After months of rumours implying a back and forth between the DCMS and the Treasury, it has been reported that a deal has been done to cut the maximum stake on FOBTs to £2.
The Treasury has “signalled a deal” has been done with the DCMS to set the maximum stake on FOBTs to £2, according to national newspaper The Times. Philip Hammond has reportedly been delaying a cut to £2 due to a dispute over replacing lost tax, however the chancellor is now understood to have “accepted expert recommendations”.
Allies of Hammond told The Times that there was growing optimism regarding an “imminent” agreement with culture secretary Matt Hancock. “We are very nearly there,” the ally said.
Treasury insiders are reported to have said that Hammond has never opposed a £2 stake, but has insisted that other public services do not lose out from lost gambling levies. The insiders said the deal on Monday night will see levies rise on other forms of gambling to plug the shortfall.
The change in tone from the Treasury has been accounted to threats of a Tory and DUP rebellion if the maximum stake is not cut to £2, with MPs such as Peter Bottomley stating anything higher would not get through the House of Commons. During Monday, pressure on Hammond mounted further when a former minister and the influential heads of two select committees said on social media that they would only support a £2 maximum stake.
Sarah Wollaston, chairwoman of the health and social care select committee, tweeted: “I will not be supporting any moves that allow high stakes #FOBT to continue to destroy lives. The Treasury needs to look at the long term financial and personal cost of the catastrophic harms to individuals, families and society.” Nick Boles, who was minister for skills until 2016, retweeted Wollaston, adding that he “will not support half measures”.
Tom Tugendhat, chairman of the foreign affairs committee, added:“ I agree with Nick and Sarah. £2 is the right level.”
Their intervention means that 22 Tory MPs have publicly backed a £2 limit, and a poll by YouGov last month has shown many more Conservative ministers support the level.
John White, CEO of Bacta, said: “Today’s decision is hugely significant for our campaign for a £2 maximum stake on fixed odds betting terminals. While the final decision is yet to be made, Mr Hammond’s recognition of the vital need for £2 aligns the Treasury’s view with that of the DCMS, Bacta, the public, cross party MPs, faith groups and countless other stakeholders.”
However Gambling Business Group CEO Peter Hannibal warned against preemptive celebration: “We should be careful not to read too much into, what for the moment at least, are unsubstantiated media reports. Instead, we need to wait and see what the DCMS actually publishes before we can be sure of anything certain.”
Due to election purdah rules, any announcement from the DCMS must wait until after 3 May.