Full History and Beginning of Bet365

Founded in 2000 Bet365 is a gambling website available in 17 languages and 29
currencies with a unique history and company structure. While
similar companies established in the UK have since moved
offshore for a lower tax, Bet365 is privately-owned and based in
Stoke-on-Trent (Staffordshire, England, UK) where each of the
owners was born and raised. They are one of the largest gambling
sites in the world–larger than the online divisions of both
William Hill and Ladbrokes. As background information, we will
introduce their owners and cover their history.

Bet365 Ownership: The Coates Family

Bet365 is a family-owned business, 50.2% by
Denise Coates.
Her brother, John Coates, and her father, Peter, combined have
43.1% ownership; and the small remainder is taken by others. In
addition to the Bet365 betting website, the company owns an
84.4% stake in the English Premier League franchise Stoke City
FC, of which Peter Coates is the chair. As the story goes, he
was a bookmaker, and his daughter Denise headed up their online
expansion. While the origins of the site are vague, the story is
far more remarkable starting at the beginning with Peter Coates’
birth.

Peter Coates Bio

Peter Coates was born into poverty in 1938 in Stoke-on-Trent
(England, UK) as the youngest of 14 children. His father was a
miner and an avid fan of the local professional football team,
the Stoke City Potters. Peter left school at the tender age of
14 to work in an office, and perhaps made his father proud when
as a youth, he signed up to play with the Potters’ amateur team.
Not quite good enough to reach the highest level, he went on to
play football for the Goldenhill Wanderers and Kidsgrove
Athletic before giving up the sport in 1961 at the age of 23. He
then entered the service; and upon his release took a position
at Wimpy restaurants, where he reached the position of regional
manager.

Peter’s career as a businessman started in his late-twenties
when he founded Stadia Catering that provided catering services
to football grounds. Stadia merged with Lindley Catering in 1968
and Peter served as chair from 1968-2001. The confusion about
being a bookmaker comes from the fact that he was quite the keen
investor. He purchased a few betting shops in 1974 that would go
on to become the chain known as Provincial Racing, which through
future acquisitions grew to as many as 59 shops.

Provincial Racing was only one of many businesses tackled by
Peter. As mentioned, while owning these shops he was also chair
of Lindley Catering. Additionally, in 1983 he founded the radio
station Signal 1, and in 1989 he purchased a majority stake in
his favorite football club, Stoke City FC. He served as their
chair until 1997 before selling his shares in 1999 for £3.5
million. Peter didn’t stay away long! In May of 2006, Bet365
purchased back all the shares previously sold, and he resumed
the chair of Stoke City FC. As of today, he is currently listed
as the 25th richest man in football.

John and Denise Coates

John and Denise Coates are Co-CEOs of Bet365 and two of the
most private individuals you’ll find in the gambling business.
Neither acquiesced to a single full interview until 9-years
after the Bet365 website had been launched. From what can be
gathered from these interviews, while a teenager, Denise worked
as a cashier in one of her father’s betting shops–to him a
small side business to the catering company that serviced
football grounds.

After receiving a first degree in econometrics from a local
university, Denise became the operating manager of the betting
shop franchise. She describes it as a handful of rubbish shops
that she was up for the challenge to improve. Her brother, John,
has stated in various interviews that working alongside Denise
in the late 1990’s, he saw how fast she caught on to the growth
of online betting and heard her keep repeating “this is what
we’re going to do.”

Bet365 Goes Online

In January of 2000, Denise Coates purchased the domain name
Bet365.com from eBay for £10,000. At the time, she was working
as the managing director of her father’s betting shop chain
Provincial Racing. Curious timing how this all played out. Peter
had only months earlier sold his shares in Stoke City FC for
£3.5 million. He then mortgaged the betting shops, receiving a
£15 million loan from the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), which
was used to fund Bet365’s startup.

This was all happening at a time when Ladbrokes and William
Hill were entering the online arena with some hesitancy. The
much smaller franchise, Provincial Racing, and the Coates family
ownership were quick to go all-in, fully banking on the future
of Internet betting. With all work done from a portakabin, the
development was complete and Bet365.com went live in March,
2001.

The Original Bet365

The original Bet365 already was similar to what the company
is best known for today. Of course back in 2001, all online
bookmakers were accepting bets on horse racing; greyhounds;
English, Italian, German and Spanish soccer; and the major US
sports: football, basketball, baseball, and hockey. Bet365 took
it much further! Out of the gate, they offered odds on several
dozen additional soccer leagues as well as took bets on
athletics, bowls, boxing, cricket, cycling, darts, golf,
international basketball and hockey, formula 1, motorbikes,
NASCAR, pool, rugby, snooker, speedway, tennis, among other
sports. While today this sounds standard for a European
bookmaker, Bet365 was the first to have such an extensive
wagering menu. The idea was, by having so many markets and
leagues covered no matter where you live day or night, you’ll
always find bets on matches 24/7/365.

In addition to covering numerous leagues, the first version
of the website also included other features Bet365 is still
known for today. In fact, the famous channel 4/1 horse racing
offer–that can still be found today at www.bet365.com–was an
original promo since the start. Initially, they also offered a
£20 free sport bet and a $25 casino bonus. Today much larger
bonuses for casino and sports are offered.

Perhaps the biggest draw to the site was trust. The website
displayed the following message on scroll:

“Bet365 is a division
of bet365 Group Limited, a leading UK licensed betting and
gaming group since 1974. Bet365 handles over 250,000 wagers per
week. The group also operates 59 land based betting offices in
England.”

Back then, there were a lot of betting sites owned by
shady companies based in the Caribbean. Even William Hill was
operating their online division offshore. Their UK base was a
very unique selling feature that certainly helped ease players’
minds about the legitimacy of betting online with Bet365.

How Bet365 Grew Massively

Today, Bet365 has 6 million customers in more than 200
countries. They employ over 1,700 people, making them the
largest private employer in Stoke. As a private company,
financial statements are not public record. We do know, however,
that Denise Coates earned £37.5 million in dividends over the
past three years alone and had a 2011 salary of £4.5 million.
It’s reasonable to assume that Bet365 is one of the ten largest
private companies in the entire UK. So how did a family owned
business grow to be so large?

The answer is the same story of Peter Coates, born into
poverty in 1938, and months before Bet365 launched selling his
shares in Stoke City FC for £3.5 million. What Peter did was
save enough to start a catering business and then invested over
and over again. He purchased a few betting shops, added more,
purchased stocks, and started other businesses. Thus, the short
answer is that Bet365 grew massive by constantly investing
profits back into the business. In the next section, we cover
some of these investments.

Bet365 Poker

In November of 2004, Bet365 added online poker to accompany
their sports and horse race betting and online casino.
Originally, their poker room operated on the Microgaming
Network; but in early 2007, they made the decision to change to
the iPoker network powered by Playtech. Over the years, they’ve
sponsored a small handful of professional players. The most
noteworthy was Danish Poker Pro Jesper Hougaard, who they signed
after the 2008 World Series of Poker (WSOP). In June of 2012,
they became the first poker site on the iPoker Network to launch
Sprint Poker, a popular variant of fast play poker similar to
Full Tilt Poker’s invention of Rush Poker (and what PokerStars
later introduced as Zoom Poker). Today, a 100% up to $1,000 sign
up bonus is available at poker.bet365.com.

Bet365 Acquires Bowman Sportsbook

When it comes to the history of gambling sites, the oldest
both as a phone-in shop and online sportsbook is Intertops.
Otherwise, there weren’t many older than Bowmans.com purchased
by Bet365 in November, 2006. A little on their history: back in
1985, their founder, Gary Bowman, started American Football
Pools from Manchester, England. Equipped with a UK bookmaker’s
license, he became the first to legally offer phone-in betting
to the United States.

In April of 1997, he moved his business to the Internet using
the domain bowmans.com, which targeted several countries and was
the first online sportsbook to include an affiliate program.
Initially, affiliates were paid a percentage of a player’s first
three deposits. While Bet365 would stop servicing US players
around the same time they purchased Bowmans, this sportsbook did
have many non-US players, including many from the UK. Bet365
made the decision in 2007 to migrate Bowman accounts to Bet365
giving them an instant boost in player volume.

Bet365 Adds Bingo in 2008

In 2008 Bet365 added Bingo to their platform. This now
expanded the gambling offers to sports betting, horse race
betting, online casino, poker, and bingo from a single website
log-in with a centralized player bank. Different from their
sports product, the bingo site is a skin much like their poker
room. It is licensed by the Gibraltar Regulatory Authority and
powered by Playtech using software known as Virtue Fusion. Other
known bingo rooms that use the same software include PaddyPower,
William Hill, and Ruby Bingo. A key to their bingo marketing
success has been the sponsorship of the popular UK soap
Emmerdale. As of today, new Bet365 bingo players from the UK can
claim £25 free just by making a first time deposit of only £5.

Bet365 Adds Languages and Currencies

In 2004, Bet365 added dozens of currencies to their website;
and for the first time made non-English languages available.
Originally their website was translated into German, Italian,
Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, and Chinese. Over the years, this
has been expanded to include Spanish, Greek, Polish, Portuguese,
Romanian, Czech, and Slovak with limited Japanese and Russian
support. The available account currencies include EUR, CZK, GBP,
USD, CHF, DKK, HKD, HUF, JPY, RON, THB, SGD, SEK, ZAR, ISK, MYR,
MXN, NZD, NOK, PLN, TWD, INR, CHF, CNY-RMB, CAD, ARS, AUD, BRL,
and BGN.

Mobile Betting, Live Betting, Streams, and Vast Markets

Bet365 truly became as massive as they are today by
constantly investing in the latest innovations and expanding
their markets. In 2005, they sold their 59 betting shops to
Coral for £40 million and began to focus exclusively on Internet
business. From here Bet365 has been near first, and perhaps
best, with all online betting innovations. Their mobile betting
platform is extremely versatile and works with Blackberry,
iPhone, iPad, Android, Nokia, and most other devices.

The Bet365 betting markets are truly second to none. Here
you’ll find betting opportunities on all major US and European
sports leagues plus hundreds as remote as Latvia Virsliga
women’s floor ball and English Super8 volleyball. Their
specialty is live in-play betting, and many matches are streamed
right from their website accompanied by menus featuring match
winners and dozens of propositions.

To conclude, it is worth mentioning the significance of the
fact that Bet365 remains based in Stoke. Most competitors
operate from low-tax districts such as Isle of Man, Gibraltar,
Alderney, Malta, or the Caribbean. In a 2012 interview, Denise
Coates stated,

“Why Stoke? It’s a simple answer: it’s where I’m
from. We began in a portakabin on a car park near one of the
betting shops. It’s to a large extent an accident of birth. As
to why we have stayed here when every other major competitor is
based in a lower tax jurisdiction, that’s a more difficult
question to answer logically.”

Denise went on to explain that her family is what has been
most important to her and how she hated to travel away for
business if she could afford not to. While some of the logic is
mysterious, there’s 1,700 people employed in the city benefiting
from Bet365 remaining regional. Also, as a result of the
profound commitment to keeping such a massive business local,
and for his contributions to local football as well, Peter
Stokes has been granted an honorary degree from Keele
University. This came in 2011–not bad for a man who left school
at the age of 14 to go to work.

Perhaps the story of Bet365 would be told differently if any
of their business dealings had the slightest bit of shadiness.
However, Bet365 has always paid players very fast while
providing great customer support. It is a unique gambling site,
and it is well worth opening an account. Considering the
plethora of bonuses available at Bet365.com, there’s no reason
not to give this remarkable Stoke-based company a try.

Bet365 History Summary

  • Founders:
    • Peter Coates
    • John Coates
    • Denise Coates
  • In 2000 Bet365 goes online
  • In 2004 started to offer poker online
  • In 2005 decided to focus only on internet business
  • In 2008 they added Bingo to their network
  • In 2011 started to push mobile betting

Updates

  • In July 2014 Bet365 recorded a significant year-on-year
    increase in operating profit. In the 12 month period ending
    March 31, 2014, the company made profits of £320.9 million.
    This represented over an 80% increase on the previous 12
    months profits of £179 million. Total revenue had increased
    by nearly 40%, to £1.3 billion, based on customer wagering
    of over £26 billion.
  • Also in July 2014, Bet365 founder, Denise Coates,
    announced that £105 million of those yearly profits was
    being donated to the Bet365 Foundation to support charities.
  • In 2017, Denise Coates became the highest paid executive in UK with her £217m salary.
  • In May 2018, Bet365 decided to increase their presence in Malta due
    to regulations in various jurisdictions. But they keep a strong commitment to Gibraltar.
  • Bet365 is one of the first bookmakers to offer esports betting