The operators that are evolving are the big winners in this year's Gaming Intelligence Awards, with The Stars Group, Scientific Games and Playtech leading the charge winning three awards each.
This year's Gaming Intelligence Awards were the most popular and fiercely contested yet. Once again some of the industry's largest companies took home the top prizes. The Hot 50 - which will be announced Wednesday - was dominated by lesser-known individuals who are helping evolve and improve the iGaming sector.
It's an interesting contrast. While the GIA results suggest the big companies are simply getting bigger, the Hot 50 shows that this is not necessarily because they are snapping up the businesses below them.
Consolidation and competition mean that businesses have to work harder to maintain market-leading positions. It's no longer good enough to talk of embracing new technology – companies have to constantly update and evolve their offerings with new products and services. Legacy systems won't cut it in 2018.
In judging this year's awards, it became clear that relentless self-improvement was key in selecting our winners. It's the ones looking to evolve that are the big winners this year. Those that have invested – and invested sensibly – in improving their core offering have been the ones to benefit. The likes of Sky Betting & Gaming, SBTech and GVC Holdings (for bwin and partypoker) are among the big winners here.
The Stars Group takes home three prizes after a stellar year. PokerStars has reasserted itself as the dominant force in its key vertical, while also taking pole position in casino, as well as revolutionising loyalty programmes with Stars Rewards.
Scientific Games has also performed strongly. The range of solutions it offers continues to grow with every acquisition, and it disproves the notion that big corporations struggle to innovate.
After missing out on prizes last year, Playtech has nabbed the poker and bingo supplier trophies, and game of the year award. It has not been a banner year for the solutions giant, but its achievements in these three categories shows that a weaker year for Playtech would still be a wildly successful one for most other companies.
Another emerging theme was social responsibility, especially in the Hot 50. We now have more industry professionals working, or involved in, social responsibility efforts than in previous years. This certainly reflects on a difficult year in which operators' processes and controls to protect players have come under greater scrutiny than ever before.
Yet while the industry wants to be a more socially responsible – and in turn more highly regarded – space, it still lags behind in terms of diversity. Just eight of this year's Hot 50 are female. Yes, this is higher than last time, but this is something that needs to be addressed.
This year we had record numbers of entries for both the Hot 50 and GIAs, making the judging process particularly difficult. We would like to thank all those involved in selecting the final winners, and offer our congratulations to the victors. Well done.
GIA 2018 Winners:
Sports betting operator of the year - Sky Betting & Gaming
Poker operator of the year - PokerStars
Bingo operator of the year - Stride Gaming
Casino operator of the year - PokerStars Casino
Social casino operator of the year - Aristocrat Leisure
Lottery operator of the year - La Française des Jeux
One to watch – operator award - Videoslots
Operator innovation award - The Stars Group - Stars Rewards
eSports operator of the year - Pinnacle
Marketing campaign of the year - LeoVegas - Hitta.se
Social casino supplier of the year - Scientific Games
Sports betting supplier of the year - SBTech
Poker supplier of the year - Playtech
Bingo supplier of the year - Playtech
Marketing solutions provider of the year - Beehive
Casino supplier of the year - NetEnt
Game of the year - Playtech - Age of the Gods
Supplier innovation award - Scientific Games OneVoice
Lottery supplier of the year - Scientific Games
One to watch – supplier award - Red Tiger Gaming
eSports supplier of the year - Betgenius
Responsible gambling operator of the year - NO ONE