THE maximum stake on fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) will be reduced to £2 under new rules unveiled by the government reports the BBC.
Currently, people can bet up to £100 every 20 seconds on electronic casino games such as roulette.
Sports Minister Tracey Crouch said reducing the stake to £2 “will reduce harm for the most vulnerable”.
But bookmakers have warned it could lead to thousands of outlets closing.
William Hill, which generates just over half its retail revenues from FOBTs, described the government’s decision as “unprecedented” and warned that 900 of its shops could become loss-making, potentially leading to job losses.
It said its full-year operating profit could fall by between £70m and £100m.
GVC Holdings, which owns Ladbrokes, said it expected profit to be cut by about £160m in the first full year that the £2 limit is in force.
Shares in William Hill and GVC Holding both fell following the news.
Ms Crouch said: “We recognise the potential impact of this change for betting shops which depend on (FOBT) revenues, but also that this is an industry that is innovative and able to adapt to changes.”
Tom Watson, the shadow culture secretary, told the BBC: “The great tragedy of this is [that] for five years now pretty much everyone in Westminster, Whitehall and in the country has known that these machines have had a very detrimental effect in communities up and down the land.
“The bookmakers have chosen to take a defiant approach, trying to face down parliament, really, with a very aggressive campaign.”
The Church of England praised ministers for “admirable moral leadership” for reducing the maximum stake.
However, Betfred’s managing director Mark Stebbings claimed the government had “played politics with people’s jobs”. and the move was “clearly not evidence based but a political decision”.
“This decision will result in unintended consequences including direct and indirect job losses, empty shops on the High Street, and a massive funding hit for the horseracing industry.”
The government said the stake limit would come into effect some time next year, but would not set an exact timetable.