A seasoned entrepreneur, politician and philanthropist, Oloye Akin Alabi is the founder of NairaBet, the foremost online and offline indigenous sportsbook in Nigeria. The idea for the business was born during his trip to the UK after visiting a betting shop. He returned to Nigeria and published a guide about sports betting, with the publication’s success paving the way for the first sports betting company in Nigeria in 2008.
Meanwhile, as a politician Oloye has been serving as a representative in Nigeria’s National Assembly. His achievements can be categorised under three segments: Lawmaking (Bills and Motions), Oversight of the Executive, and Constituency outreach. Among other records, he has proposed several bills and moved over twenty motions, including the “Urgent need to mediate the ongoing rift between the operators of Premier Lotto and Western Lotto.”
Oloye is the author of the best-selling business and marketing books, Small Business Big Money and How To Sell To Nigerians. While all this is impressive, he wins this Hot 50 award for developing NairaBet into one of Africa’s biggest sportsbooks.
Nadiya Attard has been a force to be reckoned with since joining Relax Gaming in April 2020 as director of sales. Nicknamed ‘turbo mode’ due to her efficiency and energy, she boasts an impressive track record of exceeding targets. Nadiya closed a deal on her very first day at the company and hasn’t slowed since, closing over 55 deals in 2022 alone.
Her combination of commercial and technical knowledge, including a master’s degree in programming, have contributed to Relax Gaming’s impressive growth in recent years, aiding in the significant expansion of the supplier’s network.
In just two years with Relax, she has already driven progress in the UK, Italy, Spain, Romania, Estonia, the Nordics, Latvia, Sweden, Canada, Colombia and Germany, thanks to her deep knowledge of regulated markets. Nadiya is definitely one to watch in 2023, she’s only just getting started.
Former Red Tiger executive Dave Avila is one to watch after his transition from senior operations and compliance roles with major B2B and B2C companies to industry entrepreneur. He has founded the newest and one of the most interesting game certification laboratories in the industry in Risk Cherry, where he is quietly marching into the independent testing space like no-one has before. Game certification has very high barriers to entry and requires years of patience by a team of lawyers, developers and mathematicians.
Combine that with the dominance of the incumbent players and downward price pressure in the sector, and this is a very bold move. However, just three years in, his team is approved in ten regulated markets with many more on their roadmap. Dave has proved in record time that certification can be more efficient and effective than ever before. Early clients rave about Risk Cherry. Dave’s company is the future of game certification, and with the recent addition of industry veteran Rob Fell to the team, we expect great things from Risk Cherry in 2023.
Michael Bauer serves both as a Chief Financial Officer and as Chief Gaming Officer of Greentube, but effectively serves as CEO of Novomatic’s iGaming subsidiary. He has served as CFO of Greentube since 2015 and has driven continuous margin improvements since then and played a key role in the supplier’s recent string of acquisitions.
He took over Greentube’s games business in 2017 and has since completely transformed it into one of the leading suppliers of the industry. There is basically no regulated market left where Greentube’s games are not available, including the United States and most recently Ontario, Canada. Greentube is now a force to be reckoned within iGaming and Michael is the driving force behind its rise.
Eamonn has an extensive background in the gaming industry, after spending over six years at Paddy Power Betfair, where he gained a deep understanding of gaming products and the industry as a whole. Moving over to sister company Sky Betting & Gaming in December, he is responsible for driving the operator’s content strategy forward. Eamonn ensures that the company’s content is not only engaging, but also innovative and effective in driving business growth. Something he does with aplomb. Continuing to be one of the leading iGaming operators in the UK, Sky Betting & Gaming is in great hands.
Following the sale to Brookfield Business Partners, Scientific Games’ focus is now back on the lottery sector, including providing sports betting to lottery partners. And who better to lead the charge than Steve Beason, who returned to his spiritual home last June after a six-year absence. Between 2005 and 2016, he served as Scientific Games’ enterprise chief technology officer (CTO) and president of lottery systems group, so he already knows the business pretty well. While the company may have changed hands in that time, his knowledge of the industry is second to none, and has only been enhanced by his recent stint as CTO for rival Inspired. His 40-year industry experience also includes seven years as CTO for the Hong Kong Jockey Club, and 12 years as vice president of software at GTECH (now part of IGT). He is the perfect fit for Scientific Games as the supplier expands further into the digital era and looks to enhance its existing product lines under a new leadership team.
Aditya Bhushan joined as Aspire Global CTO in 2020 from NetEnt. He manages Aspire Global’s technology department, including the technology operations and development teams, IT and security. His is a crucial and varied role, acting as a strategic planner, customer relations liaison and infrastructure architect. His skills came to the fore during the merger with NeoGames and the subsequent integration work to create the iGaming powerhouse, which now incorporates the BtoBet sportsbook and Pariplay iGaming platform. Aditya leads by example and is a worthy Hot 50 winner. As part of an agile and scalable tech company with operations across multiple jurisdictions, he will play a central role in Aspire Global’s continued expansion.
Microgame is the leading platform provider in Italy with more than 90 brands under its umbrella, taking in around 160m transactions per year. In one of the most competitive regulated markets in Europe, this is a remarkable achievement and Marco and his team deserve major credit for this. Microgame are leading the way in bringing new content to Italian players, including being the first to introduce games from Bragg Gaming and Relax Gaming into the market. Italy has become a key region for iGaming suppliers, and Marco and Microgame know exactly what they need to do for their operator partners. After twenty years of operation, Microgame is still a leader in Italy, and Marco is too.
Three years ago, Robert won a Hot 50 award after transforming SAZKA Group into the fastest-growing lottery operator in Europe. His second Hot 50 award comes after SAZKA Group’s transformation into Allwyn Group, and its stunning coup in winning the next licence to operate the UK National Lottery.
As well as being group CEO, Robert has now taken on the role of interim CEO of Allwyn UK, as the company looks to deliver on its commitment for a bigger, better and safer UK National Lottery from February 2024. Allwyn will also be the new operator of the Illinois Lottery in 2023 after acquiring Camelot Lottery Solutions from Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan Board. These are ground-breaking times for Allwyn, and Robert deserves a huge amount of credit for this.
Irina Cordines joined Pragmatic Play at the start of 2022 and had an immediate impact on its multi-product portfolio. Under her direction, Pragmatic Play has greatly expanded its slots roadmap and now adds seven new games to its portfolio each month, including massively popular hits such as Sugar Rush.
Irina’s expertise has also been invaluable in the live casino segment, where the company has expanded its studio space in Romania and opened a new live dealer hub in Sofia, Bulgaria, that will become home to more than 2,000 employees. Irina was also integral in repositioning Pragmatic Play’s new approach to its live casino games – Twist, Transform, Elevate. All products, existing and upcoming, will sit in one of these three pillars, driving the focus on product excellence and offering new possibilities for operators. Under Irina’s leadership, Pragmatic Play has maintained its business growth into key and emerging markets while continuing to innovate and push the boundaries on the product front.
There aren’t many people that have won three Hot 50 awards, but Irina is a very deserving winner.
Eddie is one of Australia’s youngest billionaires after co-founding Easygo with Bijan Tehrani in 2016, which paved the way for the launch of Stake.com in 2017. It is the cryptocurrency casino and sports betting business that has underpinned his success though. Stake.com only launched in the UK in December 2021, but has not been afraid to splash the cash to get its brand out in the market through sponsorship deals, including Watford and Everton football clubs last year, and partnerships with the likes of Argentine footballer Sergio Agüero, Formula One driver Pietro Fittipaldi and his brother, Formula Two driver Enzo Fittipaldi. It is a fast-growing business and is taking things to another level with the recent launch of its new casino streaming channel, Kick. This lets gamers post streams of their gameplay for a 95% share of revenue, and comes after Twitch banned gambling content across its platform. From seemingly out of nowhere, Stake.com is ready to take off, and Eddie will be there every step of the way.
Francesco has been in the gambling industry for nearly fifteen years, having started his career at Lottomatica, before moving onto Winga, NetEnt, and BetGames TV. He currently heads up the online casino for Sisal, which has been one of the top performing brands in Italy in recent years. Sisal is now part of Flutter’s international portfolio of brands. In Q3 2022, Flutter’s international revenue grew by 43 per cent to £466m, with Sisal’s online revenue up 19 per cent and average monthly players climbing 27 per cent. Francesco should be credited with much of that success. His next task is arguably even tougher as he looks to grow Sisal’s share of the Italian iGaming market, where Flutter’s PokerStars and Betfair brands also operate. With Sky Betting & Gaming and Tombola also under Flutter’s umbrella, there is a wealth of iGaming knowledge at Francesco’s disposal. Expect Sisal to keep marching on.
With over a decade of iLottery and digital engagement experience, Shannon DeHaven is considered a trailblazer and thought leader in the lottery industry. She provides leadership to Pollard Banknote’s digital engagement team and oversees the range of digital products, driven by her passion and experience with one-to-one player engagement.
Shannon draws on her considerable experience with the Michigan Lottery, which under her leadership became the first US state lottery to prove the success of the iLottery channel. She helped to set the industry standard by which iLottery success is measured in North America, earning herself a Hot 50 appearance in that role.
Since joining Pollard Banknote in April 2021, Shannon has worked with the company’s lottery clients to successfully launch and operate best-in-class digital programs and solutions that maximize the value of the digital sphere. She takes the time to build and foster relationships with lottery clients to understand their unique digital engagement needs and requirements, including their regulatory and competitive gaming environment.
Shannon has been instrumental in introducing Pollard Banknote as a new major player in the iLottery market and is fully deserving of her second Hot 50 accolade.
John has been with Entain and its predecessors since 2012 and has played a major part in the company’s transition from rising star to industry powerhouse. He and his team are responsible for building out Entain’s game portfolio across all of their brands and jurisdictions. Starting with two integrated game studios when he joined, that number now stands at more than 200. This has seen the total number of games offered jump from 150 to more than 7,000 titles and counting.
It’s not just the number of games that John has helped to increase but also the number of markets that they are offered in, with the team working tirelessly to adapt content to meet the demands of a multi-market, muti-vertical operator.
The gaming system that John has helped to build currently works with six wallet platforms, handles more than 200 million spins per day and provides customisable and personal player bets on the same game. The work John has put into developing and enhancing Entain’s proposition over the years, combined with his plans for the coming 12 months, make him a worthy addition to the Hot 50.
Carl Ejlertsson already had one of the most enviable resumes in gaming; now he leads the industry’s hottest startup. Not bad for a twenty-eight-year-old who started his career in Malta ten years ago as a customer support agent at Betsson Group.
He ascended through Betsson before being headhunted as the first Red Tiger employee in Malta, working his way up to Director of Business Development.
With a passion for product that was under-served on the commercial side of the business, he was made Games Director at Evolution when he joined as the result of the two acquisitions that took in Red Tiger and NetEnt. He was responsible for some of Evolution’s big hits, working side by side with Todd Haushalter.
After a twelve-month sabbatical, Carl announced that he was founding Octoplay in October 2022. By mid-December he had already bagged more operator deals faster than any supplier in history, off the back of just his first three games.
The products look so strong that industry chatter has Octoplay clearly marked as the next big thing and Carl as the most likely candidate to revolutionise the online gaming landscape in the next few years. The speed of his career trajectory and the boldness of Octoplay’s product set make Carl Ejlertsson very much the Person of The Year.
Simply put, Michel loves slot games, and he has found his spiritual home at LeoVegas, which is one of the first places studios look to as they debut their newest games. His previous iGaming experience includes a five-year stint at William Hill International (now part of 888), but 2023 could be a big year for him as LeoVegas targets even greater heights under the ownership of MGM Resorts International. The US casino giant already has its BetMGM joint venture for the US sports betting and iGaming market, so LeoVegas will serve as its international iGaming brand. Michel will have a big part to play in taking the brand to the next level and few would bet against him succeeding.
Pablo Ferreira has spent his career specialising on the Latin American iGaming market. Returning to Entain in July 2022 as Director of New Markets in LatAm, Pablo has worked throughout his entire career on the continent. He previously worked for Entain’s predecessor GVC, where he spearheaded the introduction of major brands such as bwin into Colombia and Mexico, two of Latin America’s biggest regulated markets. He was instrumental in introducing GVC’s brands into key markets in the region, as well as European markets such as Portugal and Spain. Aside from GVC/ Entain, he worked as Chief Operations Officer for Phoenix Entertainment in Portugal and was Chief Marketing Officer and Head of Country Manager for Soft2Bet. The LatAm region continues to hold big opportunities for operators, and Entain has the right man for the job.
Omar Galdurralde was appointed Chairman of the Buenos Aires regulator in 2020. Since then, he has backed the regulation of online gaming in the province, with Argentina’s regulations having to be developed province by province. Buenos Aires is now the reference point for the rest of the country, and it was Omar who helped to launch it, despite the concept being enacted by his predecessor, María Eugenia Vidal. This year Omar has been elected as president of the Asociación de Loterías Estatales Argentinas (ALEA), a position from which he is working to improve responsible gaming initiatives and fighting against illegal gambling in the country. In Argentina, it is the lotteries that are responsible for online regulations in each province. Omar is leading the drive forward in responsible gambling initiatives and contributing to the development of iGaming across the country. This is a formidable achievement and worthy of a Hot 50 accolade.
Fernando Garita has been a driving force behind Betcris’ expansion in markets across Latin America. Fernando is committed to delivering the best live sports betting experience to customers and creating a localised offering in each market where the company operates, and is expected to play an ongoing key role in the rise of Betcris.
Betcris chief executive officer JD Duarte was celebrated in last year’s Hot 50 for his success in driving the business forward over 14 years with the company. Fernando is another career Betcris employee after more than 19 years at his current employer, and well deserving of this recognition for his contribution to the company and industry in LatAm.
Andrew spent seven years leading Sky Betting & Gaming’s product team, helping Sky Vegas become the leading online casino in the UK and launching Sky Casino and Sky Bingo Arcade (all part of Flutter). When he moved within Flutter to FanDuel just over two years ago, its online casino had a substantially subpar product compared to its major rivals (BetMGM and DraftKings). In a short space of time he has helped make FanDuel become the top rated casino app in America. 2022 was a big year for FanDuel Casino as it made big inroads by increasing its market share and launching a dedicated FanDuel Live Casino studio, as well as the FanDuel Reward Machine, a daily free-to-play game where players have a chance to win $2,000 every single day. Andrew is not finished with his journey yet, and fully expects to have the best product in the US online casino market in 2023. Few would bet against it.
BetMGM is one of the leading contenders in the US sports betting and iGaming market, with its recent entry into Ohio marking the operator’s 25th state launch. All of this has been done under the watchful eye of Adam, who played a significant role in the creation of the Entain-MGM Resorts joint venture in 2018 through his previous role as director of corporate development and strategy at the company formerly known as GVC. He put the foundations in place to allow the US operation to flourish, and there is a lot more to come, with BetMGM expected to surpass $1.3bn in revenue during 2022. For this, Adam deserves his second Hot 50 award, having also won the accolade back in 2019 at Ladbrokes Coral, where led a number of defining transactions for the group.
Since joining the Playtech group in 2016, Edo Haitin has presided over an unprecedented period of growth for the company’s Live Casino business, underlined by his promotion to business unit CEO in August 2022. With expansion across newly regulated markets in the US a major priority for the business, Edo has overseen the launch of new live studios in both New Jersey and Michigan, with flagship game launches including Adventures Beyond Wonderland, Buffalo Blitz Live Slots and Mega Fire Blaze Roulette already live or in the pipeline for 2023. Outside of the US, a new Live facility in Peru has been launched, catering specifically for LatAm markets with bespoke products, with Brazil now Live’s biggest market, while existing facilities in Romania have been expanded. Under Edo’s leadership, Live Casino is becoming a truly global success for Playtech.
Eric has spent most of his career at Caesars Entertainment, during which time the US casino giant has made significant investments in its interactive business. Over the course of his tenure at Caesars, he has held positions in both property operations and corporate finance, but now leads the company’s fast-growing Digital business. His financial acumen has proved useful to Caesars following its acquisition of William Hill US in 2021, and the continued legalization of sports betting in additional US states and jurisdictions. Caesars Digital’s revenue more than doubled to $187m in Q3 2022, from operations across 26 jurisdictions in North America, 19 of which are mobile. The next challenge is to reach profitability, and Eric has the background and the skills to make that happen.
USAbility has quickly emerged as the leading product, compliance and project delivery consultancy in the gambling industry since its inception in January 2020. Chief executive and co-founder Avi Howard deserves a great deal of credit for that success. Avi boasts more than 16 years of experience in the industry, including senior roles with the likes of William Hill, Fortuna and Playtech. Under Avi’s leadership, USAbility has been instrumental in supporting the growth strategies and market entry of 12 major operators in North America and Canada. With the rest of the world now in the company’s sights, Avi will no doubt deliver once again in what is shaping up to be a pivotal year for the company.
Nick Hughes has been at leading operator bet365 for over eight years. He is an instrumental part of the bet365 casino team and a key person behind building the operator’s strategy. Nick’s gaming expertise ensures the quality of content being delivered to the players and his willingness to innovate in what is offered puts him ahead of his peers. From simple beginnings as a customer support agent, he has risen through the ranks to his current senior role as head of gaming. After more than a year as deputy head of gaming, Nick knows what is expected at one of the biggest operators around. He will not disappoint.
Since joining Aspire Global in 2015 as marketing manager, Shlomit progressed quickly to senior leadership roles, helping group CEO Tzachi Maimon with the plan to become a public company and diversify its product offering. After being promoted to vice president of HR & Operations in 2020, Shlomit had an instrumental role in the growth of the Aspire workforce from 120 to 350 people, opening new offices in Ukraine and India – while still in charge of the group’s marketing activities.
The successful IPO together with the acquisition of BTOBet and Pariplay established the Aspire group as a dominant player in the European market. Now, with NeoGames’s rich experience in North America, the objectives have risen. In her new role as VP of Marketing for the entire NeoGames Group, Shlomit is more than ready to take on the next challenge and drive the company to new heights.
In just over a year since being appointed as VP of Sales and Marketing at White Hat Gaming and Studios, Daniel Lechner has delivered significant commercial growth for the platform and slots provider worldwide, most notably in North America. He has been key to the supplier’s ability to secure new operator partnerships and launches across multiple territories in 2022. This included guiding the company’s PAM solution into its 14th US state after launching with PENN Entertainment’s Barstool Sports in Maryland’s newly regulated online market. White Hat also entered Puerto Rico after securing a key agreement with LMG Gaming, owned by media company Liberman Media Group, which will see its ApuestaPR brand use White Hat’s PAM solution.
For White Hat Studios, Daniel has helped to secure deals with all the leading operators, with its slots portfolio already live with the likes of Bet- MGM, Caesars, DraftKings, FanDuel, Golden Nugget, Rush Street Interactive and Wynnbet. He has a thorough understanding of platform and slot provision, and knows what players and operator need. Daniel has quickly become an integral part of White Hat, which is making a big impact on the wider iGaming industry. He is building a successful marketing and sales team that will ensure the supplier will enjoy major success in 2023 and beyond.
Jordan Levin’s unrivalled leadership skills and industry M&A experience proved vital in overseeing a seamless transition following the acquisition of OpenBet by Endeavor.
The move brings the company’s sports betting entertainment offering into a new era by converging with Endeavor and its businesses, including IMG Arena, further strengthening its position as a leader in delivering robust, scalable and innovative sportsbook platforms to online and land-based operators across the globe. The company is more determined than ever to be at the forefront of sports betting entertainment, with Jordan’s guidance a crucial part of this.
Under the stewardship of Jordan, OpenBet has remained the pinnacle of the industry’s platform propositions, delivering a premium modular portfolio spanning technology, content and services at scale for the world’s biggest operators. He was instrumental in the acquisition of SportCast, the pioneers behind the original and leading BetBuilder product, which was recently enhanced through a partnership with deep data experts StatsBomb. Jordan leads by example in the company’s passion for innovation and he will be the driving force to take it to new heights as a part of the Endeavor family.
Under Bobby’s commercial leadership at Pronet Gaming, the business went from a relatively unknown quantity in the iGaming space to a recognised, go-to provider of tailored solutions for all tiers of operators. The company has signed more than 40 new clients in the last 12 months, and under Bobby’s guidance, its sports betting product lines have exceeded all expectations with 300 per cent growth, while its casino platform is delivering growth of 85 per cent.
Bobby aims to replicate that success under the Sportingtech banner, where he played a key role in securing 888AFRICA as a new high-profile customer for a multi-country rollout. With attention increasingly turning to the African opportunity, Bobby and Sportingtech will be expecting great things in the year ahead.
Now in his 12th year in iGaming, Aaron first cut his teeth at Marathonbet, where he managed the rollout of the operator’s mobile sportsbook and desktop casino before moving on to GVC in 2015, where he was part of the operator’s meteoric rise from a small AIM listed company to a FTSE 100 behemoth. With that baptism of fire, Aaron moved to Malta to take on the Head of Gaming Operations role at what was then known as Jackpot Joy Group before moving to William Hill International in 2020 as Head of Gaming for Mr Green. He now brings all of that experience to bear at Comeon Group, which could be his biggest challenge yet. Comeon is an operator with bold ambitions to match his own. Great things are expected in 2023.
COMPLIANCE AND REGULATORY affairs have become a key component for any operator or supplier across the global gambling industry, and having the right person in that role can be the difference between commercial success and failure. Kate has been rightly applauded for helping businesses to be open to the commercial opportunities available to them, while at the same time negating any risks. It is a fine line, but one she navigates with aplomb. She has worked for some of the biggest gambling companies around in bwin.party (now Entain), Playtech, Superbet and William Hill. Three years ago she went solo and set up her own consultancy. It was a bold move but Kate is exactly the type of compliance and regulatory specialist that people want to work with, and her success over the years means she fully deserves this Hot 50 award. There is a lot more to come from her.
Claire McDaid has been integral in driving forward not just Pragmatic Play’s bingo offering, but also the supplier’s entire stable of verticals since she was appointed as VP of Bingo. She has been a tireless champion of bingo, promoting a vertical that that has been overlooked in recent years. She has inspired casino-focused operators by educating them on the benefit of adding bingo to their portfolio, driving first time deposits at lower acquisition costs, and offering fantastic cross-selling opportunities. This has opened the world of bingo to a whole mass of operators who would never have considered taking the product.
Claire’s achievements have contributed to Pragmatic Play’s leading position in numerous regulated markets. Its bingo products are now live in more than 18 markets, across hundreds of brands, and active player numbers are surging. Her achievements have not only contributed to her employer’s growth, but to the growth of the bingo vertical globally. For that she is a very worthy winner of the Hot 50.
Alexander McLoughlin launched his iGaming career in a junior CRM role at a pioneering crypto operator before rapidly progressing through the ranks to casino manager. Two and a half years ago, Alexander joined Gamesys Group (now Bally’s) as casino operations manager and has now established himself within the group as a key member of their gaming division, becoming Head of Casino Operations for Asia/RoW.
Alexander played an integral role in restructuring the gaming team and continues to lead the group’s B2C gaming initiatives, operations and strategy in multiple markets. A product expert and games enthusiast, he is in the right place to use his skills to expand Bally’s interactive business in 2023 and beyond.
A new era is beginning for PressEnter Group with Merzoug recently leading a management buyout of the Malta-based operator of online casino brands such as 21.com, JustSpin and NitroCasino. Following completion of the transaction, the company’s senior management team will take over the company’s operations, with Lahcene taking on an executive chairman role. Having been CEO of PressEnter for the past two years, he knows the business better than anyone and will play an even more important role in the operator’s next chapter of growth. It is exciting times for the operator and Lahcene, and this is just the start of their journey.
Daniel started his iGaming career at Mr Green and went on to manage William Hill’s casino business before joining Casumo as head of casino in 2020. He took on the same role at Soft2Bet in 2021 and was promoted to director of gaming in April 2022.
His rapid progression is no surprise to those that know him. Daniel is always looking for innovation in terms of product and gamification, while continuously optimising brands. He is intrinsically involved in all commercial aspects of casino and trusted to build the group’s casino strategy. Now a Hot 50 winner, there is a lot more to come from Daniel, and from Soft2Bet.
Hiring Ciara was a major coup for Entain, and her impact has been as significant as it has been immediate since joining the business in May 2022. She is one of the most experienced executives in the industry having held top-level gaming product roles at the likes of Paddy Power, William Hill and Betsson. Achievements over her distinguished career include launching Paddy Power’s first mobile casino and app, building Rank’s digital casino team in Gibraltar, overseeing the full rebuild of William Hill’s live casino studios and proposition, and centralising Betsson’s casino operations globally under her team.
Her responsibilities now include leading Entain’s in-house game development teams and the group’s personalisation and gamification strategy. There are few others in this industry that could not only manage, but excel in such a diverse role, covering both B2B and B2C. Ciara’s success has been entirely on merit, and she is highly regarded by her peers. She is sure to continue to blaze a trail at Entain in 2023 and beyond.
Kola Okoko brings a wealth of experience to the Entain team, having started on a smaller stage at Beacon Bingo, Cricklewood – the largest Bingo hall in Europe. After 12 years service at Beacon Bingo, Kola is now operating at a multi-brand product level. Following on from roles with Gamesys, GVC and White Hat Gaming, where he was integral in helping them achieve significant success, Kola is now starring for Entain as Head of Slots. Kola has only been with the operator since September 2022, but it will be no surprise to those that know him, as he takes Entain to even greater heights when it comes to content and player engagement.
Eamonn only took over as CEO of Napoleon Sports & Casino last November but has big plans for the iGaming operator, which is already one of the market leaders in Belgium. Using his experience in the gaming and travel sectors, Eamonn will look to lead Napoleon through its next stage of growth by focusing on meeting the needs of its customers.
He knows the business well, having served as chief operating officer for two years, and is the latest in a long line of Paddy Power Betfair alumni to feature in the Hot 50. Napoleon has grown from a family business more than 40 years ago to one of Belgium’s leading online and land-based operators. With Eamonn taking the reins, Napoleon Sports & Casino looks likely to continue its upward trajectory.
Ross Parkhill entered the iGaming industry with Tipico and after a successful period running the operator’s casino products, he moved to Gaming Innovation Group (GiG) to help build and launch the Highroller brand. After taking the position of Highroller managing director, Ross gradually grew its portfolio of brands to include Kaboo, Thrills, Guts and flagship brand, Rizk.
Ross was the only member of GiG’s senior management team to make the transition to Betsson as part of its 2020 purchase of Zecure Gaming, before leaving to join Rhino Entertainment. Ross joined during the company’s start-up phase launching Casino Days, before adding three new brands and additional gaming licenses throughout 2022. Rhino is one of the fastest growing gaming operators in the space, with proprietary software and BI infrastructure fuelling its growth and setting it up for the next stage of development.
Supported by an experienced and driven management team, Ross has helped build Rhino into a 140 strong team, across three hubs, with the goal of building fantastic products that provide value-driven and exciting entertainment through leading technologies and best in class customer experience. Ross is an industry star in the making, and is not resting on his laurels.
Magdalena Podhorska-Okolow has spent 14 years in iGaming with the likes of Gaming Laboratories International (GLI), NetEnt/Evolution and most recently Authentic Gaming, where she was chief commercial officer. Today she serves as VP Commercial – MD Europe at Light & Wonder, where she is responsible for business deliverables and the profitable direction of the company within Europe and South Africa.
She has made a significant impact towards the company’s strategy in driving a regional agenda, segmenting regions within Europe and developing strategies that address unique characteristics within each territory. She is also leading the way as L&W prepares for its imminent entry into South Africa. Magdalena’s broad skillset combines her knowledge of compliance garnered from GLI with exceptional sales skills, creative marketing talent and linguistic abilities, making her a powerhouse of an MD.
It was just over six years ago that Uri founded Soft2Bet, and its unique strategy of being an all encompassing B2C operator and B2B supplier is paying off in spades.
With an impressive Research and Development Hub in Limassol, Cyprus, Soft2Bet has come a long way from its early days in 2016. The company has big ambitions and its journey is only just beginning. And so is Uri’s. From its first brand Malina, several other brands have followed, including LightCasino, Yoyo, Campobet, to name-drop a few, as well as its “company jewel” Betinia gamification brand. On the supplier side, Soft2Bet has developed and deployed over 55 sites with over 8,500 casino games, and there is more to come.
With more partners and licences under its belt, Soft2Bet is definitely one to watch in 2023. And with Uri pulling the strings, the sky really is the limit.
In just three short years since its formation, LiveScore Group has been on a meteoric journey to become one of the world’s most exciting and disruptive sports media and gaming businesses.
The rapidly scaling company is already achieving sustained monthly revenues in excess of £11 million, driven by an industry pioneering convergence model which has focused on sports media and betting within the UK, Ireland, Netherlands and Nigeria.
The approach has seen LiveScore Group leverage its uniquely differentiated customer acquisition funnel with bespoke gaming integrations across its LiveScore assets. Building on existing annual growth of more than 100%, LiveScore Group is poised to further accelerate its mission to deliver more content and value to millions of global sports fans, and Sam is key to achieving that lofty objective. His performance thus far suggests he’s the right person for the job.
With almost 15 years of experience at Betsson Group, Kevin was tapped to lead the operator’s launch into new markets in Latin America, such as Colombia, Mexico, Argentina and Brazil. He has been hugely successful in his task, from building the right teams for each market to managing the acquisition and integration of Inkabet in Peru.
He knows the Betsson business intimately, having started as an acquisition marketing coordinator in 2008 before moving up to management roles covering the United Kingdom, Western Europe and now Latin America. The Latin America region is a major part of Betsson’s growth strategy and Kevin deserves credit for the success that the company has enjoyed in the region to to-date.
Now in his eighth year with the company, Karl is an accomplished negotiator who has been instrumental in constructing a robust commercial foundation for the Betsson Group over the past five years or so. Through his expert negotiation techniques and unwavering dedication, he has been able to secure advantageous deals and partnerships, greatly benefiting the operator and contributing to its ongoing success. He has served as acting commercial director for the past nine months, having been Betsson’s head of supplier relations and procurement for games for more than six years. Karl is a winner and for that he deserves his Hot 50 accolade.
Karen Sierra-Hughes is one of the most influential women in the gaming industry in Latin America. She has been involved with GLI for more than 18 years and was appointed Vice President of the company in August 2020. Since then, she has promoted the public profile of the laboratory in all emerging LatAm markets.
She has contributed to the development of new gaming jurisdictions throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, leveraging her master’s degree in law to assist government agencies in the development of laws, decrees and regulations relating to gaming.
She is the driving force behind GLI’s strategy for regulatory development and supplier relationships in the region, covering both lottery and gaming, retail and online. This has made her the go-to expert for gaming regulations in Latin America and a true champion of the regulated industry.
Dylan Slaney is the driving force behind the continuing success of Light & Wonder’s (L&W) iGaming arm. Overseeing the expansion of the OpenGaming aggregation platform, Dylan has completely reshaped L&W’s in-house game creation capabilities. He has also identified and completed a series of shrewd acquisitions, notably Lightning Box, Authentic Gaming, ELK Studios and Playzido, to increase the company’s iGaming content capabilities in markets worldwide.
Lightning Box and ELK Studios have both delivered strong revenue growth in the past twelve months, while the acquisition of Authentic Gaming gave L&W a premium live casino solution for the first time. The OGS aggregation platform has also improved significantly, with new content added from the likes of Evolution, NetEnt and Playtech. This progression would not have been possible without Dylan’s industry knowledge and leadership skills. His efforts helped to bring about a record-breaking performance in 2022, and both he and L&W are only just getting started.
Nick Vuchev has become an industry legend after just five years in online gaming. One of those incredibly rare people whose name alone induces a smile on everyone’s face, he’s razor sharp, always noted for his kindness and has flown through the ranks.
Nick came to gaming after running a large online financial brokerage. Seeing that gaming was a much younger industry, he felt that the potential was greater and sought a way in. Back then Red Tiger was a start-up and he came across the owner in an Irish pub in his native Sofia. The rest is history as he boarded the next plane to Malta where he became Head of Account Management.
He remained with NetEnt for a time after the acquisition but missed the fast pace of the Red Tiger glory days. After taking some time to work with a few start-ups, he has now rejoined his former colleague Carl Ejlertsson as his right hand man at Octoplay. With these two at the helm, Octoplay is the hottest start-up to hit the industry since Big Time Gaming.
Digitain has been in operation for just over 20 years and has firmly established itself as one of the leading turnkey iGaming platform providers in Europe. From its impressive headquarters in Yerevan, Armenia, where the company employs thousands of staff, Digitain has ambitious growth plans, which includes expanding its geographical footprint into the Americas and Asia. Simon is central to this as chief business officer, a role he has fulfilled with great success in the past two years. Simon is highly motivated, and has a proven record in delivering commercial growth to businesses. Digitain will be hoping for more of this, and Westbury will be eager for more of the same.
Ian Williams has a lot on his plate this year as Wynn Resorts eyes a significant expansion of its online operations through new deals with GAN for sports betting and White Hat Gaming for iGaming. He is the perfect person for the job with over 20 years’ experience in the gambling sector, including president of online gaming for Churchill Downs Incorporated (CDI), where he helped grow the Twinspires. com and BetAmerica.com horse racing advance deposit wagering businesses, and was responsible for spearheading the development of CDI’s real-money sports and iGaming businesses. He was brought in as chief operating officer of WynnBET in October 2021, and just two months later was promoted to president of Wynn Interactive, overseeing the WynnBET, WynnSLOTS and BetBull brands. WynnBet is currently live in nine US states, and was the first to be approved in Massachusetts. Wynn’s digital journey is only just beginning, and will need Ian’ experience.