UK Gambling Commission Chief Neil McArthur Resigns Following Football Index Controversy

Posted on: March 16, 2021, 12:29h. 

Last updated on: March 16, 2021, 03:16h.

UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) CEO Neil McArthur has resigned. The shocking announcement comes in the aftermath of the gaming agency facing public criticism for not better regulating the Football Index.

UK Gambling Commission McArthur UKGC
UK Gambling Commission CEO Neil McArthur is seen here in 2019 delivering the regulator’s plan for the 2019-20 fiscal year. McArthur abruptly stepped down today, March 16, 2021. (Image: SBC News)

McArthur has been with the UKGC for nearly 15 years. He joined the agency in 2006 as general counsel and rose to the role of chief executive in 2018. 

McArthur’s tenure as CEO oversaw numerous regulatory reforms. Most were aimed at better protecting players and preventing potential societal harms from the rapidly changing digital gaming industry. His leadership included the banning of gambling on credit cards, enhanced verification age checks, and stricter operating policies for iGaming products.

His departure comes amid a far-reaching review of the UK’s gaming industry. The probe is being carried out by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sports (DCMS).

“With a review of the Gambling Act underway, now feels the right time to step away and allow a new chief executive to lead the commission on the next stage in its journey,” McArthur said.

UK Gaming Overhaul

The primary purpose of DCMS’s review of the 2005 Gambling Act is to make sure that laws and regulations are updated for the modern era, where there are just as many gamblers online as there are seated in high street betting shops.

Numerous changes have already been implemented. Maximum wagers on fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) have been slashed from £100 ($139) to £2 ($2.78), interactive online slot machines have been required to slow down between spins to give players a chance to breathe, and the minimum age to play the National Lottery is set to increase from 16 to 18 years of age. 

Additional protocols are being considered, including requiring online gamblers to prove that they can afford their losses. 

Some Parliament members believe more stringent gaming safeguards are needed. These members point to the Football Index scandal as a prime example.

During McArthur’s term, the UKGC approved an operating license for the soccer player exchange. The Football Index is a cross between fantasy sports and stock trading. The site facilitates gamblers buying and selling shares of soccer players, with dividends paid based on their players’ performances.

But the Football Index recently restructured its business model by cutting dividends to “ensure the long-term sustainability of the platform.” The change resulted in player valuations plummeting, and customers losing more than $125 million in a little more than a week to the site. 

“This is exploitation, plain and simple,” said Labour MP Carolyn Harris. “What was the Gambling Commission doing? Unacceptable. Unprofessional. Unbelievable.”

New UKGC Leaders

With McArthur’s departure, the UKGC says Deputy Chief Executive Sarah Gardner and Chief Operating Officer Sally Jones will jointly become acting chief executives. A permanent CEO will not be named until outgoing UKGC Chairman Bill Moyes is succeeded later this year. 

The new chair will be tasked with deciding on the next UKGC chief executive.