Flicking through Hansard (As you do when your cats decide they want feeding at 02:00 hours, leaving you wide awake post enforced nurturing), I spotted the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Jeremy Wright’s defence of the further delay the reduction of Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBT) maximum stake from £100 to £2.
“It also has to be recognised that, right though this change is, money for public services coming from the use of FOBTs has to be replaced, or public services will have less funding.”
Quantum of the “Money for public services” is absent from the debate, as is the cost to public services from problem gamblers. I suspect omission of the first value, is prompted by the second value.
A recent study by the Institute for Public Policy and Research (IPPR) estimated that
“the current population of problem gamblers are associated with between £260 million and £1.2 billion a year of extra cost to government. These costs were spread across health (primary care, mental health services, secondary mental health services and hospital inpatient services), welfare and employment (Job seeker allowance claimants and lost labour tax receipts), housing (statutory homelessness applications), and criminal justice (incarcerations)”
This study formed part of the governments own impact study on the (then) proposed changes to FOBT’s. The impact study also estimated11.5% of players are problem gamblers and a further 32% are considered at risk of harm)
So why the delay?
Alison Thewliss (Glasgow Central) (SNP) “The Evening Times reports that there are more than 800 FOBTs and 200 betting shops in the city of Glasgow alone, and that £31 million a year is lost to these machines. What does the Minister say to my constituents, who are losing out every day to these machines?”
Jeremy Wright stated, inter alia, the betting industry needed time to adjust to a reduced revenue, job losses et al, but at a cost of £260m-£1.2 billion, does such a delay represent good value for money from the public purse? I’d aver it doesn’t.
There’s an uncomfortable link between the gambling industry and the Tory party, last year Bet Fred donated £166,000 via their firm Rainy City Investments.
Bet Fred are in line for a £1 billion windfall after winning a VAT appeal against HM Revenue and Customs earlier this year, which I assume won’t slave the pain of FOBT changes?
William Hill and Ladbrokes Coral have spent £18,018 entertaining 12 MPs since 2016, a figure increased from roughly £2000 per year in the previous 3 years. 40% of the increased hospitality coincided with the announcement of Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) review into book makers.
Of the £18,018 in hospitality the biggest beneficiaries are two Conservative MPs, Philip Davies and Laurence Robertson. Phillip Davies was a member of the Culture, Media and Sport Committee (27 Feb 2006 to 30 Mar 2015) and is currently co-chair of Betting and Gaming All-Party Parliamentary Group.
Such delays and associated costs are typical of the Tories spendthrift ways, whilst purporting to protecting the public purse. There’s a history of wasting public money of failed projects.
Within the Government’s £455bn project portfolio, projects worth a total of £159bn are rated amber/red or red – meaning their successful delivery appears ‘in doubt’ or ‘unachievable’. These projects include
HS2 (which of course won’t be coming to Scotland
Land Environment Systems
Scaremongering? Well a quick peek in the past shows a plethora of failed Government projects, here’s just a couple;
The NHS National Program for IT failed at a cost of 10 billion (25% of our block grant value).
Libra System for Magistrates saw the government pay Fujitsu circa £319 million, even though the government had to dump Fujitsu before they finished the contract.
This is a government that wastes money hand over fist, whilst purporting to protect the public purse.
This is a government that seems to think little of the harm FOBT’s do to the individual and community, in favour of maintaining a tax revenue stream, it’s the same government that’s content to force families on to universal credit with a loss of around £286 per month (Child Poverty Action Group) or if folk are on disability benefits the loss is far greater, despite underpaying benefits by £14 billion per year.
Then again, this is a government determined to effect greater damage on our industries than Thatcher ever could via Brexit, so should we be surprised?