UK MPs Call for Gambling Commission Probe as Football Index Collapse Could Cost Bettors Millions

  • Football Index cutting share prices and entering administration could cost users £90m ($124.2m)
  • An MP group has written to the UK culture secretary calling for a probe into the UKGC's response
  • One bettor lost £4,000 ($5,338) in seven days this month, while another lost £20,000 ($27,792) 
  • BetIndex is searching for a buyer, while law firm Leigh Day looks into legal action for bettors
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A number of MPs have called for a probe into the UK Gambling Commission, with the recent collapse of Football Index potentially costing bettors more than £90m ($124.2m). [Image:]

Playing the blame game

The collapse of UK-based soccer gambling website Football Index has reportedly cost its users millions over the past few weeks. Now, bettors and British MPs are calling for someone to take responsibility, with parent company BetIndex Limited and the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) in the firing line. 

Trouble began on March 5 when Football Index announced a significant reduction in maximum dividends per share, causing share prices to plummet as much as 90%. Some customers lost thousands of pounds as a result. Six days later, the company entered administration and the UKGC suspended its operating license.

gamblers could lose more than £90m ($124.2m) altogether

While the company seeks financial advice and investment, its users’ cash remains locked up in the business. Reports from the BBC suggest that gamblers could lose more than £90m ($124.2m) altogether. As a result, a law firm is investigating whether there are grounds for legal action, while MPs have called for a probe into the UKGC’s actions.

Football Index labels itself as a “stock market of football.” Users purchased stocks in professional soccer players, earning dividend payments depending on a player’s performances or their notoriety. They could then trade those stocks to other users for a profit, paying a small commission to Football Index.

APPG urges UKGC inquiry

According to Leigh Day and a number of UK MPs, BetIndex is not the only responsible party in this ordeal. As the UK’s gambling regulator, the UKGC has also come under fire for allowing the situation to reach this point.

raises significant questions of the Gambling Commission”

In a letter to Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden this week, the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Gambling Related Harm called for a public inquiry into the collapse. Group chair Carolyn Harris described the ordeal as a “scandal” which “raises significant questions of the Gambling Commission.” Harris criticized the national regulator for licensing the platform and failing to “enact adequate oversight.”

On Monday, Neil McArthur stepped down from his role as UK Gambling Commission CEO after adopting the position in 2018. His statement announcing the decision made no mention of the Football Index collapse. Instead, he declared it “the right time to step away,” noting the government’s ongoing review of the Gambling Act 2005.

The high cost for bettors

Jersey-based sports betting company BetIndex first launched its Football Index website in 2015. In September last year, the Sunday Times and Fast Track named it the UK’s second-fastest-growing private technology company, with an annual sales rise of 306% over the past three years. As a result of this success, the company’s recent troubles have come at great cost to a high number of users.

Speaking with the BBC, one bettor explained how he lost more than £4,000 ($5,338) in seven days in early March. After sustaining “substantial losses,” Football Index dropped the maximum dividend per share from 14p ($0.19) to just 3p ($0.04). This cost Ben £1,400 ($1,945) in the space of just 24 hours. “Everyone affected by this wants to say how disappointed they are with the leadership of Football Index,” he said.

I’ve seen Football Index as my savings account.”

Another user joined Football Index in 2016. The long-term customer lost around £20,000 ($27,792) during the company’s recent struggles. He told the BBC that the losses have caused him to make difficult life changes, such as moving back into his family home. “Most of it was savings,” he explained. “I’ve seen Football Index as my savings account.”

The Guardian reports that BetIndex is currently searching for a buyer after the collapse of its platform. It also expressed hope that the company can “be rescued as a going concern.” However, with the money of gamblers still trapped in the business, law firm Leigh Day is currently investigating whether it can take legal action on behalf of users. Partner Nichola Marshall said there are “serious questions which will need answering.”

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