The billionaire founder and boss of gambling company Bet365 has paid herself a record-breaking amount for the chief executive of a British company, taking home $279 million in 2017, according to the latest accounts.
Denise Coates, the joint chief executive of the British-based gambling firm, was paid £220 million ($283m) in the year to March 25. Her 50% stake in the company, which is not listed on the stock market, also entitled her to a £45 million ($57m) dividend. Apple CEO Tim Cook's total compensation was $12.8 million in 2017.
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The payout makes the 51-year-old Englishwoman the best-paid boss in Britain and the highest-paid female chief executive in the world, while her income is more than double that paid to the entire Stoke City football team, which Bet365 owns. Last season Stoke was relegated from the English Premier League.
According to the Gambling Commission, Britain has the largest online gambling market in the world -- a 32% market share of the gambling industry as a whole, which generated £13.8 billion ($17.7 billion) from October 2015 to September 2016.
In 2015, there was an estimated 430,000 problem gamblers in Britain, with a further two million "at risk" of problem gambling.
According to GambleAware in 2016, problem gamblers were costing the British government between £260 million ($334 million) and £1.2 billion ($1.5 billion) per year.
Those campaigning against gambling addiction were critical of Coates' decision to award herself such a sum. Over the past four years she has earned £665 million ($856m).
Labour Member of Parliament Carolyn Harris, who has led research into the effects of gambling, described the figure as "slightly obscene," while Vince Cable, leader of the Liberal Democrats, said the pay package was "irresponsible and excessive."
"In any circumstance it is hard to justify, but more so given the money comes from people struggling with compulsive gambling," Cable said.
"This is an industry body needing tighter regulation. We have started high-stake gaming machines. We now need to move into online gambling, and curbing the advertising around it."
Coates, whose net worth is $3.6 billion according to Forbes, did not immediately respond to CNN's request for comment.
"The Group is committed to delivering a strategy where all customers can enjoy its range of products and services in a safe, responsible and secure environment," wrote Coates in her review of the Bet365 business.
On social media, a number of users also said the Bet365 boss deserved her pay.
"Denise Coates has built a world class business from nothing but an idea. She has built that world class business right here in Stoke-on-Trent," tweeted one Twitter user.
"Yes it's an exceptional, mind-boggling salary but don't overlook what an exceptional mind-boggling achievement it is."
Bet365 heavily advertises during football matches and high-profile sporting events.
Over £52 billion ($67 billion ) was wagered by Bet365 customers last year. Profits were up 31% and revenues increased by 25%.
A report published Tuesday by the Gambling Commission, the gaming regulator, found that the number of children considered to have a gambling problem had quadrupled in two years.
The Denise Coates Foundation, which makes grants to individuals and organization for general charitable purposes -- including the prevention or relief of poverty -- has an income of £51.6 million ($66.3 million) and spent £6.5 million ($8.3 million) for the financial year ending March 26, 2017, according to the Charity Commission.
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