The Gaming Intelligence Hot 50 of 2013 – Backstage Heroes

5th February 2013 6:56 am GMT

Mark Brooker - Managing Director of Sports, Betfair
Nick Hagen - Sports Operations Director, Betfair

The strategy of new CEO Breon Corcoran was only just emerging at the time of writing, but his focus is becoming clearer. Betfair’s new fixedodds sportsbook will be at the centre of it. Sportsbook managing director Mark Brooker and former Sporting Index trader Nick Hagen will form a vital team as Corcoran looks to get back to basics. They should be opening new markets that the exchange is excluded from and could receive the lion’s share of Corcoran’s marketing budget. As other areas of the business are scaled back, Brooker and Hagen will be responsible for driving the business on.

Alen Lang - Business Development Director, bwin.party

In addition to the economies of scale achieved by the merger of bwin and PartyGaming, the last few years have all been about positioning for the company. Business development director Alan Lang has been absolutely key to positioning the company for a future dominated by regulated markets. While revenues have been stagnant throughout the integration, Lang has been busy doing deals left, right and centre to ensure that they do not stay that way. Lang has been instrumental in the company’s US strategy, teaming up with MGM, Boyd and Zynga (albeit for Zynga’s UK operations for now). There is a lot of potential there.

Isaac Ward - Head of Gaming, Paddy Power

The phenomenal success of Paddy Power’s sportsbook should not deflect attention from the success of its gaming operations. Head of gaming Isaac Ward will preside over record P&L figures for Paddy Power in 2012, with revenues from games, casinos, live dealer, bingo and poker up around 30 per cent to over €100m. In addition to the numbers, Ward is enormously driven and colleagues praise the strategic focus he brings to the business. Internally, he is praised by his bosses and admired and respected by colleagues and partners alike. Ward is that rare beast who truly understands the brand-marketing-product-channel conundrum. He has a big future.

Nick Abrahams - Head of Roller Casino, Paddy Power

Nick Abrahams joined Paddy Power from Betfair in January 2011 and set about scoping out a new gaming opportunity for Paddy Power PLC. His opening brief was to find a new initiative for the PLC via a non-Paddy Power brand. He spent several months exploring options before bringing back to the executive team an idea for a ‘built for mobile-tablet’ breakthrough casino brand. He negotiated a commercial deal with Viaden and signed exclusive terms with them. Throughout 2012, Abrahams built a new team within the company and has created the Roller brand. It launched into the App Store in October 2012 (as a real-money casino) and is now bringing in volumes of new customers and generating new revenues. The Paddy Power executive has high hopes for Roller and has been hugely  impressed by Abrahams’ work since he joined the company.

Guy Templer - Group Strategy and Business Development Director, PokerStars

As PokerStars moves into new and old territories, Guy Templer is the one who is opening them up. Every company needs a deal doer and Templer is one of the very best. Templer has ushered PokerStars into the B2B business as governments pass legislation that requires online operators to have a land-based casino. PokerStars was the first major operator to strike a deal in Belgium, where it teamed up with Circus Groupe, owner of Casino de Namur. It has followed suit in the UK, where it took an equity stake in London’s Hippodrome Casino and will open a poker room. Nobody gave PokerStars or Full Tilt a chance in hell of returning to the US but it looks set to do just that if it completes a deal to buy Atlantic City’s Atlantic Club Casino Hotel. Templer can’t take all the credit for that but his influence is of vital importance as PokerStars looks to hammer home its market dominance in regulated markets the world over.

Pat Harrison - Operations Director, 32Red

The continuing success of 32Red is a reward for keeping things focused. The online casino will probably experience a second year of doubling revenues. Operations director Pat Harrison has been on board since the beginning of the 32Red story eight years ago and is responsible for all things customer facing at the company. Harrison is the ultimate backstage hero, working valiantly on keeping the customer happy while CEO Ed Ware takes the plaudits for selling the company externally.

Andrew Lee - Managing Director eGaming, William Hill

Andrew Lee has been around the business for some time, mostly as an analyst at Dresdner Kleinwort, Bank of America and Jefferies & Company but he also spent a year at William Hill in 2009/10 as a strategic development adviser. If that spell did not quite work out, he obviously made an impression on Hills CEO Ralph Topping, who lured him back to the company in March 2012. It wasn’t long before Topping had appointed him to head of William Hill Online as a replacement for Henry Birch. Lee’s role will be crucial in managing the company’s split from the Playtech JV and ensuring the success of its operations thereafter.

Will Roseff - Finance Director, Bet365

Will Roseff does not get a lot of column inches when it comes to analysing the success of Bet365. The Coates family drives the organisation on and is rightly credited with its remarkable achievements. With Denise and John Coates honoured in last year’s Hot 50, attention turns to ex-trading director Will Roseff. Few operators will have a finance director who knows odds like Roseff, and that is indicative of a singular company culture. Roseff is a proper bookmaker. He set up the Bet365 trading floor and his commitment to customer service helped set the foundations for the company’s overwhelming success. Today he manages the finances for a company that processed around £14bn in bets during 2012.

Lee Fenton - Chief Operating Officer, Gamesys

Chief operating officer Lee Fenton, managing director Noel Hayden and finance director Michael Mee are a formidable team at the top of one of the UK’s most successful gaming companies. With a techie in the managing director’s office, albeit a visionary one in the shape of founder Hayden, Fenton has been an important presence in driving the business on. And he has driven the business on in some style. In addition to the headlinegrabbing debut of real-money gaming on Facebook, Jackpotjoy has entered Belgium, Sweden and a regulated Spain this year. Rumours persist of a £1bn buyout. That they are not rubbished by admiring competitors is a huge compliment to the work done by the company and its impressive COO.

The Gaming Intelligence Hot 50 of 2013

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