How online gambling operator is giving back to society

The global online gambling market accrued revenues of £34.46 billion in 2016, which lies in stark contrast to the average wage in the West African slums of Monrovia – currently just £342 per year. But while online gambling moguls and residents of Liberia’s capital city may be polar opposites in terms of wealth, Denise Coates (co-owner of Bet365) is making efforts to redress the balance to some extent…

  • The Denise Coates Foundation donated over £200,000 between 2015-16 to Oxfam
  • The move comes after harsh criticism as the founder of the charity and Bet365, Denise Coates, paid herself over £200 million last year
  • 17 projects are said to have benefited from donations from the foundation

Charitable donations

As the co-owner of the Stoke-based company, Coates paid herself a whopping £217 million in 2016. This gained negative attention from some corners of the British media and from Casinomir Magazine.

However, The Denise Coates Foundation donated £262,000 between 2015 and 2016 to Oxfam project Cleaner Living in Liberia, the aim of which is to provide safe sanitation and water to over 200,000 residents in Monrovia. In fact, this is just one of 17 projects that benefit from donations from Coates’ foundation, which gave away a total of £3 million in 2015 and 2016.

It’s also worth noting that Coates’ whopping salary is just a small fraction of the £47 billion that Bet365 took in revenue last year.

Why Coates stands out among the world’s tycoons

The tycoons of online betting include Ruth Parasol, who made millions in the porn industry before moving into online betting. Meanwhile, billionaires like tax exile Richard Branson and Celtic FC’s main shareholder, Dermot Desmond, continue to attract controversy over foreign investments allegedly designed to avoid tax.

By contrast, Coates doesn’t seem to fit the hedonistic mould of your average billionaire. The mother of five no doubt lives a comfortable life, but her farmhouse is hardly a palace. And whereas many of similar wealth strove to make it rich so they could escape their background, Coates still lives just outside Stoke-on-Trent, where she grew up. Again, unlike Branson and others, Coates is also a private person and still goes unrecognised in public.

Down to Earth

Having set up Bet365, with a portacabin as an office, in 2000, Coates continues to resist the urge to move any of her company’s operations abroad. In fact, most of Bet365’s 3500 employees are based in Stoke.

Her father and Bet365 co-owner, Peter Coates, said in a 2015 interview that he believes “government should be on the side of the poor, not the rich” and that “well-off people can look after themselves”.

Efforts to solve the issue of gambling addiction

Some may suggest that Peter Coates’ words are hollow. This is perhaps because they feel the idea of capitalism with a heart doesn’t mesh with a gambling industry that supposedly fuels addiction.

Yet while some critics suggest the gambling industry as a whole isn’t doing enough to help those suffering from gambling addiction, it did donate £8 million to research, education and treatment last year. This is a step in the right direction, but the industry could surely do more to help the estimated 430,000 gambling addicts in Britain.

The Responsible Gambling Strategy Board is trying to encourage the industry to donate 0.1 per cent of its annual revenue towards treatment for gambling addiction. While this is a tiny fraction of the overall yield, this would have equalled £14 billion in 2016.

Denise Coates’ response

In a statement to Bet365 shareholders in November, Ms Coates said that her company understands its responsibility to keep crime out of gambling and to “minimise gambling-related harm”.

She went on to declare that the Bet365 Group is “committed to developing an evidence-based approach” to the issue. The company now works with its “research partners” to look for signs of unhealthy gambling activity and to take steps to help stop further harm.

Minimise risk or face heavy fines

The Remote Gambling Association says that due to the nature of certain products, such as virtual roulette and spread betting, the industry was bound to carry on attracting gamblers prone to addiction.

In November, The Gambling Commission fined Ladbrokes Coral £2.3 million for its failure to intervene after two of its customers showed clear signs of problem gambling. It turned out that the two problem gamblers not only lost £1.3 million between them, but were also playing with stolen money.

Back in August, 888, one of Britain’s online operators, faced a record £7.8 million fine after taking bets from 7000 potential vulnerable customers.