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What will next week’s announcement say?

The market is awash with rumours about what might happen next week, with the Government expected on Wednesday to make an announcement of some sort that will affect the bookmaking industry.

I was called earlier by an investor in one gambling company, who had heard from an industry player (without any FOBTs) that what is imminent is a cap of the maximum stake allowed on machines – set at £2.

I suspect there’s every chance that whatever is announced will be trailed in the weekend press, so I doubt we will have to wait until Wednesday’s PMQs to find out – although it still remains likely that a friendly question then with allow David Cameron to flag a more detailed statement out of DCMS later.

Exactly what will be announced is purely a matter of conjecture, of course; but in my view it is highly unlikely that the current rumour has any substance. Far more likely, it seems, is some concession to local authorities on planning law, to allow them greater control on how many bookmaking shops can open in their area. Of course, that doesn’t preclude new rules on FOBTs, but with a petition being delivered to Downing Street on Monday from betting shop customers (which I am hearing accumulated over a million signatures in the space of four days last weekend), I would think it highly doubtful that the Prime Minister is about to announce a dramatic change of the sort that is being seeded by someone.

The lobbying campaign against FOBTs has undoubtedly been effective (as any emotive campaign based largely on anecdote is bound to be), but the Gambling Commission is in the process of collecting evidence on which any future policy might be based, and is due to report in the summer. Given that, and the fact that this morning William Hill announced the closure of 109 shops with the loss of 400 jobs on the back of the recent tax hike on the machines, it seems to me highly unlikely that the rumours regarding an imminent announcement about dramatic reduction in the maximum stake are anything but wishful thinking on the part of interested parties.

Posted in Betting industry, Gambling.

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Continuing the Discussion

  1. DCMS press release linked to this post on April 30, 2014

    […] to my last post reproducing the DCMS announcement, here is the press release they have issued. As I suggested last week would be the case, they have led on […]

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