David Baazov is one of the most charismatic CEOs you could hope to meet. He is also one of the youngest and he is dragging his little-known land-based Canadian gaming company online and into the limelight. He is a dealmaker extraordinaire. He has sought out and won long-term B2B deals in Africa, Asia, Europe and Latin America – many of them with government clients. And he is also cannily building Amaya by acquisition. He bought Chartwell and now looks set to acquire Cryptologic, two Canadian pioneers that had failed to evolve with the rest of the market. It was hard to understand what he saw in either but he identified two companies with the manpower needed to exploit his vision. Q3 revenues for 2011 climbed 171 per cent, partly as a result of the Chartwell acquisition but also due to the popularity of its Mosino hospitality entertainment system. Now Baazov is expecting big returns from recent wins in Moldova, Kenya, Uganda and Armenia. He has also floated Amaya and it is the best-performing tech IPO in Canada. Amaya and its enterprising CEO are definitely ones to watch.
Jens von Bahr
CEO and co-founder, Evolution Gaming
Jens von Bahr founded Evolution Gaming in 2006 and within a year he had established the company as the leading provider of live-dealer platforms in Europe and, in all probability, the whole world. Evolution’s first deal was signed with Gala Coral and Blue Square, Expekt, PartyGaming, Stan James, Victor Chandler and William Hill were quick to follow. Three years on and its client list reads like a who’s who of the online gaming industry. Von Bahr’s genius was to spot a gap in the European market for an Asian-style live-dealer product. Others have done it but Evolution has done it best. It has prospered in Italy and von Bahr is set to take it into other re-regulated markets, starting with Denmark.
President & CEO, Spielo International & GTECH G2
Walter Bugno recently added GTECH G2 to his list of responsibilities, as parent company Lottomatica seeks to exploit the possibilities offered by the convergence of the land-based and online industries. Bugno’s rise to prominence within Lottomatica has been swift, having just joined from Australia’s Tabcorp in 2010. The convergence of land-based and online technologies is perhaps most apparent in the US, where many casinos are preparing for the legalisation of online gaming. And, while many struggle to get their heads round online gambling, they understand VLTs – that is where Bugno and Spielo will be influential. Spielo machines are found in 25 US states and among 142 native American tribes. Bugno’s stated aim is: “Market leadership in the government-sponsored and commercial gaming industries across all online and land-based gaming channels around the world.” That’s some ambition. The CEO’s chair at GTECH G2 has been something of a hot seatbut if the strategic premise works, then Lottomatica might have found it a more permanent owner.
Simon Denyer and Oliver Slipper
Joint CEOs, Perform
Inform Group founder Simon Denyer and Premium TV chief executive Oliver Slipper came together when the two companies became Perform in 2007. Since then they have become key players in the in-play revolution. Perform owns the digital-streaming rights to more than 200 leagues, tournaments and events around the world, including the English Premier League, the International Cricket Council, La Liga, The PGA golf tour and the ATP and WTA tennis tours. As such, Denyer and Slipper have shaped the in-play fortunes of the betting industry, with 32 bookmakers on board, including the likes of Bet365, bwin, Unibet and William Hill. And, more importantly, if you don’t have a deal with Perform, you’re nowhere.
David Loveday has been the OpenBet CEO since 2002 and in that time the company has evolved to become the leading platform supplier to the sports betting industry. Loveday has masterminded a successful and muchneeded rebrand and led the private equity-backed management buyout of OpenBet from NDS. But enough about the past, OpenBet has moved into a prime position to supply governments the world over after sealing important B2G deals with the likes of British Columbia Lottery Corporation, Loto- Québec, Macau Slot and PMU. With OpenBet’s hegemony over sportsbooks seemingly untouchable, Loveday has turned his marketing focus to promoting the company’s lesser-known casino products. Few would bet against him repeating his success so far.
Carlos Salas is the brains behind ONEworks, one of Asia’s largest sportsbook platform providers. The company raised some eyebrows when it announced it was bringing its product, which covers around 5,000 football matches a month, to Europe. The European offensive has not worked out quite as well as planned but Salas’s role will be essential in ironing out the teething problems that have hindered its progress in Europe’s regulated markets. However, the ONEworks sales pitch is good and its competitors are concerned. Salas will be the one to make it happen.
COO, Genera Networks
Maria Sandell used management experience gained at Åland’s Paf to good use at up-and-coming Swedish gaming supplier Genera Networks. Her colleagues look on in wonder at her inexhaustible energy and are thankful for her work in securing a succession of lucrative B2G contracts. She went head-to-head with suppliers much bigger than Genera to win a new lottery contract with Norsk Tipping of Norway that could be worth in excess of £20m. That followedrecent deals with Swedish horse racing monopoly ATG and Swedish licensed lottery A-lotterierna. Company and COO are truly ones to watch.
Commercial director, Zukido
David Sargeant is the kind of technologist with an unerring grasp of what the customer wants that has made him a key figure in the growth of Zukido. Sargeant’s background at Orbis (now OpenBet), Blue Square and Finsoft has given him a good all-round view of the customer experience. Zukido’s clients never fail to be impressed with his advice and vision. Zukido’s growing customer base, which includes the likes of Bet365, Betfred and Stan James, is a testament to Sargeant’s hard work. As Zukido moves into the mobile space, Sargeant’s influence on some of the world’s leading sportsbooks is only likely to grow.
Managing director, GameAccount Network
GameAccount Network had flown under the radar a little before it signed a game-changing agreement with leading land-based casino supplier Aristocrat. It was a matter of months before Aristocrat Online was born and was launching online operations for US casinos (albeit in freeplay mode). Following its splashy US entry, the joint venture has gone on to sell Aristocrat’s much-loved offline casino games to the likes of Rank Group for online purposes. Smurfit is busy putting convergence theory into practice while others are merely positioning themselves. The Aristocrat deal should not overshadow the work he has done in selling skill games (particularly, but also casino games), to the likes of Lottomatica, Paddy Power and William Hill. Smurfit is the driving force behind the amazing growth of GameAccount, where turnover has increased by 439 per cent in the last four years and is set to grow another 50 per cent this year.
In 2007 Mor Weizer assumed the chief executive’s office at Playtech at the impossibly young age of 31. Since then he has built Playtech into the world’s leading supplier of online gaming software. It is his strategic vision that has guided Playtech through an unprecedented growth curve, taking in key acquisitions such as those of GTS, Virtue Fusion and Mobenga. The hunger for growth is not slowing, as evidenced by the late-2011 purchase of Ash Gaming. But it is not just growth for growth’s sake. Each acquisition has a canny rationale, which is Weizer’s genius. With GTS he bought a platform. Virtue Fusion increased bingo liquidity. With Mobenga he bought the best mobile sportsbook provider. And so on... At Playtech all roads lead back to Weizer. He does the deals and makes the whole thing work. The Scientific Games and Sportech partnerships mean the company now has fantastic routes into the horse racing and lottery markets in the US. You cannot fault his track record so far and he has positioned the company pretty well for any eventuality.
The Hot 50 Winners
Marketing & More
Law & Regulation
Rising Stars & Tech Wizards