After the recent collapse of soccer gambling website Football Index, UK MPs are planning to launch an investigation which could impact an ongoing review of the Gambling Act. [Image: Shutterstock.com]
MPs demand answers
The recent collapse of UK-based soccer gambling website Football Index has reportedly cost its users around £100m ($137.5m). Now, government ministers are calling for a full investigation into the company’s descent into insolvency.
Owned by Jersey-based sports betting operator BetIndex, Football Index officially entered administration last month, shortly after the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) suspended its operating license.
As reported by The Times on Sunday, members of Parliament are “deeply concerned” regarding the company’s failure. A government source told reporters that MPs plan to launch a full investigation into the circumstances behind the collapse as a result.
If we need to make changes to regulation to protect people, we will.”
This investigation could also have an impact on an ongoing government review of the Gambling Act 2005, which dictates the UK’s gambling regulation. The source said the investigation “will feed into” the regulatory review, concluding: “If we need to make changes to regulation to protect people, we will.”
Background on the collapse
Football Index described itself as a “football stock market.” It allowed its users to purchase stocks in professional soccer players, earning dividend payments depending on a players’ performance or notoriety. The site would pay up to 14p per player share daily.
On March 5 this year, Football Index announced that because of financial difficulties, it was slashing the maximum dividend per share to 3p. Some customers lost thousands of pounds as a result. Last month, one user told the BBC how the share price reduction had cost him around £20,000 ($27,792).
The company accepted defeat later that month, entering administration to seek financial advice and investment. According to The Guardian, BetIndex is currently searching for a buyer, and has expressed hope that the company can “be rescued as a going concern.” However, considerable customer funds remain locked up in the business.
Law firm Leigh Day is currently investigating whether it can take legal action on behalf of Football Index users. Partner Nichola Marshall has said there are “serious questions which will need answering.” The firm is working in collaboration with Clean-Up Gambling, a group campaigning for stricter UK gambling regulation.
UKGC in the firing line
As the market’s regulator, the UKGC has received criticism for its role in the Football Index situation. Calling for a review into the collapse, the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Gambling Related Harm noted the regulator’s failure to “enact adequate oversight.” Group chair Carolyn Harris said the ordeal “raises significant questions of the Gambling Commission.”
dangerous pyramid scheme”
Additionally, a document seen by The Guardian last month supposedly revealed that the UKGC received a warning regarding Football Index in January 2020. The business report described Football Index as a “dangerous pyramid scheme,” with estimated liabilities exceeding £1m ($1.4m) per month. The author warned that “should user growth stop or decline, the company would quickly find itself unable to pay these liabilities to users.”
According to an update on the Gambling Commission website in March, the national regulator began a formal review into the soccer gambling website on May 20 last year. However, at the time it concluded that there were “no grounds to suspend their operating license.”
The MP investigation into Football Index’s collapse comes at a significant time for the UK gambling industry, with a review of the Gambling Act 2005 well underway. MPs will consider a number of subjects during the process, including the introduction of stake limits for online gambling, possible curtails on gambling advertising in sports, and the issue of loot boxes.