Theresa May signals a U-turn on her decision to delay curbs on ‘crack cocaine’ gambling machines

Theresa May today signalled that the Government will announce a dramatic U-turn on its decision to delay curbs to ‘crack cocaine’ gambling machines.

The PM was facing a massive Tory mutiny after deciding to delay the slashing of the maximum stake on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs) from £100 to £2, by six months.

The decision, announced by Philip Hammond in the Budget, sparked fury across the Commons and caused the shock resignation of Sports Minister Tracey Crouch.

But after a fortnight of mounting pressure, Mrs May today signalled to MPs in PMQs that the Government will later today announce a climbdown on the policy.

Theresa May (pictured in the Commons today) signalled that the Government will today announce a dramatic U-turn on its decision to delay curbs to 'crack cocaine' gambling machines

Theresa May (pictured in the Commons today) signalled that the Government will today announce a dramatic U-turn on its decision to delay curbs to 'crack cocaine' gambling machines

Theresa May (pictured in the Commons today) signalled that the Government will today announce a dramatic U-turn on its decision to delay curbs to ‘crack cocaine’ gambling machines

The decision, announced by Philip Hammond in the Budget, sparked fury across the Commons and caused the shock resignation of Sports Minister Tracey Crouch (pictured)

The decision, announced by Philip Hammond in the Budget, sparked fury across the Commons and caused the shock resignation of Sports Minister Tracey Crouch (pictured)

The decision, announced by Philip Hammond in the Budget, sparked fury across the Commons and caused the shock resignation of Sports Minister Tracey Crouch (pictured)

She was pressed on the issue by ex Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith – who was spotted heading into No10 for talks this morning – a leading critic of the delay.

The PM said: ‘This question of the maximum stake for fixed odds betting terminals is one that does have an impact on vulnerable people as well as their families and loved ones.

What are Fixed Odds Betting Terminals?  

FOBTs offer casino-style games such as roulette in bookmaker shops. Currently players can gamble stakes of up to £100 every 20 seconds. 

Currently gamblers can bet, and lose, £100 every 20 seconds meaning potentially thousands of pounds in a single session.

Since Labour’s 2005 Gambling Act the number of FOBTs – which offer casino-style games such as roulette – has increased from 20,000 to nearly 35,000.

Each machine generates an average of £50,000 a year for bookmakers.

‘I recognise the strength of feeling on this issue. 

‘I know gambling can devastate lives.

‘So our priority is making sure that this change delivers the results we all want to see. 

;We are listening to the concerns being raised by colleagues.

‘And if you will have a little patience I can tell you that the Culture Secretary will set out further details later today.’

Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright is expected to formally announce a U-turn in a written statement later today.

The Government was plunged into a bitter row earlier this month when the Chancellor announced the curbs would not be introduced until October next year – six months later than anticipated. 

The move prompted the shock resignation of Ms Crouch – a hugely popular minister who had campaigned to curb the stakes.

In a devastating resignation letter, the ex minister warned that the Government faced having blood on its hands over the decision which she said could cost two lives a day among vulnerable addicts. 

She also blamed the delay on penny-pinching by the Treasury. 

After hours of wrangling behind the scenes, Mrs May accepted the resignation with ‘disappointment’. Ms Crouch was in tears in the Commons lobbies as she told colleagues of her decision.

The PM was pressed on the issue by ex Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith (pictured today in the Commons) - who was spotted heading into No10 for talks this morning - a leading critic of the delay

The PM was pressed on the issue by ex Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith (pictured today in the Commons) - who was spotted heading into No10 for talks this morning - a leading critic of the delay

The PM was pressed on the issue by ex Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith (pictured today in the Commons) – who was spotted heading into No10 for talks this morning – a leading critic of the delay

But the delay has become a running sore for the PM as many leading Tories – including Boris Johnson and Priti Patel – immediately took to Twitter to back Ms Crouch. 

Mrs May is facing the political battle of her life to get her Brexit deal – which has just been agreed with the EU – through a hugely hostile Commons.

And Number Ten will have decided that it is not worth wasting political capital trying to defend the FOBT decision while they are trying to use all their influence to get the agreement passed. 

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