I’d like to compare a couple of people that I’ve been reading about this week; one is a 51-year-old woman, the other a nine-year-old boy and to be honest, I’m not sure which of the two stories shocked me more.

The 51-year-old is Denise Coates. Last year, her income was £265 million, which were record earnings in one year for a UK boss. That was on top of her previous year’s income of a meagre £215 million.


I don’t know the boy’s name, but his dad put this up on Twitter: “My nine-year-old told me that Mo Salah was 5/1 to score first. I don’t gamble and he’s never heard me talk about gambling before… he seen it on the tv and understood it.”

There is a connection between the two people, which I will come to shortly.

In itself, Ms Coates’s income is obscene. That one person can pocket all that in a year has been described as pure greed. I look around at other stories in recent days. Dr John Kyle in Belfast tells of a patient who moved to Universal Credit in early October, and had to wait for five weeks before getting any money. And was then told his much-needed benefits were to be cut by £42 per week. “Punishing the poor,” says the doctor.

Irish News health correspondent Seanin Graham reports, among many other things that pensioners here are getting £10,000 Credit Union loans to get cut-price operations in Lithuania because of the ridiculously long waiting lists at home; and on radio we hear that schools have to get parents to buy basics such as toilet rolls.

We could go on. And on. But while one of the wealthiest countries in the world wages war on the poor, it seems to be OK for the rich to get richer.

There was widespread criticism of the exorbitant salary, but some defended it. A Daily Telegraph columnist hit back by asking “Are we now to argue that even entrepreneurs should not be allowed to profit from their own creations.” He suggests she should be “celebrated, not vilified.”

One Sky commentator also backed her, suggesting that the criticism of her was because she was a woman.

Do me a favour. I don’t care what gender a person is, if they’re getting that amount of money in one year, especially when others are struggling for food, there’s something askew in our society’s values.

Even worse, in my opinion, Denise Coates is the founder and owner of a company called Bet365.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t object to people having a flutter, if that’s what interests you. But the proliferation of easy ways to bet and the insidious pervasive nature of the industry in the modern age of technology is creating serious problems, especially among the young.

If the ease with which a nine-year-old understands the nature of betting does not alarm you, let me give you a few facts released by the Gambling Commission. It’s estimated that 450,000 children in the UK are regularly placing bets. And that 55,000 of them have a gambling problem with tens of thousands of children actually addicted to gambling.

And that’s just children.

No wonder, then, that the betting industry bombards us with advertising. Some Sunday, in particular, try watching football on satellite television. ‘Ave a go on that, urges Ray Winstone, as we can bet in-play, cash out. And maybe even watch some football as well.

A recent report in the Irish Times said: During the recent World Cup in Russia the Guardian reported that a total of 90 minutes of betting ads – the equivalent to an entire football match – were shown on ITV alone during the tournament, amounting to 17 per cent of all total ad breaks. This was one and a half times more than the amount of ads for alcohol and fast food combined.

A simple experiment carried out recently during a Premier League match on BT Sport counted a minimum of two gambling ads during every ad break (including the sponsorship of the programme itself by Bet365) while every break during the Ryder Cup on Sky Sports (in total close to 35 hours of coverage over three days between 6.30am and 6.30pm) carried at least one gambling advert.

During the Republic of Ireland’s Nations League clash with Wales there were five gambling adverts shown at half-time alone.

There are, of course, many types of addiction; but I do think that the ease with which young people can bet is something that we are largely indifferent to, particularly those in later teens. Are you checking what they’re doing on their mobile phones, or are you worried about falling out with kids if you challenge them?

Don’t be worried about being overprotective. You could, literally, be saving their life.

I wrote a piece some time ago when Pete and Sadie Keogh spoke out about losing their son, Lewis who took his own life at the age of 34 after becoming addicted.

If your youngster insists, it’s only a bit of fun, I won’t get hooked, well maybe so. But I’m sure everyone says that.

As Pete told me last year: “It’s not just about winning and losing. American research has shown that the effects of gambling can release chemicals into the brain to give a hit similar to crack cocaine.”

Pete has been campaigning to reform Fixed Odds Betting Terminals, where people can lose large amounts of money in a few minutes. You can lose £100 in 20 seconds, so no wonder they’re called killing machines. The British Government eventually listened to campaigners and agreed to reduce that to £2.

But, they decided to wait until October, 2019, which in fairness prompted the Sports Minister, Tracey Crouch to resign in protest. This prompted the Government to bring the change forward to April, 2019. A concession, perhaps, but a little one and a sign of how hard a battle the betting companies will wage to keep their profits high.

Much, much more should be done by society at large to regulate betting. But, as always, it is up also to individual families to keep a watchful eye on young people who are tempted to start of a path which could really ruin their lives.

Enjoy your millions, Ms Coates.