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Global Gaming Awards London 2023: Shortlist for Executive of the Year announced

The Global Gaming Awards London 2023 are delighted to share the final Shortlist for the Executive of the Year category, sponsored by Gamomat.

Exec year min

The Global Gaming Awards are the most reputable and prestigious Awards in the gaming industry, mainly due to the strict nomination and voting processes. Each company and individual is always nominated for a specific reason which is released in the public domain.

Once the Shortlist is finalised, a panel of 50 C-level industry executives chooses the winners with KPMG in the Crown Dependencies independently adjudicating the entire voting process to ensure fairness.

“A huge congratulations to all 25 executives who made it to the Shortlist this year,” said Julian Perry, Editor-in-Chief of Gambling Insider.

“Most of all, however, thank you to all 25 nominees for working tirelessly on creating a better and more responsible gaming industry,” he added.     

The Global Gaming Awards London 2023 will have 16 categories, including the newly added Platform Provider of the year. The full Shortlist for each company category will be released in the public domain in the coming weeks (so keep an eye on our site), and the winners will be announced on 6 February at an invite-only ceremony in London’s Hippodrome Casino. The presentation ceremony will be live-streamed on Gambling Insider’s website and LinkedIn page for those who can’t attend.

For now, we are thrilled to share the full Shortlist for Executive of the year, with the reason why each individual has been nominated. Listed in no particular order, this year’s nominees are:

Robert Chvátal, Group CEO, Allwyn – Chvátal has been the CEO of Sazka (which as of 2021 is Allwyn) since 2013; with him at the helm, the company has expanded its global reach to markets throughout Europe in Austria, the Czech Republic, Greece and Cyprus and Italy. Under his leadership, in 2022 Allwyn secured a major milestone as it was officially awarded the National Lottery licence in the UK for the next 10 years, ending Camelot's 28-year tenure as the National Lottery operator. Shortly after, Chvátal led Allwyn to move forward to acquire Camelot’s UK assets from the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan Board.

Gustaf Hagman, CEO, LeoVegas – Leading his organisation to the generation of several hundred million euros in revenue once again, Hagman has used his entrepreneurial experience to keep LeoVegas at the forefront of the European online casino sector. 2022 was rather different for Hagman, however, as he oversaw the completion of LeoVegas’ c. $600m sale to MGM Resorts International. A huge deal for one of online gaming’s pioneers.

Natalia Gilevich, CEO, Parimatch Ukraine – Using her experience as a leader in both the alcohol and gaming industries, Gilevich has faced a unique set of circumstances head on during 2022. Carrying on running Parimatch Ukraine’s B2C operations is no simple task in a normal year. But, over the past 12 months, Gilevich has led her team to new results and developments, with strength and belief, during a time of war in Ukraine.

Jette Nygaard-Andersen, CEO, Entain – Nygaard-Andersen has been CEO of Entain since January 2021. This year, she headlined the company's “Entain Sustain” conference, advancing awareness of the operator’s CSR initiatives around the globe. This follows the Entain sustainability programme she spearheaded, committing the group to zero net emissions by 2035. In the past 12 months, she also oversaw Entain’s acquisition of SuperSport, among others, and helped continue the company’s financial growth.  

Carsten Koerl, Founder & CEO, Sportradar – Koerl has helped Sportradar oversee sustained growth throughout 2022. The company’s Q2 revenue of $186m was up 23% year-on-year, while in the same quarter, the company’s US growth rose by 66%. Its Q3 results were even more impressive, rising 31% year-on-year. Now a public company, Sportradar was given an estimated worth of $8bn in 2022, growing its worth from an initial $150,000 when it was first founded. 

Simon Thomas, Executive Chairman, The Hippodrome Casino – As Executive Chairman of the Hippodrome, Thomas has overseen numerous renovations at the casino, as it continues to evolve. Nothing on the casino floor can be overlooked as far as Thomas is concerned, even “a few inches” in table layout can make “all the difference.” The Hippodrome’s Executive Chairman is also a champion of creating an innovative experience, blending the casino floor with restaurant and event space experiences. Thomas is also an active advocate for the development of not only the gaming industry in the UK, but also London’s West End.  

Neil Fairweather, Chief Marketing Operations Officer, bet365 – In 2022, operator bet365 promoted Fairweather to Chief Marketing Operations Officer. Prior to this promotion, he was Head of Performance Marketing and he has been instrumental to developing bet365 Partners (bet365’s affiliate programme) which, as the name suggests, treats affiliates as partners, and is one of the best and fastest-growing affiliate programs in the industry. He has also been involved in the launch of bet365’s Marketing Graduate Programme, which offers recent or prospective graduates the opportunity to launch their marketing career and become an integral part of growing bet365’s global prominence.

Jenna Ekström, Responsible Gaming Manager, Paf – With almost a decade of experience in the gaming and casino industry, Ekström is the Responsible Gaming Manager and Team Manager HR at Paf. Ekström has been working to promote and advance responsible gaming since 2015. The latest RG initiative at Paf is to minimise the risk for young customers, which resulted in the company lowering the annual loss limit for people aged 18-24 to €10,000 ($10,520).

Aregnaz Hakobyan, Head of Marketing, Digitain – Hakobyan has been serving as the Head of Marketing for Digitain since January 2022 and has already had a massive impact on the business. She was responsible for the company’s major marketing campaign this year involving former footballer Luís Figo, called “Cooperation with the Legend.” This has helped the company on its path towards growth, in a year which has seen it sign partnership deals with the likes of Gaming Corp, while releasing its own baccarat title and in-house game Keno Express.  

Walter Bugno, CEO, Games Global – Bugno needs no introduction, having catapulted Games Global to the forefront of the iGaming industry in only 12 short months. Expertly amassing a leadership team with the drive and skill to oversee this mammoth undertaking, Walter has instilled a culture of bold, unapologetic honesty, capable of breaking down geographic borders to bring the business’ global workforce together on a joint mission to become the number one industry supplier.

Simon Hammon, CEO, Relax Gaming – Hammon was promoted to CEO of Relax Gaming in July 2022. He moved into the role of CEO with huge experience under his belt, having served 10 years within executive management teams with close to five of these as Chief Product Officer for Relax Gaming. He has been instrumental in growing the company into a leading aggregator and supplier of unique content. In his short time as CEO, the company has already gained several new studio partners and continued its global expansion by debuting in new markets.   

Tsachi Maimon, CEO, Aspire Global – Maimon has served as Aspire Global’s CEO since 2013, while he also currently serves as President of NeoGames. He oversaw NeoGames’ acquisition of Aspire Global last summer. It is by no means the only major deal that Maimon has led, with the executive also in the hot seat for the deals with Pariplay and BtoBet in 2019 and 2020 respectively. Under Maimon’s leadership, Aspire Global has established itself as a leading iGaming supplier in regulated markets in Europe, Latin America and Africa.

Dan Taylor, CEO International, Flutter Entertainment – Taylor has been CEO of Flutter International since it was rebranded from Paddy Power Betfair in 2019. In this time, he has led several growth projects and helped expand Flutter’s presence, taking gold-medal positions in key international markets. One such achievement was leading the acquisition of Sisal, vastly strengthening Flutter’s position in the Italian market. The acquisition of Sisal has also seen the company expand its reach into North Africa. Taylor has also led growth strategies in India, increasing the growth of Flutter’s Junglee Games brand.

Itai Pazner, CEO, 888 Holdings – Under Pazner’s leadership, 888 Holdings completed the purchase of all non-US assets of William Hill from Caesars Entertainment for nearly £2bn ($2.38bn). As a result, 888 came into possession of over 1,500 betting shops in the UK, as well as iGaming businesses in Spain and Italy. Pazner was also instrumental in a partnership between 888 Holdings and Sports Illustrated.

Olabimpe Akingba, Executive Secretary, Association of Nigerian Bookmakers – Over the past year, Akingba has acted as a voice for Nigerian operators and sports betting investors in the face of governmental pressure. As part of her role at the Association, Akingba campaigns for both greater responsible gambling measures from companies, as well as defending the regulated industry from unfair criticism and against illegal operators. Formerly of 1960 Bet, Akina utilises her experience of both the operator and the association side of the industry.

Valentina Bagniya, CMO, SOFTSWISS – Overseeing huge growth for the brand, new market entries and a wealth of new partnerships, Bagniya has been essential to the core of SOFTSWISS growth and marketing operations. Utilising past experience at big consumer brands, Bagniya has orchestrated numerous new marketing campaigns at trade shows, online and throughout the industry for the online supplier. A recent campaign she developed for the company was called "Bringing the heat," and included spicy ice cream and a Hot Chilli Bath.

Brigid Simmonds, Chair, Betting & Gaming Council – Continually being in the public eye as a representative of the gaming industry in the UK, Simmonds has achieved further lobbying success in 2022. Despite political uncertainty over the new Gambling White Paper in the UK, Simmonds has played an active role as the Betting & Gaming Council (BGC) developed responsible gambling initiatives, as well as numerous CSR initiatives within the UK market.

Erwin Van Lambaart, CEO, Casinos Austria – Following his move from Holland Casinos, Van Lambaart has overseen a successful several months at Casinos Austria. Van Lambaart has focused on strengthening player protection at his properties, as well as bolstering Casinos Austria’s online presence. Van Lambaart also continued his work as a Board Member at the European Casino Association. 

Pascal Camia, COO, Monte-Carlo Société des Bains de Mer – Camia became Vice President of the Gaming Activity of Monte-Carlo Société des Bains de Mer in December 2015, having joined in 1994 after spells in Paris, Rome and London. Regarding Monaco, the executive has strengthened its position as one of the most elegant and exclusive gaming destinations in Europe. Camia, who is also Senior Vice-Chairman of the European Casino Association, has deployed the strategic pillars of Excellence, Management and Innovation in his successful efforts.  

Michael Silberling, CEO, Metropolitan Gaming – A gaming industry veteran, Metropolitan Gaming CEO Michael Silberling has been working in gaming for almost three decades. His talents expand to the diverse UK and US markets, as well as the likes of Africa, Asia and South America. Looking after employees, building strong relationships and promoting responsible gambling are just some of his daily focus points. He has helped the group grow its portfolio, which increased most recently with the acquisition of the Park Lane Club London. Finally, Metropolitan Gaming recently launched its new Metropolitan Casino in Mayfair.

Stéphane Pallez, Chairwoman and CEO, FDJ (Française des Jeux) – Stéphane Pallez has built up a wealth of experience in fields such as finance and gaming, and has been serving as FDJ’s Chairwoman and CEO since November 2014. Among her many achievements in the role, Pallez successfully steered the group’s privatisation and listing, exactly five years after her appointment to the position. Recent developments from the group include new payment solutions, gaming terminals and lottery games. Under her leadership, FDJ has also amplified its ESG commitments.

Irina Cornides, COO, Pragmatic Play – Appointed to the position of Pragmatic Play COO in January 2022, Cornides has helped the company grow bigger and better in the months since then in various different markets. She boasts over 10 years of iGaming industry experience, having previously served as Chief Commercial Officer for Asia at Gamesys (now Bally’s), where she led the fastest-growing division within the business. The company was producing up to five new slot titles per month when she was appointed, with that number now up to seven. 

Lara Falzon, President & COO, Bragg Gaming Group – Appointed to the role of Bragg President & COO in February last year, Falzon has been responsible for the oversight of the group’s day-to-day operational performance, helping guide its growth-focused strategies. Her 10+ years of industry experience comes from roles as Operational CFO of NetEnt and CFO at Red Tiger Gaming, having also served as Group CFO at Evoke Gaming and Group Financial Controller at King, creator of the Candy Crush franchise. Falzon has already had an impressive impact on the company which had a fantastic year. 

Petra de Ruiter, CEO, Holland Casino – Announced as the replacement for the outgoing Erwin van Lambaart in May 2022 and taking up her role in September, de Ruiter joined the industry from roles with Air France-KLM and Transavia. She took over at an exciting time for Dutch gaming, with Holland Casino recently forging partnerships with the likes of Nuvei and Playtech. The executive is focused on the customer experience, be it online or land-based. 

Jesper Svensson, CEO, Betsson Group – Betsson Group’s CEO has delivered fantastic results: financially, mentally and reputation-wise. Svensson is a CEO who carries the company culture with him; and inspires others. He sees and pursues new business opportunities, thanks to which today Betsson boasts of a great product portfolio and max geographical spread. Under his leadership, Betsson’s stock surged 52% in the past 12 months.

The Executive of the year category is sponsored by Gamomat – the German-based online slots developer, while the Global Gaming Awards London are powered by Gambling Insider. The London edition of the event recognises companies and individuals with outstanding performance outside of the Americas over the past 12 months.

BetConstruct is the event’s lead partner and the voting process is independently adjudicated by KPMG in the Crown Dependencies, to ensure full transparency and fairness. Category sponsors include Digitain, Bragg Gaming, Upgaming, Wazdan, SOFTSWISS, Amusnet Interactive, Evoplay and EGT.

After the Global Gaming Awards 2023 in February, Gambling Insider will host two more Global Gaming Awards events – our flagship event in Las Vegas in October and before that, the second edition of the Global Gaming Awards Asia. More details will be released soon.

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