Owner of Sports Betting Powerhouse Bet365 Cuts Charity Donations Despite Fund’s Growth

Despite adding almost 50% to the total reserves in 2021, the Denise Coates Foundation, run by the owner of Bet365, reduced charity donations by nearly $3 million.
Owner of Sports Betting Powerhouse Bet365 Cuts Charity Donations Despite Fund's Growth
January 06, 2022

Reserves for the Denise Coates Foundation — founded by Denise Coates, owner of Bet365, a powerhouse in the global online sports betting market — increased by nearly 50% in the year to March 28, 2021, pushing the total reserves above £550 million. However, in the same period, documents filed at Companies House show its charitable donations dropped by more than 30%.

The recent filings show that total reserve funds increased in the last financial period, going from £385.3m to £568.4m, an increase of about 48%. That included an £86.5 million increase in the investments held by the foundation.

On the ground, however, that translated to a reduction in the level of charitable giving that the Foundation engaged in during the previous year. According to financial statements, the Bet365-associated charity only handed out £6.2 million, down from £9 million in the previous reporting period.

That means that the most recent donations period was less than 70% of the previous period. It is worth noting that none of the funds from the Denise Coates Foundation are earmarked for problem-gambling charities, but Bet365 still donates to those causes as well, through a different industry initiative dedicated to that purpose.

Reserves Up, Donations Down

The Denise Coates Foundation is a charitable foundation created by Denise Coates, the daughter of Peter Coates, founder of Bet365. The younger Coates is credited with seeing the potential of online betting, turning Bet365 into a global online betting powerhouse.

She is touted by The Guardian as Britain’s best-paid woman, earning some £421 million in compensation per year for her role with Bet365.

The Stoke-based betting firm she runs donates to the Foundation each year, and in the previous period, those direct donations came to £100 million. That makes up more than half the reserve increase, with the rest of the boost coming from well-performing investments that grew by £86.5 million.

That put the total reserves for the Foundation up to £568.4 million in the last reporting period, but that did not translate into increased giving. Instead, total funds distributed dropped from about £9 million to £6.2 million.

Among the organizations that did benefit from the Foundation this year were several healthcare organizations, perhaps as a result of the unprecedented pandemic year. The donations included £1.9 million for University Hospitals of North Midlands — the National Health Services (NHS) trust in Stoke-on-Trent, where Bet365 is based.

In total, the Denise Coates Foundation made 17 donations to 12 different institutions. Among the groups receiving money in the recent reporting period were the Chronic Disease Research Foundation, the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development (CAFOD) for COVID-19 research, Douglas Macmillan Hospice, and Kick4Life F.C., which is helping to promote social change in Lesotho by building a new sports stadium.

Notably, none of the Denise Coates Foundation donations went to charities dedicated to combatting the social harms caused by gambling. Like other operators, Bet365 contributes to those causes through a distinct, voluntary industry initiative.

Guidance from the Charity Commission, published in 2016, indicates there is no prescribed level of reserves or donations. It notes that the level of funding is dependent on the specific charity in question but, as reserves grow, it suggests that “trustees must consider whether the purposes of the charity should be amended to enable the charity to operate more effectively”.

While donations from the charity dropped in the most recent report, the Foundation still gave out more than £6 million in funds to support healthcare initiatives across the UK. With the reserves growing through donations and investment growth, the Foundation looks well set to continue contributing to causes in the UK that need help.

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