Tracey Crouch has resigned as sports minister following a row over plans to cut the maximum stake allowed at fixed-odds betting terminals.
Chancellor Philip Hammond said in Monday’s Budget that the limit would be reduced from £100 to £2 next October.
But Crouch and many other MPs had expected the cut to kick in from April. After standing down in protest, Crouch tweeted her resignation letter, in which she calls the delay “unjustifiable”.
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A review on fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) launched by Crouch in 2016 found that the machines let players lose money too quickly, leading to addiction and social, mental and financial problems, the BBC reports. Currently, players can bet up to £100 every 20 seconds on electronic casino games such as roulette.
In May this year, the Government announced that it would be going ahead with the proposed maximum stake cut. Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright said that gambling companies would need between nine and 12 months to prepare for the changes, leading many to believe the new limit would come into force in April 2019.
The news that it will instead kick in some six months later has sparked anger, with Crouch claiming that the delay could cost lives.
“From the time of the announcement to reduce stakes and its implementation, over £1.6bn will be lost on these machines,” she said. “In addition, 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.”
Prime Minister Theresa May said she was disappointed that Crouch had resigned, but insisted there had been “no delay in bringing forward this important measure”.
This claim was echoed by the culture minister, who said the introduction of the lower limit had originally been scheduled for April 2020, owing to Treasury fears over the impact on tax revenue.
“I've heard language twisted to various uses in this place, but the idea that a move from April 2020 to October 2019 is a delay is going a little far. It is not a delay,” Wright insisted.
But former Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith contradicted that claim. “I was under the impression then that the industry itself recognised they would need nine to 12 months to implement this,” he said.
“That would have taken us to around about April or May next year. I say to him [Wright], it is not too late. For the sake of those people whose families and lives have been destroyed - and there may yet be more, many more, to follow them - I urge him to think again and bring forward the date so we may end this scourge.”
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