Boss of Bet365 paid almost £300m during first year of Covid

Results show betting firm led by Denise Coates made £470m profit in year to end of March 2021

Bet365 boss Denise Coates was paid just under £300m in salary and dividends for the first year of the pandemic, as profits increased thanks to customers offsetting the cancellation of sporting events by playing online slot machines and casino games instead.

The news came as rival Entain, which owns Ladbrokes, also reported strong annual results but said it would return less than half of the furlough payments it received from the government to pay staff.

Accounts filed at Companies House show that Bet365 made a profit of £470m before tax in the year to the end of March 2021, on revenues that were flat at £2.8bn. The result was significantly better than its last pre-pandemic year, as the group cut costs and enjoyed an increase in the value of its investments.

While the cancellation of sporting events initially weighed on the company, it was offset by a “significant migration” to other activities such as virtual sports, slot machines and casino products.

Gaming products such as these are associated with significantly higher rates of gambling addiction than sports betting.

The company’s highest-paid director, understood to be Denise Coates, was paid £250m. She also has a share of more than 50% of the company’s £97.5m dividend, taking her total compensation for the year to just under £300m.

The sum is £170m less than her reward for leading the company a year earlier but takes her pay and dividends over the past five years above £1.3bn.

The company made charitable donations, mostly to the Denise Coates Foundation, of £103m, up from £89m last year.

Earlier this year it emerged that the foundation had cut its annual donations from £9m to £6m, despite its reserves swelling by almost 50% to £568m.

Donations were “constrained” because the organisations the charity funds have been restricted in their activities, the charity said at the time, adding that the volume of donations was expected to “bounce back”.

Coates is also the UK’s largest taxpayer, largely as a result of receiving her pay packet via the payroll of her Stoke-based betting empire.

Gambling companies have proved extremely resistant to the impact of the pandemic, even among companies that, unlike Bet365, own high street betting shops.

Entain, which also owns the Coral bookmaking brand, also reported strong results, booking pre-tax profits of £275.6m for the year to the end of 2021.

The company said it would pay back £44m in furlough payments that it received during 2021 but not the £58m it received in 2020, when it recorded a profit of £113.8m.

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It has previously come under fire for keeping the payments despite reporting strong profits, particularly in the light of a decision by rival Flutter, which owns Paddy Power, to opt out of the furlough scheme.

A spokesperson said the scheme “enabled Entain to support the jobs of more than 14,000 retail colleagues as well as top up salaries to 100% of pay”.

They said the outlook at the end of 2020 had been “extremely uncertain”.

It said income on the high street was back to 90% of pre-pandemic levels and that it was now “pleased” to be able to repay the 2021 support it received.


Rob Davies

The GuardianTramp

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