Tracey Crouch, Sports Minister, resigns over Fixed Betting

Image Credit: [Daily Mail]

Tracey Crouch, MP for Chatham and Aylesford and Minister for Sport, Civil Society and Loneliness, has resigned as a result of delays in cutting maximum stakes on fixed betting machines. The current maximum stake is £100 and the proposals were to alter this to £2 by April 2019; however, Phillip Hammond announced that the restriction will not be imposed before October 2019.

Tracey responded on Twitter, “From the time of the announcement to reduce stakes and its implementation, over £1.6bn will be lost on these machines… In appreciation, two people will tragically take their lives every day due to gambling-related problems and, for that reason as much as any other, I believe this delay is unjustifiable.”

Fixed betting machines were introduced in 2001, with around 34,000 up and down the country; they work by there being an already fixed probability of winning, regardless of the game – meaning the gambler is guaranteed to lose money.

Under present law, a gambler can place a £100 stake every 20 seconds, with some gamblers losing in the thousands on a single day.

Betting companies have campaigned against the introduction of limiting max stake: pointing to how fixed betting machines raise £400 million each year in tax, and that this limit will lead to shop closures and in turn loss in jobs.

In 2017 the Gambling Commission, a non-departmental public body, found that two million people either have a gambling addiction or are on the verge of one. Fixed betting machines represent just one layer of the many issues the UK is currently facing in relation to gambling.

If you ever watch a football or any sports match, you will notice the bombardment of betting advertisements throughout the game: they are on billboards, on the player’s tops, and every commercial break is ladened with them. With all of them using soundbites, slogans, and humour, children, most worringly, will come into contact with gambling from a young age. The Gambling Commission found that 25,000 children aged 11 to 16 have a gambling addiction, with many learning through social media.

Betting companies are frequent sponsors of football [Image Credit: Sky Sports]

If the government cannot put an end to fixed betting, where the result is predetermined, then how will they be able to curb addiction within the sporting sphere? This is a problem that is becoming increasingly problematic.

Tom Watson, deputy leader of the Labour government, has proposed: a ‘whistle to whistle’ ban on advertisements during live sports broadcasts, and to introduce a 1% levy on operators to pay for gambling help for those who have suffered from gambling addiction.

Some political spectators perceive this delay to be a consequence of the government not wanting this tax cut to be in the current tax year. The budget announced last week was probably the most optimistic of the last decade, with twenty billion being announced to the NHS.

Nonetheless, gambling is a serious problem in society; two people die from gambling addiction every day in the UK – and this delay will only exacerbate the issue.

Owen Ellicott