In the United Kingdom, yesterday reportedly saw the combined value of a trio of the nation’s largest bookmakers drop by more than £1 billion ($1.39 billion) after rumors emerged that the government is preparing to slash the maximum stake per spin on fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) by 98% to only £2 ($2.78).

According to a Tuesday report from the Daily Mail newspaper, William Hill was the most seriously affected after it lost £370 million ($515.64 million) due to a 13% decrease in the value of its shares. Fellow London-listed operators GVC Holdings, which is responsible for the Ladbrokes Coral Group sportsbetting brand, and Paddy Power Betfair also purportedly saw their stocks negatively impacted.

There are approximately 34,300 FOBTs spread across the United Kingdom’s around 8,780 land-based betting shops and each machine currently allows players to wager as much as £100 ($139.34) every 20 seconds on virtual games such as roulette and bingo. But, anti-addiction campaigners reportedly refer to the machines first introduced in 2001 as the ‘crack cocaine’ of gambling and have been lobbying hard for a reduction in this maximum stake.

The Daily Mail reported that Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond (pictured) has now accepted the case for dramatically reducing FOBTs stakes and is currently engaged in discussions with the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Matt Hancock, and others about how to fill the estimated £400 million ($557.78 million) shortfall such a move would create in the public purse. It cited anonymous sources as revealing that the Conservative government of Prime Minister Theresa May could subsequently look to make up this predicted deficit by instituting higher taxes on other forms of gambling.

The newspaper reported that the bookmaking industry annually makes an average of £50,000 ($69,712) per machine via FOBTs and had responded to criticism by suggesting that it would be willing to accept a reduction in the maximum stake per spin to around £20 ($27.88). For its part, the Gambling Commission regulator had earlier suggested a figure of about the £30 ($41.82) mark while officials had purportedly moreover been considering lower alternatives of £10 ($13.94) and £5 ($6.97).

However, the Daily Mail reported that the £2 figure has been continually pushed by Hancock, who only assumed his latest Cabinet post in January, with a spokesperson for Her Majesty’s Treasury purportedly declaring that the government department is ‘fully supportive’ of his work to ‘balance the needs of vulnerable people [and] consumers who gamble responsibly’ with those working in the industry.