A celebration of the most innovative and inspiring people in online gaming.
head of sportsbook
Marco Blume was promoted to head of sportsbook at Pinnacle just four years after joining the organisation. He is an old-fashioned trader using cutting-edge practices, and the business is thriving using his methods. Pinnacle was one of the first bookmakers to take bets on eSports and the market has grown exponentially to become one of the largest sports in the Pinnacle portfolio. It is this willingness to take risks and balance them that makes Blume stand out in the crowd. An increasingly risk averse industry needs characters like Blume.
head of games & poker
Christian Bogstrand, or “Chab” as you probably know him, is head of games and poker in bet365’s Gibraltar office. That makes him de facto chief operating officer of bet365 Gibraltar. Bogstrand is young but ambitious and smart. He is learning from one of the best in the business in the shape of Gil Rotem but has a fair track record himself after emerging from university in 2004 and going straight to work for Expekt. With bet365 moving its operating teams to Gibraltar, Bogstrand’s job got even more important. Expect him to carry it off in style.
group director, strategy & corporate development
Robin Chhabra’s role means that he is responsible for acquisitions and integrations. In the current climate of consolidation, there is little more you need to say to justify the inclusion in the Hot 50 of the man responsible for William Hill’s acquisitions. Chhabra’s track record is good, with Brandywine, AWI, Cal Neva, Sportingbet and tomwaterhouse.com under his belt. What comes next? The 888 bid provided a clue. Over to you, Robin.
There are a few Hot 50 alumni that have won the vote on the basis that Playtech is going to deliver with sports betting “this year”. But with Ian Chuter, Playtech might finally have its man. He will be primarily advising on sports betting strategy and that is expected to crossover into Playtech’s non-videobet retail business. Playtech has made progress in recent years with Mobenga and Ladbrokes. It has also made inroads with the leading sports media companies in Spain and Italy, and with Caliente in Mexico. Is this the year that Playtech makes sports happen? With Chuter on board, the industry expects so.
chief revenue officer
While Intertain avoids a costly integration process by having its recently-acquired brands operate at arms’ length, it is still preparing to realise various synergies between the disparate businesses. Irina Cornides is the woman responsible for this, and she comes with an excellent track record, having launched 13 new brands in her old role as MD of Mandalay Media, prompting a 20 per cent hike in revenue. With her brief also covering the development of strategies to boost growth and profitability, it will be fascinating to see how she can improve Jackpotjoy and the other brands acquired from Gamesys.
group MD online & social gaming
Danny Frishman made his presence felt at Crown Resorts immediately. He was instrumental in doing the deal that saw the Australian operator invest in US-based social casino company DGN Games, the maker of Old Vegas Slots. Frishman’s long history at Playtech means his dealmaking prowess is well honed but he has also taken to operating. He has been instrumental in taking Old Vegas to the next level. Expect him to take it beyond the US in the months to come.
chief product officer
Evolution Gaming has clung to its position as number one provider of live casino, despite the efforts of rivals such as NetEnt and Playtech. Todd Haushalter has been hired to ease Evolution into the next stage of its development. It is targeting land-based casinos in regulated markets and Haushalter has just about as much experience – as supplier and operator – in land-based casinos as you could hope to get. After stints at Wynn, SHFL, Bally and MGM, Haushalter knows how to deliver.
executive deputy chairman
Playtech chief executive Mor Weizer described Carl Leaver as a visionary. He transformed Gala Coral from financial basket case to a successful online business and even a pioneer, as the first operator to launch the Playtech One omni-channel solution. It seems strange to describe him as ‘backstage’, but his new role as integration chief for Ladbrokes and Coral will be carried out behind the scenes. It will be a tough gig, but having successfully transformed Gala Coral there is no better candidate for it. The only drawback is that he looks unlikely to remain with the business in the longterm. Wherever he goes next he will be a major asset.
live casino development manager
Fayan Pourisa is responsible for building and developing NetEnt’s Live Casino product. As such, she has an unenviable task building a product to challenge a market leader as established as Evolution Gaming. However, the NetEnt executive has a lot of faith in her. Pourisa has led a team of 20 developers for two years and the product has come on in leaps and bounds during that period. If NetEnt is to challenge Evolution then Pourisa can claim unlimited credit.
head of trading for BetStars
As the head of trading for PokerStars’ recently launched sportsbook, Ian Marmion has a big job on his hands. Even more so, given the recent departures of experienced colleagues. The PokerStars sportsbook will be expected to hit big numbers but it is not nearly as easy a sell to Stars customers as the casino. It is a hard market to break into given the strength of the competition. But Marmion has the background to pull it off. Previous roles at bet365 and BetVictor suggest he has the skills.
director of new media
Gauselmann Group is one of Europe’s most successful land-based suppliers. It has remained relatively quiet online but has some great companies in the shape of German operator Cashpoint and games developer Blueprint. Alexander Martin’s job is to exploit these assets so that Gauselmann’s online business becomes as fêted as its offline one. If he can fully exploit Gauselmann’s resources and industry standing, the likes of Scientific Games and IGT may find themselves facing a formidable foe.
director of gaming development
Playtech is going big on virtual sports and former GTS whizzkid Elliott Norris is leading the development team. No expense has been spared on the project. Playtech booked out Warner Brothers’ London studios for three weeks and hired 128 motion-capture cameras to film athletes’ and greyhounds’ movements. The result is a product insiders describe as “amazing”. Playtech is going head-to-head with market leader Inspired Gaming and Norris unveiled the fruits of his labour at ICE.
chief operating officer
Shay Segev is no stranger to the Hot 50 after featuring in 2012 and 2014 while at Playtech. After almost nine years at the software services market leader, he quit for pastures new. He secured a plum role as chief strategy officer of former client Gala Coral but was caught in the cross-hairs of the Ladbrokes merger and landed the role as Kenny Alexander’s right-hand man at a momentous time in GVC’s history. Segev will play a massive part in the integration of bwin.party. As such, he might have more on his plate than just about any person in the industry right now.
VP product development
Playtech has fought its way to the top of the tree for many reasons. But one of these is that it encourages entrepreneurialism within its ranks. Product development chief Liron Snir is one such restless mind. Snir came up with the idea for an innovation team, and Playtech backed him. He is now looking at developing new ways of working with licensees and figuring out how Playtech can differentiate its products from the competition. Playtech is already ahead of the game. Snir will make sure it stays there.