The Gaming Intelligence HOT 50 celebrate the people who helped their companies to outstanding success in 2018, and those in a position of influence for the year ahead. From the inspirational chief executive to the techie making it all work behind the scenes, these are the innovators, motivators and those from whom we expect great things. Congratulations to all!

The Gaming Intelligence HOT 50 of 2019

ANTONIA ANDERSSON
Chief global markets officer
Yggdrasil
Antonia Andersson has had a huge influence on Yggdrasil’s success during its short lifetime. As chief sales manager, she has pulled in clients such as Big Bola in Mexico, Tipsport in the Czech Republic, Intralot and Lottomatica in Italy, GVC in the UK, plus global deals with the likes of 888 and Betsson. She has also played a key role in signing deals with Veikkaus, Paf, and with Swedish re-regulation she helped to secure the biggest players in the market – ATG and Svenska Spel. She has not just signed the deals, she has developed a reputation for getting customers up and running as quickly as possible. Speedy integrations have been a key to Yggdrasil’s burgeoning success, and Andersson has the energy, enthusiasm and brains to make sure they happen.

JOE ASHER
Chief executive officer
William Hill US
Joe Asher has spearheaded William Hill’s commercial development in the United States with outstanding speed since the repeal of PASPA. The company was first to market in New Jersey and then tied up deals in Mississippi, West Virginia and Rhode Island. The deals avalanche culminated with the all-encompassing partnership with Eldorado Resorts to supply its digital and retail sportsbooks, plus online gaming. The sports betting bandwagon rolls on and Asher is arguably driving it on.

RAFI ASHKENAZI
Chief executive officer
The Stars Group
The Stars Group CEO unleashed the full strength of the company’s M&A power during 2018. The $4.7bn acquisition of Sky Betting & Gaming was the deal that showed Ashkenazi really meant business but two earlier deals also transformed the company’s operations in Australia. At the same time, Ashkenazi has overhauled the Stars management team and entered the US market. Now, he just needs to integrate everything. Current form suggests he will take it in his stride.

ULRIK BENGTSSON
Chief digital officer
William Hill
The former Betsson chief executive joined William Hill when it was going through an uncharacteristic slump in its digital fortunes. Tasked with reviving its fortunes Ulrik Bengtsson has enjoyed some early successes. Bengtsson is a steely character. Few would doubt his determination to fulfil shareholders’ high expectations for the listed Goliath.

LUCY BUCKLEY
Chief executive officer
Nektan
Lucy Buckley can thank the Nektan board for convincing the Hot 50 judges to bend their rule prohibiting successive entries. Following three years in charge of Inspired Gaming’s interactive division, Buckley was handed the reins of Nektan in October as the company’s new CEO. Nobody should doubt her drive. Nektan is an ambitious organisation and it has seen an inspiring leader in Buckley. Her new colleagues have given her the foundations via a successful 2018. This year should be one to remember.

SIMON BUCKNALL
Co-founder and chief operating officer
IWG
It has been a remarkable year for IWG, which has taken the instant win game vertical to the next level and secured distribution deals across different continents, with US lotteries in Michigan and Pennsylvania, in Canada with Atlantic Lottery Corporation and BCLC, as well as in New Zealand with Lotto NZ. Simon Bucknall has been pivotal to this growth, ensuring a wide range of successful launches in record time. In addition to this, he has also managed a game studio that has delivered 170 games to IWG’s growing customer base over the last 12 months.

ANDREW COCHRANE
Chief commercial officer
SBTech
Andrew Cochrane might have been at SBTech for only 18 months, but he has already made a huge impression as a key member of the supplier’s executive team. Cochrane and SBTech have had an astronomical year, with the company becoming the platform provider of choice for a rapidly growing portfolio of top-tier operators in 21 regulated markets. The executive has led SBTech’s commercial charge, overseeing its international expansion and spearheading entry into newly regulated markets, most significantly in the US with Churchill Downs – a huge coup for the company which also set the tone for a string of further US successes.

JOHN COLEMAN
Chief executive officer
Microgaming
John Coleman’s elevation to the top job at Microgaming in June last year is testament to the excellent work he has carried out as chief financial officer since 2004. During that time he has played a central role in the operation of the business, consolidating its leadership position across international markets and maintaining its growth in regulated markets thanks to its involvement with high profile UK brands such as Betway. Coleman is a people person, who should make a great CEO at a time when Microgaming is facing more challengers than ever before.

NIALL CONNELL
General manager and SVP Sportsbook
FanDuel
Niall Connell’s experience at Paddy Power and then at TVG Betfair in the US prepare him beautifully for his market-shaping role at FanDuel. They are all part of the Paddy Power Betfair group now, of course. Connell’s personal evolution has matched that of his company and he now takes on what could be the company’s biggest driver of growth. FanDuel has the brand. Connell will need to make sure it has the product to match. The company has placed its trust in him. Watch Connell repay it.

PHIL CRONIN
Chief executive officer
Tombola
Phil Cronin has continued to develop his company without much fanfare but with such efficiency that Tombola could be dubbed the Bet365 of the online bingo sector. Perhaps that is little over-the-top for a company that faces challenges from the likes of Jackpotjoy and The Sun, but the group is the market leader in the UK, Italy and Spain.

Cronin is playing an important role in the local community, building a £7m state-of-the-art office complex as he aims to build a world-beating tech hub in the north east of England. For that alone he is worth his place in the Hot 50.

BARRY COTTLE
Chief executive officer
Scientific Games
The SciGames chief executive’s chair has been something of a hot seat in recent years. The board is demanding but the early signs suggest Barry Cottle can cope with the pressure. He has an unassuming demeanor but he has been a hit with colleagues since assuming the top job at SciGames. He is praised for his no-nonsense style and ability to get the team buying into his ideas. Perhaps Cottle is the CEO that SciGames always needed.

DANIEL ESKOLA
Chief executive officer
Relax Gaming
During his time at Kindred Group ,Daniel Eskola had no small part in giving the start-up Relax Gaming a few early breaks. He joins Relax with its roots firmly planted and ready to blossom.

Eskola is a class act and has surrounded himself with a talented team that is aiming to take Relax to the next level. Relax can now boast of some 70 direct integrations with companies servicing over 300 brands.

Eskola’s ultimate aim is to become the industry’s number one aggregator. He has fierce competition but Eskola and his tight-knit team look set to deliver.

CAMERON GARRETT
Vice president of insights and analytics
Scientific Games
In more than a decade at Scientific Games, VP of insights and analytics Cameron Garrett has overhauled the company’s analytics platforms, tools and products while redefining the way lottery insights are gathered and actioned.

Garrett has expanded his team’s portfolio from traditional lottery analysis to encompass new fields such as predictive analytics. As one of the company’s youngest VPs, his impressive rise is only just beginning.

ADAM GREENBLATT
Chief executive officer
MGM GVC Interactive
Adam Greenblatt has been an outstanding strategy chief for Ladbrokes Coral and he will bring crystal-clear thinking and no-nonsense communication to his new role as CEO of MGM GVC Interactive. US casino execs should love him.

GVC and MGM intend to be the big beast of US sports betting and iGaming, and will invest $200m to make it happen. One suspects Greenblatt will spend it wisely.

EDO HAITIN
Chief executive officer
Eurolive Technologies (Playtech)
Edo Haitin is the kind of boss that everybody would want. He is passionate, enthusiastic and energetic.

Haitin was new to live casino, when the Playtech executive entrusted him with the fast-growing Eurolive Technologies vertical two-and-a-half years ago. He has taken to it like a duck to water and grown the Latvian live dealer operation to 1,000 staff in no time at all.

Such has been his success that it has been whispered he could be a future Playtech Group CEO. This publication has little doubt he would make a great one.

GAVIN HAMILTON
Chief executive officer
Red Tiger Gaming
Gavin Hamilton took charge of the industry’s most exciting casino supplier in mid-2017 and has guided it through a breakthrough year in 2018. The former Paddy Power Betfair executive has proved himself an inspiring leader overseeing an unprecedented period of growth. The supplier integrated an outstanding 30 new clients last year and has another 50 in the pipeline.

Hamilton’s task will be managing that growth curve, while ensuring clients’ expectations are met and making sure the technological innovation continues. No biggie, then.

SIMON HAMMON
Chief product officer
Relax Gaming
Simon Hammon featured in the Hot 50 during his time at NetEnt. At his previous employer, he was largely responsible for delivering smash hit slots, such as Starburst.

He joins Relax as it embarks on its journey into slots. We know he can deliver a good product, but can he repeat the success he enjoyed at NetEnt? Relax. Hammon’s got it under control.

THERESE HILLMAN
Chief executive officer
NetEnt
From the outside, NetEnt looks to have made inexorable progress over the past decade but it was not enough to save Theresa Hillman’s predecessor the axe when profit momentarily dipped.

Hillman’s elevation to the chief executive’s office following nearly two years as chief financial officer will test her ability to merge commercial smarts with an attention to the bottom line demanded by the board.

She joins as the US opens up and Sweden’s re-regulated market gives NetEnt access to the countries’ former monopolies. Asia presents another challenge but Hillman has shown she is up for the fight.

SARAH HITCHCOCK
Product director
Bede Gaming
2018 was a transformative year for Bede Gaming, which landed its biggest commercial deal to date with the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation.

Bede has always backed itself on its tech, safe in the knowledge its platform is in good hands with product director Sarah Hitchcock at the helm.

Hitchcock has been instrumental in defining Bede’s product roadmap during her six years at the company – and has been rewarded with Bede’s emergence as a major player in platform provision.

SAM HOBCRAFT
Chief executive officer
Omnia Casino
Sam Hobcraft has a good track record with Betfair and The Stars Group. Now that he has ventured out on his own, we will see what he is truly made of.

He has some innovative ideas to engage players and make sure they recommend Omnia to their friends.

He is well backed by influential shareholders, who fully expect Hobcraft to succeed in his ambition of “putting the compliance back into casino”. The reason is simple: Hobcraft delivers.

DANIELA JOHANSSON
Chief responsibility officer and deputy CEO
Paf
Daniela Johansson was promoted to deputy CEO in mid-2017. It was a recognition of how important her work has been as chief responsibility officer but also a just reward for being an inspirational leader. In the current climate it could be argued that every operator should have an executive with Johansson’s skillset at the top of the tree. Unfortunately, very few have it. Paf has been way ahead of the curve on responsibility and Johansson will no doubt keep it there.

MATT KING
Chief executive officer
FanDuel
Taking over from a founder CEO is never an easy task but former CFO Matt King seems to have negotiated the transition with aplomb.

His timing has been impeccable, with a short bedding-in period coming before the repeal of PASPA and subsequent acquisition by Paddy Power Betfair.

When King took over there was a very real danger that FanDuel might sink behind DraftKings’ shadow but it has grabbed the Post-PASPA bull by the horns and looks likely to be one of the nation’s great sports betting brands.

MARC LANGE AND SIMON MATTHEWS
Integration director and group CTO
GVC Holdings
Marc Lange and Simon Matthews have the almighty task of ensuring that GVC’s acquisition of Ladbrokes Coral is a success. Lange is in charge of the integration of the businesses, while Matthews must ensure the technical integration.

Lange has been through this process before after joining GVC via the bwin.party deal, but for Matthew, who joined from Sky in late-2017 this will be a first. He has a passion for technology that should see him through a period of great change for Ladbrokes Coral.

The pair will have to work together in harmony. GVC’s reputation for pulling off remarkable integrations lies in their hands.

MATÍAS LANUSSE
President
Buenos Aires Provincial Institute of Lottery and Casino
Should Latin America begin to finally deliver on its clear iGaming potential in 2019, it will be in no small part due to the work of Matías Lanusse. The president of the Buenos Aires Provincial Institute of Lottery and Casino was instrumental in the legislation which passed in December to regulate online gambling in Argentina’s most populated province. With other provinces looking to follow suit, Argentina now looks set to follow Colombia’s example and become a viable regulated market.

ROBERT LEE
Commercial director
Realistic Games
In two years at Realistic Games, the former Gala Bingo, Ladbrokes, and IGT executive has shown how crucial he has been to the supplier’s growth. Robert Lee has expanded the company’s commercial, account management and marketing teams, and worked on the company’s expansion with certification granted in Denmark, Estonia, Spain and Sweden, and Italy next on the roadmap.

Under Lee’s guidance, Realistic has experienced a 150 per cent increase in the number of new sites going live, including a record number during the past year. His tenure also heralded a ground-breaking deal with Playtech, as well as two new significant operator deals expected to be announced early in 2019. Realistic has always produced good content. Lee is making sure it is being distributed as widely as it deserves.

DAVID LOPEZ
Chief executive officer
PlayAGS
PlayAGS CEO David Lopez led the New York-listed supplier through a transformative 2018, kicking off with a successful IPO in January and ending with the $49m acquisition of slot route operator Integrity Gaming Corp in December. In between, Lopez also had time to oversee a major expansion into the online sector, including deals with PokerStars, GVC and Rank. With more opportunities opening up closer to home as well, we can expect much more from Lopez during 2019.

MOTI MALUL
Chief executive officer
NeoGames
Moti Malul has bided his time as head of sales and business development for many years before ascending to the top job during 2018.

His promotion came at an opportune moment. With the US opening up its sports betting markets and with William Hill relying on the supplier to anchor its digital operations, Malul cannot have hoped for better timing. Malul will not rely on William Hill alone though. He fully expects that the faith shown in his company by the UK bookmaker will be matched by others. 2019 will be a big year for NeoGames.

PETER MARES
Chief technology officer
Playtech Games Innovation Labs
Peter Mares arrived with a team from Odobo, and backed by Playtech’s financial power he looks likely to fulfil the promise that many Odobo supporters expected.

Furthermore, Mares has taken the innovation baton and run with it. The launch of the Playtech Open Platform (POP) is the next phase of this innovation. Combined with the company’s powerful IMS, GPAS and Marketplace technologies, Mares is aiming to open Playtech up and simplify the supply chain. If he succeeds in doing it, then he will have truly proved himself a game changer.

FREDERIK NIEHUSEN
Chief commercial officer
Booming Games
Slots developer Booming Games has long been successful in Asia, but 2018 has seen it transition into a major player in Europe’s regulated markets as well. At the heart of its impressive growth has been chief commercial officer Frederik Niehusen, a former Ernst & Young consultant who oversaw a number of landmark deals in 2018, including a major expansion into Italy. With a Malta licence recently acquired, Niehusen will focus on maintaining the supplier’s exponential growth across Europe.

ASAF NOIFELD
Director of product, innovation and operations
The Stars Group
Praise for Asaf Noifeld is long overdue. He has had a massive influence on the outstanding launch and success of the company’s casino. The gregarious Stars director is one of the industry’s most driven individuals and he never stints on quality. An operator of The Stars Group’s standing demands it and Noifeld will not be found wanting.

MATT PRIMEAUX
SVP strategy & operations, USA
The Stars Group
That The Stars Group is even operating in the US is almost miraculous given the tortuous path it has taken to get there.

Matt Primeaux is the man who will oversee its entry into the market as a multi-vertical operator. Given the States’ initial favouring of sports betting over poker, success is not guaranteed for Stars. However, Primeaux has the entrepreneurial smarts to succeed.

MICHAEL PROBERT
Chief commercial officer
iSoftBet
iSoftBet’s emergence as a leading gaming supplier and content aggregator over the last five years has been in no small part down to the acumen of chief commercial officer Michael Probert.

Probert landed a number of tier-one operator signings in 2018, including William Hill, GVC, Betsson and Snai. He also oversaw the provider’s entry into a host of regulated markets, from Lithuania and Latvia to Spain and Denmark. The result has been an 80 per cent year-on-year revenue boost, with the promise of more to come in 2019.

Probert has held key roles at the likes of IGT, Bally and Ainsworth, but rarely will he have overseen such a phenomenal period of growth.

IAN PROCTOR
Chief executive officer
Sky Betting & Gaming
Richard Flint is a tough act to follow as Sky CEO. While it’s not quite like succeeding Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United, Flint guided Sky from start-up to acquisition with an eye for doing things right. Of course, Ian Proctor has accompanied Flint on that journey as his finance director and had no little influence on the operator’s success himself. He will now assume responsibility for ushering it into a new era as part of The Stars Group. His strategic moves to maintain Sky’s success while integrating with Stars will be closely watched.

JO PURVIS
Director of marketing and relationships
Blueprint Gaming
Blueprint would not function without Jo Purvis. She has worked alongside founder Matt Cole for the entirety of Blueprint’s decade-long history. It is now one of the industry’s most successful suppliers, with revenues of around £30m, a portfolio of world-beating games and a long list of market-leading clients. Purvis will make sure Blueprint stays ahead of the curve.

ROBIN REED
Chief executive officer
Gaming Innovation Group
Gaming Innovation Group (GiG) has been bubbling under for some time but founder Robin Reed’s commitment to innovation has never wavered. 2018 was the year when GiG stood up and said “Look at me!”

The headline deal was with Hard Rock International, which chose GiG as the core of its new digital operations, but new clients are beginning to flow.

Reed has been unafraid to invest and his commitment to filling out the company’s portfolio with innovative products is starting to reap dividends. Watch GiG fly during 2019.

NIK ROBINSON
Chief executive officer
Big Time Gaming
Nik Robinson has previous, of course. As the founder of NT Media, which became Orbis and then OpenBet, he has seen exactly what it takes to launch a successful business in this industry.

Since leaving OpenBet post earn-out he has focussed on revolutionising the slots space. Building on the world-beating success of Bonanza in 2017, the company continued to power on with each new release and its ground-breaking MegaWays mechanic is changing the slots landscape.

The US is the next target for Robinson and his appetite shows no sign of fading. The bricks and mortar casino industry is in his sights. He recently told Gaming Intelligence he aims to “bring the big wins back and make casino floors thrive once again”.

CAMILLA ROSENBERG
Director general
Spelinspektionen
The spotlight is shining on Camilla Rosenberg after she opened Sweden’s re-regulated gambling market on 1 January. Her team has ploughed through the licence applications in an efficient manner but the real interest will be how she handles the new market’s responsible gambling agenda. With two former monopolies claiming the moral high ground and the likes of Betsson and Kindred innovating responsible gambling programmes, she has a chance to build on the work of the UK Gambling Commission and set the industry on a path to a sustainable future.

JANE RYAN
Chief operating officer of B2B
Nektan
Heading up Nektan’s thriving B2B business, Jane Ryan has driven international expansion across Europe, the US and Asia while delivering double digit growth. Most eye-catchingly, Ryan was behind the provider’s largest win to date – a landmark global platform partnership with BetVictor.

There has also been a successful roll-out in Asia via Tyche Digital. Having nurtured a strong following in more than six years at Nektan, Ryan’s focus on organisational speed and efficiency has the provider well-positioned for further growth in 2019.

FABIO SCHIAVOLIN
Chief executive officer
Snaitech (a Playtech company)
One of the first things Playtech did after making its biggest investment was to tie Snaitech chief Fabio Schiavolin to a long-term deal. After founding Cogetech and then driving it through mergers with Snai and then Playtech, he is the key to making the business tick.

Playtech has high expectations for the Italian operation. Schiavolin will be the dynamo that ensures the company becomes an inexorable force in Europe’s largest gambling market.

DYLAN SLANEY
Head of gaming
SG Digital
Dylan Slaney’s two-year tenure with Scientific Games and its legacy companies has led to the growth of SG Digital’s gaming group, which now processes 1.2bn game rounds per month across 20 regulated jurisdictions. Following SG’s purchase of NYX Gaming Group last January, Slaney led the charge in combining the two companies’ product offerings, creating a powerhouse provider of content and platform support to global customers. He also reshaped SG Digital’s gaming strategy to focus heavily on the customer and the product, with the supplier’s Open Gaming System (OGS) and Open Platform System (OPS) growing from fragmented product offerings to end-to-end casino integrations. Few people have the keys to 1,800 titles at their fingertips. Slaney does.

ANNE-JAAP SNIJDERS
Head of Western Europe
Kindred Group
Anne-Jaap Snijders is one of Kindred Group’s unsung heroes. He has continually smashed targets in his markets over the past few years and will continue to have a huge influence over the company’s regulated markets in the coming years.

Taking the UK as just one example: a target market for some time, the acquisitions and successful integration of Stan James Online and 32Red have made the UK one of Kindred’s top markets. With Sweden’s re-regulated market kicking off 2019, Snijders’ influence in the company’s home market will be truly tested. He will not be found wanting.

KRESIMIR SPAJIC
SVP of online gaming
Hard Rock International
Kresimir Spajic flew into the US with the ambition of differentiating the Seminole Tribe’s digital operations from the rest of the market. He has responsibility for one of the biggest brands in the world – let alone the US gaming market.

As such, maybe we shouldn’t have been surprised when he cut a deal with the world’s leading sports betting brand bet365. But we were.

However, that was just a market access agreement. Spajic chose the lower profile Gaming Innovation Group to anchor its fledgling iGaming efforts. Spajic was impressed by GiG’s technology-focussed commitment to innovation. It is exactly what he needs to fulfil his ambition to make Hard Rock a global leader in online gaming. His ambition is sky high. Watch him soar.

MANUEL STAN
SVP USA
Kindred Group
The operator has been a cautious entrant to the US market, choosing its moment to finally take the plunge. Now that it has, responsibility lies on Manuel Stan’s shoulders to make it a success.

Stan is a Kindred veteran, who has been responsible for much of the operator’s marketing activity for many years. He is regarded internally as one of the best in the business and nobody doubts his ability to get the company’s US adventure off to a flying start.

CHRISTIAN STUART
Executive VP gaming and interactive
Caesars Entertainment
Christian Stuart has the weight of one of the industry’s biggest names on his shoulders as he takes responsibility for Caesars’ expansion in sports betting and iGaming.

The company has had mixed fortunes with iGaming to date. It made a fortune with Playtika but has not taken New Jersey by storm. Stuart will want to correct that blip and rival MGM as the biggest multi-state operator in US sports betting.

MELISSA SUMMERFIELD
Chief commercial officer
Pragmatic Play
Melissa Summerfield has been a successful gaming executive for some time now, previously heading up gaming operations at bwin.party and CRM at BetVictor. But nothing could have prepared us for the outstanding success she has enjoyed since joining Pragmatic Play as chief commercial officer in January last year.

She has delivered enviable growth in Spain, Italy, Portugal and beyond. Roll-outs with tier one operators including GVC, Kindred Group, Casumo, Lottoland and GIG have secured Pragmatic’s place at the top table. Summerfield is a star.

JULIO CÉSAR TAMAYO
Chief executive officer
Wplay.co
Wplay.co, the sports betting brand of Aquila Global, has quickly emerged as the leader of Colombia’s booming igaming market under the leadership of Julio César Tamayo. The first to gain a licence when Colombia rolled out its regulated framework in June 2017, Tamayo has overseen the construction of a world-class product built via a series of major deals with the likes of Microgaming and others. With forward-thinking deals such as a sponsorship agreement with the Colombian Olympic Committee, Tamayo looks set to ensure Wplay stays ahead of the chasing pack in a vibrant, competitive and fast-growing market.

FREDRIK WASTENSON
Managing director
Svenska Spel Sport and Casino
Fredrik Wastenson has a big job on his hands. He takes charge of the former monopoly’s sports and iGaming company just as the Swedish market opens up to competition. He has done his research and has not put a foot wrong in preparation. Unlike his competitors, Wastenson launches from a standing start – but he does so with the backing of an almighty local brand. Few doubt his ability to deliver an outstanding growth curve.

TOM WATERS
Head of PartyPoker and Cashcade
GVC Holdings
PartyPoker was an embarrassment. When GVC bought bwin.party it was ready to pull the plug but Tom Waters convinced CEO Kenny Alexander he had a plan. Since then, he has overseen six consecutive quarters of 30-something or often 40-something percentage point rises in net gaming revenue. Together with his colleagues he has reinvigorated the product and Party’s live events. Waters has the drive, vision and personality to bring his colleagues along with him on a journey that has some way left to run.

THOMAS WINTER
Senior vice president and general manager, online gaming
Golden Nugget/Landry’s
Atlantic City’s Golden Nugget casino is easily the biggest iGaming operator in New Jersey right now and has seen unrivalled growth since launching (later than everyone else) at the tail end of 2013. Winter has been there every step of the way, having started the online gaming business from scratch. The former Betclic and Expekt CEO has established Golden Nugget as the biggest regulated online casino in the US. With sports betting also added to the operator’s product portfolio through a deal with SBTech, the Golden Nugget juggernaut shows no signs of slowing down, and for that Winter can take much of the credit.

 

Gaming Intelligence Awards 2019 - Operators

Gaming Intelligence Awards 2019 - Suppliers

Gaming Intelligence Awards 2019 - HOT 50

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