Gambling executive’s $281 million salary deemed not ‘sensible or proportionate’

Bet365 Boss UK's largest tax payer. File photo dated 15/05/12 of bet365 Chief Executive Denise Coates who it has been reported paid the most tax in the UK last year according to the Sunday Times Tax List. Ms Coates paid a total of ??276 million last year. Issue date: Sunday January 26, 2020. See PA story MONEY Taxpayers. Photo credit should read: Sean Dempsey/PA Wire URN:49864293 (Press Association via AP Images)

Bet365 boss Denise Coates founded the gambling company in 2000.Sean Dempsey/PA/AP/FileCNN — 

The founder and boss of gambling company Bet365 earned a salary of around $281 million (£221 million) in the last financial year – ending March 26, 2023. The figure was described as not “sensible or proportionate” by one campaign group.

Denise Coates, the joint-chief executive and majority shareholder of Bet365, also earned at least 50% of the company’s $127 million (£100 million) in dividends on top of her $281 million salary, company accounts published on Sunday show.

Her base salary is an increase of about $10 million compared to last year, even as Bet365 made pre-tax losses of around $77 million (£60.2 million). The company accounts attribute the losses to “a significant increase in costs associated with entering into new markets.”

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Bet365 did not respond to CNN’s request for comment.

The size of Coates’ salary – which makes her Britain’s highest-paid women and one of the highest-paid chief executives in the world, according to the BBC – has drawn criticism, particularly in light of the UK’s cost-of-living crisis.

“People deserve to be rewarded for innovation and success but there’s a question of what’s sensible and proportionate,” Luke Hildyard, executive director of the High Pay Centre, said in a statement sent to CNN on Monday.

“Nobody becomes a multi-billionaire in isolation from wider society. In this case, the wealth depends on money coming out of gamblers’ pockets, the efforts of thousands of staff, plus wider factors like people having some disposable income, a secure and reliable internet network or all the infrastructure that goes into staging sports events.

“Ultimately, Britain’s prosperity depends on how the wealth our economy generates is shared. Pouring hundreds of millions of pounds more on top of billionaire fortunes every year isn’t a good way to maximise living standards and it over-values the contribution that the super-rich have made.”

STOKE-ON-TRENT, ENGLAND - JUNE 23: A general view of the Bet365 head office on June 23, 2020 in Stoke-on-Trent . (Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images)

The Bet365 headquarters are located in the English city of Stoke-on-Trent.Nathan Stirk/Getty Images/File

Bet365’s latest accounts show that the company paid $127 million (£100 million) to the Denise Coates Foundation, which distributes funds to charitable activities across the UK and overseas.

The Coates family was also estimated by the Sunday Times to be the UK’s second-highest tax payer in 2023, contributing around $585 million (£460 million).

According to Forbes, which estimates Coates’ worth to be $7 billion, the 56-year-old bought the domain in 2000 and launched the website in 2001.

Today, the company is headquartered in the city of Stoke-on-Trent, employs more than 7,500 people around the world, and attracts more than 90 million customers each year.

Bet365 Group Limited also owns Stoke City Football Club, which is in the second tier of English soccer. Last year, the club incurred pre-tax losses of $15.8 million (£12.4 million).

The company’s success is a testament to the UK’s interest in gambling.

According to the Gambling Commission, 44% of the country’s adults participated in a gambling activity within the last four weeks in the year to March 2023.

The Commission also reported that the British gambling industry had a total gross yield of $19.2 billion (£15.1 billion) between April 2022 and March 2023.

However, the gambling industry is one singled out by the government for problems associated with addiction.

A 2023 UK government review into gambling-related harms found that 0.5% of the adult population has a problem with gambling, 3.8% are gambling at at-risk levels, and 7% are affected negatively by other people’s gambling.

An economic analysis in the same review found that the annual excess direct financial cost to the government in relation to harmful gambling is equivalent to $525.6 million (£412.9 million).

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