Perhaps the most popular gambling website in the world, Bet365 is now synonymous with online betting. A family-built business that has turned out to be not just a UK business success story, but a success globally. Today, Bet365 has around 23 million customers and 3,500 employees worldwide offering an excellent betting experience whilst continuing to lead the way in online betting, adding many products to their core over the years.
The beginning: 1995
The story of Bet365 starts in 1995 in the small working-class English town of Stoke-On-Trent. Beginning in 1974, a successful investor, entrepreneur, and one-time semi-professional soccer player named Peter Coates, who already owned a sports arena catering company, purchased a few betting shops that would go on to become the chain known as Provincial Racing. Through future acquisitions, the chain had 59 shops around England. His two children, Denise and John, were from an early age involved in their father’s businesses.
Denise Coates started working in the betting shops whilst still at school. After graduating with a degree in Economics, she took on a larger role at Provincial Racing, becoming the manager for the entire business in 1995, growing the company and increasing profits year-on-year.
In the late 1990s, internet gambling was taking off. Denise was determined to create an online betting shop that would cater to the needs of a wider audience than the company’s land-based clients and had an idea that was bet365 UK. In January 2000, Denise found a unique URL to purchase, and thanks to a loan from her father, bought Bet365.com from eBay for £10,000.
Preparing to launch
The next step was to build the online sportsbook software ready to launch. The money for this came from a £15 million loan from the Royal Bank of Scotland, with mortgages from Provincial Racing as a guarantor. This loan was paid off when Bet365 sold its betting shop chain to Coral in 2005 for £40 million.
A new corporation was set up for Bet365, with Denise holding a slight majority of 50.2% of the shares. Her father and brother owned 43% between them, with the rest set aside for other investors and employees. Bet365.com went live in March 2001.
Growing the business
The competition in the UK for online betting sites was strong, so Bet365 needed to implement strategies to make it attractive. The company was the first to introduce a welcome bonus to players. Being linked to a UK land-based business and being open about the set-up of the company instilled trust that offshore sites at the time could not. This led to fast growth in the early years, with profits reinvested to grow the business further with new products, sponsorship and marketing campaigns to reinforce the fact you can gamble 24/7/365.
Unusual for the UK and Europe at the time, Bet365 also offering sports outside of their time zones, so instead of a major focus on horse racing; greyhounds; English, Italian, German and Spanish soccer; and the major US sports of football, basketball, baseball and hockey, the company opened up betting on lesser leagues, like the second or third-tier soccer leagues, popular with local supporters and accessing a market that few competitors were offering. Bet365 was novel in offering betting on athletics, bowls, boxing, cricket, cycling, darts, golf, formula 1, motorbikes, NASCAR, pool, rugby, snooker, speedway, tennis, and other sports which is now the norm.
In 2004, in one of the company’s first big reinvestment of profit the addition of an online poker skin which gave Bet365 another revenue stream and another hook for new and existing customers.
In 2006, Bet365 acquired Bowman Sportsbook, a long-standing fixture in the American sports betting scene, with a vast number of players new to Best365. In 2008, Bet365 added Bingo to their platform so that with just one log-in, customers had access to sports betting, online casino, poker, and bingo from a single website log-in with a centralised player bank. The bingo site is licensed by the Gibraltar Regulatory Authority and became popular thanks to its sponsorship of a popular UK TV soap.
Mobile and Live Streaming
Bet365 was at the forefront of rolling out a full mobile-ready platform for their players. They also added live streaming and betting so a wager can be made while the game is in progress, which is particularly popular in soccer, where it offers betting options such as naming the player who will next score, the minute of the next goal, or yellow card.
Today, Bet365 has millions of customers in more than 200 countries, with numbers growing at a rate of around 20% year-on-year. They employ over 4,600 people, with headquarters still in Stoke on Trent. The company’s last financial statement for 2019 shows revenue of £2.981 billion
Since 2004, Bet365 has added dozens of currencies to their website and made several non-English languages available, but their current focus is on the latest innovations and expansion in the markets. For example, Bet365 was the first, and probably the best, in all online betting innovations across all devices, continuing to offer not only unusual sports but also live streaming matches from their website accompanied by menus featuring match winners and dozens of propositions.