U.K. Lawmakers Want to Force Vote on Gambling Crackdown Delay

(Bloomberg) -- Lawmakers concerned about the social harm caused by gambling machines in the U.K. have found a new way to revolt over the government’s plans to delay a clampdown on the industry.

In last month’s budget, Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond said the government would reduce the maximum stake gamblers can place on so-called fixed-odds betting terminals to 2 pounds ($2.60) from 100 pounds -- but only from October 2019, or six months later than expected. The government is also deploying some parliamentary tricks to avoid a vote on the issue.

So on Tuesday, a group of lawmakers opposed to the delay decided to try a trick of their own to “keep the issue in play,” said Peter Bottomley, a Conservative lawmaker who attended their meeting.

The idea is to insert a clause in Hammond’s finance bill in the committee stage, when lawmakers scrutinize the legislation in detail. That would be some time after Nov. 12, when the bill gets a second reading in the House of Commons, he said.

The clause will call for an inquiry and assessment of the consequences of bringing the new stake cap forward to April 2019, Bottomley said.

Hammond told lawmakers the government opted for October 2019 to balance the needs of the gambling industry and to try to mitigate job losses in high-street gambling shops. But Sports Minister Tracey Crouch resigned in protest, arguing the government had a duty to protect the public from machines dubbed by critics as the “crack cocaine” of gambling.

In her resignation letter, Crouch said 1.6 billion pounds will be wagered on the machines in the next year, and that there are two gambling-related suicides a day in Britain.

Lawmakers want to pressure the government into “doing better,” Bottomley said in an interview Tuesday. “The key message is that the bookmaker lobbying was in vain.”

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.