A Very British Scoop: Profiling The Exclusive Club Of UKGC’s New Industry Forum

As the regulatory United Kingdom Gambling Commission (UKGC) gears up for its first-ever Industry Forum this new coming week to drive looming national gaming reform, iGF special correspondent Lauren Harrison takes a forensic look at the men–and two women–who are likely to have a big say on the future of British betting.

Looking for your Who’s Who Guide to the latest UKGC Industry Forum? We’ve got just the ticket. But first, The What and The Why?

The UKGC Industry Forum provides the commission with stakeholder opinions on regulations to ensure their policies are evidence-led. The Forum is made up of 10 members of the UK gambling sector and provides insight into the commission’s plans and services.

Members are appointed via application; over 40 applications were received this year. Members take on the voluntary advisory role for two- or three-year terms.

The Big 10 – Who’s Who

In the industry’s corner, with the responsibility of voicing numerous concerns and potential pitfalls during a time of unprecedented regulatory upheaval, are the big 10: AKA the Industry Forum, which this term sees reps from Merkur, Entain, Flutter, Rank Group and Betfred join the Advisory Board.

Nick Rust (OBE) – Chair

Nick Rust was made the Industry Forum Chair (two-year term) in November 2023. Rust has a distinguished career in the gambling industry, having been the CEO of the British Horseracing Authority for six-years. He currently heads the Industry Forum, alongside serving as the Chair of the Starting Price Regulatory Commission and as a Non-Executive Director of Redcar Racecourse.

Rust was also a founding partner of GVS EQ, a company specialising in equine sports, and is a trustee of the Injured Jockeys Fund. He was awarded an OBE in 2021 for his services to British horse racing.

Reflecting on the application process for the new Industry Forum members, Rust said: “We had more than 40 applications from across the gambling industry from people wanting to take an active role in the inaugural Industry Forum.

“It was difficult to leave quite a few of those people out, but I’m delighted with the quality and experience of the appointees, and hope as a group we can offer perspectives from across all parts of the industry which the Commission can draw upon to help evolve and improve its performance as the regulator.”

Tony Boulton – Merkur UK Director of Public and Political Relations

Rolling in at number two, and representing Merkur, is the Director of Public and Political Relations, Tony Boulton. He has long been considered a pioneering figure in latter-day game design, and is a crucial figure in the British Amusement Catering Trade Association (BACTA). His work history includes directorial roles at Gauselmann, before joining Merkur as the UK’s Director of Public and Political Relations.

Kirsty Caldwell – Founder and Director of Betsmart Consulting

Kirsty Caldwell, the Founder and Director of Betsmart Consulting, brings more than a decade’s experience to the table. Kirsty grew up in iGaming and compliance at William Hill, starting in customer service and ending as the Head of Online Compliance, before moving on to be VP of Compliance at Addison Global.

Four-and-a-half years ago, Caldwell launched Betsmart Consulting, an industry-leading compliance service that creates personalised solutions for those in the gambling industry. She holds degree and postgraduate qualifications in Governance, Risk and Compliance and Anti-money Laundering.

Commenting upon her appointment to the Forum, Caldwell told iGaming Future: “I’m thrilled to have been appointed as a member of the Industry Forum panel. I have worked in the gambling sector my whole career, and I feel this is a great way to give something back to the industry I’ve learned so much from.

“Hailing from a very ‘hands-on’ operational background, and working closely with a huge range of gambling providers over recent years, I think I’ll be able to provide detailed insight into how new Compliance controls will need to be implemented in practice and how they are likely to impact both operators and consumers. This will be particularly important over the coming months as we start to see the implementation of regulatory change across the board, in line with the Gambling Act overhaul.”

Charles Cohen – Founder and CEO of KYC Supplier Department of Trust

Charles Cohen is a self-described “Serial Technology Entrepreneur”, who has been working the gaming and payments industry since he first dipped his toe in the market in 1998, founding beenz.com. Upon its later sale, he created Probability plc, and more recently, in 2021, the Department of Trust, which helps leading gambling operators make frictionless, instant checks on the true financial well-being of customers using Open Banking – prime time for the new Gambling Review regulations.

Cohen is also a Non-executive Director of Games Global, one of the largest gaming aggregators and creators. For extra points, he’s also a published author and experienced speaker, coach and mentor.

Cohen shared with iGaming Future that: “The Industry Forum has the potential to become a valuable conduit between the Commission and the wider gambling ecosystem – not just the operators, but also those who provide the services, technologies and advice that make the industry tick and don’t generally get a seat at the table like this.”

Ashley Padgett – Director of Compliance and AML at Flutter Entertainment UK & IRE

Before working as the Director of Compliance and AML for Flutter, Padgett spent five-years with Sky Betting and has a background in IT audit management at William Hill and as a risk consultant for Deloitte. He joins the Forum as its fifth member.

Mark Pearson – Head of Media at Betfred

Bringing the media perspective is Mark Pearson, and boy, does he have the credentials.

Pearson worked at Manchester United’s television station MUTV from 1998 until 2009. He was at the forefront of the channel’s relaunch in 2006. In 2009, he accepted the position of Head of Media at Betfred, saying:

“I have loved every minute at Manchester United and will be ever thankful for the opportunity they gave me. But when the world’s biggest bookmaker comes knocking on your door […] you can’t say no.”

In 2013, Pearson spearheaded Betfred’s first TV channel, which broadcast through 1,365 high street bookies and was said to have completely revolutionised the betting shop experience, allowing for sport and package previews.

Nigel Roddis – Managing Director of BritBet

Roddis has been at the helm of BritBet since its inception in 2018, the same year it won the contract to manage Britain’s 55 betting rings services and introduced new bet types to punters.

Running the pool bets at Britain’s biggest racecourses and serving over six million customers yearly is no easy feat. Still, it does make Roddis the perfect representative and voice for the Horse Racing industry in this term’s Industry Forum.

Leo Walker – Customer Operations Director, Entain UK & IRE

Starting on the retail floor, Leo Walker worked his way up, rising to the role of Entain’s Customer Operations Director based on more than two decades of experience in the gaming industry.

His previous career highlights include being Entain’s Head of Greyhound Product and Trading Insight, Ladbrokes’ Head of Retail Trading, Coral’s Head of Customer Optimisation, and trading analyst.

Commenting on his acceptance to the Forum, Walker said he is “eager” to join and “contribute to discussions that shape the future of the industry”.

Helen Walton – Co-Founder and Chief Commercial Officer, G.Games

Helen Walton co-created G.Games by merging Gamevy and Gluck Games in 2013. The casino games studio creates around 40 new games annually and supplies over 1,000 UK casinos, partnering with EveryMatrix, Slotegrator, and SoftGamings. Their signature move is adding the “G-Twist” to titles and filling market gaps with innovative new games.

Before rising to the top as CCO at G.Games, Walton managed massive cosmetic brands and created a best-selling Agile course on transforming organisational management. She was also the Non-Executive Director at Spark the Change for six years and is a graduate of English Lit from Cambridge University.

Subsequently, Walton sits well-placed to represent game creators in the Forum and might turn out to be the most eloquent member. Her regular attendance on high-level panels at international conferences suggests so!

David Williams – Rank Group Public Affairs

Last on the Industry Forum list, but never least, is David Williams, current Director of Public Affairs at The Rank Group (since 2018) and former Media Relations Director at Ladbrokes.

With over two decades of experience in media and comms, Williams has represented some of the biggest gambling brands in the business. He makes the perfect partner for Pearson in bringing the media and public affairs angle to discussions.

But…(There May Be) Turbulent Times Ahead

As the Gambling Review looms, this term’s Industry Forum members face a formidable task. They will be at the forefront, representing the industry as it implements a slew of new regulations, some of the strictest in UK gambling history.

These regulations include affordability checks, limits on slot stakes, and more, underscoring the crucial role of the Forum in uncertain times.

The Industry Forum’s first meeting takes place in this upcoming last week of March.

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