Johnny Hartnett has long stood out as one to watch. He first appeared in the Hot 50 in 2015, when he was included in the Next Generation category all set to challenge the industry elite.
He was managing director of Paddy Power Online at the time and went on to become MD for International and then chief business development officer.
That he has gatecrashed the elite leadership category at Superbet is Flutter’s loss. He was always cut out for the chief executive’s hot seat and he has taken to it with aplomb.
After some strategic missteps in Gibraltar, Hartnett’s all-star team regrouped and have come back as one of the strongest operators in Central & Eastern Europe. During 2020, Superbet acquired the fast-growing Lucky 7 and you can expect more M&A from the Blackstone-backed business as it looks to diversify across multiple jurisdictions.
Put simply, Superbet is going places. With Hartnett at the helm it is in very safe hands indeed.
Ohad Narkis is something of a visionary. His concept for PlayOJO was truly original and it has been executed magnificently.
PlayOJO has been the most exciting new operator to hit the market for many years. Perhaps only LeoVegas and before that, 32Red, have enjoyed a similar trajectory in recent memory. It will enjoy a growth rate of around 40 per cent during 2020, on top of three-figure rises during the previous two years of operation.
But the figures only tell half the story. The industry as a whole can be thankful to Narkis for pointing a new way forward – one where the customer really is treated fairly. In doing so, he has done more for the industry’s public image than many well-intentioned responsible gambling campaigns.
Narkis is doing great things. Keep an eye on his progress. Where he leads, others will follow.
Itai Pazner is the second chief operating officer called Itai to be promoted to the chief executive’s office, and he has taken to it as successfully as his good friend Frieberger.
Pazner inherited a tough gig. The company had been battered by the UK regulator and its share price was in the doldrums. Pazner has reinvigorated all of the company’s products and been rewarded by soaring revenues and a revived share price.
With operations running smoothly in its core markets, you can expect Pazner to turn to the US and elsewhere with similar success.
Read more: Itai Pazner on 888’s decade in the Hot 50
When Betsson was floundering, Jesper Svensson stepped in to helm the company’s operations team. The company has not looked back since.
Things have just got better and better on his watch. The latest financial figures revealed a 19 per cent rise in revenue during the first nine months of 2020 but Svennson’s impact goes far deeper than figures.
He has forged a management team that people want to work for. He has promoted a culture that was lying in tatters when he took over. He fosters creativity and confidence. His employees feel empowered and follow his lead.
Furthermore, he has the knack of making the right decisions at the right time. As Betsson prepares to enter North and South America, it will need all of those qualities. These could so easily be adventures that go wrong but somehow, you can’t help thinking, they are unlikely to go wrong on Svensson’s watch.
If Flutter CEO Peter Jackson is the public face of Flutter, European CEO Daniel Taylor is the man that makes sure the public statements can be backed up by successful operations.
One of Jackson’s first moves after stepping from the board to the chief executive’s office was to appoint Taylor as CEO for all of Paddy Power and Betfair’s operations aside from the US and Australia. It might well be the best decision he has made.
Taylor now has the almighty job of integrating The Stars Group and Sky Betting & Gaming into Flutter’s enviable portfolio of brands. How he manages this task will define the next five years of his career.
When Jackson eventually moves on, as surely he will, you can be almost certain that Taylor will inherit the top job.
Luci Apostolou joined Playtech from IGT three years ago and has established herself as a driving force for change within the new business sales team. Her personality is infectious and leads to a unique style of building relationships and trust with Playtech’s prospective partners.
She might be the wild card in the team but she is also an incredibly effective sales director. Her engaging personality and valuable experience is disrupting the way Playtech approaches new business.
Recent deals with Casumo, 777.be and Jumpman Gaming are testament to her hard work. She has the drive and passion to push Playtech to new heights.
Paul Gielbert’s long history in the iGaming industry is paying off handsomely in his latest role with Eyecon.
The Playtech-owned maker of Fluffy Favourites has had a great year. As well as a number of high profile launches with new clients such as PlayOJO and the SkillOnNet stable, it has also launched with aggregators such as Microgaming and iSoftBet.
Gielbert’s smart strategic approach to customer accounts has ensured a coordinated approach across borders.
Eyecon has teamed up with Gielbert’s former employer Gaming Realms to launch Slingo Fluffy Favourites, a surefire hit and one that will keep Gielbert busy well into 2021.
If there was a salesman of the year award then Brian Kraft might well win it.
He joined NetEnt just two years ago and has risen through the ranks to become commercial chief for the Americas – NetEnt’s fastest growing market.
The likes of FanDuel, Rush Street, Golden Nugget, DraftKings and Roar Digital have all been signed up in quick succession. The growth curve is ongoing.
During Q4 2020, Kraft is readying NetEnt for launch in West Virginia, bringing Red Tiger and its daily jackpots to Pennsylvania, and preparing for entry into Michigan on day one of market opening.
And it’s not all about the US. The company is also launching in Colombia with Rush Street Interactive. There is no stopping this guy.
The time is right for Peter Nolte. With over 20 years of experience in land-based and online gaming, particularly as managing director in Brazil for IGT and Cirsa, he is in position to assume a leading role in the world’s largest regulated market.
But this honour is not only about the potential to be extracted from Brazil at some stage in the (near) future. Nolte has enjoyed a fantastic year.
He celebrated a successful rebrand from Patagonia Technology to Salsa with the acquisition of Wild Rabbit games studio. Meanwhile, he has closed over 30 deals with operators and platforms, which have chosen Salsa as their aggregation platform for Latin America. And Nolte is expanding the company’s horizons.
A licence from the MGA and an application for certification in Spain suggest Nolte will be cutting a similar dash in Europe too.
Peter Zäll is the kind of big thinker with a laser focus on detail that every organisation should have.
In late 2019, Zäll highlighted three areas that needed attention: speed to market; the need for a structured aggressive approach to new markets; and more B2B investment around Betsson’s proprietary sportsbook.
This focus on new markets and sportsbook technology means the company will launch in North and South America during 2021. This is bold new territory for Betsson.
Zäll also heads up Betsson’s data analytics team, and his pioneering approach in this area will give the Americas strategy every chance of success.
Change is difficult for any organisation but Zäll’s optimism, enthusiasm and detailed plans ensure that the whole company is behind him.
After a solid grounding in private practice in Brussels, Liv Biesemans has been a revelatory presence in Kindred’s legal team, pushing the highest legal and compliance standards, while performing a vital role in championing diversity and inclusion in the company.
She moved to New York in 2019 to spearhead Kindred’s assault on the regulated markets of the US. The company knew it was placing its future in safe hands.
She has negotiated multi-state agreements with Caesars Entertainment and Penn National, and has overseen the launch of Kindred Group in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Illinois. Ohio is next but it will not be the last for this dynamic in-house counsel.
Martina Borg-Stevens joined the fastest-growing supplier in the gaming industry, Red Tiger, in mid 2018. She shot up through the ranks, rising from legal and compliance officer to head of legal and compliance in under 12 months.
It wasn’t long before she was leading Red Tiger through its sale to NetEnt. She then navigated the complexities of US market entry while continuing to manage all commercial agreements and regulatory work.
After Evolution’s acquisition of NetEnt, Borg Stevens will be key to ensuring Red Tiger’s success in the US market and beyond. Her ambition and passion for Red Tiger has shone through. She is one of the industry’s most valued lawyers.
Sue Dawson combines legal acumen with business savvy to help companies achieve their wider commercial goals.
She has over 15 years’ experience in the iGaming industry, including eight years of current service with Scientific Games. An integral member of both the Digital and UK Gaming executive leadership teams, she provides strategic analysis and counsel for commercial operations, as well as oversight of all legal and regulatory matters.
She has left an undeniable mark on the industry, as evidenced by her efforts to support SG’s expansion into iGaming and sports betting, making the company a global leader in all facets of gaming and lottery.
This is the first year we have allowed private practice lawyers into the Hot 50, which explains why Stephen Ketteley has not managed to secure a place in it before now.
He would not thank us for listing his clients but Ketteley has long been the go-to for most of the industry’s biggest suppliers and operators.
Never before has his counsel been more urgently sought. When the Gambling Commission is investigating your company it pays to seek out the best, and most seek out Ketteley.
In an ever-changing landscape, Ketteley provides wise and commercially-minded counsel that can be a life-saver.
When the US Department of Justice (DOJ) threatened the fledgling US iLottery industry with a revised opinion of the Wire Act that would criminalise online lottery sales, urgent action was needed.
Riva Richard was quick to see the implications of the DOJ’s opinion and the need for an urgent industry-wide response, with Pollard Banknote at the helm. She forged a collaborative partnership with the New Hampshire Lottery and multiple external legal experts to launch a challenge to the DOJ’s 2018 opinion.
The US District Court for New Hampshire ultimately found in Pollard Banknote’s favour, confirming that the Wire Act only applies to sports betting activities.
There are few more deserving candidates in the Hot 50 than Riva Richard.
NeoPollard Interactive must be doing something right. Every single one of the lotteries appearing in this section are NeoPollard clients. Indeed, the supplier supports five of the nine North American lotteries with full iLottery operations.
Scott Bowen joined NeoPollard after ten years helming the Michigan Lottery, where he pioneered iLottery operations as the first US lottery to go online in 2014.
As a former Lottery Commissioner, Bowen knows the market inside out and will be in prime position to take more market share as more lotteries go online.
The Covid-19 pandemic is ushering state governments towards iLottery, and Bowen will be there to assist them. Ohio is probably next. Massachusetts has a bill pending. Bowen will make sure NeoPollard is at the head of the queue when RFPs are published.
High energy, high results. That’s Kelley-Jaye Cleland in a nutshell.
Two years ago, she spearheaded the delivery of the New Hampshire Lottery’s iLottery offering in just seven months, while overseeing the launch of a new website fit for the introduction of eCommerce.
In six-and-a-half years, she has helped transform New Hampshire’s lottery, leading a team of 28 people across multiple business units, managing product development and life-cycle flow for new products, including scratch tickets, Fast Play and eInstant games.
Meticulously thoughtful, Cleland has applied her strategic vision to the future growth of New Hampshire’s iLottery, which is now the second top-performing online lottery platform in the US in terms of per capita sales.
Under Shannon DeHaven’s leadership, the Michigan Lottery has set the benchmark in establishing North America’s first $1bn iLottery operation. DeHaven has been there the whole way, helping to launch a successful iLottery platform that will deliver close to $2bn in annual sales in FY2020.
Since launching in late 2014, Michigan’s total iLottery sales have grown to a staggering $4.8bn. In those six years, the growth in iLottery has returned $500m to the state’s School Aid Fund – a phenomenal achievement.
There is more to come from both Michigan and DeHaven, who is showing the way forward for other US lotteries through a commitment to educating industry peers and colleagues looking to build their own successful iLottery programme.
Jennifer Welshons is a pioneer. Throughout her 20 years at Scientific Games her marketing vision has established the supplier as the leader in lottery marketing research.
The work done by Welshons and her team on player research studies has been ground-breaking, helping the supplier develop unique analytic platforms to provide insights on player motivations and behaviour, delivering actionable marketing plans to help lotteries generate maximum retail and digital sales.
One of the supplier’s Lottery Group executive leaders, Welshons also helped to create and launch Scientific Games’ new branding and vision, mission and values campaign, as well as the Reimagine Next campaign to protect lottery revenue and returns for beneficiary programmes in unprecedented times.
With over 20 years of lottery experience, Rob Wesley has served as director of digital for the past three years, helping to take the Virginia Lottery online in July.
Unbelievably, Wesley pushed through the successful launch of the iLottery programme in just three months, with per capita revenues exceeding other US iLottery launches by 140 per cent. With more and more players going online as a result of the ongoing Covid pandemic, the timing could not have been better.
In the first quarter since launch, iLottery sales surpassed $120m, exceeding the lottery’s projections for the entire first year by 56 per cent. Wesley’s strategic vision has led to this unparalleled success and that is why he is a Hot 50 winner.
Every year the Gaming Intelligence Hot 50 tries to find at least one new entrant who almost nobody will have heard of. This year that honour goes to Chris Eade.
Kindred Group has invested in his company Zafty Intelligence to develop a responsible gaming app for IOS and Android that will allow people to monitor their gambling habits. It will monitor customers’ behaviour, compare it to past behaviour, and block or restrict access if it spots harmful behaviour.
The beauty of the technology is that it will monitor every app on a player’s device, meaning they can’t just quit with one operator and move to another.
Kindred has vowed to share Eade’s work with as many operators as possible, which could make him one of the industry’s most influential people.
Grainne Hurst has helmed GVC’s journey from the depths of the post-FOBT fallout to its bright new future as Entain.
Hurst has led her company’s responsible gambling efforts and in doing so led the industry’s efforts in this area. She has established a series of firsts – first to raise voluntary contributions for research, education and treatment of problem gambling; first to call for a whistle-to-whistle ban on advertising; and first to recruit a leading academic to audit all of the company’s operations with the aim of backing safer gambling practices with hard science.
New GVC CEO Shay Segev has rewarded Hurst with a seat on the executive committee. He knows how important she is to the company’s future. If she continues in this manner, she will be an important influence on the whole industry’s future.
Naama Kushnir has been somewhat shoehorned into this category due to her last role as head of human resources. Her current job as chief operating officer transcends employee and customer care but her promotion is indicative of the growing importance of HR and its processes to successful gaming companies.
As director, VP and SVP of HR over the past 13 years, Kushnir probably knows the 888 business better than anyone. As 888 grows she will have a vital role in making sure the processes are in place that allow the company’s strategic vision to become reality.
What’s more, she will be the keeper of the cultural flame that burns so brightly in 888. There’s also the small matter of the last two 888 COOs being promoted to CEO. No pressure, Naama.
Lena Nordin’s role in reinvigorating Betsson’s culture cannot be understated. She has helped turn the business around from one that people were trying to leave to one that people are desperate to join.
During 2020 that culture has been tested like never before. With most of the company’s employees working from home, Nordin has shifted her focus online. She has sent out e-learnings on working and managing remotely; kept employees informed about developments regarding the Covid situation, sometimes sending bulletins seven days a week; and she has moved employee social activities online.
Nordin is a key member of the management team and nothing the company has achieved during the past two years could have been accomplished without her.
Eileen Moore Johnson must have thought she’d seen it all during 20 years at Caesars Entertainment, but nothing could have prepared her for 2020.
She joined Scientific Games from Caesars as chief human resources officer in June and was pitched into one of the most testing moments in the company’s history.
With coronavirus raging through the US (and world), Moore Johnson joined a company reeling from a $100m reduction in quarterly employee costs.
She has a mammoth job on her hands to implement SG’s new vision, mission and values, and gain the trust of the company’s staff. Her first quarter in the job suggests she will do just that.
She has implemented strategic initiatives and found creative solutions to support the SG workforce at home and on site. She has hired new staff to support her efforts and approached the job with a relish.
2021 might not be easier than 2020 but SG staff should be pleased to know that they have Eileen Moore Johnson in their corner.
The role that Gili Brandshtein inherited two years ago has long been one of the most important in 888, a company that prides itself on owning its technology and providing customers with a top-quality product.
During the past two years, Brandshtein has overhauled the company’s Orbit casino (with incredible results), launched a new poker product in the shape of Poker 8, and is set to unleash a new bingo product onto the market in the New Year.
He will also have been heavily involved in the reshaping of the BetBright platform, acquired two years ago, and now being rolled out as the company’s Spectate sports betting product.
Brandshtein has marshalled his troops expertly and released a series of exciting new products – a job well done.
With a New York listing on the horizon, Genius Sports is going places. And so is Dhruti Gore.
Her ten-year career in gaming has taken her from the legal profession into strategic consulting and now to one of the biggest sports data suppliers in the sector.
With the launch of Betgenius’ streaming service last year, she has established the fastest-growing division within Genius Sports. It is changing the way sportsbook operators offer a streaming product and enabling sports leagues of all sizes to launch their first live streaming strategies.
More than 20 sportsbooks have already integrated the product, which is expected to deliver more than 30,000 live events next year. That is just the beginning for Dhruti Gore. She has an extremely bright future.
As director of Hub88.io, Vladimir Negine has transformed an originally conceived hackathon at the Coingaming Group into a next generation content aggregator in little over two years.
A sketch of what would become Hub88.io was born out of an internal company project, but it soon became clear the product had far broader potential. Negine has led the project from these beginnings into what it is today: an aggregator live with 35 operator partners, serving 100,000 MAUs and turning over more than €8 billion per year.
Negine, a former Deutsche Bank business analyst, combines tech savvy with commercial acumen; his insistence on building a stack that is both unburdened by legacy tech and laser-focused on scalability has powered Hub88’s rapid rise.
With new customer-focused features on the way, you wouldn’t bet against Negine growing Hub88 into the sector’s choice for content aggregation.
Angus Nisbet is the kind of guy everyone would want as their boss. His energy and enthusiasm are infectious and he’s been around the block a few times so knows his onions.
He joined Playtech almost three years ago, and in that time has helmed the relaunch of Gala Bingo as Buzz Bingo, and sealed extensions from the likes of Rank and Sky, while forging into new territories with the likes of Austria Lotteries’ win2day brand and several brands in Italy.
On top of that, Nisbet’s team has released a string of new bingo games such as Dynamite Digger Jackpot, Best Odds Bingo, Hot House Bingo and Love Island Bingo.
The regulatory climate is forcing operators to look again at bingo, a softer product more in tune with the times than slots. Nisbet and Playtech will benefit from that. You can expect more from this award-winning team.
It’s not often that you hear someone described as a product genius, but when it comes to Andrew Porter, there is no better way to describe him.
Having made his name during 13 years at Ash Gaming, which was sold to Playtech in 2011, Porter has again partnered up with Chris Ash – this time to establish games studio 4ThePlayer.
Porter is known for constantly inventing new player experiences, as seen in the supplier’s latest game 2 Gods Zeus-vs-Thor. He is pioneering game math transparency through diagrams on splash screens to educate players and to help them responsibly choose games.
That makes 4ThePlayer quite unique, and so is its product guru Andrew Porter.
Play OJO’s success has been phenomenal. Very few new brands have achieved so much so quickly in such a competitive market. Key to that success is the company’s brand differentiation, and Peter Bennett is its guardian.
Online casino advertising has been a subject of derision for years but PlayOJO has brought a fresh outlook – and it works. The Fair Casino campaign is simple genius. A message that has universal appeal across cultural boundaries.
Bennett has spread the word across UK television screens and radio, where PlayOJO might just be the industry’s biggest spender. He now has the job of bringing it to Spain in localised PlayUZU form.
Bennett has his work cut out building a brand from scratch before the Spanish advertising ban kicks in but he has entered the market with gusto. All indications are that this phenomenally successful brand is in very safe hands indeed.
Victoria Bonner is an unsung hero who has been crucial to the rise of Relax Gaming. Quietly but tirelessly, she has promoted Relax to a point where it is now seen as the must-have games aggregator.
Relax has recruited well, it has decent technology, and a canny method of winning new business, but it would not have achieved this level of ubiquity without Bonner’s marketing smarts.
She has built a marketing operation where previously there was none. Without a huge budget, she has worked smartly and efficiently. What’s more, colleagues and partners alike attest to the fact that she is a pleasure to work with.
Having established itself, Relax now needs to take the final step to becoming a top tier supplier. Bonner will no doubt rise to the challenge.
Wedge Traffic was one of the first licensed affiliate marketing companies in the US. Following the fall of PASPA in 2018, Wedge was quick to apply for licences in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Indiana, West Virginia and Tennessee. Michigan and Iowa will follow. With Covid allowing remote access during lockdown, Illinois has been added too.
Bettingjobs.com founder Copeland is a serial entrepreneur who knows a good opportunity when he spies it. Furthermore, he knows how to build strong relationships. He has a team of experienced marketeers behind him who can guarantee his stable of US websites will bring operators traffic.
Copeland’s plans to launch a Twitch channel next year reveal a finger on the pulse of cutting edge affiliate marketing. A fledgling strategy to reinvigorate the poker market is even more ambitious.
Espen Øye loves gambling. He moved to Malta from Norway to pursue his passion and he is making it pay as one of the leading lights of the next generation of Twitch affiliates in iGaming.
Øye and his co-founder Joel Petri looked at the calibre of slots players on Twitch and upped the ante. Øye’s enthusiasm is infectious. As a presenter, salesman, community builder and as business development executive, he has worked like a Trojan to get the business established.
Together with his partner he has fostered a community of players that is driving traffic to partners’ websites at a terrific rate. Revenue is skyrocketing for this fledgling company, which has become one of the leading Twitch affiliates in no time at all. Øye is looking forward to a very bright future indeed.
Joel Petri moved to Malta from Norway, met partner Espen Øye and established one of the hottest affiliates in iGaming.
Petri and Øye are television presenters, salesmen, entrepreneurs and, now, people managers. The two of them started raving about slots on Twitch and now they are fostering an emerging affiliate empire.
They have recruited a dozen employees assisting with presenting duties and to build the infrastructure needed to support their growing business.
Petri is simply unstoppable. The pair of them together are a force of nature. ClassyBeef can be whatever they want it to be. You heard it here first but this will not be the last you hear of Joel Petri and Espen Øye.
Flutter must be blessed with an abundance of talent to be able to dispense with the services of former FOXBET chief executive and Stars Group business development chief Robin Chhabra.
After cutting the deals that transformed William Hill and The Stars Group, Chhabra is ready to bring his unerring eye for a deal to Matt Davey’s Tekkorp.
Chhabra is, quite simply, one of the best in the business at spotting, developing and executing deals – whether those are joint ventures, mergers or acquisitions. Chhabra knows how to make businesses grow.
Tekkorp CEO Davey and Chhabra first worked together when Davey’s NYX bought OpenBet and Chhabra represented 10 per cent shareholder William Hill. Davey soon realised he was dealing with a pro. Together, they will be a force to be reckoned with.
Matt Davey has quietly had a very good year with Tekkorp – investing in and advising companies such as BetMakers and Scout Gaming Group. He has seen valuations bloom but he has also been putting the foundations in place to start making much bigger moves.
He has partnered with Resorts Casino owner Morris Bailey and recruited a team that covers pretty much every facet of the betting and gaming spectrum. His meticulously compiled Board includes former Caesars CEO Tony Rodio, Facebook’s former head of gaming Sean Ryan, Ernst & Young’s global gaming lead Tom Roche, and former Stars Group general counsel Marlon Goldstein. But perhaps his biggest coup is the recruitment of Goldstein’s former colleague Robin Chhabra, possibly the industry’s most respected deal doer.
Tekkorp announced its $250m initial public offering in October, with a view to finding a high growth betting and gaming company to merge with. You can expect whatever company Davey lands on to fly high. Few share his ambition or his track record.
Few in-house finance professionals are as influential or as busy as Lara Falzon. After cutting her gaming industry teeth at King.com, she joined Evoke Gaming and was instrumental in selling the business to Mr Green. She then joined Red Tiger and was instrumental in selling that business to NetEnt. She stayed on at NetEnt and was instrumental in selling the business to Evolution Gaming.
You can spot the theme. Falzon makes good companies great companies, and then is expert at guiding them through the acquisition process. Evolution would be wise to make her an offer she can not refuse when it finalises the acquisition of NetEnt. If it does not, watch her next move. It will be to a company that is going places.
Niccolo De Masi has masterminded the $1.5bn listing of Genius Sports Group, following a combination with Rush Street Interactive, which has quietly become the leading online casino operator in the US market.
De Masi’s entrance into the iGaming and sports betting market has been bold. Together with former Oracle and Accenture CFO Harry You, he forms a formidable team.
The chairman and former CEO of freeplay gaming company Glu Mobile has a keen eye for a deal, with over 30 M&A deals behind him. And he is far from done.
dMY Technology Group III raised $275m in November. While he has two years to find a target, he likes to strike while the iron is hot. And it most definitely is hot. Expect more from De Masi in 2021.
In less capable hands, Gaming Realms could have faded into obscurity by now. Under the strategic direction of co-founder and CFO Mark Segal it is a company that is flourishing.
The last year has seen Gaming Realms emerge from its past as a B2C bingo and casino operator and focus fully on supplying Slingo games to the market.
During 2020, Segal has recruited a new team that is powering the company into profit. The results have been fantastic. A 66 per cent rise in H1 revenue is only the beginning.
Slingo is a great game and Segal is a great boss, who will make sure it reaches its potential.
Promotion from chief technology officer to chief operating officer is an unusual career move. It is testament to the faith that new CEO Shay Segev has in Sandeep Tiku that he sees the former CTO as the man to fill his own former role.
It is also an indication of the direction of travel at GVC (soon to be Entain). Segev is a believer in the strength of the product and in Tiku he knows operations will be run with an eye on technology.
The pair have worked together since Segev joined GVC and was given the task of integrating and resuscitating bwin.party. Tiku carried off that task with skill and grace. Now, he has one of the biggest jobs in the industry.
Robeson Reeves makes Gamesys tick. And, boy, has it been ticking smoothly during 2020. Every market update is a testament to the good work Reeves does behind the scenes.
In Q1, revenue was up 19 per cent. At the midpoint of the year, revenue was up 101 per cent on the year before. The third quarter report revealed a 31 per cent rise in revenue.
While Gamesys has enjoyed a strong tailwind from the lockdown effect, its figures are almost unrivalled. Robeson has continued to run things smoothly, while implementing a series of strong responsible gambling measures.
Reeves has worked his magic at Gamesys for over 15 years. As long as he remains you can expect one of the industry’s best-run operators to thrive.
Paddy Power’s gaming division has come on leaps and bounds in the past two years.
Mike Phelan’s team has improved the product offering beyond recognition, filling out the content portfolio; improving the speed, reliability and design of the mobile app; and rolling out a brand new loyalty programme.
That alone would probably have been enough to win Phelan a place in the Hot 50 but where he has really broken the mould is the huge project to bring all the operator’s gaming under one roof. This required some delicate negotiations with Playtech to convince them to give up their exclusive tab as Paddy Power Games and Paddy Power Casino became one.
The streamlined operation has been matched by a streamlined front end that has had customers raving about the new experience.
It was a bold move from Phelan and his team. Having executed it so expertly, you can expect other operators to follow in his footsteps.
Chief executive officer Johnny Hartnett has formed something of a dream team at Superbet. An integral part of that team is director of gaming Joe Legge.
The former Betfair and William Hill man knows how to run an online casino and has taken to his new role with aplomb since arriving in February 2020.
Superbet is enjoying exponential growth and Legge is a big reason behind its success. He is a smooth operator, who quite simply knows his stuff. His staff love him and so do his bosses.
Superbet is going places and so is Legge.
Since coronavirus closed the doors of retail outlets across the world it has never been more important for bricks and mortar casinos to have an online presence.
This is Gaming1’s bread and butter. Sylvain Boniver has already established a series of joint ventures with land-based casinos in Belgium, France, Portugal, Serbia, Colombia and Peru, taking podium positions in each of the countries in which it operates. He is ambitious to take the Belgian supplier-operator into the US and beyond.
Guided by Boniver and his fellow founder shareholders, Gaming1 is expanding at some rate. It is making good on the promise of the omnichannel concept and its offering is hugely attractive – never more so than right now.
Bragg Gaming CEO Adam Arviv joined the publicly listed gaming group as a strategic investor before stepping into the chief executive’s seat. He has engineered a turnaround that has transformed the company from an also ran into a global gaming force.
With a new focus on international expansion, Bragg is becoming a significant player in Europe, Latin America and North America. The company added 14 new operators to its roster in Q3 alone and has watched revenue rise almost 100 per cent during 2020.
As a strategic investor, Arviv has been instrumental in the success of a number of growth companies, founding or acting as lead investor in Oryx Gaming, Pick Nation, Gaming Nation, Green Growth Brands, GhostRetail and the BRN Group.
Now Bragg is going in the right direction it will take some stopping.
The co-founder of Cayetano Gaming, which Raph Di Guisto sold to Paddy Power in 2011, is back with Silverback Gaming. The early signs are that Silverback will repeat the success of Cayetano and then some.
Di Guisto is a mathematician extraordinaire but his maths talent is only a tiny part of the story. He has assembled a strong team at Silverback and their first games are hugely promising. Aztec Luck and Mystery Stacks take familiar themes and elevate them with an attention to detail that is Di Guisto’s trademark.
Silverback is set to become one of the most exciting software houses in the industry.
Tsachi Maimon established Aspire Global as a force to be reckoned with. The company has grown out of the shadow of NeoGames and keeps on growing.
As each and every quarter goes by, Maimon is out front announcing record revenues, new clients, new territories and new acquisitions. This year, Aspire Global completed the acquisition of sports betting provider BtoBet to provide the next piece of the product jigsaw as Aspire Global looks to fulfil its ambition to become the industry’s premier supplier.
In November it announced a potentially massive deal with Russia’s Sports Lotteries, one of only two licensed lotteries in the country. Maimon has been there on every step of Aspire Global’s journey. One can only look on and wonder what comes next.
Erika Nardini has guided Barstool from a startup blog with 12 staff to a burgeoning media empire with 180 employees, that Penn National saw enough potential in to invest $163m for a 36 per cent stake.
Nardini is the business brains behind founder Dave Portnoy’s shock tactics. She will now have support from Penn National as it rolls out sportsbooks across the US.
The Barstool sportsbook app was launched in Pennsylvania first and will form the centrepiece of Penn National’s omnichannel gaming strategy.
With media such an integral part of sports betting success Stateside, Penn will hope rising star Nardini sticks around long enough to manage a rollout that promises fireworks.
The story of Maarja Pärt’s rise to the top job at the Coingaming Group, the world’s largest cryptocurrency-led operator, is only matched by the growth of the company itself.
She has been a key figure since before it launched its first brand, Bitcasino.io, back in 2014. That was a time when cryptocurrency was the preserve of techies and one bitcoin could be bought for under $300. Since then, she has served as CFO, COO and now CEO, overseeing the creation and growth of a diverse portfolio of B2C and B2B brands delivered by a team of more than 400.
Pärt’s eye for detail and financial background made her the perfect person to step into the shoes of former CEO Tim Heath, who recently stepped down to focus on venture capital firm Yolo Investments.
With Coingaming brands now entering the global mainstream – Sportsbet.io recently penned major sponsorship deals with Arsenal and Southampton – all eyes will be on what Pärt has planned next.