Addictive high-stake betting machines will be taxed at a higher rate, the Chancellor announced in his 2014 budget on Wednesday.
The levy on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs) – dubbed the ‘crack cocaine’ of gambling – will rise from 20 to 25 percent, in a move which could slash £79 million from bookmakers’ profits.
George Osborne said the machines “have proliferated since gambling laws were liberalised almost a decade ago”.
“These machines are highly lucrative and therefore it’s right we now raise the duty on them to 25 per cent”, he added.
The Association of British Bookmakers complained that the tax increase for FOBTs could result in the closure of thousands of betting shops.
“This knee-jerk and ill-considered tax raid means their futures are now on the line”, a spokesman commented.
FOBTs allow gamblers to bet £100 a spin and up to £18,000 an hour on computerised casino-style games.
Anti-FOBT campaigners recently labelled a new voluntary code aimed at cracking down on problem gambling as a “smokescreen”.
The code from the Association of British Bookmakers lets customers set their own time and money limits for the machines.
The budget confirmed further gambling taxes, including extending the horse racing betting levy to companies based offshore, and introducing a 15 per cent online gaming tax.
Shares in the UK’s biggest bookmakers plunged in the wake of the announcements – Ladbrokes fell by 12 per cent and William Hill dropped seven per cent.