Bet365’s Denise Coates, Always a Good Place to Hang a Story

It’s that special time of year, as the financial results of Britain’s top gambling companies come tumbling forth; the face of Bet365 boss Denise Coates is once again plastered across the nation’s mainstream media.

And it’s the same picture of Ms. Coates, used year after year.

She looks happy and contented; smiling but not smug; a testament to her modesty given that she is one of the richest people in the world.

In the year ending March 2021, notes the media, she took a relatively modest salary of only £250 million (US$331m/€303m).

This is a £170 million (US$225m/€206m) pay cut on 2020’s £421 million (US$557.5m/€510.3m) – not counting her share of a £98 million (US$129.8m/€119m) dividend she shared with her father Peter and brother John.

It takes her pay and dividends over the past five years to more than  £1.3 billion (US$1.72bn/€1.57bn).

Take a breath.

Despite the very best efforts of professional geezer and thespian hardman Ray Winstone, urging us in his cultured Cockney patter to bet in-play on Bet365, media-shy Denise resolutely remains the face of the remarkable gambling empire built on the foundations of her father’s modest clutch of Stoke-on-Trent high street betting shops.

Back in 2000, at the turn of the century, Denise and her siblings saw the future. And the future for them was digital, iGaming.

A Bet that’s Paid-off in Billions

Aided by a £15 million (US$19.8m/€18.2m) loan from a pre-bankrupt Royal Bank of Scotland, in those halcyon days of soft lending and easy money, the Coates created an online genie that now claims to be the world’s biggest sports betting brand.

Bet365 Stadium, home of Stoke City Football Club

“I was convinced early on that gambling would work on the Internet,” the intuitive, yet reclusive, gaming entrepreneur once told a lucky reporter on her local newspaper, the Stoke Sentinel.

And boy was she right.

Today, Bet365’s employee payroll has grown from 12 to 5,000. As well as its Stoke-on-Trent headquarters, it has offices in Manchester, Gibraltar, Malta, Bulgaria, New Jersey in the USA and Australia.

Still a private business, it has 63 million customers and owns the local Stoke City Football Club.

It even has a big offshore market in China and the—perfectly legal, it insists–presence to outwit the country’s draconian anti-online gaming regime.

Nevertheless, in its latest financials, it would appear that the severe disruption to sporting events around the world during the global Covid-19 lockdowns were especially unkind to Bet365, a company synonymous with sports betting.

After years of rapid growth, the company’s FY21 filing reveals that Revenue flat-lined, up only one per cent, at £2.79 billion (US$3.69bn/€3.38bn) – despite the recognised boom in iGaming during the pandemic.

“[Although] sports resumed in the second half of the period and revenues increased to above pre-pandemic levels, the global suspension of sport across all levels resulted in dramatically reduced revenues,” Ms. Coates explained in the financial report.

“Allied with the significant migration of customers during the various lockdowns from sports betting to gaming, [this] led to overall revenues remaining broadly flat.”

Total wagers on sports were down by 13 per cent, the second consecutive year of declining stakes. And although gaming, overall, rose by eight per cent, the share of in-play betting in sporting revenue fell from 75 per cent to 68 per cent.

Big Apple Takes a Bite

Unlike its leading UK rivals Flutter and Entain, Bet365 also failed to get a licence for sports betting in the new, super hot New York State market

Still, all is not bad in the Bet365 Metaverse.

The company still made a profit of £469.2 million (US$621.3m/€568.8m) before tax in its FY21, significantly better than its last pre-pandemic year.

Overall, Bet365 paid a total of £66.2 million (US$87.6m/€80.2m) in tax, £49.4 million (US$65.41/€59.9m) more than in 2020.

And therein lies the rub for those staunch anti-gambling militants who would love to destroy both Denise Coates and the betting industry.

By paying her taxes, saying as little as possible, making super-sized donations to charity and responsible gambling schemes, and smiling that big fresh smile of success, she remains pretty much untouchable.

In the United States she’d be lauded as an inspiration and exemplar to entrepreneurs everywhere.

But on this side of the Atlantic–even though she’s the biggest taxpayer in the land–she’ll always be the woman who pays herself billions.