Neil McArthur, the chief executive of the UK Gambling Commission, has sensationally resigned from his post in the middle of a governmental regulatory review.
The Commission has come under fire in some circles, with many accusing the independent body of not being ‘fit for purpose’.
However, McArthur’s resignation still comes at an extraordinary time for the gambling sector in the UK, with the government pressing ahead with their wide-ranging review of the present legislation.
That includes a new look at the digital side of gambling, with tougher checks on players – including potential ‘affordability checks’ that could limits player to £100 in losses per month – mooted. Even in his time in office, McArthur has overseen a ban on credit card betting, changes to how slot games are designed and developed, and a reduction in the maximum stake on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals, which enabled punters to play roulette and other casino titles in high street betting shops.
In a posting on the Commission’s website, McArthur said of his departure:
“I am proud of everything the Gambling Commission has achieved during my 15 years with the organisation. We have taken significant steps forward to make gambling fairer and safer and I know that I leave the organisation in a strong position to meet its future challenges.
“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 joined the Commission back in 2006, and had held the post of chief executive since 2018. He will be temporarily replaced by Sarah Gardner, his deputy, although the search for a permanent replacement has already begun.
For What We Are About to Receive
There is a temptation to speculate and pontificate when decisions are made at such strange times. Is McArthur’s resignation in protest of something?
Soon, we will know the results of the Commission’s consultation into proposed affordability checks, and there is the possibility that the outcome of that has led McArthur to make his decision.
He is known for being a fairly conservative leader, and the fear is that proposals for those wealth checks are set to become a reality – perhaps against his wishes.
There are other things that could possibly have been factors. The Commission is currently in the process of deciding who to award the National Lottery licence too, with Camelot’s current deal coming to an end.
And then there was the Football Index debacle, with the so-called ‘stock exchange’ falling into administration and potentially costing their customers hundreds of thousands in money that they might not get back.
Football Index has been called a ‘Ponzi scheme’ by some, and questions have been raised as to why the Commission was willing to grant them a licence to operate.
The government has become increasingly combative towards the Commission, and a Public Accounts Committee of the House of Commons described the regulator as ‘torpid and toothless, while the National Audit Office even questioned the relevance of the body, suggesting they were ‘unlikely to be fully effective in addressing risks and harms to consumers’ in their current guise.