‘Too early’ to predict impact of Government’s FOBT decision on racing

Nick Rust issues BHA response following announcement of £2 maximum stake

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Nick Rust, chief executive of the British Horseracing Authority, believes it is “too early to say” how racing’s finances will be impacted by the Government’s decision to limit maximum stakes on fixed-odds betting terminals to £2.

The Government announced on Thursday morning it was slashing the maximum from £100 to reduce the risk of “gambling-related harm”.

It said the move will cut the risk of potentially large financial losses from the controversial machines as well as harm to both players and wider communities.

The decision is set to please campaigners but will come as a blow to bookmakers, who have warned it would cost betting shop jobs across the country.

Rust revealed initial estimates were that racing would lose out by at least £40 million per year, but the Government may now bring forward a review of the levy, with officials planning to look at how a system based on global bets placed in Britain would work.

He said: “British racing has a strong social conscience and we support measures announced by the Government today to reduce the harm caused by problem gambling.

“We are also an industry that generates significant employment, provides education and training and funds charitable work, particularly in rural areas.

“Throughout this consultation process, we have aimed to protect these valuable social contributions from any potential adverse impacts from wider policy changes.

“We are pleased that Government has acknowledged the reasonable arguments we have made in the consultation process that jobs and revenues in the racing industry should not be adversely affected by changes to wider gambling policy.

“It is too early to say what the financial impact for racing will be. Our estimates before today’s decision ranged from £40 to £60 million per year, once the impact of the changes has filtered through into racing.

“These estimates did not take into account the Secretary of State’s suggestion that the levy could be extended to bets on global racing which could partially offset any reduction. We are also encouraged by the Secretary of State’s reference to a period of transition which will allow time for racing and betting to adjust.

“British racing shares a unique interdependency with the betting industry and we recognise that this decision will affect jobs in the betting industry, with which we work closely in partnership.

“We want betting on horseracing – on the High Street, at racecourses and online – to continue to be accepted as legitimate and socially responsible. Recreational betting has been a part of racing for centuries and is an accepted entertainment pursuit during a day at the races or on the High Street.

“Our industry’s leaders – who have worked together throughout this consultation – will now work with the betting industry and Government as to how we can grow such legitimate, socially responsible betting activity on racing and take measures to address problem gambling wherever we can.”

The decision to cut the stake to £2 goes further than the recommendations of a review carried out by the gambling regulator earlier this year, which recommended the maximum stake for FOBTs should be set at or below £30.

Culture Secretary Matt Hancock said: “When faced with the choice of halfway measures or doing everything we can to protect vulnerable people, we have chosen to take a stand.

“These machines are a social blight and prey on some of the most vulnerable in society, and we are determined to put a stop to it and build a fairer society for all.”

The Government also confirmed a raft of measures to clamp down on the gambling sector, including plans to toughen up protections around online gambling, such as introducing stronger age verification rules and affordability checks.

A multimillion-pound advertising campaign promoting responsible gambling, supported by the industry and GambleAware, will be launched later this year, it added.

And the age limit for playing National Lottery games will be reviewed under the next licence competition.

The Government said it will fund the crackdown through an increase in remote gaming duty.

It pledged to work with the gambling sector to ensure it has sufficient time to introduce the stake reduction and technological changes.

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