The maximum bet on fixed-odds betting terminals will be cut from April after the government bowed to pressure. Ministers had been facing a parliamentary defeat, with several Tory MPs joining opposition politicians to table amendments to the finance bill.
The chancellor said in the Budget the maximum bet would be reduced from £100 to £2 from October. But that led to accusations of a delay – with sports minister Tracey Crouch resigning in protest.
Several former ministers – including Boris Johnson, Iain Duncan Smith and Justine Greening – tabled amendments designed to force the government to make the change from April.
Fixed-odds terminals were introduced in casinos and betting shops in 1999, and offer computerised games at the touch of a button.
Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright said: “The government has listened and will now implement the reduction in April 2019.”
Mr Wright added that a planned increase in Remote Gaming Duty, paid by online gaming firms, would be brought forward to April to cover the negative impact on the public finances.
Ms Crouch said she welcomed the decision and was pleased that “common sense” had prevailed. Asked if she would like to return to Government, Ms Crouch said: “There isn’t a vacancy. That’s been filled. So, I will just get on and do what I’m going to do.”
The government had earlier said it had consulted widely and considered “all of the evidence” before making its decision on a timeframe.
Theresa May had earlier been asked at Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday about the timing by Conservative ex-leader Iain Duncan Smith.
He said: “I was enormously proud of my government for agreeing to lower the stake on fixed-odds betting terminals to £2 because they have caused endless harm, terrible damage to families and it was the right decision.
“Since then, there has been a hiatus about the date at which this would start.”
Mrs May answered: “I recognise the strength of feeling on this issue. I know gambling addiction can devastate lives.”