Crouch steps down as Sports Minister
Crouch steps down as Sports Minister

Tracey Crouch has “absolutely no regrets” about her decision to resign as sports minister amid a row about government action to slash the maximum stake on fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs).

The Chatham and Aylesford MP, a leading campaigner on the issue, stepped down on Thursday following an announcement in the budget that the cut from £100 to £2 will not take place until October 2019.

Several backbenchers claimed they had been assured it was due to happen at the beginning of May.

Speaking to reporters in her constituency on Friday, Ms Crouch said: “I have absolutely no regrets about my decision whatsoever. I’m perfectly comfortable with my decision.”

And, despite quitting the government, Ms Crouch offered her backing to Theresa May.

“The prime minister has an absolutely important job to do to deliver on Brexit, and I look forward to being a supportive member of her backbenches,” she added.

Ms Crouch’s departure is more bad news for Mrs May, who has had to contend with several ministers leaving their posts since the 2017 election.

FOBTs, on which users can gamble away up to £100 every 20 seconds, have been dubbed the “crack cocaine” of betting machines by campaigners, who say they are dangerously addictive.

The betting industry has warned that thousands of people could lose their jobs as a result.

In her resignation letter, Ms Crouch claimed “implementation of these changes are now being delayed until October 2019 due to commitments made by others to those with registered interests”.

“From the time of the announcement to reduce stakes and its implementation over £1.6bn will be lost on these machines, a significant amount of which will be in our most deprived areas including my own constituency,” she said.

“In addition, two people will tragically take their lives every day due to gambling related problems and for that reason as much as any other I believe this delay is unjustifiable.

“The alignment of the stake reduction with an increase in remote gaming duty was a condition put on by the Treasury to provide fiscal neutrality but is not a technical necessity, so there is no reason why implementation cannot come in sooner than October.”

In response, Mrs May insisted there had been “no delay”.

She said: “We listened to those who wanted it to come into effect sooner than April 2020 and have agreed that the changes should be in place within the year – by October 2019.”

The PM defended the time-frame, saying “we must ensure that this change can be implemented in an orderly and effective manner to make sure it delivers the results we all want to see”.