| Founder of
online bookmaker becomes UKs highest paid boss as concern rises about
number of lives ruined by gambling addiction
Denise Coates, the billionaire founder and boss of gambling
firm Bet365, paid herself £217m last year as her company made a
£525m profit from a record £47bn of bets.
who started Bet365 in a Portakabin in a Stoke car park 17 years ago, is now the
best-paid boss in Britain, dwarfing previous titleholder ad man Sir Martin
Sorrell on £48m.
Coatess £199,305,000 pay this year
is more than 1,300 times that of the prime minister and more than double the
wage bill of Stoke City, the Premier League club owned by Bet365. On top of the
£199m, Coates collected £18m in dividend payments.
started out as cashier, marking up results in a small number of betting shops
owned by her father, Peter, as a sideline to his main business of football
After graduating with a first in econometrics
the application of statistical methods to economic data from Sheffield
University, she expanded the familys Provincial Racing betting chain to
nearly 50 shops.
As the millennium approached, Coates decided the
future of betting lay online and she bought the Bet365.com domain on eBay for
$25,000, a move that has catapulted her and her family up the UKs wealth
Coates justified her pay packet as fair recognition for the
significant growth in the firms gambling profits, which rose
15% to £514m. Revenue from gambling in the 2016-17 financial year jumped
39% to a record £2.15bn, according to the accounts filed at Companies
Coates was awarded a CBE in 2012 and was named one of the 100
most powerful women in the UK in 2013 by Woman's Hour on BBC Radio 4. She has
become known as the patron of the Potteries for employing a
significant number of people in Stoke, however, Bet365 moved the base for much
of its gambling operations to Gibraltar in 2014.
wagered almost £47bn last year, up more than £10bn on the previous
year. The companys TV adverts are fronted by the actor Ray Winstone and
are broadcast during many high-profile sporting events.
The leap in
Bet365s profits comes as the government and charities grow increasingly
concerned about the number of lives ruined by gambling addiction.
Tracey Crouch, a minister at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and
Sport, has warned that as many as 600,000 Britons are problem
gambling. The Gambling Commission, the industry regulator, has said 2
million people in the UK are either problem gamblers or at risk of addiction.
Mike Dixon, the chief executive of the charity Addaction, said:
It cannot be right that the CEO of a betting company is paid 22 times
more than the whole industry donates to treatment.
The gambling industry is paying nowhere near enough for the
treatment of gambling addicts. It means that there are a lot of people are not
getting any help at all. It seems indefensible for the industry to be giving so
little, when it is making so much money.
A spokesman for campaign
group Fairer Gambling said: As losses from Britains gamblers
continue to spiral out of control, so has executive pay. The entire gambling
industry donated just £8m to research, education and treatment last year.
If these companies can afford to pay their executives millions of pounds a
year, there is no excuse for such chronically underfunded treatment
Stefan Stern, director of the High Pay Centre
thinktank, said Coates pay was just a ridiculously massive sum of
money, adding: When a business is making its money in a way that
causes a great deal of concern about its level of social responsibility it is
even more unacceptable to see someone extracting this amount of wealth while so
many people are left as victims in the wake of its business operations.
Business does not operate in isolation from society. They
shouldnt be able to get rich while effectively creating massive social
problems for the rest of us, who have to pick up the bill for the social cost
of people broken by their commercial success.
In her statement to
shareholders, Coates said: [Bet365] recognises its responsibility to
minimise gambling-related harm and to keep crime out of gambling.
The group is committed to developing an evidence-based approach
to responsible gambling. To this end, the group continues to work with research
partners on a number of projects to improve its methods of identifying harmful
play and deliver more effective harm-minimisation interventions.
The group is assured that its efforts over the past year will
continue to evolve over the coming months, and will make further progress in
the prevention and minimisation of gambling-related harm.
before the bumper pay day, Coates and her family were listed as the 22nd
richest in Britain with a £5bn fortune more than Sir Richard
Branson with £4.9bn. Coates, who keeps out of the public eye, owns just
over 50% of the company. Together with the rest of her family including
brother, John, a co-CEO; husband Richard Smith, a Stoke City director, and
father Peter, the chairman of Stoke City the Coateses own 93% of Bet365.
The company made a £50m donation to the Denise Coates Foundation,
which mostly funds medical and education charities and, according to its latest
accounts, has not made any donations to gambling or addiction charities.
Coates, who was awarded a CBE for services to the community and
business five years ago, has become known as the patron of the
Potteries for her decision to continue to base Bet365 in Stoke, where it
is the largest private sector employer.
We mortgaged the betting
shops and put it all into online, she said in a rare interview with the
Guardian in 2012. We knew the industry required big startup costs but
we gambled everything on it. We were the ultimate gamblers if you
She lives quietly in a farmhouse in Sandbach, just outside
of Stoke, but drives an Aston Martin with personalised number plates.