John Whittingdale – 2021 Statement on the Regulation of Football Index

The statement made by John Whittingdale, the Minister for Media and Data, in the House of Commons on 20 April 2021.

I am announcing today that DCMS will appoint an independent expert to conduct a review of the regulation of the Football Index gambling product, up to the point where its operator’s licence was suspended in March, and to make recommendations to the Government and the regulators.

Football Index’s operator, BetIndex Ltd, was granted a licence to provide online betting by the Gambling Commission in September 2015. The Commission began a formal review of this licence in May 2020 and suspended it in March 2021. The company is currently in administration. At the time of suspension, the product allowed customers (called traders) to place bets (shares) on the future performance of footballers. These bets lasted for three years, with payments called dividends being made according to a player’s performance. The product evolved to let customers buy and sell bets with prices fluctuating according to demand.

The Government are taking the situation regarding Football Index and the concerns of those affected by it very seriously. It is reported that many thousands of customers are affected by the product’s collapse, with some having lost very large sums. This review will aim to establish both how this situation came about and what lessons we can learn from it.

A principal purpose of the review will be to take an objective look at the decisions and actions of the Gambling Commission and any other relevant regulators, to provide a clear account of how the company’s activities were regulated and identify if there are potential areas for improvement in how complex products are treated.

Its findings will form part of the evidence informing the Government’s review of the Gambling Act 2005, which was announced in December 2020. The review is considering whether changes are needed to the regulatory framework around gambling, including the Commission’s powers and resources and how it uses them. It is also looking at how novel and complex products should be licensed and regulated.

The Commission’s regulatory investigation into BetIndex Ltd is continuing. This independent review is separate to that investigation and will be carried out and report in a way which will not compromise it. It will also be without prejudice to the ongoing administration proceedings, which among other things are looking at assets and liabilities of the company and recompense to customers.

Further details of the independent reviewer and terms of reference will be announced in due course. It is intended that the review will report publicly in the summer and will inform the wider Gambling Act Review. The Government aim to produce a White Paper setting out their findings from the review of the Gambling Act 2005 by the end of the year.