Bookmakers describe the scenario as ‘catastrophic’ but the sport is wrong to fear the impact if the government imposes major restrictions on fixed-odds betting terminals
The Racing Post was unambiguous in its front-page headline last Monday, the day after the Sunday Times reported that Matthew Hancock, the new culture secretary, is ready to cut the maximum stake on betting-shop gaming machines – or FOBTs – from £100 to £2. “Walsh hails incredible winning machine Un De Sceaux”, it said. At least, it did in its Irish edition, where there is a thriving racing industry, as many betting shops per head as there are in Britain – and no FOBTs.
The Post’s British edition, on the other hand, had a one-word headline: “Catastrophic”. This was lifted from an interview with Martin Cruddace, the chief executive of Arena Racing Company, in which Cruddace offered his view of the potential implications for British racing of the cut. By his account, these could include the closure of up to 3,000 of Britain’s 9,000 betting shops, and a “minimum” cut of £55m in the sport’s annual income.