UK slashes maximum stake on gambling machines to £2

London (AFP) –


Britain will slash the maximum stake on controversial gambling machines to £2 ($2.7, 2.3 euros) per spin, the government said Thursday, as it vowed "to protect the most vulnerable in society" from harmful losses.

The biggest wager for popular fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs), which allow gamblers to bet every 20 seconds, will be cut sharply from the current level of £100, the department for digital, culture, media and sport said in a statement.

The new rules for the popular electronic casino-style games, like roulette and bingo, follow a government review.

The machines -- dubbed the crack cocaine of the gambling world by campaigners due to their addictive nature and escalating cost -- have long faced fierce criticism from opposition MPs and religious leaders with many calling for the maximum £2 bet.

"When faced with the choice of halfway measures or doing everything we can to protect vulnerable people, we have chosen to take a stand," said culture minister Matt Hancock in Thursday's statement.

"These machines are a social blight and prey on some of the most vulnerable in society, and we are determined to put a stop to it and build a fairer society for all."

The government also announced measures to tighten online betting protections and television advertising and raise awareness about potential harm. In addition it will launch a probe into the public health impact of betting.

"Problem gambling can devastate individuals' lives, families and communities," added sports minister Tracey Crouch.

"It is right that we take decisive action now to ensure a responsible gambling industry that protects the most vulnerable in our society."

Thursday's decision will come as a blow to betting companies, who have warned that shops could close as a result.

The country's Gambling Commission had already called in March for the maximum stake to be cut to no more than £30.