Theresa May has hinted at an embarrassing Government U-turn over over plans to delay a massive cut to the maximum stake on fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) after a revolt that saw a minister quit.
More than 70 MPs including several former Cabinet ministers had tabled amendments to Government business to force it to cut the largest wager on FOBTs from £100 to £2 in April next year as originally planned.
It came after Philip Hammond confirmed that the cut had been pushed back to October after discussions with the betting industry – a move that saw sports minister Tracey Crouch quit in protest.
Mrs May was asked at Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday about the change by former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith, who co-led the revolt.
He said: “I was enormously proud of my Government for agreeing to lower the stake on fixed-odds betting terminals to £2 because they have caused endless harm, terrible damage to families and it was the right decision.
“Since then, there has been a hiatus about the date at which this would start.
“Can I ask my right honourable friend: is it a reality that now we have put down an amendment, that the Government will accede and we will get this process started on April 1 next year?”
Mrs May replied: “I know he has campaigned on this issue with a passion because, as he said, this question of the maximum stakes for FOBTs is one which does have an impact on vulnerable people as well as their families and loved ones.
“I recognise the strength of feeling on this issue. I know gambling addiction can devastate lives.
“Our priority is making sure that this change delivers the result we all want to see, we are listening to the concerns being raised by colleagues, and if my right honourable friend will have a little patience I can tell him my right honourable friend the Culture Secretary will set out further details later today.”
Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright is due to make a written ministerial statement on Wednesday.
The amendments had been due to come to a vote on Wednesday next week, with the Government widely reported to be facing a defeat after they received support from MPs in all main political parties – including Ms Crouch.
An impact assessment published in May last year suggested that the new curb should be implemented within nine to 12 months.
But Mr Hammond told the Treasury Committee last week that following engagement with the gaming industry, it was decided that October 2019 – 12 months after the Budget – would be a “sensible” date to introduce the change.