HEAD OF GAMING
Daniel Eskola joined Unibet as head of poker before being promoted to head of gaming two years ago. His product strategy combined with his internal advocacy for the prioritisation of the casino segment has resulted in Unibet’s casino revenues growing much faster than the rest of the market. Unibet is still very much viewed as a sportsbook brand, but over 55 per cent of revenue now comes from gaming. Eskola has now set his sights on revitalising poker through the construction of a standalone poker product. It is an ambitious project, but Eskola is a winner.
GROUP DIRECTOR OF POKER
Jeffrey Haas sits in one of the hottest seats in online gaming. Perhaps only surpassed by his boss CEO Norbert Teufelberger, Haas has been tasked with revitalising bwin.party’s formerly dominant poker product. It could be one of the toughest jobs in the industry. While revenues are yet to improve, falling 37 per cent in Q3, PartyPoker has taken an early lead in the New Jersey market, which gives hope for 2014.
CHIEF PRODUCT OFFICER
Simon Hammon is in charge of the development of one of the most innovative studios in the gaming industry. He has overseen the rollout of smash hits such as Starburst, which has completely reinvented online slots – and proved a hit with paying customers. Hammon has a canny mind and a real feel for the elusive formula behind successful slots. Despite intense competition (and a few copycats), expect Hammon and his team to be ahead of the game.
HEAD OF CASINO
Former Betfair gaming director Sam Hobcraft was headhunted for one of the biggest jobs in gaming. He will be in charge of Full Tilt and PokerStars’ first forays into casino games. He will be under huge pressure to prove that Rational is more than a one-product company, but considering its dominance in poker and his impressive track record at Betfair, few would dare to doubt him.
HEAD OF PRODUCT TECHNOLOGIES
Hila Klein replaced COO Itai Frieberger as head of products when 888 restructured in 2011. She has taken on his mantle and run with it through one of the most exciting periods in the company’s history. Klein is the brains behind 888’s infrastructure, platforms and the tools that are made available to B2B customers and the B2C operation. She had a momentous 2013 getting 888 ready for the triple launch in Nevada, Delaware and New Jersey. Given 888’s progress it’s a workload she might have to get used to. Recent history suggests Klein will take it in her stride.
CHIEF COMMERCIAL OFFICER – MARIA
Ebba Ljungerud has transformed failing Maria Bingo into Maria – one of Unibet’s strongest growing brands. Maria Bingo reaped 70 per cent of its revenues from bingo and 30 per cent from casino, but Ljungerud has reversed those ratios while maintaining bingo revenues at a time when competitors are struggling in the vertical. She is a respected and influential voice in the Unibet management team.
Will Mathieson is William Hill’s secret weapon. He has been the spark of inspiration behind most of the bookmaker’s smash hit slots. He has designed them in conjunction with the likes of Ash Gaming and Blueprint Gaming to give Hills a suite of exclusive inhouse games that have powered the success of the company’s online casino. His creative mind is worth its weight in gold.
HEAD OF PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT
Jason McMahon is the man behind all of Gamesys’ secret projects, which makes him one of the most important people at this most secretive of companies. He’s had his work cut out developing the Gamesys poker product. Its launch has been delayed, which suggests either perfection or disaster. It is one of the most highly-anticipated product launches in years due in no small part to McMahon’s track record of innovation. No pressure there then.
HEAD OF INTERACTIVE
Matteo Monteverdi has been in his role barely four months, but under his leadership it seems that GTECH is finally preparing for a concerted push into the iGaming space after years of false dawns. With a sizeable number of lottery contracts in the US, it has begun developing its mobile and social products in order to make it a more attractive partner as the intrastate landscape develops.
HEAD OF PRODUCT CHANNELS
Neill Whyte has come up through the ranks at Microgaming over the past seven years, into a position of real importance. His clarity of thought is said to be breathtaking and it will need to be as Microgaming looks to retain its position as the chief challenger to Playtech. Whyte is leading Microgaming’s charge into mobile. His efforts will be absolutely vital in shaping his company’s future.