Tuesday, 13 April 2021

UK Government Launches Investigation Into Football Index Collapse

Football Index Website

The UK Government has reportedly launched an investigation into the collapse of Football Index.

The Times has reported that UK ministers are “deeply concerned” over the website’s collapse, which led users to lose around £100 million. Ministers are launching a probe into the circumstances behind its fall into administration and how the betting site, which dubbed itself as the “football stock market”, was regulated.

Football Index, operated by the New Jersey-based BetIndex, was founded in 2015 and held a betting license from the UK Gambling Commission. Rather than offering traditional betting, the website allowed users to buy “shares” in footballers and receive dividends based on their performance.

The website entered administration earlier this year and had its Gambling Commission license and Betting and Gaming Council membership revoked. In addition, the site’s sponsorships with Nottingham Forest and Queens Park Rangers were also cancelled. All trading operations were suspended, customers reported massive losses, and some users have launched legal action against the betting website.

Speaking about the website’s failure, a government source said that something “appears to have gone very wrong here” before adding: “This case further reinforces the need for our comprehensive review of gambling laws. This independent investigation into Football Index will feed into that work and if we need to make changes to regulation to protect people, we will.”

The UK Gambling Commission has faced criticism over its regulation of Football Index. In a letter to UK ministers, the All Party Parliamentary Group for Gambling Related Harm (GRH APPG) described the situation as a “scandal” and highlighted that the case demonstrated the need for an overhaul of the UK’s gambling regulatory framework.

The news comes as the UK Government is in the midst of its review of the Gambling Act 2005. As part of its review, the Government has announced it will be increasing the minimum age for National Lottery games and is looking to make major reforms within the gambling industry, including a potential ban on gambling sports sponsorships.

GambleAware Publishes Gambling Review Submission

The UK Government launched its review into the Gambling Act 2005 with a call for evidence that ended in March 2021. This week, leading gambling charity GambleAware published its submission for the review and has called for a mandatory levy on the gambling industry to fund the research, education and treatment of problem gambling.

Under current legislation, licensed operators are required to make donations to responsible gambling organisations but are allowed to donate as little or as much as they want. GambleAware stated in its submission that it had received £15.6 million in voluntary donations in the last twelve months before criticising current legislation for allowing uncertainty in funding.

As obtained by FocusGN, the submission reads: “The voluntary nature of the current arrangements results inevitably in uncertainty of funding year to year and to significant variations in cash flow within the year. This unpredictable funding model represents a significant challenge given that a key function of GambleAware as a commissioning body is to provide assurance to funded services about recurrent income streams so that expert clinical teams can be established and sustained to provide treatment and support for those who need help.”

Also in its submission, the charity urged the Government to maintain a focus on reducing the social impacts of gambling harm on society and stated that problem gambling should be classed as a public health concern. The charity also stated that problem gambling should be included in the Government’s goal in improving “population health”.

Addressing gambling sports sponsorships in its submission, GambleAware stated that certain types of advertisements maintained a “prevalence and acceptability of gambling”. It also called for greater power to the UK Gambling Commission for the regulation of loot boxes in video games, which have been heavily compared to gambling.

GambleAware’s submission comes several weeks after charity GamCare published a survey highlighting support for tighter safer gambling measures. The survey, which polled 343 people, showed backing for a ban on gambling operators sponsoring sports events and football shirts, as well as default limits on spending and time at gambling websites. Respondents also criticised the current regulatory framework and called for more protection for gamblers and young people.

Pragmatic Play Launches Casino Content With White Hat Gaming

Also this week, game developer Pragmatic Play announced a content agreement with casino operator White Hat Gaming. Under the new partnership, Pragmatic Play has launched its slot and live casino portfolio with the operator, allowing users registered with White Hat Gaming casino sites to play Pragmatic Play’s content.

Games made available under the partnership include popular slots like Sweet Bonanza, Wolf Gold, the John Hunter series, as well as all of Pragmatic Play’s live casino games; Blackjack, Roulette, its game-show titles, and the recently launched Mega Roulette and Mega Wheel.

Bhotesh Maheshwari, the Vice President of Commercial Strategy and Operations at Pragmatic Play, said in a statement: “Our multi-product portfolio continues to pay dividends for us as we grow across the globe. With a diverse and cutting-edge offering, our titles offer an engaging experience for players of all tastes.”

Andy Whitworth, the Chief Commercial Officer at White Hat Gaming, added: “Adding content across multiple verticals allows us to effortlessly increase our reach. We look forward to offering Pragmatic Play’s games on our platform. We have been impressed with Pragmatic Play’s desire to work with us as we implement our strategic growth plans.”

The news of Pragmatic Play’s partnership follows from several other notable agreements the developer has made with operators such as Novibet, Estelarbet, Betplay, M88, and numerous others. These agreements are all part of Pragmatic Play’s focus on extending its player reach worldwide.