Written by Kenneth Onu
Denise Coates is a British businesswoman and founder of Bet365, one of the world’s leading online betting platforms, fondly referred to as the “quiet queen of betting”, Denise Coates is one of Great Britain’s most successful business leaders.
In this success post, we’re going to share the story of her early life, education, family, her entrepreneurial journey, honors, awards and how she bought Bet365 as a domain name in January 2000 and transformed it into one of the world’s largest online betting companies, with a revenue of $2 billion and facilitating about $45 billion in bets, both in the year 2016 and finally, her personal achievements and network.
Born in England in the year 1967 on the 26th of September, she’s the first child of Peter Coates, who as of the time of writing this article, is the chairman of Stoke City FC, and a director of Bet365. Not much is known about her early years as she prefers to live her life under the radar and is unwilling to share that part of her life with the general public and it’s quite safe to assume that her formative years were relatively quiet and uneventful.
As her teenage years drew to an end, Denise got admitted to the University of Sheffield where she earned a first-class degree in econometrics. While in college she also took a job with the family business, marking up bets in the cashier department of Provincial Racing, a bookmaking firm and it was during this period she met Richard Smith whom she would later get married to.
After her graduation from the university Denise returned to the family business, or as she called it, “a small chain of pretty rubbish betting shops”. Armed with her college experience which afforded her the necessary tools to take up a more active role, she further went on to receive further training in the accounting department, which she would later admit was a helpful decision, even though she detested bookkeeping.
Peter Coates, her father, impressed with her capabilities and work ethic, gave her the opportunity to manage Provincial Racing which she eagerly accepted, even though the chain had been struggling in previous years, and she went on to become the Managing Director in 1995.
The poor fortunes of Provincial were soon reversed under her direction and Denise, not content with remaining static, secured a significant loan from Barclays bank and added a neighboring chain of betting parlors to her family’s now expanding empire.
The giant that is Bet365 today would not exist if it weren’t for Denise’s visionary investment 23 years ago. She realized the potential of the internet and believed that it would revolutionize the future of sports betting. At the time, a number of websites already existed for those interested in placing virtual wagers, but the entire industry was in its early stages of development. Sensing an opportunity to be on the front lines of something huge, and to grow the family business exponentially, Denise decided to go all in.
In January 2000, Coates bought the Bet365.com domain name from an online seller for £20,000 (approx. $25,000) and with the partnership of her brother, John Coates, whom she had convinced to get involved, although it took a lot of prodding, as he studied law and was already working as an attorney, her determination and commitment won him over and they secured a loan from the Royal Bank of Scotland, this was after been unable to convince numerous investors.
She wasted no time in launching the website in 2001 and worked round the clock to achieve what will today become a billion-dollar empire. Working from a temporary site that had been installed in a parking lot next to one of her brick-and-mortar betting shops, Denise spent countless hours working, things were hectic in the early days but Denise never wavered in her devotion to her work. She admits the enormous risk that it was to invest in online gambling and dubs herself and her brother “the ultimate gamblers”, and luckily for them, their gamble paid off.
As Bet365 kicked off, Denise discovered that they would need to take steps to be unique from some of their already established online competitors, and in other to do this, she took and implemented steps like making visitors aware that Bet365 was situated in the UK and had a number of physical venues that people could go to in person. This was crucial because many online providers were based in countries with weak or nonexistent regulatory oversight. Bingo, casino games, poker horse racing, and many others were added to Bet365 instead of just the sports betting they were offering.
While competitor websites typically only offered the major sports, Bet365 grew to include betting on every imaginable league. Customers could visit the website and place a bet on their favorite team or athlete in everything from snooker to American sports. Yet, it's important to note that Bet365 was the first to do so before other companies eventually adopted it.
Customer service was prioritized because it was found that customer retention was essential for the company's long-term success and the company put a great deal of effort into developing a reputation as a reliable betting company by avoiding any form of scandal or perception of shoddiness, Bet365 eventually achieved its goal.
By 2005, Bet365 eventually became so successful and became even more evident in 2013 as Bet365 earned more than $187 million in profits, making Denise and her father Peter Coates both billionaires. The success of Bet365 allowed Denise to sell Provincial Racing off in 2015 to Coral Betting for £40 ($50) million as it was no longer a necessary asset for the Coates family.
Though one of the UK’s top financial elite, despite her status, Denise Coates maintains a low-key private life, as she rarely attends any event in an official capacity and it is reported that she only conducts interviews via emails.
She lives in Betchton near Sandbach, Cheshire with her husband Richard Smith, who’s unsurprisingly a director of Stoke City, considering their family ties with the club, and their five children, four of whom were reported in March 2014 to be adopted from the same family.
It is evident the Coates family prioritizes their privacy over publicity, and how the family spends their wealth isn’t known, but where her family resides, situated just after Stoke, most would never suspect a billionaire lived there if it weren’t for the security guards and Denise’s shiny Aston Martin, which is one of her few indulgences.
In January 2012, Denise Coates was honored with the title of Commander of the Order of the British Empire, which primarily lauded her efforts as a businesswoman and community leader, also in 2012 she received an honorary doctorate from Staffordshire University. The next year 2013, she was named one of the 100 most powerful women in the United Kingdom, and in 2019 was inducted into the Sports Hall of Fame run by the Sports Betting Community (SBC) for her leadership in the betting industry.
Denise started the Bet365 Foundation in August 2012 and in February 2016 it was renamed Denise Coates Foundation. The goal of the foundation is to make a positive difference in the lives of others, primarily by providing front-line funding to various charities registered in the UK.
Notable contributions by the foundation include:
Additionally, with her company’s charitable donations, Bet365 donates 0.1% of its gross gaming yields to GambleAware, the UK charity that provides support programs for problem gamblers as a part of their duty to responsible gambling. Coates also pays the highest amount of £1.3 billion in tax in the last six years in the country, she has topped the Sunday Times Tax List for three consecutive years, with her family paying around£481.7 million(approx. $593 million) in tax two years ago.
Though she runs one of the most successful bookmakers in the world, (in one of the most male-dominated industries imaginable), Denise never felt that her gender impeded her work or resulted in different treatment from other industry leaders. Although she has met criticisms from others for taking out salaries over the years, it has not stopped her from going on to become the highest-paid company executive in the UK, let alone the highest-paid of all British female executives
Bet365 has gained over 6 million customers spanning 200 countries and created more than 5,000 employment opportunities, all in the span of 23 years. From humble beginnings in a Stoke-on-Trent parking lot to a multi-billion-pound company with revenue of £2.81 billion in 2020-2021 alone, Bet365 is a sports betting empire.
Even with her net worth listed at $5.2 billion by Forbes as of the time of writing this article, this bright businesswoman, wife, and mother spend her time sweating the details of her business, constantly looking for ways to improve customer satisfaction in other to boost revenue.
Her success is a source of inspiration to men and women alike and with a visionary quiet queen of betting, one of the most powerful women in Britain at the helm of affairs at Bet365, the future looks even more promising.
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