A secret report, commissioned by UK bookmakers, and which influenced the government’s decision to delay the stake cut has, according to critics, been discredited.
The revelation, revealed by UK newspaper The Guardian, is the latest in a long series of claims and counterclaims.
After consultation, the government announced that it would cut the maximum stake gamblers could place on FOBTs from £100 to £2. At the moment players can theoretically stake £100 every 20 seconds.
Policy Date Changes
The changes were originally set to take place in April 2020. However, government sources were quoted last month as suggesting the changes could be bought forward by as much as a year.
Outcry from the UK gambling industry meant that the date for the change was still bought forward, but only by six months. The reason the government gave for delaying bringing forward the change in law was so that the industry could mitigate the job losses it claimed would be an inevitable consequence of the stake reduction.
The backlash to this decision from campaigners – who claimed it put some people’s jobs over other people’s lives – also led to the resignation of the government’s Sports Minister, Tracey Couch.
The reason for the doubt now being cast on the report is that its authors, accounting firm KPMG, included in the report a disclaimer explaining that its findings were based on assumptions provided by the Association of British Bookmakers (ABB). They also expressly stated that the report was “not suitable” or reliable.
News that the report still made its way into the corridors of power and could have influenced government policy will make FOBT critics and campaigners double-down on their opposition to the machines.
Even major UK-Irish bookmaker Paddy Power has rubbished the report’s claims of mass job losses and shop closures, branding its claims ‘unrealistic’.
However, with the policy already having such a turbulent inception, there are surely more developments to come.