Business

Bet365: UK's best-paid boss sees pay rise to £265m

Denise Coates collecting CBE in 2012 Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Denise Coates was awarded a CBE in 2012 for services to the community and business

The UK's best-paid boss, co-founder of online gambling firm Bet365 Denise Coates, has received another bumper pay rise.

The firm's accounts show compensation, for the firm's "highest paid director" rising to £265m including dividends.

That was £48m higher than the total she received last year as the popularity of online gambling continues to grow.

However the industry is facing mounting criticism for not doing enough to deal with problem gambling and addiction.

The privately held company is owned jointly by Ms Coates and members of her direct family, including her brother John who is joint chief executive and her father Peter, the firm's chairman. Last year Ms Coates' pay and dividends were reported to total £217m.

In the year to the end of March her basic pay rose from £199m to £220m. The firm paid out £90m in dividends in the same year, half of which are thought to have gone to Ms Coates, as the owner of half of Bet365's shares.

Ms Coates earned a first class degree in econometrics - the application of statistical methods to economic data - from Sheffield University before joining the High Street betting firm, run by her father.

She identified the potential of online gambling in 2000 and invested in the domain name Bet365.com so that she could drive the family business in that direction.

Bet365, now the largest private sector employer in Stoke, has millions of customers worldwide. It offers sports betting, poker, casino, games, and bingo. The accounts showed that the firm's revenues grew by 25% in the year to the end of March and operating profit was up by 31%.

Increasing criticism

While the online gambling sector has ballooned in recent years, it has also come in for increasing criticism over its impact on some customers who have become addicted or accrued large debts.

Labour's deputy leader Tom Watson recently described gambling as a "public health emergency".

Bet365 said it was continuing to develop strategies to identify gamblers at risk and to "help customers bet responsibly".

However, Luke Hildyard, spokesman for the High Pay Centre, which campaigns against excessive executive remuneration, said "betting companies are not exactly a force for good in the world".

"There is an increasing perception that big business only serves the interests of an elite few - a billionaire taking hundreds of millions more from a company that profits, in part, from other people's addictions does nothing to dispel that perception," he said.

Ms Coates, 51, lives in Cheshire with her husband, Richard Smith, who also serves as the firm's property director, and their children.

The group owns Stoke City Football Club, which made a loss of £21m and in 2017 the group paid £75m into its charitable fund, set up in Ms Coates' name.

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