A senior politician has accused the UK Government of “dragging out” the introduction of a measure to help gambling addicts.
Westminster announced in May it would change the maximum amount that people could bet on roulette machines in high-street bookmakers from £100 to £2 a spin.
The move was welcomed by politicians and responsible gambling campaigners, including Wendy Bendel, of Inverurie, who was left heartbroken when her partner Lee Murphy, 37, took his own life due to an addiction to the machines – called fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs).
Now, the UK Government has said it cannot implement the limit until 2020.
Ministers have said this is to give bookmakers time to adjust and to allow time for a vote at Westminster to rubber-stamp the change in law.
Aberdeen Central MSP Kevin Stewart said he has written to Chancellor Philip Hammond to object.
Mr Stewart said: “It is unacceptable for the UK Government to slowly drag out the parliament vote to begin implementing the change to fixed-odds betting terminals, and then give bookmakers an inordinate length of time to make adjustments to the move.
“There will be real life consequences and victims as a result of this process taking so long, because for every day that passes more folk will be at risk of losing thousands of pounds within minutes on these horrendous machines.
“There’s no excuse to delay putting the £2 maximum bet in place as soon as possible, and this latest move may very well be seen by some as the treasury pandering to the betting industry.”
He added: “The £2 maximum stake must be implemented as soon as possible, not at a time that suits bookmakers. The Chancellor must act now.”
In the letter, Mr Stewart said: “Every day that passes without the cap being lowered is allowing this devastation to continue and it would be a travesty if the £2 cap took two years to come into effect.”
A UK Government spokesman said: “We are changing the rules so they balance the needs of vulnerable people, those who gamble responsibly and people who work in this sector.
“But we must get this right, and are engaging with the industry to ensure it has sufficient time to implement these technological changes.”
“Betting law delay benefits nobody”, Page 26