A celebration of the most innovative and inspiring people in online gaming.
Every Hot 50 has a wildcard and Markus Aurala is this year’s entry. The Finn has yet to launch his operation but his bold aim to “change the stagnated online casino industry for good” has opened a few eyes. That anybody believes this is more than hot air is testament to Aurala’s track record thus far. He has played key roles in Paf’s move into online gaming, the rise of Mr Green and the rebirth of Betsson, and now he is looking to do it himself. Aurala wants to become the Uber of online casino. Fly or flop, it will be worth watching.
Michigan State Lottery
Scott Bowen has long championed lotteries being able to let their customers play online versions of their games. The Michigan State Lottery is one of the first US lotteries to really embrace the iLottery channel, having first mooted its plans more than three years ago. It is now the leading proponent for the burgeoning iLottery channel, through its partnership with NeoPollard Interactive. Bowen is setting the benchmark for other US lotteries to follow. It may take time but the Michigan Lottery is one to keep an eye on.
head of Asia
After several years spent scoping out the Chinese market for Betsson, Magnus Grinneback won what he described as his dream job. It is a big role for him and a very important one for BetVictor with its history in the Asian market. Grinneback has survived a change of regime at the Gibraltar-based operator but he will need to continue thriving against mighty rivals such as SBOBet, 188Bet, Dafabet and bet365. Grinneback’s enthusiasm is infectious. BetVictor is enjoying something of a renaissance and Grinneback will likely be in its vanguard.
chief international officer
Jeffrey Haas seemed to have landed a coveted job when he was named DraftKings’ chief international officer in August 2015, only to see an already high-pressure role become more vital with increased regulatory scrutiny in the US. International expansion will be crucial to continuing DraftKings’ growth in 2016 after a stellar year turned sour in states such as New York and Nevada. It is a massive job and Haas will be handed the resources to ensure the overseas venture is a success. Some will have doubts. Haas must silence them.
Sweden’s gambling regulations are long overdue for an overhaul, and civil affairs minister Ardalan Shekarabi could not have picked a better man to develop proposals for the new legislative framework. With seven years leading current regulatory body the Lotteriinspektionen, Håkan Hallstedt has an encyclopaedic knowledge of gambling in Sweden. Shekarabi has described Hallstedt as “the last major piece of the puzzle” necessary to push through gambling reform. Regulators are not the likeliest of explorers, but after years of regulatory stasis, Sweden is finally entering a new era.
SVP, managing director iGaming
Penn National Gaming
Considering the success of his tenure as managing director of Betfred’s online gaming arm, it was something of a surprise to see Chris Sheffield leave the operator in 2014. He has now taken on arguably his biggest role to date. A major industry innovator at Million-2-1, then IGT before establishing the traditionally retail-focused Betfred online, Sheffield will now attempt to do the same with Penn National. Sheffield has already closed a social casino partnership with Scientific Games, and only regulation is stopping him from launching online in Pennsylvania. When regulation is passed, it would be a surprise if Sheffield did not lead Penn to market leadership in its home state.