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Bookies' shares soar after Gambling Commission calls for £30 stake limit on betting machines

A maximum stake limit could hit jobs and sponsorship, the betting industry has warned (Daniel Hambury/PA Wire)

Shares in betting firms have soared after a much-hyped crackdown on gambling machines seemingly fell short.

Ladbrokes Coral share price rose over 5% while William Hill surged by 13% after the Gambling Commission recommended that stakes for slot machines should be reduced to £2 and stakes for non-slots machines should be no greater than £30.

Slot machines are like traditional fruit machine games, while non-slot are all other games, like roulette. The gambling industry had feared that stakes on all machines would be limited to £2.

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“It looks like ministers will blink first and the industry will get away with more lenient limits on stakes than was feared,” said Neil Wilson, senior analysts at ETX Capital.

Concerns have been raised over the number of people addicted to particular high stakes machines found in bookmakers’ shops up and down the country.

Punters can lose £100 every 20 seconds as they chase a £500 jackpot (PA)

Some of these machines allow customers to bet up to £100 every 20 seconds, and while the winning pots are large, the losses can be alarming.

Fixed-odds betting terminals generated more than £1.8bn in tax revenue last year.

Campaigners had wanted to see the maximum bets reduced in an effort to curb addiction and debts.

The Association of British Bookmakers has claimed that a £30 maximum stake would see 2,100 betting shops closed and 10,000 jobs lost.

“We fully understand that there is public concern and that there will be a stake cut to reduce the levels of losses on machines in betting shops,” it said after publication of the Gambling Commission’s review.

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The commission examined data from 20 billion plays on B2 machines (fixed-odds betting terminals).

Its analysis showed that, compared with non-slots players, slots players experience a greater
proportion of significant losses.

“This reflects the particular risks associated with slots, which offer a lower return than non-slots games and less opportunity for players to manage their own risks through the way they play,” it concluded.

The lure of a potential maximum £500 win on a £100 “spin” draws many vulnerable punters in.

“We are recommending actually banning certain kinds of play, that allow players to switch between low stakes high-speed and high stakes low-speed. We found that’s the most dangerous form of play,” said Tim Miller, executive director of the Gambling Commission.

“There is a strong case to actually track play. That means the player themselves can have good data on how much they are losing and how that compares to their peers.”

Fixed odds terminals at betting shops up and down the country generate £1.8bn for the Treasury every year (Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

He added: “We’ve put consumers at the heart of our advice – advice which is based on the best available evidence and is focused on reducing the risk of gambling-related harm.

“In our judgment, a stake cut for Fixed Odds Betting Terminals alone doesn’t go far enough to protect vulnerable people.

“That is why we have recommended a stake cut plus a comprehensive package of other measures to protect consumers.”

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These other measures could include ending sessions when consumers reach time and money limits.

The report now goes to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, which could yet recommend tougher betting rules.

Both Ladbrokes Coral and William Hill have said in the past their combined £9m a year sponsorship of major sporting events could be threatened if the maximum stake limit was set too low.