Up to the Boyle: Can New Gambling Commission Chairman Save the Regulator from the Brink?

Gambling Commission LogoWhatever Marcus Boyle has been up to of late, let’s hope he’s well rested, in good form and ready for the challenge.

He might just need the stomach for a fight after being announced as the new chairman of the UK Gambling Commission, starting as of Monday and being handed a five-year sentence, sorry, I mean contract.

Oliver Dowden, the culture secretary revealed the appointment earlier this week, and that brings to an end a lengthy recruitment process to find the successor to Bill Moyes.

“This is an important moment for the Gambling Commission as we fulfil our manifesto commitment to undertake the first major review of gambling laws in 15 years,” Dowden said. “New leadership will bring a new direction and focus for the Commission, and I very much look forward to working with Marcus.

“His expertise will be invaluable as he steers the Commission into a new era of gambling regulation fit for the digital age.”

Dowden also commented that he hopes his new man brings ‘fresh impetus’ to the regulator, and lord knows he might have to. The government is currently readying its White Paper into the UK gambling sector, and alongside revisions to present industry legislation the role and usefulness of the Commission is likely to fall under scrutiny.

Man On a Mission

Buzzwords like ‘transformational’, ‘change management’ and ‘reform’ have been used to describe Boyle’s past employment history, and he will certainly need those qualities at the Commission.

The qualified accountant has worked in a number of senior roles in the public and private sector, with his ‘robust financial management’ and ‘governance capabilities’ praised in the puff piece released by the government to announce his appointment.

Boyle has also operated as an equity partner at a number of major brands, and took on that role as well as that of COO, CSO and board member at Deloitte.

I’m not quite sure why this is relevant, but the government’s PR team have also been very keen to point out that he has served as the chair of the British American Drama Academy. Maybe it will help him to keep a straight face when he realises the size of the task facing him….

A Lot On His Plate

As is normally the case, the government’s marketing team put together the press release to announce Boyle’s appointment – that contains their typically business-like yet reverential tone.

But about three-quarters of the way down the page, things take a slightly unexpected turn when it’s revealed that the government is – and I quote verbatim – ‘the government is considering the role and resources of the Gambling Commission as part of its Gambling Act Review.’

That is a bizarre admission to make in a release documenting the new leader of said organisation, and while that is a part of a wider manifesto pledge to bring gambling legislation kicking and screaming into the 21st century, key figures in the Commission must be concerned about what the future holds.

If all goes to plan, the government’s findings from its Gambling Act consultation will be revealed later this year, and in amongst them could be a variety of changes as to how punters bet. There are likely to be tighter measures brought in to protect the vulnerable, and that may include affordability checks on deposits and even weekly or monthly loss limits – a tactic already utilised in much of Scandinavia.

And then the impact and importance of the Gambling Commission will be discussed. Does the regulator do enough to protect the integrity of the industry? Does it do enough to enhance the welfare of punters? Is it quick enough to act against brands that are found to be operating in a manner that might be described as controversial….or in some cases downright unlawful?

Boyle is going to need to make full use of his love of drama and the arts when explain away the Football Index episode. Yes, it was before his time, but it will now fall upon him to explain to ministers why the ‘football stock exchange’ platform was able to get a licence and then swindle, whether by design or by accident, millions of pounds from their customers.

It’s just one of a number of calamities to befall the UK Gambling Commission in recent years, and how they regroup under Boyle’s leadership will be crucial in determining their future.