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Labour deputy leader Tom Watson says government caved in to gambling industry pressure before Tracey Crouch's resignation

By Paul Francis

Labour deputy leader Tom Watson says the resignation of MP Tracey Crouch has raised questions over whether the government caved in to pressure from the gambling industry.

In an interview with the KM Media Group, Mr Watson said the saga has left concerns the delay implementing the gambling reforms was a result of lobbying.

Tracey Crouch, the Chatham and Aylesford MP quit her role as sports minister yesterday, adding today she has "no regrets" about the move.

Labour deputy leader Thomas Watson
Labour deputy leader Thomas Watson

In a stinging resignation letter said her reforms to the amount that could be staked on fixed-odds betting machines would fall to £2 from £100 were being “unjustifiably” delayed.

Mr Watson said: “The very sad thing about this whole issue is that it has taken the resignation of a good minister to show to the government and particularly the Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright that there is very grave concerns about these machines out in the country.

"The government says it has not delayed the decision but we are years overdue reforms to these machines.

“Parliament has known for years the harm done.

"There has been an enormously powerful and sophisticated lobby by the gambling industry to either block these reforms or slow them up.”

He said that lobbying “would have put Tracey in a very difficult position, which we appreciate".

He added: "We just wished she would have stayed because we saw what was going on behind the scenes - she was fighting her corner valiantly.”

Asked if the government had caved in to pressure to delay the timescale, he said: “I have no doubt this is a result of big business gambling interests pressuring the government to delay the response; they are going to make £1bn extra from this delay from these machines being used by people who are very vulnerable and addicted to gambling.

Tracey Crouch has resigned as a minister over delays to tighter regulations on fixed odds betting terminals
Tracey Crouch has resigned as a minister over delays to tighter regulations on fixed odds betting terminals

"We could do it tomorrow if we wanted; we have the technology. There is no need for a delay.”

He said Labour would be asking for details of the Culture Secretary's meetings and when he made the decision to delay the reforms.

“We will be asking further questions in the days and weeks ahead.”

In her letter of resignation, the MP said her reforms were “being delayed until October due to commitments made by other to those with registered interests” but did not offer any further detail.

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