to employees, managing director Mark Stebbings writes: “This [the cutbacks] would have a significant impact on the viability of the number of shops and therefore employment in our businesses – it is not too late to warn your MP of the unintended consequences of such a drastic cut. Simply fill in the postcode of where you live, the system will identify who your local MP is, then fill in your contact details and press send – the letter is already written for you and it will be emailed to your MP.”
The pre-written email that employees of Betfred could forward to their MP contained a link to the Back Your Local Bookie website – a campaign created by the Association of British Bookmakers. The Back Your Local Bookie site has an Action Center which can be used to email a local MP as well as share the campaign with friends.
A decision involving the maximum stake for FOBTs could be delayed after an MP recently protested against the changes. Tory benefits minister Esther McVey protested against the change in regulation for the machines, strongly opposing the large decrease in the maximum wager. At the same time, UK sports minister Tracey Crouch is supposed to be giving her decision on the matter, with reports suggesting she agrees with the idea of cutting the maximum stake from £100 ($137) to £2 ($2.75).
Tensions have arisen between the ministers and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) on the subject, with McVey calling for the DCMS to pull back their judgment, stating that the negative impact of such a change will be widespread within the UK betting sector, involving employees as well as stakeholders.
Betting leadership has reportedly asked for the implementation of a transition period of one year for retail bookmakers to be able to adjust to new market conditions if the lower stake is imposed. Theresa May is expected to announce a decision on the matter in the coming days.
For and against
The £2 ($2.75) limit has strong support, with backing from 93 local authorities as well as the Church of England’s General Synod and the Royal Society for Public Health, despite industry experts reporting the amount is too low and will make the machines unplayable.
Just a few weeks ago, executives from various top betting firms in the UK sent a letter to culture secretary Matt Hancock in the hopes of preventing the stake limit from changing. The betting firms stated they felt the reduction would have a catastrophic impact on the economy as well as jobs and called for Hancock not to sacrifice the betting shops.
The executives reported that an analysis by KPMG estimates that over 20,000 jobs would be lost due to the stake changes as half of the UK betting shops would close down.