Denise Coates founded Bet365 in a portable office building at a Stoke City car park in January 2000. Now, seventeen years later, she’s pulling in the largest CEO salary in Great Britain, paying herself £217 million ($284.5 million) for fiscal year 2016-17.

Denise Coates, Bet365 CEO

Denise Coates founded Bet365 with her brother nearly 18 years ago. After record revenues for online gambling in 2016-17, she became the highest-paid CEO in the UK, and a target of scorn for problem gambling watchdogs. (Image: Felix Clay / The Guardian)

Her annual take is more than four times than that of the previous compensation king Martin Sorrell, CEO of international advertising and PR giant WPP, who last year made £48.1million ($63 million), and more than 1,300 times that of the UK’s prime minister.

It is the equivalent of £769,000 ($1 million) a day based on a five-day workweek.

As co-CEO of one of the world’s largest online betting companies, the 50-year-old mother of five earned a base pay of £199.3 million ($261.3 million) and added £18 million ($23.6 million) in dividends. Her take-home pay grew significantly from the previous year, where she earned £117 million ($153.4 million).

Bet365 has seen record profits over the past year of £525 million ($688.3 million) from a record £47 billion ($61.6 billion) in bets.

Family Business

To put the figure in perspective, Coates made double the money of the entire payroll of the soccer team her company and family owns, the Stoke City Potters, a Premier League football club.

Coates owns Bet365 with her brother, John (his salary was not disclosed), who also serves as vice-chairman of Stoke City FC. She is the eldest daughter of Peter Coates, Stoke City’s chairman. Her husband, Richard, is also a director of the football club.

Gambling industry watchdog groups have criticized the amount of Coates’ compensation. The Fairer Gambling organization issued a statement after news spread about her salary, saying that it was too much considering that the country is in a problem gambling crisis.

“As losses from Britain’s gamblers continue to spiral out of control, so has executive pay,” the statement read. “The entire gambling industry donated just £8 million ($10.5 million) to research, education and treatment last year. If these companies can afford to pay their executives millions of pounds a year, there is no excuse for such chronically underfunded treatment services.”

High Pay Centre spokesman Stefan Stern told the Mirror that her salary is offensively excessive.

“In an industry like gambling, where people become trapped financially, it has to be concerning when the rewards at the top are so high,” Stern said. “There comes a moment where some pay packages are so high they become unseemly.”

Powerful Woman

Coates is notoriously publicity shy and gave no comments about her pay, which was released with typical disclosures for public companies. She last gave a formal interview in 2012.

But she did make a statement to address the country’s problem gambling issues in a statement released Monday.

“(We are) committed to developing an evidence-based approach to responsible gambling,” she said. “To this end, the group continues to work with research partners on a number of projects to improve its methods of identifying harmful play and deliver more effective harm-minimization interventions.”

Coates got her start at a cashier at her father’s betting shops and earned a degree in econometrics from Sheffield University and became manager of the family business when she was 22. In 2000, she convinced her family to borrow nearly $20 million against the business to start an online betting site.

She bought the domain name Bet365.com and around it built a company that has now grown into a multibillion-dollar empire.

In 2017, Forbes estimated her personal wealth at $4 billion, making her the 14th richest person in the UK.