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Bishop urges ministers to get on with cut to betting terminal stakes

by Press Association

Peers have reacted angrily to what they regard as delays in cutting the maximum stake on fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) to £2, and urged ministers to get on with the change.

Tory former Cabinet minister John Gummer, who sits in the Lords as Lord Deben, was among those to hit out at the hold-up, adding: "We want this change because it causes misery and ought not to continue."

The cut in the maximum FOBT stake from £100 was announced in May but bookmakers warned the cut could lead to job losses and thousands of outlets closing.

The Bishop of St Albans, the Rt Rev Alan Smith, said "delight" with the announcement had now turned into "puzzlement and dismay".

He said the machines caused bankruptcy, family breakdown and in some cases even suicide but campaigners were hearing it could take up to two years to bring in the change.

The bishop urged ministers to move with "alacrity" and get the reduction in stake brought in by the end of the year.

Digital, Culture, Media and Sport minister Lord Ashton of Hyde said the Government was moving as quickly as it could but had to follow a parliamentary process.

At question time in the Lords, Lord Ashton said the change would be brought about through secondary legislation and draft regulations were currently being prepared, with plans to lay the statutory instrument before Parliament in the autumn.

He said this would happen alongside "engagement with the gambling industry to ensure there is an appropriate period to implement the technological changes and develop plans to mitigate the potential impact on employment".

He added that the process had begun and good progress had been made in drafting the necessary statutory instrument but to cover any "negative impact on the public finances the change needs to be linked in an increase in remote gaming duty at the relevant Budget".

Lord Deben hit out at the Treasury, saying: "The reason it is being held up is precisely that last point, which is the Treasury makes money out of it and this is not right.

"We want this change because it causes misery and ought not to continue and it is not good enough to plead administrative difficulties."

Lord Ashton said a process had to be gone through and ministers had to take into account not only the "harms" to gambling but also the "harms" to employment.

"We are very keen to implement this," he added. "We will do it as soon as we can."

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