Denise Coates: Bet365 Mastermind
Denise Coates is one of the most successful businesswomen in the UK, and she is likely the richest woman in all of online gambling. If you haven't heard the name, Denise is the mastermind behind UK betting site Bet365. She maintains a low profile and rarely gives interviews, but she plays a large and active role in online betting.
She started Bet365 in 2001 and has since turned it into the largest betting site in the world. Starting with a £15 million loan taken out against her family's chain of local betting shops, she grew Bet365 into a company that took £20 billion worth of bets in 2013. Her personal fortune is estimated by Forbes to be $1.6 billion.
Denise Coates was born into the gambling business. Her father, Peter Coates, was born into an impoverished family. He played amateur football (soccer), but he couldn't quite make it to a professional status; he later joined the service. After leaving the service, he went to work for Wimpy restaurants and eventually became a regional manager.
Her father then went on to start his first company, Stadia Catering. Stadia specialized in catering events at local football grounds. Peter Coates remained an active entrepreneur throughout his life and eventually bought a chain of betting shops and named the chain Provincial Betting.
When Denise finished school, she was brought into the struggling family betting business. She learned how to manage the accounts for the business and was eventually given control over the chain of betting shops. She was successful as the head of Provincial Racing and helped turn it around to be a profitable bookmaker in the UK.
Around the year 2000, Denise was sensing the opportunities of the internet. There were already several betting websites in operation, and she wanted to take the family business in that direction. In 2000, she purchased the domain Bet365.com. She spent the next year developing the website herself hunkered in a portakabin that served as the Bet365 headquarters.
Bet365.com went live in 2001 with the help of a £15 million loan from RBS. She had to put the family's betting shops up as collateral for the loan. She continued working on Bet365 and grew it steadily year after year. By 2005, Bet365.com was running along smoothly and she sold off the physical betting shops to Coral for £40 million. She used a portion of that money to pay off the loan to RBS.
Denise helped differentiate Bet365 from other betting websites in several ways. Most importantly, she stressed the level of trust and professionalism that customers could expect from Bet365. The website proudly displayed that it was based out of the UK and operated physical betting shops that people could visit in person. This made Bet365 unique in a time when most betting websites were run by unknown and sometimes untrustworthy people overseas.
Bet365 also stood out for its vast selection of wagers on all different sports. Unlike other betting sites at the time, Bet365 didn't just offer wagers on the big sports in the UK. It also covered niche sports such as bowling, American sports, the Olympics, snooker, and more. The goal was to give people around the world a reason to do business with Bet365. The plan worked beautifully.
Denise also added online poker, casino games, bingo, horse racing, and skill games to the lineup. These additions made Bet365 a complete site for all things gambling. The massive selection of sports and games made Bet365 a go-to destination for anyone with an interest in any form of wagering.
One other thing that aided in the success of Bet365 was its willingness to constantly innovate and add new features. Bet365 has worked partnerships with local TV providers to bring live horse racing to the internet. It has added mobile betting, in-play betting, expanded its lineup of accepted currencies, added dozens of deposit options, and much more.
Most importantly, Bet365 has earned trust over all these years of business. Never once has the company suffered from a scandal like so many other online gambling operations. Bet365 always pays. It responds to customers' questions and generally acts as you would expect any legitimate business to operate. You would think this should be considered a standard business practice, but it really is unique in online gambling.
Since then, Bet365 has grown to become the largest betting website in the world. At one time, it was ranked as the 7th largest private company in the UK, and it employs roughly 2,500 people. In 2013, profits at Bet365 topped £150 million.
Today, Denise acts as the CEO along with her brother John. She remains the largest stakeholder with a 50.3% interest in the company. She continues to head the company to this day.
Not much is known about Denise Coates' personal life. She isn't into publicity and rarely gives interviews. What we do know is that she's married to Richard Smith, who is a director for the Stoke City Football Club.
In the few interviews she has given, she has stated that she doesn't feel out of place being one of the few women involved in bookmaking. She has remarked in the past that she's focused on getting business done. Gender just doesn't play a role in how she runs the business.
Author: Wesley Burns
Updated: March 2015
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