It was once said in reference to casino gambling that ‘men run the show and women are just for show’. And, with the organisers of the ICE Totally Gaming conference in London causing a furore by insisting female staff wear "nothing but swimsuits", this attitude may appear to be more prevalent than ever.
But given the fact this decision was immediately challenged by the female then-chief executive of the Gambling Commission, it’s evident the industry as a whole isn’t the men-only cabal it once was. This is backed up by the fact some of the most important positions in the gambling industry are now held by women and that some of the most high profile people in the business are women. Here are three women who will heavily influence gambling for the foreseeable future:
Denise Coates is, in her own words, the ultimate gambler. Why? Because she, along with her brother John, were willing to mortgage their whole chain of family-run betting shops to launch a risky online betting start-up from a portakabin in Stoke-on-Trent. Fortunately for them, that gamble paid off and then some.
That fledgling start-up grew to become bet365, the multi-billion pound online bookmakers that now takes in £12 billion just in bets every single year. In fact, the company as a whole raked in a whopping £525 million during the 2017 financial year, enabling Denise – the majority shareholder – to pocket a cool £199 million pay packet.
This makes the econometrics graduate the highest-paid boss in Britain today, earning nearly eight times as much as Lionel Messi. She also sits on a nest egg that, according to the Sunday Times Rich List, is even greater than Sir Richard Branson’s. Ultimate gambler indeed!
By almost every measure, Vanessa Selbst is the most successful female poker player of all time. The only woman ever to reach the coveted number one ranking in the world on the Global Poker Index, Selbst has racked up close to $12 million in live poker tournament earnings and won no less than three World Series of Poker bracelets. In addition, the 33-year-old American is the only poker player ever to have won two North American Poker Tour (NAPT) Main Event titles in a row.
Selbst called time on her glittering 12-year card-playing career earlier this year to take up a different type of gambling: hedge fund trading. Undoubtedly, the talent from Brooklyn, who also has undergraduate and law degrees from Yale University to her name, will hedge her bets with great success in that arena too.
To paraphrase the insightful Ron Burgundy, you know you’re a pretty big deal when you're known by a variety of monikers. Pansy Ho is the ‘queen of gambling’ and ‘the $4.4 billion queen of sex, sequins and seven-card stud’. With a net worth thought to be in excess $5.5 billion and ensconced as the co-chair of the famed (and extremely profitable) MGM Macau, Pansy Ho IS a big deal.
Daughter of legendary Chinese gambling tycoon Stanley Ho, Pansy certainly had a leg-up in the gambling industry from an early age. Born, as she put it, "with a silver gambling chip in my mouth", she shot into the spotlight in 2008 when it was her and not her father who opened the MGM Macau in alliance with US giants MGM Mirage.
Ho quashed rumours she was just a ‘face’ (allegedly to pacify MGM’s concerns that her dad was a bit too pally with Chinese Triads) by showing she was a shrewd businesswoman who had the ambition and determination to to be a success in this tough business in her own right. Her fierce and famously aggressive drive, along with her entrepreneurial nous, has seen her invest wisely within the gambling industry, as well as in multiple others, including property and transport.
In April of 2018, Bloomberg afforded her the official title of ‘Hong Kong’s richest woman’; but with all of Asia right on her doorstep – and in her sights – this is likely to be just the beginning.