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British Government sets cap on maximum pokie machine bet

Fri, Nov 16, 1:14pm by Staff Writer

The British Government has brought forward plans to reform gambling regulations, announcing a cut to the maximum stake on pokie machines.

Culture Minister Jeremy Wright initially stated that changes to pokie machine stakes would take place in April 2019, but last month’s budget stated the changes would take place in October 2019.

The maximum pokie machine bet in the UK will soon be £2 (A$3.60) from £100 (A$176).

Lawmakers in the UK have been critical of pokie machines for allowing gamblers to rack up large losses in a short space of time.

“The government has been clear that protecting vulnerable people is the prime concern, but that as a responsible government it is also right to take the needs of those employed by the gambling industry into account,” Mr Wright said in Parliament.

Mr Wright said a planned increase in Remote Gaming Duty, paid by online gaming operators would be brought forward to April 2019 to cover the negative impact on public finances as a result of the cut to the maximum pokie stake.

“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 time,” he said.

Pokie machines generated tremendous revenues for the Government in the UK, with A$3.2 billion in revenue generated from pokie machines, with A$719 million of taxes going to the Government according to the Financial Review.

The decision is set to hit the UK’s famed betting shops the hardest according to the Association of British Bookmakers’ Malcolm George.

“We now have to examine what we will have to do with the shop estate. We’ve got to work out what the future for betting shops is on the High Street. It is going to be a bleak future for some period of time,” he said.

Maximum $1 bet in Australia rejected

In 2016, Wesfarmers’ Coles wanted to reconfigure its pokie machines to trial A$1 bet limits.

This was met with furious opposition from Woolworths, which operates nearly four times as many pokie machines in Australia.

New South Wales is the most pokie-impacted state in Australia with over 92,000 machines and maximum $10 bets.

Losses in New South Wales have increased to more than A$6 billion annually according to the Alliance for Gambling Reform.

Eight years ago the Australian Productivity Commission recommended the Government bring in maximum A$1 bets on pokie machines.

The proposal was never taken up following an intense campaign by the clubs and the gambling industry.

Anti-gambling campaigner Tim Costello welcomed the UK’s initiative and thinks Australia should follow suit.

He argued governments should be embarrassed by the UK’s action, given then Productivity Commission’s calls for maximum A$1 bets.

“If you ever ask the public it is always over 70 per cent ‘we hate them’. So it is really politicians within the industry who are opposing what the public wants,” he said.

Costello went as far as to compare pokie machines in Australia with the American gun lobby stating, “The NRA in America has captured politicians, the pokies lobby has captured politicians (in Australia).

Staunch anti-gambling advocate Independent MP Andrew Wilkie said he hopes the UK’s move would increase pressure on Australian governments to introduce similar measures.

“The Federal Government has it within its power to legislate A$1 maximum bets, as well as other harm minimisation measures like mandatory pre-commitment,” Mr Wilkie said.

“Unfortunately, the Government has shown itself to be thoroughly uninterested when it comes to reining in poker machines,” he said.

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