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Bishop 'absolutely appalled' at delay to gambling clampdown

by Press Association

Bishop of St Albans, Rt Rev Alan Smith, made his criticism as the Government confirmed that a move to slash the amount people can stake on fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) would not be introduced for another 12 months until October next year.

The delay to cutting the maximum FOBT stake from £100 to £2, announced in May this year, has been branded "a victory for the bookies".

In response, the Government said it had not previously given a date for bringing the measure into force, and argued the industry had to be given time to "re-adjust".

Tackling the Minister in the House of Lords, the Bishop said: "I think many of us who have been speaking and campaigning on this issue were absolutely appalled to hear about the further time it's going to take to implement this.

"These machines are predominantly found in the poorest of areas. The research is quite clear. It's causing huge poverty."

Lee Davy

He added: "On top of that, the estimates are that something between one or two people every day are committing suicide for gambling-related reasons.

"Not only is this a huge social cost, it's a massive financial cost - far more than the £400 million tax revenue that the Government receives each year.

"Surely it's time to do this for the sake of everyone in our country."

Responding, Tory frontbencher Viscount Younger of Leckie said: "Coming to this decision was a result of much cross-departmental work and liaison with the industry.

"Now is the time for clarity, which we have given.

"We expect the companies to go ahead and implement this by the date that we've given."

Criticising the delay, opposition spokesman Lord Griffiths of Burry Port (pictured below) said: "This is a victory for the bookies.

"What are their lobbying powers with the Treasury that they have been able to eke this progress out to suit their needs and to make huge profits from the result of their endeavours."

Wesley House Cambridge

But the Minister said: "We have never actually said exactly when this would come into force - it is true.

"I am delighted... we are now able to provide clarity. The reduction to £2 will help stop extreme losses for those that can least afford it."

On the delay, he added: "It's to do with allowing enough time for businesses to re-adjust. We are talking about a good number of jobs here."

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