Investigation by Forensic Account and QC - BetIndex
Re: BetIndex Limited Trading as Football Index Jersey Registered Number 119040 Re: Remote Gambling account number 043061
Please accept this request for information to be provided under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 on the company named above.
I would like information to be made available regarding the investigation by a forensic accountant and QC into the activities of BetIndex Limited from May 2020 until conclusion of the review. Please ensure this request provides information relating to any official reports into their activities plus electronic and written correspondence.
If this request is too wide or unclear, I would be grateful if you could contact me as I understand that under the Act, you are required to advise and assist requesters. If any of this information is already in the public domain, please can you direct me to it, with page references and URLs if necessary.
If the release of any of this information is prohibited on the grounds of breach of confidence, I ask that you supply me with copies of the confidentiality agreement and remind you that information should not be treated as confidential if such an agreement has not been signed.
I understand that you are required to respond to my request within the 20 working days after you receive this letter. I would be grateful if you could confirm by email that you have received this request.
Thank you for your request which has been processed under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA).
In your email you have requested ‘information to be made available regarding the investigation by a forensic accountant and QC into the activities of BetIndex Limited from May 2020 until conclusion of the review. Please ensure this request provides information relating to any official reports into their activities plus electronic and written correspondence.’
Following the announcement of an independent expert review of the regulation of the Football Index gambling product, The Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, has appointed Malcolm Sheehan QC to lead the review. He will provide an independent expert account of the actions taken by the Gambling Commission and other relevant regulatory bodies and consider the lessons to be learnt for the future. He will have access to all the necessary information held by Government and regulatory bodies to conduct the review.
Whilst there has been a limited amount of correspondence between the Commission and DCMS, given the independent nature of the review, records generated by the QC are not held by the Gambling Commission at this stage.
I can confirm that the Commission does hold records generated by the forensic investigator referenced in your request. However, we do not ordinarily publish further details of information generated during investigations.
The Commission is a regulatory body with licensing, compliance and enforcement functions. Through our regulatory activity, the Commission aims to protect consumers and the wider public, and to raise standards in the gambling industry. The Commission seeks to ensure, through its ongoing compliance work, that licensees remain suitable to hold a licence and that they conduct themselves in a way which is consistent with the licensing objectives, the requirements of the Act, and the conditions of their licences and related codes of practice.
We release details of our enforcement activity through public statements which can be found on our website. The public statements will detail the nature of the failings by the operator and the amount of the fine or settlement. Further to this, the Commission also publishes a list of recent regulatory sanctions we have imposed on licence holders.
Due to the number of consumers interested in our investigation into BetIndex we have taken the decision to publish some further information about the background to our regulatory action.
When we publish these statements and sanctions, we take care to present as much information as possible to ensure that lessons can be learned by operators. However, we must also be careful not to reveal any information that could hinder our ability to conduct investigations or enable those we may investigate to avoid detection.
As such, the Commission is of the view that information that we do hold in relation to BetIndex, not otherwise in the public domain, is exempt from disclosure under section 31(g) FOIA and therefore will not be released.
31(1) provides that Information which is not exempt information by virtue of section 30 is exempt information if its disclosure under this Act would, or would be likely to, prejudice –
- (g) the exercise by any public authority of its functions for any of the purposes specified in subsection (2)
The relevant purposes referred to subsection (2) are:
- a) the purpose of ascertaining whether any person has failed to comply with the law,
- b) the purpose of ascertaining whether any person is responsible for any conduct which is improper,
- c) the purpose of ascertaining whether circumstances which would justify regulatory action in pursuance of any enactment exist or may arise,
- d) the purpose of ascertaining a person’s fitness or competence in relation to the management of bodies corporate or in relation to any profession or other activity which he is, or seeks to become, authorised to carry on.
Under section 31 it is necessary that I consider a public interest test to identify whether there is a wider public interest in disclosing this information as opposed to maintaining the exemption.
There is a legitimate public interest in promoting accountability and transparency of public authorities and disclosure of the requested information could demonstrate to stakeholders and relevant parties that the Commission is active in investigating. Furthermore, this disclosure may encourage stakeholders to work with us and contribute to our programme of work, increasing confidence in the Commission as a regulator and its ability to uphold the law.
Public disclosure of this information may also, by way of demonstrating our proactive work in this area, discourage unlawful activities being pursued.
However, disclosure of the requested information may prejudice the outcome of this and or any future investigation by the Commission, or another body by exposing investigative techniques and practices to the detriment of the public interest.
Providing information which makes specific individuals or events identifiable may deter stakeholders or other sources of information from sharing important information with us or other law enforcement agencies. Further to this, individuals involved could be alerted to the fact that the Commission was investigating a particular case and this would provide them with an opportunity to alter their behaviours and evade detection.
Once/if a formal regulatory decision has been made or the agreement of a regulatory settlement, the Commission will ordinarily publish all such decisions in full.
Having considered the above points, the Commission is of the view that the balance of the public interest lies with maintaining the exemption.
The Commission acknowledges that there is a public interest in promoting the accountability and transparency of public authorities and the importance of having sufficient information in the public domain to support consumers with their choice of operator, however, disclosure of the information would be damaging to the Commission as a regulatory body which ultimately serves to protect the wider public interest.
Review of the decision
If you are unhappy with the service you have received in relation to your Freedom of Information request you are entitled to an internal review of our decision. You should write to FOI Team, Gambling Commission, 4th floor, Victoria Square House, Victoria Square, Birmingham, B2 4BP or by reply to this email.
Please note, internal review requests should be made within 40 working days of the initial response. Requests made outside this timeframe will not be processed.
If you are not content with the outcome of our review, you may then apply directly to the Information Commissioner (ICO) for a decision. Generally, the ICO cannot make a decision unless you have already exhausted the review procedure provided by the Gambling Commission.
The ICO can be contacted at: The Information Commissioner’s Office (opens in a new tab), Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire SK9 5AF.
Information Management Team
Victoria Square House
Birmingham B2 4BP