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Denise Coates CBE

Denise is credited as the driving force behind bet365, the multi-billion pound global betting website she launched in 2000 from a single portable building on a Stoke-on-Trent car park.

Her entrepreneurial vision and insight gained from her first-class Econometrics degree from Sheffield University, helped transform her family's chain of betting shops when she became Managing Director at the age of 22.

During this period, Denise expanded the chain from 12 shops to 49 through organic growth and acquisition before deciding to launch the gambling website.

"The Internet offered the opportunity of being a global player and it excited me hugely. I was convinced that sports betting was a natural fit for the Internet and was determined to take the business online."

The Festival Park offices of bet365 now employ over 2,000 people, which makes the company the largest private sector employer in Stoke-on-Trent and one of the most profitable and successful in the UK.

bet365 was listed as the most profitable company in The Sunday Times Profit Track 100 league table in 2011 and remains the only major online bookmaker to keep their operation based in the UK.

"I am from the area and apart from my time at University, have always lived here. There are huge tax advantages to taking the business offshore, but, it has "My family will say that I have always been driven and have always had the desire to be the very best at whatever I was doing. I am hugely indebted to my father for always believing in me and to my brother John who runs the business alongside me. A further key to bet365's success, is our fantastic and loyal group of employees who have worked with me over the last 12 years in Stoke."

The company's commitment to the region is exemplified by the £2 million it invests annually in training at its Festival Park Base. Stoke City Football Club's standing in football's Premier League and the benefits the region sees as a result, would not be possible without bet365's £60 million investment in the club.

Denise, who lives Betchton, is celebrating her second award of the year having received a CBE in the 2012 New Year's Honours List, for her services to Community and Business.

The award of Honorary Doctor of Staffordshire University is bestowed upon Denise in recognition of her entrepreneurial vision. It also recognises the impact of bet365 on the city of Stoke-on-Trent, both as a major employer and as the major investor in Stoke's Premier League Football Club.

She said: "I was hugely honoured. It's fantastic to be recognised by Staffordshire University."