Route to the top

Gambling is in Denise Coates’ family, her father having started a chain of betting shops in 1974. It was here that she cut her teeth, initially working as a cashier and learning the business from the ground up.

After studying accountancy at university, she returned to the family business, becoming managing director at 22 and turning the company round from a precarious financial position before finally selling the chain to bookmaking giant Coral.

Around the turn of the millennium, digital gambling was already on the rise, so she registered the domain name and launched the business with the help of loans from RBS and her family.

Riding the boom in online commerce, and, unlike its rivals, totally focused on digital, Bet365 was soon the biggest gambling website in the world.

Key achievements

  • Taking Bet365 from its launch in March 2001 to revenues of £647m in 2012, with £12bn of bets made on the site each year.
  • Being awarded a CBE in 2012.
  • Buying, with her family, Stoke City football club and turning the team’s fortunes around.
  • Employing more than 2,000 people in Stoke, and refusing opportunities to base her company overseas to avoid tax.

Lessons for your store

  1. Total commitment – Coates’ work rate is legendary, with her often taking calls in the middle of the night in her family home.
  2. Savvy branding – Bet365’s football-themed ads featuring popular actor Ray Winstone speak directly to its core market.
  3. The virtues of ambition – Bet365 was quick to internationalise, and tailor its product to local markets.

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