9 March, 2022

Executive of the year

Once again, we celebrate the individuals that make the global gaming industry as successful as it can be. Step aside the organisation, come forward the Executive of the Year.

Leaders are the lifeblood of their organisations, providing the drive, direction and inspiration for the countless others who follow in their footsteps. Everything from corporate strategy to employee culture flows from their fingertips. While the success of any gaming company relies on the strength of the collective, the qualities of the Executives at the helm help steer the organisation through the good times and the bad. This category seeks to reward those at the pinnacle of the industry, following another year disrupted by tough operating conditions.

Our first nomination goes to the Chair of the Betting & Gaming Council, Brigid Simmonds, who has held the position since it was established in 2019. Simmonds has overseen another successful year, which has placed greater focus on the impact of gambling on younger players. She is followed by Paddy Power Retail CEO, David Newton, who has completed 18 months in the role. Now at Paddy Power for over 10 years, Newton has overseen the growth of the retail brand, which now boasts 625 betting shops across the UK and Ireland.

Our third nominee is none other than BGaming’s Executive Director, Marina Ostrovtsova. She has successfully established all development and marketing processes from the ground up, allowing BGaming to become a reputable and creative game studio.

Next up, we have the CEO of 888 Holdings, a company which has enjoyed a fine year under the stewardship of Itai Pazner. He guided the company to secure a £2.2 billion deal to acquire William Hill’s European business, while at the same time growing the company’s key product verticals.

At Sportradar, Carsten Koerl has continued to combine sports and analytics to spectacular effect. As CEO and founder, Koerl has guided the company for over 20 years. In September 2021, Sportradar debuted on Nasdaq with a valuation of nearly US$8 billion.

Todd Haushalter rightfully deserves the next nomination. In 2021, Evolution brought the popular Lightning brand to Blackjack; improved the Baccarat experience in Asia; and introduced more decision-making and strategy into the company’s live game shows.

Nomination number seven goes to Katerina Belorusskaya, founder of Parimatch Tech. She currently heads up Corporate Development, and has continued to oversee the company’s central operations and growth strategy into 2021.

John Connelly is also a fully-deserved nominee, with 2021 bringing further success as CEO of Interblock Gaming. Connelly is a respected leader with a distinguished record of business development, innovation, mergers and acquisitions. He made health and safety a priority, while methodically ramping-up R&D efforts.

From supplier to sustainability, our next nominee heads up Responsible Gaming and Research at Kindred Group. Maris Catania was key in organising the Sustainable Gambling Conference which has now become a crucial event for operators.

Michael Daly is up next, ending his first six months as CEO of Catena Media. Daly has a wealth of experience across the iGaming industry, and transformed Catena’s growing US media operations prior to stepping into the role as CEO.

Back to the operator side of things now, and a company which has enjoyed a brilliant 12 months. LeoVegas has earned two nominations of its own in this year’s Shortlist, for Online Casino and Social Responsibility, and it is now the turn of Group CEO, Gustaf Hagman. Hagman has over 20 years of experience in entrepreneurship and the online gaming industry, and has previously built organisations to over 100 employees.

In France, Stéphane Pallez, in her role as Chairwoman and CEO, has managed to transform national-lottery operator FDJ Gaming Solutions, and has led the company to expand to online sports betting. Under her leadership the group reported growth across all areas in H1 and Q3 2021.

Back to media, Jesper Søgaard earns a nomination for his continued success as CEO of Better Collective. Having founded the company in 2004, he has built the organisation into a 700-strong workforce, and partners with the likes of bet365, Betfair and Coral.

Sports betting supplier Kambi features next, with its EVP Business & Group Functions, Cecilia Wachtmeister, fully deserving of a nomination. Splitting her time between the company’s London and Stockholm offices, she earned praise for her management of the commercial, marketing and strategic directives over the past year.

Over at BetConstruct, Vigen Badalyan continued to take the company to new heights in 2021, in his role as CEO and founder. The gaming software provider earned two nominations of its own, Shortlisted for Online Sports Betting Supplier and Casino Product.

Staying on the supplier front, BetGames’ COO, Aiste Garneviciene, earns our next nomination. She has made BetGames the most exciting supplier across the Live Casino and Dealer verticals. Integral to developing BetGames’ unique products, including her very own War of Bets, she has built the company’s success since 2012 across Europe and Africa, while her personal management style has nurtured a relaxed yet effective workplace.

Martina Åkerlund earns our next nomination, as CEO of Swedish data and technology firm, Triggy. The brand has cut through the marketplace with its ability to connect sports data, live odds and user insights. Åkerlund has over 20 years of leadership experience in senior banking and finance positions.

Staying with technology innovators, BtoBet COO, Dima Reiderman, has enjoyed a positive year. He was instrumental in BtoBet’s agreements with operators William Hill and Betfair in Latin America, with the leading bookmakers becoming one of the first global B2B partners to leverage BtoBet’s position in the market.

Focusing once more on operators, Daniela Johansson, Chief Responsibility Officer and Deputy CEO at Paf, is deservedly the next nominee. Johansson has overseen an important year in Paf’s 55-year history. The company recently lowered its loss limit further, ensuring players are responsibly protected while gambling.

Next, OpenGaming by SG Digital is the industry’s leading digital content aggregation platform, thanks to the hard work and leadership shown by CEO iGaming, Dylan Slaney. The OGS aggregation platform has reached new heights with new content added from major providers.

On the supplier side, Renato Ascoli has enjoyed a successful first full year as CEO of Global Gaming at IGT. Under Ascoli’s Leadership in 2021, IGT emerged as a leader in cashless gaming and launched a vast portfolio of new games and cabinets into the market.

Next, we come to Playtech. Mor Weizer, the company’s CEO, has steered Playtech through the challenges of the COVID pandemic, and emerged as a stronger, more sustainable company while retaining its commitment to its people.

Denise Coates is synonymous with the industry itself, as is the Coates family on the whole. Now into its third decade of operation, bet365 continues to go from strength-to-strength under Coates’ leadership. It continues to push responsible gambling awareness, while Coates herself donates significantly to charitable causes on an annual basis.

Our penultimate nomination goes to Mark Locke, CEO of Genius Sports. The data and technology firm has enjoyed a successful 12 months, launching on the NYSE. Locke is also the Co-Founder of the company, overseeing its growth over the past 21 years.

Finally, Entain has enjoyed another stellar year in 2021, and CEO Jette Nygaard-Andersen deserves a place on our Shortlist. Appointed CEO at the start of 2021, she has overseen another year of growth for one of the world’s leading betting groups, including the expansion of several of its brands.

The Executive of the year award is sponsored by Bragg Gaming Group.

Bragg Gaming Group is a fast-growing global technology and content supplier to the gaming industry with a proprietary omni-channel PAM, content studios and advanced promotional and business intelligence tools. Group companies include ORYX Gaming and Wild Streak Gaming, serving customers in North America, Europe and globally.