Flutter’s new UK & Ireland CEO has made his presence felt by challenging the business to “invent the future of the gambling industry” in a welcome email to colleagues.

Today (5 September) officially marks a first day in the office for new boss Ian Brown, who was selected in July to replace outgoing UK&I CEO Conor Grant after two years in charge.

According to an internal email seen by iGaming NEXT, Grant will continue to lead the business for the foreseeable future while Brown gets to grips with his new surroundings.

“What that means right now is that Conor is very much still running the business until we tell you that it’s time for the next phase,” said Brown in a note to staff.

“Conor has kindly agreed to do this to enable me to spend more time learning the business before stepping into the full-on demanding workload that he holds down every day.”

Indeed, Brown will take the next few weeks to explore as much of Flutter’s UK&I business – which includes Paddy Power and Sky Bet – as he possibly can by visiting various teams.

“I want to hear from all of you what you love about this place, what we’re getting right, and indeed what we can do better or anything different we might want to try – because even the best businesses can always do better,” wrote Brown.

“We have our Long-Term Plan and the changes to team structures and those plans don’t change – we need to deliver them.

Flutter UK&I CEO Ian Brown: “It is really up to us to invent the future: not just for our business, but also the industry. We have the best cards, and we are playing to win.”

“Beyond that, I’m sure you’ve all got thoughts about what we might want to try doing differently at the right time, and I would love to hear them all please.

“As you get to know me, you’ll learn there’s nothing you can’t say to me – as long as you’re polite of course. So please just tell me straight. That will save us all a load of time,” he added.

As well as being a straight shooter, Brown touched on the recent rationalisation process at Flutter UK&I that has led to multiple redundancies due to the “challenging external environment” as a result of economic changes and increased UK gambling regulation.

“I know right now that we are working through some important if sometimes painful changes in order to set us up for more success in the future – and it’s that future that I’m really excited about,” said Brown.

He described Flutter as the UK market leader in multiple ways and said the company had the best team in the sector across more than 7,000 staff.

“It is really up to us to invent the future: not just for our business, but also the industry. We have the best cards, and we are playing to win,” wrote the new chief executive.

Brown’s gambling industry experience is limited but he is a high-flying corporate executive having managed operations for Rentalcars.com and Booking.com between 2014 and 2019.

He arrives at Flutter from UKFast – a Manchester-based provider of hosting, cloud and cybersecurity solutions – where he also held the role of CEO.

Brown graduated from the prestigious University of Oxford in 1997 with a degree in engineering, economics and management.

He will be responsible for implementing any changes that arise at Flutter UK&I as a result of the government’s Gambling Act review white paper, which is expected to be published in the coming weeks following the confirmed appointment of Liz Truss as Prime Minister.

Flutter Entertainment will make redundancies across its UK & Ireland operating division following an internal review of operations.

The operator said the UK’s operating landscape has changed to such a degree in 2022 that it has been forced to respond to a “more challenging external environment”.

This, combined with internal structural challenges, means that some job roles will be directly impacted over the coming weeks and months.

In an internal email seen by iGaming NEXT, Flutter UK & Ireland CEO Conor Grant said: “The proposals do mean that there are some people whose roles are directly impacted. It doesn’t mean that they will automatically be leaving the business. We expect that many will either be offered, or be successful in securing, other roles in the proposed structures.

“However, should our proposals be accepted, some people will unfortunately leave the business. This does not diminish the contribution that they have made in their time with us, or our appreciation for all their hard work.

“It is important for you all to know that people who are directly impacted are in this group as a result of the proposed future design. It is not a reflection on their performance,” he added.

Flutter’s UK & Ireland employees are set to discover their fate in a meeting today (28 July) at 11am.

Grant handed in his resignation last week, announcing his intention to spend more time with his family outside of work.

He will be replaced by Ian Brown, chief executive of B2B internet hosting firm UKFast, who will now take charge of a streamlined organisation, which includes Paddy Power and Sky Bet from the Flutter brand portfolio.

iGaming NEXT understands the internal review has seen Flutter formulate a “simpler, flatter” organisation designed to enable faster decision making and clearer accountabilities.

This has been driven by an increased focus on cost, which Flutter said will allow it to continue investing in order to maintain its market position in the UK and Ireland.

Flutter said in a statement: These proposed changes reflect the next phase of our integration, as we look to consolidate parallel operating models and position the business to continue growing against a more challenging operating environment.

“While we have sought to minimise the impact this will have on our colleagues, with most employees affected being redeployed into alternative or newly created roles, the proposals may lead to a small number of job losses.

“We are communicating with those affected as part of a consultation process and will be providing them with the support they need throughout.

The cutbacks have come at a time where UK operators are preparing for the enforcement of stricter regulation as a result of the government’s gambling act review.

When the Conservative party elects a new leader to replace outgoing Prime Minister Boris Johnson, a white paper will be published on the topic.

It is expected to detail wide-ranging legislative changes for a sector which has so far been governed by a law created in 2005.

Proposals are likely to include online casino stake limits of between £2 and £5 and stricter affordability checks to ensure that consumers are not spending beyond their means.

Flutter Entertainment has recruited former newspaper journalist Steve Hawkes as its director of reputational and public affairs in the UK and Ireland.

Hawkes held roles with several major British newspapers – including The Mirror, The Times, The Sun and The Telegraph – since the early 2000s, before joining international communications agency BCW Global as senior director and head of strategic media in 2019.

In his role at BCW, Hawkes provided senior strategic communications advice and media counsel to the company’s clients across its London office. He is expected to begin his new role at Flutter in August this year.

Commenting on his new appointment on LinkedIn, Hawkes said: “Delighted to say that next month I will be joining Flutter, the FTSE30 global sports betting and gaming business, as director of reputational and public affairs in the UK and Ireland.

“Flutter operates some of the world’s most popular sports betting and gaming brands, including Betfair, Paddy Power and Sky Bet, and is committed to leading the way in player protection and safer gambling. I can’t wait to get started,” he added. 

This is not the first time the UK gambling industry has looked towards Fleet Street for help with managing its waining reputation.

In February 2020, the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) recruited PoliticsHome editor Kevin Schofield as director of communications and digital. He has since left the trade body to return to journalism as the political editor of HuffPost.

A changing of the guard is underway at Flutter after UK and Ireland CEO Conor Grant announced he would stand down from his role at the helm of the business to dedicate more time to his family life.

Grant’s replacement, Ian Brown, will now join Flutter from outside the gaming industry, having previously held leadership roles as the CEO of Rentalcars.com between 2014 and 2019 and following that, as the SVP of Booking.com.

Brown is expected to join the business in September.

Flutter Entertainment-owned Sky Betting & Gaming (SBG) will pay a £1.2m fine to the Gambling Commission for a high-profile marketing failure.

On 2 November 2021, SBG distributed a Sky Vegas promotional offer of 100 free spins to customers who bet £5 to 41,395 self-excluded gamblers and a further 249,159 individuals who had previously unsubscribed from the brand’s marketing emails.

The Gambling Commission ruled the actions breached SBG’s licence conditions and therefore decided to impose the fine.

“This latest fine would have been a lot higher had Sky Betting & Gaming allowed any of the self-excluded customers to actually gamble, failed to cooperate, and not taken decisive action aimed at preventing a repeat,” said Gambling Commission CEO Andrew Rhodes.

“Self-excluded customers are likely to be suffering gambling harm and should absolutely not be sent direct marketing that could tempt them back into gambling.

“We would advise all operators to learn from Sky Betting & Gaming’s costly errors and ensure their systems are robust enough to always prevent the self-excluded, and those who have clearly rejected marketing, from receiving promotional material,” he concluded.

Conor Grant, CEO of Flutter’s UK & Ireland division, said: “Flutter takes its responsibility to protect customers extremely seriously, but on this occasion we did not do enough. As soon as the error was identified, we ceased communications until the fault could be rectified, notified regulators and apologised to the affected customers. 

“We also conducted a thorough investigation into what went wrong, the results of which were provided to regulators, and have put in place measures to ensure that this cannot happen again. We accept the Gambling Commission’s findings and once again apologise to those customers who we let down.”

This is the latest in a series of fines and regulatory settlements imposed by the Commission in recent months.

Last week, the regulator revealed a £9.4m fine to be imposed upon 888, in addition to extensive independent auditing, for failures identified during an investigation ending in October 2020.

Last year (2020-21) was a record year for Gambling Commission fines and regulatory settlements, with the regulator demanding a total £32.1m from operators for breaches of their licence conditions.

Flutter Entertainment has revealed that Ben Reilly, former commercial director for Paddy Power Sports, has been appointed as MD of Tombola following the operator’s purchase of the UK-based bingo brand.

Flutter announced yesterday (11 January) that it had received all necessary regulatory confirmations for the acquisition to go ahead, and that the purchase had therefore been completed on Monday in cash, fully funded through the operator’s current cash and debt facilities.

The acquisition was first announced in November last year, with Flutter revealing that it had agreed to acquire the brand for an enterprise value of £402m.

With around 400,000 average monthly players and more than 700 employees, Tombola generated pro forma revenue of £165m and EBITDA of £38.5m in the financial year ended April 2021.

Flutter said the addition of the brand to its portfolio would deliver several strategic advantages to the business, including diversification of product and the addition of an engaged and sustainable player base.

Conor Grant, CEO of Flutter’s UK & Ireland division, said in a post on LinkedIn: “I am delighted to announce we have completed the acquisition of Tombola, the UK’s leading online bingo operator. 

“This acquisition will strengthen our gold medal position in the UK by providing us with a highly engaged and passionate recreational base, and allowing us to offer market-leading products across all segments, including bingo and arcade games.”

Grant added that incoming Reilly had risen through the ranks at Paddy Power Online since joining in 2010, and said he looked forward to working closely together in the future.

Reilly also took to the social media platform to share the news. He added: “After an incredible 11+ years in Paddy Power I’m hanging up the Paddy Pants and moving on to a new position as MD at Tombola.

“Really excited to learn about the business, meet the people and welcome Tombola into the Flutter Entertainment group!”

Shares were up in Flutter Entertainment (FLTR) by 1.93% to 11,425p per share on the London Stock Exchange on Tuesday.