Receiving a pay rise is a pretty nice Christmas present. That’s what Denise Coates, the billionaire founder of the online gambling firm Bet365, got this week when her pay package jumped to a cool £323 million ($421 million).
Coates was paid £220 million last year, but her basic salary has been increased to £277 million and with hefty dividends on top, this means she is likely to take home £323 million.
Documents just filed attribute the amounts to the “highest paid director,” which is thought to be Coates. Bet365’s press office didn’t reply to MarketWatch’s request for confirmation.
The bumper pay packet has raised eyebrows as some blame online gambling firms for a growing level of addiction in the U.K., particularly among young people.
The 51-year-old mother-of-five has always been good with numbers. As a schoolgirl, she helped out in her family bookmaking firm. She went on to get a first-class econometrics degree from Sheffield University and then took over a small chain of family-run shops.
Coates founded Bet365 in 2000. For the first year she worked from a portable cabin in a car park. After she borrowed £15 million from bank RBS
, secured against her chain of betting shops, Coates launched Bet365’s website. Just four years later she sold her betting shops to bookmaker Coral for £40 million.
Now Bet365 brings nearly £3 billion in revenue and employs more than 4,000 people in Coates’ hometown Stoke-on-Trent. Pretax profit rose from £661 million to £791 million in the year to the end of March 2019, according to the accounts of the company which is privately owned.
Coates herself is worth £8.5 billion and drives an Aston Martin
with personalized number plates. She and her husband Richard Smith raise five children (four of them adopted) in a sprawling £90 million lakeside estate in Cheshire, in the northwest of England.
Coates is generous with her fortune. Her charity, the Denise Coates foundation, has been giving millions to organizations such as Douglas Macmillan Hospice and Alzheimer’s Research U.K.
However, the foundation is often criticized for not giving money to charities that help with gambling addiction.
According to the Gambling Commission—the U.K.’s industry regulator—about £14.5 billion was spent on gambling in Great Britain between October 2017 and September 2018. Online gambling stood out with £5.6 billion, or about two-fifths of the overall sum.