UK slashes maximum stake on gambling machines to £2

Critics say that FOBTs are linked to crime debt family breakdown and mental illness costing the country £1.5 billion a year

The terminals, commonly known as FOBTs can be found in many high street betting shops.

In a statement, William Hill acknowledged that around 70% of its gaming machine revenue this year had been generated by stakes in excess of £2 and that as many as 900 of its shops (38% of all its retail space) could become "loss-making" after the changes are implemented.

The decision follows complaints that the machines, which enable people to bet up to 100 pounds ($135) every 20 seconds on electronic games such as roulette, were highly addictive and had led to gamblers building up big losses.

The Gambling Commission has also been tasked to take forward discussions with the industry to improve player protection measures on B1 and B3 category machines, looking at spend and time limits. Betting shops will now be a much safer environment for customers and staff'.

May 17 (Reuters) - Britain will cut the maximum stake on fixed-odds betting terminals to just two pounds after the government opted to try to tackle problem gambling and rejected claims that it could cost thousands of jobs.

"The government has handed us a tough challenge today and it will take some time for the full impact to be understood, for our business, the wider high street and key partners like horse racing", said William Hill chief executive Philip Bowcock.

The campaign has secured the widespread support with the General Synod of the Church of England, 93 local authorities, the Royal Society for Public Health and politicians from all parties supporting the campaign.

They are called FOBTs simply because the games played on them pay out at fixed odds.

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William Hill chariman, Roger Devlin, called the decision to cut the maximum bet to £2 as "catastrophic".

But today's announcement has been met with concern by some bookmakers, who fear the move will result in store closures and job losses.

Ladbrokes Coral, bought by GVC for close to 4 billion pounds late past year, operates close to 3,500 high street betting shops across the United Kingdom, employing over 25,000 people.

The decision is a victory for campaigners against the excesses of the gambling industry, including a number of Christian groups.

The Industry Group for Responsible Gambling (IGRG) has amended its code to ensure that a responsible gambling message will appear for the duration of all TV adverts. In addition it will launch a probe into the public health impact of betting.

As part of the next licence competition the age limit for playing National Lottery games will be reviewed, to take into accounts developments in the market and the risk of harm to young people.

The government said the change would need parliamentary approval.

The reduction will also be linked to an increase in Remote Gaming Duty, a tax paid by online gaming operators, in a bid to protect the amount of income government gets from the industry.

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