The bosses of the UK’s gambling giants have added up to £4.9billion to their personal wealth after the pandemic sparked a boom in online betting.
Millions of punters around the world have logged on to British online casinos to bet while stuck at home in lockdowns.
The trend has turbocharged UK gambling stocks, sending them to record highs, and enriched their owners and executives.
Betting boom: Millions of punters around the world have logged on to British online casinos to bet while stuck at home in lockdowns
Their expertise in online gaming technology has also made them hot property in the United States, where recent liberalisation of online sports gambling has unleashed a gold rush to grab market share.
Listed betting stocks Flutter, the owner of Paddy Power and Betfair, and Ladbrokes-owner Entain have risen by around 70 per cent since the start of 2020.
Bet365, which is owned and run by Denise Coates and her family rather than listed on the stock market, was valued at £6.5billion a year ago.
If its value has risen by the same amount as its stock market-listed rivals, it would now be worth more than £10billion.
That would add more than £4billion to the Coates’ family wealth.
One industry analyst said the company could be valued at between £7billion and £10billion, adding that ‘a £10billion valuation isn’t silly’.
It is not possible to come up with a precise valuation because, as a private company, Bet365 does not have to reveal its inner workings.
But accounts last week showed it made more than £800million of profits in the year to April 2020, once the £607million salaries paid to senior managers were stripped out.
Bet365 is owned and run by Denise Coates (pictured) and her family rather than listed on the stock market
It also has a mammoth £3.4billion of cash and investments sitting on the balance sheet.
Coates, the founder and co-chief executive, pocketed £469million in pay and dividends in 2019-20, taking her total earnings since 2016 to £1.3billion, the accounts revealed.
She was not the only billionaire to benefit from the gambling boom.
Brothers Fred and Peter Done, who founded £1.1billion high street bookmaker Betfred, were also major beneficiaries.
They built up a 6 per cent stake in William Hill from 2019, now worth £225million, having invested large sums after the market crashed in March 2020.
Their precise paper profit is not known, but some experts have estimated it could be well over £100million.
The bookmaker’s share price rocketed thanks to a takeover by US giant Caesars Entertainment, which hopes to use the UK company’s technology to swallow large chunks of the American market.
Executives at listed rivals have also capitalised, with massive bonuses and boosts to their shareholdings.
Flutter’s success has increased the value of shares held by chief executive Peter Jackson by £1.6million, and he also scooped £7.5million in pay and bonuses.
Jackson has been credited with steering Flutter’s takeover of The Stars Group to create the largest gambling company in the world.
Shares in Ladbrokes owner Entain have risen by 72 per cent since January 2020.
The strong performance has increased the stake which is held by former Entain boss Kenny Alexander by more than £13million, and the stake held by his short-lived successor, Shay Segev, by £10.9million.
Alexander also scooped £1.7million in pay and bonuses for seven months of work, while Segev was paid £303,000.
The enormous wealth accrued by the UK’s gambling aristocracy comes as the industry fights to ward off new legislation.
The Government last week closed its consultation for a review of UK laws, which promises to be the biggest shake-up in regulation in 15 years.
Research for charity Gamble Aware found that 1.4m Britons are classed as problem gamblers, while close to three times that numbers are harmed through having a partner or relative who is a problem gambler.
Bet365 was contacted for comment. The Done brothers declined to comment.
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