Johnny Hartnett

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

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

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

Jesper Svensson

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.

Dan Taylor

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

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, and Jumpman Gaming are testament to her hard work. She has the drive and passion to push Playtech to new heights.

Paul Gielbert

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.

Brian Kraft

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.

Peter Nolte

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

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.