U.K. Speeds Cut to Gaming Machine Stake Limit After Backlash

(Bloomberg) -- The U.K. government is bringing forward a plan to cut the maximum stake gamblers can place on certain machines, bowing to pressure from lawmakers and advocacy groups.

The maximum stake on so-called fixed-odds betting terminals will be reduced to 2 pounds ($2.59) from 100 pounds as of April 2019, rather than the October 2019 date announced by Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond in last month’s budget, Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright said in a written statement in Parliament.

Shares of GVC Holdings Plc, William Hill Plc and Paddy Power Betfair Plc barely flinched at the news, holding on to gains inspired by progress on Brexit. The earlier implementation of the crackdown on stakes had been widely flagged in the weekend press. GVC was up 6.1 percent as of 2:29 p.m. in London, while William Hill had a 2 percent gain and Paddy Power rose 6.1 percent.

Sports Minister Tracey Crouch had resigned in protest over the original October date, which was perceived as a delay from an expected April time frame. At the time, she said the government had a duty to protect people from machines described by critics as the “crack cocaine” of gambling.

“I am pleased that common sense has prevailed,” Crouch said in a statement Wednesday, after the announcement. “The harm from these addictive machines is well publicized.”

May had said she was ‘listening’ to concerns about the gaming machine limit

The change to an earlier date will mean an increase in duties paid by online gaming operators, according to the statement from Wright.

“The government will expect the gambling industry to work with it to reduce the effect of any impact on jobs and to support employees that may be affected by this expedited timeline,” Wright said.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.