Who was hot in 2011 and who will be hot in 2012? The first GI Hot 50 celebrates a dynamic industry on the cusp of great change.

The Gaming Intelligence Hot 50 is a celebration of the most talented, innovative and inspiring individuals working in the online gambling industry.

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The Hot 50 aims to be an annual event acclaiming the people who have made a difference to their company or the industry during the past year, and those who are in a crucial position of influence for the year ahead.

The Hot 50 features talented marketeers, technologists, product heads, regulators, lawyers and CEOs. There are 21 CEOs on the list, which is probably more than there will be in future. This is the Hot 50’s first year and a lot of people wanted to praise the boss.

The number of CEOs on the list also has something to do with the relative youth of the industry. A remarkable 14 of our 21 CEOs are the founders or joint-founders of their companies. So these people have obviously had a massive influence on their companies and, in many cases, on the industry as a whole.

Thirty-two per cent of the Hot 50 are founding fathers. That includes the likes of Denise and John Coates at Bet365 and Isai Scheinberg at PokerStars. Between them, this trio have had a huge impact on the wider industry. But the point of this list is not just to shower praise on those who have achieved, but to find the next generation of superstars.

The only qualification for the Hot 50 is to be working in the online gambling industry. This accounts for a lack of Americans on the list. Some were considered and no doubt will have a huge impact in the future, but it may not even be 2012 when we see a regulated US market. We will keep those names in mind for next year.

There is one American on the list. Hats off to lawyer Jeff Ifrah, whose clients include the likes of Full Tilt, PokerStars and Microgaming. It is no coincidence that the only American is a lawyer. Because, for now, that is the battleground.

GIQ columnist and Hot 50 judge Mark Davies argues, that it is in fact the politicians, their advisors and the regulators who will have the most influence on the sector. We feature a selection of forward-thinking and/or influential regulators. They are an integral part of the industry. Politicians are not – important as they undoubtedly are.

Our one qualification also discounts the likes of Mark Zuckerberg at Facebook or Mark Pincus at Zynga. Both may be game-changers but they are not devoted to online gambling. This is not a list of ‘the most influential people’, mainly because those lists tend to be boring after year one, dominated by the same old names year in, year out. The Hot 50 is an inclusive celebration of everyone in the industry who does a good job.

So, while there is only one American, a remarkable 40 per cent of the Hot 50 hail from the UK. Bodog founder Calvin Ayre told me his main reason for moving to London was because it is the home of online gambling. And despite many of these Brits being based offshore in Gibraltar or the Isle of Man, 32 per cent of the Hot 50 work in the UK capital.

According to the latest figures from GBGC, the gross gaming yield for the world in 2011 is likely to be around $34.38bn. The UK will generate nearly 14 per cent of this, with around $2.5bn. That in itself is an amazing statistic. But compare it to larger economies such as Germany, where revenues are around $850m, and the impact of a deep culture of gambling is revealed. But the UK contingent is not dominated by oldschool bookmakers – there is also a healthy entrepreneurial representation. This trend is likely to continue into 2012, with new technology suppliers launching, as well new operators targeting the UK market.

Sweden is the country with the next highest representation. Stockholm has more Hot 50 residents than Gibraltar, the Isle of Man or Malta. Twelve per cent of the Hot 50 are Swedish, nine per cent come from Israel and seven per cent from Canada. These figures reveal the industry’s technological roots. The rest come from countries across the globe – from New Zealand to Costa Rica, from Iceland to Italy. It is an exceedingly diverse list but as the established industry delves into newer emerging (and regulating) markets, the Hot 50 will undoubtedly reflect this.

Three of the Israelis come from Playtech, which has more representatives (five) than any other company. Its success is undeniable but has attracted an increasing amount of critics. It consistently appears in the upper reaches of the GIQ20, which lists the fastest-growing listed companies in the business. It has been accused of buying business but it buys businesses judiciously and it is a testament to the enduring strength of those acquisitions that four of them are represented here in the shape of GTS, Mobenga, Videobet and Virtue Fusion.

The second best-represented company is equally controversial – Betfair. As discussed at length in the previous issue of GIQ, the betting exchange has come under fire from all sides during the last year or two. But it remains unique, even if it finds itself at a crossroads. The selection of two of its executives (soon-to-be CEO Breon Corcoran and CTO Tony McAllister) owes as much to the importance and influence they will have on the company over the coming year as it does to their achievements so far.

Paddy Power is the only other company to have more than two representatives, if we give them half a point for departing COO Corcoran. As we must. Corcoran has a massive role to play at Betfair but he has also been a key part of the team that has made Paddy Power the most successful land-based operator in online gambling.

The diversity of nationalities is sadly not mirrored in any kind of equality of the sexes. However, 10 per cent of the Hot 50 are women, a higher figure than might have been anticipated, given the dominance of men in the industry.

Finally, thank you to our judging panel. We would not have been able to produce such an exciting and diverse selection of talents without you. Congratulations to all in the Hot 50, and if you haven’t made it in this year, don’t despair. We expect to have an even more exciting selection next year.

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