It’s been a pretty good year for 71-year-old Peter Coates. His beloved Stoke City – of which he is chairman – is playing in the Premiership after winning promotion in 2008, and his Bet365 online betting business goes from strength to strength.

Recessions come and recessions go, but Peter and his daughter Denise were smart enough to realise that there will always be punters willing to gamble. On Bet365 you can do that anytime from anywhere in the world in any language.

Stoke City is in the top flight of English football for the first time for 23 years, and is watched by sell-out crowds at the Britannia Stadium. Peter Coates loves the club so much he has bought it not once, but twice.

The miner’s son from Goldenhill, Stoke-on-Trent – the youngest of 14 children – became the majority shareholder of Stoke City FC in 1989 and was chairman until 1997. Two years later he sold his shares for £3.5 million to a consortium of Icelandic businessmen.

Then in May 2006 his company – Kidsgrove Road Limited – bought it back again, paying the Icelanders £1.7 million, with a further £3.3 million to cancel out debt.

The long-time Labour Party donor founded Stadia Catering in 1968 specifically to supply catering at football clubs. Within a few years he was supplying nearly every club in the UK. Stadia was renamed Lindley Catering and was sold for £17 million.

In 1974 he bought three betting shops – the start of a chain which was to become Provincial Racing, owning 49 shops across the country. Then, in 2000, his daughter Denise came up with the idea of online betting. He took up her idea and Bet365 was born. She now owns half the company, while he son John owns 25 per cent. The siblings are responsible for Bet365’s day-to-day running – and its success.

In July 2005 Peter Coates sold his betting shops for £40 million to concentrate on the online business.

The Bet365 business, which employs 900 staff, continues to escalate in value and is now worth around £375 million. In the year to 2008 its profits doubled to £30.4 million on sales of £159.6 million. The latest figures will show even more growth with gaming revenues of £250 million.

Thanks to Denise’s bright idea, the Coates fortune is one of the few in this year’s Rich List to grow rather than fall.