This could be the most exciting Hot 50 yet. There are more backstage heroes in the Hot 50 than ever before. This is testament to the insider knowledge of the judging panel, which has allowed us to get under the skin of the industry and give real credit to those who rarely see their name in lights.

This is the joy of the Hot 50. Many of last year’s superstars have been omitted from the list as we endeavour to enforce our unwritten rule of not allowing anyone to feature in consecutive years. This means the likes of Denise Coates, David Baazov and Kenny Alexander miss out.

Baazov and Alexander are well represented by some fairly new arrivals, who have assumed a crucial role as Amaya and GVC embark on (yet another) pivotal year.

Rational Group CEO Rafi Ashkenazi has a tough job making a success of sports and casino, and he will have to do it without a bunch of veterans, who were forced out of the company by the New Jersey regulator.

GVC chief operating officer Shay Segev has the mother of all integrations on his plate as he and Alexander look to take GVC to the next level, with its acquisition of bwin.party. Segev is a Hot 50 veteran from his days at Playtech. He will be up for the challenge.

Before we talk about other backstage heroes, it must be acknowledged that there are some fairly fresh faces and new companies in the Operator Icons category. Jim Ryan owes his iconic status to his long history in the game. But he is making the right moves at Pala and is truly breaking new ground in tribal gaming.

Meanwhile, we have more Australian companies represented in this Hot 50 than ever before. If Tatts Group CEO Robbie Cooke and Tabcorp CEO David Attenborough represent the pinnacle of the profession Down Under then Crown Resorts’ CMO Christopher Coyne and social chief Danny Frishman represent the next generation. Both will be well known to many readers from their past activities at Paddy Power and Playtech respectively.

The Backstage Heroes category is filled with techies, product chiefs, traders and operational experts. These are the people who make their companies tick. If Gala Coral CEO Carl Leaver is surprised to find himself in such company it is only because his new role at Ladbrokes Coral will find him working very much behind the scenes as he begins the sensitive job of integration.

William Hill strategy guru Robin Chhabra is a well-known name but accustomed to life behind the more flamboyant face of former CEO Ralph Topping. Chhabra is always beavering away behind the scenes. He is renowned as one of the smartest and one of the nicest guys in the business. With M&A on his plate, he will be expected to react to events at Ladbrokes and Paddy Power.

It is not just the Backstage Heroes that lie behind the scenes. The Sales & Marketing Gurus and many of the Explorers are lesser-known figures than the big-time CEOs, who normally dominate other lists of movers and shakers.

Of course, we have found a place for some of these big time CEOs. Betfair CEO Breon Corcoran was described as a genius during the research process for this project. Both Corcoran and future Ladbrokes Coral CEO Jim Mullen have huge tasks ahead and could not be ignored.

But the Hot 50 aims to be different and the characters who make up the Backstage, Sales & Marketing and Explorers categories account for 54 per cent of the Hot 50. It is worth giving our thanks once again for the judges’ help in uncovering all these stars.

And thanks also to you, the readers. We could not put the Hot 50 together without your help in nominating your friends and colleagues. It is not an easy task narrowing down 50 stars but it is ultimately one of the most rewarding.

Hot 50 2016 - Operator Icons
Hot 50 2016 - Backstage Heroes
Hot 50 2016 - Superstar Suppliers
Hot 50 2016 - Explorers
Hot 50 2016 - Sales & Marketing Gurus

Gaming Intelligence Hot 50 Judges

ANDREW BULLOSS, head of betting & gaming, Odgers Berndtson
DANIEL BURNS, chief executive officer, Carbon Group
JOE CUSCHIERI, chairman, Malta Gaming Authority
GAVIN ISAACS, chief executive officer, Scientific Games
STEVEN MATSELL, chief executive officer, Leander Games
BOBBY MAMUDI, editor in chief, Gaming Intelligence
DAWID MYSLINSKI, analyst, Redeye
DAVID SARGEANT, founder, iGaming Ideas
NICKY SENYARD, chief executive officer, Income Access
DERMOT SMURFIT, chief executive officer, GAN
JEREMY THOMPSON-HILL, chief executive officer, OpenBet
MOR WEIZER, chief executive officer, Playtech