Shares in gambling companies William Hill, Ladbrokes and Paddy Power Betfair fell sharply today on reports that Britain is set to lower the limit on betting shop terminals to £2 from £100 in a move that could hit their revenue. 

The move is being taken to help tackle the issue of problem gambling, the Sunday Times newspaper reported, citing an ally of new culture secretary Matt Hancock. 

The UK government said in October it would reduce the top stake on the machines to between £2-50 from £100 depending on the outcome of a consultation which is due to end tomorrow. 

The move could mean a sharp reduction in revenue from the fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs) in shops for companies such as Ladbrokes Coral, William Hill and Paddy Power Betfair.

Shares in William Hill were down 14.5% in earlier trade, while Ladbrokes shares were down 12.3% and Paddy Power Betfair was off 1.8%. 

There are almost 8,800 betting shops in the UK and companies are allowed to install a maximum of four machines per shop. 

Ladbrokes Coral Group, currently Britain's largest bookmaker, has more than 3,500 betting shops employing over 25,000 people. William Hill has 2,376 betting shops employing more than 12,500. 

Ladbrokes, which is being bought by GVC for up to £4 billion, made about £800m of revenue from gaming machines in 2016. 

Bookmakers say they would be forced to close stores if they lose the income from the machines.