CASH-strapped Chancellor Philip Hammond could be set to postpone plans to clamp down on fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs).

It had been expected that the change of maximum stake from £100 to £2, announced in March, would be included in this year’s Budget and come into force next year.

But with the machines currently worth £457 million in taxes every year, there’s speculation the Government might be worried about the hit to Treasury coffers.

SNP MP Ronnie Cowan says he has been told that the change to the highly-addictive machines might not be implemented until 2020. He accused Philip Hammond of failing to support “individuals and families whose lives have been devastated by the addictive nature of these machines’’.

The Treasury say they have never promised to implement the change by a certain date, so it would be wrong to say the proposals are delayed.

Cowan, who is vice-chair of an all-party Parliamentary Group on FOBTs, said billions had been lost in the days and months since the Government had started consulting on the machines.

“I’m deeply concerned that the UK Government, through HM Treasury, could kick into the long grass the implementation date for the stake reduction on FOBTs as late as April 2020 – almost a full two years after making the stake reduction announcement.

“It is now 700 days since the UK Government first began consulting on this issue and over £3.5 billion has been lost, often by some of the most vulnerable people in our society.

“Gambling related harm is becoming more prevalent as we continue to see our high streets filled with bookmakers, and our televisions constantly showing gambling adverts during live sports, and thus before the watershed.

“It’s vital the Chancellor announces the implementation of the £2 maximum unit stake on FOBTs in the upcoming Budget which would allow for all legislation to be in place by April 2019. Further delays only serve to line the pockets of the bookmakers and does little to support those individuals and families whose lives have been devastated by the addictive nature of these machines. If the Chancellor excludes it from this month’s Budget then we could be looking at a 2020 implementation date and that is simply not acceptable.”

Gambling Commission figures from 2016 revealed that nearly 14% of people who use FOBTs are problem gamblers.

In that year there were more than 233,000 occasions where individual gamblers lost more than £1000 on FOBTs. One user lost £13,777.90 in only seven hours. Landman Economics research has shown that the average FOBT user loses £192 a month.

Hammond is expected to reveal the date of the stake cut in the budget on October 29.

A Treasury spokesperson told the Sunday National: “There is no delay to the policy. 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.

“In order to cover any negative impact on the public finances, and to protect funding for vital public services, this change will be linked to an increase in Remote Gaming Duty, paid by online operators, at the relevant Budget.”

A spokesman for the Association of British Bookmakers said that the change in stake was going to have a major impact in shops across Scotland.

“The timeframe on stake change is a matter for government, however after it is implemented there will be hundreds of job losses across Scotland and there will be a significant readjustment in terms of shop numbers,” he said.

“Betting shops are working to adapt to this change in stake and those shops that survive will continue to work tirelessly to provide a safe place to gamble with staff interaction and industry leading responsible gambling measures.”