Sports Minister Tracey Crouch has resigned in protest at the Treasury’s controversial decision to delay gambling reforms until October 2019.
Fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) currently allow gamblers to bet up to £100 every 20 seconds, but it was announced in May that the maximum stake would be lowered to £2, to reduce gambling-related harms.
MPs expressed outrage that pressure from the gambling industry has meant the cuts will not take place in April.
Crouch, who was responsible for reviewing gambling policy, resigned having campaigned strongly for the stake reduction.
In her letter of resignation, she said: “From the time of the announcement to reduce stakes and its implementation over £1.6 billion will be lost on these machines, a significant amount of which will be in our most deprived areas including my own constituency.”
She added that due to the scale of the UK’s gambling-related problems, “this delay is unjustifiable”.
Labour’s Kevin Brennan MP hit out at Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright, in the House of Commons earlier this week.
He said the delay was “a betrayal” of his ministerial colleagues, his predecessors as Secretary of State, and “the victims and their families, whose lives have been blighted by gambling addiction”.
“Why has he chosen to back the bookies rather than the gambling addiction victims and their families, his own Minister and the overwhelming public interest?”
Former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith MP said he was “deeply concerned” by the announcement, adding that the Government had made “a big bold decision” when it first agreed to make the cuts.
“The gambling industry have fought it tooth and nail and succeeded in securing a delay. Families will be in a terrible plight if this is allowed to stay for the next six months.”
Some MPs took to social media to express their frustration.
I have seen the misery caused to those suffering from gambling addiction. We should implement the excellent FOBTs policy proposed by @tracey_crouch no later than April
— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) October 28, 2018
The Chancellor would have had more credibility reducing the tragedy of lives lost to suicide if he had not delayed action on #FOBT today. The power of the industry lobbying at Westminster is sickening
— Sarah Wollaston MP (@sarahwollaston) October 29, 2018
‘Huge social cost’
Bishop of St Albans, Rt Revd Alan Smith, said he is “absolutely appalled” at the delay.
He said: “These machines are predominantly found in the poorest of areas. The research is quite clear. It’s causing huge poverty.”
He added: “Not only is this a huge social cost, it’s a massive financial cost – far more than the £400 million tax revenue the Government receives each year.”