Gaming Intelligence HOT 50 2018

7th February 2018 7:00 am GMT

The Gaming Intelligence HOT50 of 2018 - Recognising the most innovative and inspiring individuals in the iGaming industry.

Director eGaming & digital experience
British Columbia Lottery Corporation (BCLC)
Canadian provincial lottery operator BCLC was the first in North America to launch a regulated online casino product in 2010 with PlayNow.com, and Cameron Adams has been there every step of the way. He is responsible for all digital products and business operations for BCLC's iGaming business, and has helped lead efforts in live-dealer, mobile, lottery initiatives and innovation.

Adams has been described as a leader who pulls creativity and confidence from his team,and is driving the operational excellence and player experience for the government-owned site.

Chief executive officer
GVC Holdings
Gaming Intelligence has an unwritten rule that nobody wins entry into the Hot50 for two years in a row. The idea is to highlight those who are hot, rather than just those who are influential or important. However, GVC's continuing rise towards world domination rips up this unwritten rule. Kenneth Alexander has been the spark that has driven industry consolidation into overdrive.

His audacious and innovative approach to M&A is becoming legendary, but equally astounding is his continuing ability to hit synergy and revenue targets, while plotting his next swoop. Alexander's name will be remembered long after he has retired.

Regional sales manager
NetEnt's continued success reflects not only the quality of its games, but the people it employs and its strong culture of teamwork. There are several leaders at the company and Nadiya Attard is one of them. Together with her sales team, she has led the supplier's recent expansion, with 45 new customers signed up in the past year alone, in markets as varied as Norway, the Czech Republic, Mexico, Canada, Spain and the UK.

Attard started working for NetEnt in 2013 and has a reputation for getting results. No one can argue that she hasn't delivered.

Head of innovation strategy
At Microgaming, Barbara has single-handedly developed an initiative to foster a culture of innovation.

She devised the company's in-house incubator scheme, the Ideas Factory, allowing staff to present new ideas and concepts to improve company culture, development processes and technology. The scheme has already led to the launch of one of Microgaming's best-performing games of the year, EmotiCoins. The potential of the Ideas Factory is huge.

Chief business development officer
Pragmatic Play
Since its foundation in 2015, Barzely has quickly established the supplier as one of online casino's most recognisable names. He has overseen deals with a host of major operators, including William Hill, GVC and Betsson, to significantly grow Pragmatic in regulated markets, while also building a reputation for delivering some of the industry's fastest integrations.

Chief executive officer
2017 was the year Lottoland finally felt the full brunt of regulators' wrath, but that just shows what an impact the company has had in disrupting the established lottery industry.

Birrell has often fought a lonely battle, but the Lottoland juggernaut continues unabashed, and the company has transformed its risk management into its own fully authorised and licensed insurance company. Birrell is an experienced iGaming veteran and the figurehead for Lottoland's insurgence into the lottery sector. Lottoland is here to stay.

Integrity analytics manager
Kindred Group
Bonello has helped change the way the gambling industry looks to tackle problem gambling. That's quite an achievement.

By putting responsible gambling at the centre of the operator's business, rather than a necessary evil, she helped pioneer
new ways to detect and treat problem gambling. Thanks to her, Kindred has long been viewed as a socially responsible

HR director
New Tote
Michaela Bonamini was one of the key figures behind GVC's stunningly successful integration of bwin.party. As HR director, she had a massive job on her hands to create a new culture at GVC, which was neither old GVC or old bwin.party.

She now turns her attention to a new challenge as a founding member of the senior management team at the as-yet-unnamed new company set to take charge of the Tote when Fred Done's contract expires. The issue of transferring staff to the new company will be the first thing in her in-tray as she sets about building a workforce to take the Tote into a new era.

Chief technology officer
The Stars Group
Others will grab the headlines as The Stars Group powers its way into a multi-product future, but few will be as important in making sure it works as Jerry Bowskill.

He could not have a more suitable CV for Stars as it looks to retain its entrepreneurial soul, while powering on into its future, as a grown-up, regulated, multi-product operator. It will be a challenge but you will not find a single soul who does not believe Bowskill will rise to the occasion.

Chief product officer
SBTech's constant roll-out of new products and enhancements to its core sportsbook product was a key reason behind it securing the sports betting supplier of the year award. Bradley is the man who oversees the development of these features.

With the sheer quality of the SBTech solution having secured significant client wins in the past year, he is a worthy addition to this list.

Chief technology officer
Sky Betting & Gaming
Burton has made SkyBet the company to emulate for operators looking to build a thriving internal tech team. Under his leadership the operator has hired professionals from other sectors, and fostered a culture similar to Silicon Valley, rather than a Leeds-based gambling business. One of the hottest tech executives in the industry.

Sales director
Today it's hard to find a major sporting league that hasn't signed a data or integrity partnership with Sportradar. This is a major achievement in a competitive field, and credit must go to the supplier's sales team, led by Caci. As efforts to preserve sporting integrity become increasingly important he has ensured Sportradar is in a position to be a major participant in this push.

Head of game products
In the past year, Sandra Carlsson has set up a new product owner team; improved communications between game product owners and mathematicians, and tightened links between the development and product ownership departments. This has helped NetEnt set new records for game deliveries and game performance in 2017. In short, Carlsson is crucial to keeping NetEnt at the pinnacle of the casino vertical.

Director of poker marketing
The Stars Group
David Carrion has taken on the challenge of his role with gusto. He promoted the second biggest online tournament in poker history and then topped it with another tournament, which culminated in the biggest prize pool in the history of online poker. Furthermore, he has been instrumental in the growth of the innovative Stars Rewards programme, which has been credited with setting the operator's poker revenues back on an upwards trajectory. Carrion's star is rising.

Chief corporate development officer
The Stars Group
Robin Chhabra's seven-year stint at William Hill coincided with transformative deals with the likes of Playtech, Sportingbet and US companies Brandywine and American Wagering. He is now charged with performing similar miracles at PokerStars. Number one on his list of priorities will be an acquisition or merger aimed at boosting the operator's sportsbook.

Chief executive officer
Sazka Group
Chvátal is a relative newcomer to the gaming and lotteries industry, having begun his career in the consumer goods and telecommunications sectors.

This has already proved crucial in helping him turn Sazka from a struggling business into the fastest-growing lottery in Europe between 2013 and 2016. He now runs the largest private lottery operator on the continent, and will be crucial in continuing Sazka's upward trajectory.

Chief executive officer
Blueprint Gaming
A few years back there were rumours that Blueprint was an acquisition target for the likes of Playtech and William Hill. But its parent company Gauselmann Group would be mad to sell it, as its games are always among the best performers wherever they launch. As the man in charge, a lot of the credit has to go to Matt Cole. Under his watch the company has enjoyed a great year, signing deals with GVC Holdings, LeoVegas, 888, Gamesys and Kindred. Entry to Denmark, Romania, Spain and Italy in 2018 will help him continue its upward trajectory.

Chief gaming officer
Superbet Digital
James Curwen has been in the gaming industry for 20 years, but 2018 could be his most ambitious year to date. Having been part of William Hill's successful online gaming division in the past, he will be looking to do the same for Superbet.

It won't be easy, but Curwen has the knowhow and the confidence. He also knows games. So much so that he has set up a Superbet-backed independent games studio, Golden Rock Studios, with specialist slot designer William Mathieson. Golden Rock Studios will launch its first games this year.

Founder and chief executive officer
Beehive has become a clear leader in data-driven marketing solutions for operators, and much of this is down to Adi Dagan. Having learned his craft during his time at Playtech, where he was responsible for some of the biggest platform migrations, he struck out on his own with Beehive. As one of the first to recognise that iGaming data and retention were intrinsically and progressively linked, Beehive was formed to act upon that reality with a sophisticated data-led strategy. The company is already helping change the way operators analyse big data, and for that Dagan can take much of the credit.

Chief executive officer
Bettorlogic's partnership with Mr Green to launch a new data-driven, personalised sportsbook product has put the supplier on the map. As a seasoned bettor himself, Dagnall is something of a rare beast.

In an industry increasingly dominated by executives working in gambling rather than gambling executives, he has an innate understanding of punters' mentalities. In a crowded supplier space, he can ensure Bettorlogic offers a differentiated – and socially responsible – product to prospective clients.

Chief executive officer
Authentic Gaming
2017 was a breakthrough year for the live dealer specialist, and Jonas Delin is the mastermind behind Authentic's growth. He is a stickler for details and has a strong vision of his product.

Backed by LeoVegas, the company has made inroads in the live casino sector and closed the year with a landmark deal with Connecticut's Foxwoods Resort Casino, which will be the first time that live casino will be streamed from a US casino to European players. Delin has made the industry take notice of Authentic, the next step could be even more exciting.

Head of responsible gaming
Mr Green
While Devine Monaghan has joined an operator with a sympathetic attitude towards responsible gaming, she has ushered it into a leadership position with the Green Gaming tool that offers players a deeper insight into their gambling behaviour than has ever been seen before. She will need to continue on this innovative route to ensure it stays ahead of the pack.

Chief product officer
As NetEnt expands into new jurisdictions such as the Czech Republic, Mexico and Serbia, Fagerlund is the man in charge of maintaining the supplier's product position and growing its technological reach. After a year of successful rollouts, which included the launch of mobile slot game Finn and the Swirly Spin, Fagerlund will lead a push into Virtual Reality in 2018 that is set to take NetEnt to the next level of growth.

Chief investment officer
Sazka Group
As chief investment officer of Sazka Group, Dlouhý is the man tasked with identifying key acquisition opportunities, then pushing the deal through. So far this has seen him lead the acquisitions of majority stakes in Casinos Austria and Austrian Lotteries, as well as helping Sazka secure an Italian gaming licence. If rumours are to be believed, he will turn his focus westward in 2018, with a huge national lottery in his sights.

If he pulls off this deal, he will have more than earned his place in the Hot 50.

Founder and CEO
Instant Win Games (IWG)
Having originally focused on partnerships with lottery companies, IWG has recently branched out to work with some of the leading iGaming operators.

Founder and CEO Rhydian Fisher has been key to the company's expansion, and deals with the likes of GVC, 888bingo and William Hill in the past year have helped IWG become a notable casino supplier. Lotteries and operators across the world are recognising instant-win games as an integral part of their portfolio, and IWG is positioned to reap the benefits of this.

Head of content
Gilboa is the creative mastermind behind the provider's blockbuster Age of the Gods series. Gilboa has led the entire process, from concept to production, development and deployment, overseeing games which immediately entered the company's list of best-performing slots, and establishing a reputation for seamlessly delivering large-scale, multi-channel projects.

Joint chief operating officers
GVC Holdings
Andy Hornby and Shay Segev will be jointly responsible for ensuring the GVC juggernaut rolls on. When GVC completes its acquisition of Ladbrokes Coral, Hornby will be responsible for retail business in the UK and Europe and all digital marketing, while Segev will assume responsibility for technology, product, customer service, and leadership of operational and technology integration. Their partnership will be a crucial factor in making a success of the GVC-Ladbrokes combination.

While integrating Coral and bwin in their current roles, Hornby and Segev showed they are capable of making consolidation run smoothly. Delivering £100m in synergies while building a new culture and continuing to hit revenue targets will dwarf their past achievements. The company's future rests on their shoulders.

Chief executive officer
Karaui's company is Africa's biggest iGaming success story since Microgaming. He has grown SportPesa from a small Kenyan business to an international operator that is hard to ignore. It is building a new European headquarters in the UK, and moving into Italy through the acquisition of RCS Gaming. It is on course to become a major player in the coming years.

Chief executive officer
Mr Green
Jesper Kärrbrink is a refreshingly different sort of CEO. As such he is probably the perfect CEO for Mr Green. The company was launched with the idea of hardwiring social responsibility into its soul but had perhaps lost track of just what that means. He has ensured that Mr Green has regained its unique selling point and he has only just begun.

Mr Green was once the future of gaming, Kärrbrink has made it so again.

Chief executive officer
Kfir Kugler has been in charge of Ezugi for the past seven years, driving the company's growth and expansion into new markets. He has turned Ezugi into one of the leading live casino suppliers.

Having started out with just one studio in Costa Rica, the supplier now has nine studios across the world, and has become a pioneer for the regulated US iGaming market in New Jersey in partnership with Golden Nugget. Ezugi's growth trajectory can only keep climbing as the demand for live casino increases across the world.

Chief marketing officer
GVC Holdings
Adam Lewis joined GVC when the operator acquired Sportingbet in 2013. Over the course of the next four years he was one of the fundamental building blocks upon which the seemingly unstoppable rise of GVC has been based. Chief executive Kenneth Alexander quickly identified Lewis as one of his most important lieutenants.

While the operator has grown quickly by acquisition, Lewis has been one of the key figures making sure that the operations keep growing efficiently.

Chief commercial officer
Rikard Ljungman has been part of LeoVegas' senior management team for nearly three years, a period which has seen the company grow into one of the leading operators in a number of markets.

Among other things, his involvement has seen the company make its first acquisitions (Winga and Royal Panda), sign its first football sponsorship deals (Brentford and Norwich), and launch a new responsible gambling platform.

2017 was another great year for LeoVegas, but this year could bring even greater returns.

Chief executive officer
Genius Sports
Having gone through a fallow period, Locke has ensured the company formerly known as Betgenius has re-emerged as a force to be reckoned with. It has quickly moved to become a pioneer in eSports betting, rapidly established a thriving data business and demonstrating that its technology can cut it with a deal to supply its sports betting platform to OPAP.

Senior vice president, Global Lottery Systems
Scientific Games Corporation
Pat McHugh is an industry veteran who leads Scientific Games' lottery systems innovation projects.

In the past year, he has been involved in two of the company's landmark omni-channel systems implementations, for Canada's Atlantic Lottery Corporation and Denmark's Danske Spil, and has also managed five major lottery systems conversions globally.

He is well-respected in the industry for innovating solutions that create value for lottery operators, including a cashless lottery retail solution for the Pennsylvania Lottery.

Executive director
UK Gambling Commission
Over the past year Miller was a major exponent of corporate social responsibility at every industry conference he attended. With the regulator setting out an ambitious new three-year strategy in which it looks to improve its oversight of the sector, and a change in leadership coming after Sarah Harrison's resignation, Miller will have a significant
influence on the UK gaming industry.

Chief product officer
The success of LeoVegas has been driven by a mobile-first product that stands out from the rest. At the end of last year Jarl Modén was rewarded for his part in the incredible journey LeoVegas has made since launch.

He becomes the operator's first chief product officer. Along with the technology team, Modén's staff accounts for a quarter of LeoVegas' personnel. His challenge will be to keep innovating while the company embarks on a new era of acquisition and integration.

Chief operating officer
NYX Gaming Group
Jason Walbridge is someone who is not given the credit he deserves. Joining NYX in 2016, he has been responsible for making sure its different components function as a whole.

As COO, sportsbook executive vice president Keith O'Loughlin and gaming EVP Dylan Slaney report into him. Walbridge is a crucial member of NYX's executive team, and is likely to play a similar role in Scientific Games' new Digital division.

Executive director and licensing director
Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board
Kevin O'Toole is the next regulator to take centre stage in the US, following Nevada's AG Burnett and New Jersey's David Rebuck. He will be responsible for the regulations that will govern Pennsylvania's entry into internet gambling. His challenge is to ensure a smooth entry that stops the critics from carping or the feds from closing it down. He will be assisted by licensing director Susan Hensel, who will be the first port of call when applying for licences. She has shone as an ambassador for Pennsylvania, though the biggest challenges are yet to come.

Since becoming the first Latin American jurisdiction to formally approve online gambling in 2016, the list of licensed operators in Colombia has grown rapidly. Praised by other regulators, Perez Hidalgo has shown a strong commitment to transforming the local gaming landscape while preserving the integrity of the industry. Under his guidance, we can expect to see many more companies enter the fast-growing Colombian market.

Managing director
Playtech BGT Sports
Every year there is somebody on this list who personifies the challenge of making sports work at Playtech. It has to be admitted that few of the previous entries have covered themselves with glory. However, there is a feeling among many that BGT Sports sits in perfect harmony with Playtech's omni-channel strategy. To date, BGT has been successful in winning retail clients. Pettit must prove it can do the same online. He could be the one who takes all the sports assets Playtech has
acquired and turns them into a coherent and profitable whole.

Chief executive officer
By the time DraftKings' merger with FanDuel collapsed, the company had already established itself as the DFS industry leader. In 2017 it continued to grow its international presence while maintaining its place at the summit of the US market. The potential for legalised US sports betting is particularly intriguing for DraftKings – what company has a bigger database of engaged sports fans willing to risk money on their knowledge? Robins deserves huge credit for taking DraftKings from a niche business to a major player.

Chief executive officer
NYX Gaming Group
Since merging his Sydney-based business NextGen Gaming with NYX Interactive in 2011, Matt Davey has roared to the industry summit in a short space of time. The company has consistently grown its client base, while expanding and enhancing its product and service portfolio through M&A. It's a testament to his drive and ambition that, having sold NYX to Scientific Games earlier this year, he will remain with the company to lead SG's push to become the industry's dominant sportsbook supplier.

COO & managing director
After overcoming a series of challenges that threatened growth and sustainability in 2017, Mansion managed to turn uncertainty into opportunity. An important part of the puzzle was Suter-Hadad, who played a crucial part in driving Mansion to expand and diversify its product portfolio. The operator posted its best financial year to date in 2017 as a result. Under her leadership and through the launch of Mansionbet, 2018 will mark the first time the group has operated a sportsbook in the UK since 2009.

Chief executive officer
Kindred Group
More than seven years on from becoming CEO of Unibet, Tjärnström has built the operator into one of the industry's most powerful. The company continues to grow in regulated markets, and has built a reputation for hassle-free acquisitions, with the £175.6 million purchase of 32Red completed last year. Tjärnström has kept Kindred at the cutting edge of innovation and social responsibility.

Head of service operations
The ultimate example of a backstage hero, Vahtra is the Playtech equivalent of Scotty in Star Trek. He is in charge of the solutions giant's support lifecycle, tasked with confronting each and every technical problem its clients may face and finding a solution. His employer describes him as one of the industry's most knowledgeable and experienced online gaming incident management experts, balancing business expectations with operational capabilities.

Head of slots
Yggdrasil Gaming
Jonas Strandman is the man behind many of Yggdrasil's most successful titles. Both a developer and a mathematician, Strandman oversaw the development of the Fusion Realms game mechanic, which has enabled Yggdrasil to release increasingly ambitious titles such as Jungle Book and Vikings Go Berzerk. The industry will be keenly watching what this slots visionary has planned for 2018.

Vice president – Interactive
Inspired Entertainment
Lucy Buckley's rapid rise through the ranks at Inspired has been matched by the significant operational progress made under her leadership.

When she took over its interactive division offered virtual sports and a handful of slots supplied to William Hill. Today it supplies 60 games to 20 operators and has expanded its virtuals range to ensure it remains the market leader in the vertical. If Buckley can successfully establish virtuals in the North American lottery industry, while further growing the casino and table games business her stock will rise further.

Chief executive officer
Having made his mark on the supplier space during his tenure at SBTech, Zak is back to do the same on the consumer-facing side of the industry. GoWild was drifting along since establishing in 2008, but under his leadership it has had a total overhaul, launching three new brands and securing a UK licence. Its 10th anniversary will be a year to shine.

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