Who was hot in 2012 and who will be hot in 2013? The second GI Hot 50 celebrates the people driving the gaming industry forward.
The Gaming Intelligence Hot 50 is a celebration of the most talented, innovative and inspiring individuals working in the online gambling industry.
The Hot 50 is 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.
We have chosen not to include any of last year’s winners so that we can spread the credit around. Many of last year’s winners were nominated again, but many of our winners could win every year. The Hot 50 is not a dull list of the ‘most influential people’. Such lists tend to be the same year after year, with the odd rising star infiltrating the elite. The Hot 50 is an inclusive celebration of everyone in the industry who does a great job. There is no need to limit it.
Our unwritten rule also enabled us to boost the numbers and credibility of our judging panel with a few of last year’s Hot 50.
bwin.party joint chief executive Jim Ryan, for example, would have been a worthy winner again. It would have been a valedictory award as it turns out, with Ryan shuffling off into retirement. Thank you Jim for your time spent judging this year’s selection and thank you for your contribution to the industry over the years. Enjoy the ski slopes!
Another of last year’s winners, Amaya CEO David Baazov, is certainly hot. He followed up 2011’s acquisitions of Chartwell and Cryptologic with Cadillac Jack and Ongame in 2012. However, Amaya does not go unrepresented. CTO Sigmund Lee will handle the tricky task of pulling all these companies together.
Breon Corcoran is already making his presence felt at Betfair but that was anticipated with his inclusion in last year’s Hot 50. Christopher Coyne has taken over from Corcoran and continued to drive the good ship Paddy Power on.
Another of last year’s winners, bwin.party COO Joachim Baca has responsibility for the relaunch of the operator’s poker product. Hardly anyone had heard of Quickspin this time last year but CEO Daniel Lindberg was on the list. He proved the judging panel correct by providing games to power social gaming star Plumbee before going on to sell them to Unibet and Betclic Everest in the real-money world. His technical brains Mats Westerlund makes the cut this time.
All of the regulators and lawyers in last year’s Hot 50 continue to have a massive impact and so on and so on… but enough about last year.
There are more than 25 per cent more backstage heroes, rising stars and technical wizards on the list than last year, which means the judging panel is doing its job properly in finding the unsung heroes that make the industry tick. It was always likely that some of those appearing on last year’s list would be receiving something of a lifetime achievement award. There are some long-serving CEOs in this year’s selection too. Norbert Teufelberger could well be the longest-serving CEO in the industry, but with Ryan stepping aside, few would argue that Teufelberger will be anything but hugely influential in the year ahead.
The diversity of the industry is reflected by the 12 different nations represented in the Hot 50, which features its first Serb (Branko Milutinovic of Nordeus) and its first Belgian (Raf Keustermans of Plumbee).
The buzz about the US is reflected by 14 per cent of the Hot 50 being American. There was just one last year, which reflected the unlikelihood of anyone being online in 2012. However, that one American, lawyer Jeff Ifrah, had a mighty role in one of the most important deals in the history of online gaming and certainly the most important of 2012 – PokerStars’ acquisition of Full Tilt Poker.
It seems almost certain that Nevada and New Jersey will go online this year, so we can expect even more Americans in future. There is exactly the same 40 per cent of Britons on the list as last year and one more Swede, making Sweden the second-best-represented country again – along with the US.
Sadly, there are only three women in the whole of the Hot 50, down from five last year and despite the presence of two women on the judging panel. Note to industry: must do better.
The best-performing companies are, obviously, well represented. PokerStars and William Hill have two representatives. Playtech has three, as does Paddy Power. 888’s continued success is reflected by its two representatives in the Hot 50. It is pleasing, though, to see Swedish operator LeoVegas end its first year in business with its two founders making the cut. Microgaming too, which for so long seemed to be losing ground to Playtech, had something of a renaissance and has two employees making the grade.
All in all, the panel has done a great job (thank you all) in pulling out a selection that is largely reflective of an industry of many talents. There are founders, entrepreneurs, hard-nosed numbers people, visionaries, super salesmen and some fantastic personalities. Congratulations to all, and have a good year.
The Gaming Intelligence Hot 50 of 2013