LONDON (Reuters) – British finance minister Philip Hammond has blocked government attempts to curb high-stakes gambling machines commonly found in betting shops in order to preserve tax revenues, the Daily Mail newspaper reported on Saturday.
Britain’s ministry for culture, media and sports, which regulates the gambling industry, launched a consultation in October into the maximum wagers that should be allowed on gambling machines, including those known as fixed-odds betting terminals.
These machines currently allow gamblers to bet as much as 100 pounds ($130) every 20 seconds in electronic versions of casino games like roulette, and some British lawmakers have called for this to be reduced to 2 pounds.
The Daily Mail cited a government source as saying Britain’s finance ministry feared this would be “financially crippling” for tax revenues, and separately said Hammond had acted to ensure a clampdown on maximum gambling stakes was shelved.
But the sports minister overseeing the review, Tracey Crouch, described the article as “Fake news” on Twitter, without giving further details.
The culture and sports ministry said in a statement on Saturday that its review into stakes and prizes offered by gambling machines was still underway, and it expected to publish its conclusions in the autumn. Crouch told parliament in June that the review would not appear until October at the earliest.
Britain’s finance ministry declined to comment.
Lawmakers opposed to the machines say they account for more than half of bookmakers’ profits, and caused gamblers to lose 1.7 billion pounds in 2015.
The Daily Mail said the machines brought in more than 400 million pounds a year in tax revenues.
Share prices in bookmakers such as Ladbrokes Coral Group LCL. have fallen due to fears of curbs, and credit ratings agency Fitch said in March that restrictions would be likely to boost online gambling at the expense of high-street operations.
($1 = 0.7672 pounds)
Reporting by David Milliken; Editing by Andrew Bolton