Global Gaming Awards EMEA 2024: Shortlist for Executive of the Year revealed

The Global Gaming Awards EMEA and Gambling Insider are pleased to share the full Shortlist for the Executive of the Year category, sponsored by Interblock Gaming.

gga emea 2024 executive

The Global Gaming Awards are regarded as the most prestigious Awards in the gaming industry, due to the strict rules and procedures put in place during the shortlisting and voting processes. Each company and individual is always nominated for a specific reason which is released publicly, in the official Shortlist magazine, which you will be able to read on GamblingInsider.com next week.

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 transparency and fairness. Members of the Judging Panel are excluded from voting in categories where they have a conflict of interest.

“Our industry is full of remarkable executives, so we have tried our best to recognise as many of them as we can, which is why unlike company categories, the Executive of the Year category has 25 nominees,” said Julian Perry, Editor-in-Chief of Gambling Insider.

“Congratulations to all those who made it to this year’s Shortlist and thank you for pushing the boundaries and helping the industry’s advancement,” he added.

The seventh edition of the Global Gaming Awards EMEA will have 16 categories, including the newly added Breakthrough Company of the year. The full Shortlist for each company category will be released next week, and the winners will be announced on Monday, 5 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 be in attendance.

Without further ado, we are delighted 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:

Jesper Søgaard, CEO & Co-Founder, Better Collective - In recent years, Søgaard has led Better Collective to go beyond the organic growth path and started executing a clever M&A-strategy with a series of strategic acquisitions. Thanks to this, the company delivered solid growth, launched new innovative products, and is now arguably the world’s biggest gaming affiliate.

Tsachi Maimon, President, NeoGames - During his time as CEO of Aspire Global, Maimon led the company to substantial global expansion and oversaw the acquisitions of BtoBet and Pariplay. In 2022, he also oversaw Aspire Global’s acquisition by NeoGames and transitioned to the role of President of NeoGames. In 2023, Maimon was instrumental to yet another huge M&A deal - the $1.2bn acquisition of NeoGames by industry giant Aristocrat (the deal is still to be completed).

Karolina Pelc, Founder & CEO, BeyondPlay - With over 20 years of experience in the gaming Industry, including leadership roles at LeoVegas, Betsson and SG Digital, Karolina Pelc started a new venture in 2020 - BeyondPlay. Under her leadership, BeyondPlay has enjoyed continued investor interest/backing with further €5m raised in 2023. She quickly established the company as one of the most interesting new ventures in the industry with its Jackpot product launched on over 15 leading brands since last summer, with prominent customers secured for H1 2024.

Kevin Reid, CEO, 1X2 Network - As CEO, leading 1X2 Network, Kevin Reid has propelled the company from underdog to an industry heavyweight, whilst maintaining its independent status. Under his leadership, 1X2 Network launched innovative brands in Ad Lunam and Prospect Gaming to join 1X2gaming and Iron Dog, expanded into regulated markets like Holland, Romania, Michigan and Ontario, and now rivals the sector's Goliaths with its products and global reach.

Cheryl Jones, President, Europe, Odds on Compliance - Cheryl Jones is an innovator and trailblazer with proven contributions to the gaming industry and exemplary leadership. She played a critical role in the successful 2023 launch of PlayBook Europe, Odds on Compliance's flagship product and has expanded its reach across 30 European territories. Under her leadership, the company very quickly established a strong presence in the EU market. 

Iain Hutchison, CRO, Digitain - With over 20 years of experience building and scaling successful technology start-ups in sports-betting, digital marketing, live trading, and sports-betting affiliates, Hutchison is no stranger to delivering significant revenue growth and leading organisational transformations across commercial activities. Since February 2023 he has led Digitain’s sales team and delivered continued growth.

Josh Morris, SVP of Product and Technology – iGaming, Anaxi - Morris has been a dynamic force since joining Anaxi in February 2023 post Aristocrat's acquisition of Roxor. His strategic acumen and industry insight has steered Anaxi towards new heights in its growth to be at the forefront of gaming’s new frontier, which has involved expanding into 6 countries and managing a portfolio of more than 215 titles which includes the successful launch of the iconic Buffalo brand into the UK.

Uri Poliavich, CEO, Soft2Bet - Since founding the company in 2016, Uri Poliavich has been the key driver of success for Soft2Bet; expanding a small team into one of the leading global B2B and B2C iGaming companies. In the past year alone, Poliavich has spearheaded Soft2Bet’s expansion into seven new markets and tripled the company's EBITDA by fostering a cohesive team culture focused on growth.

Marina Ostrovtsova, CEO, BGaming - One of the industry's youngest CEOs, Ostrovtsova’s vision and leadership created a compelling brand image for BGaming and took the company to a new phase of development and commercial success in the past couple of years. She has led the game provider to international expansion and created a strong bond with the streaming community, which has resulted in remarkable growth for BGaming.

Marinos Shiapanis, CEO and Co-Founder, Campeόn Gaming - Shiapanis is a remarkable leader who propelled Campeόn and its people to new heights in 2023. The company grew by an impressive 47% during the last 12 months, it entered new markets (such as Cyprus) and launched seven new brands across several geos. At the same time, Shiapanis has managed to create a fantastic company culture with Campeόn Gaming listed among the Best Workplaces™ in Greece, with a 96% satisfaction rate among employees.

Jennifer Innes, CEO, BettingJobs - Innes has worked within the iGaming industry for over 16 years and has made her mark as a highly respected influential leader and inspiration for women in gaming. She has grown the company, directed many successful projects and partnerships, and continues to reinvest her wealth of industry knowledge and experience by mentoring new team members each year. Thanks to her efforts, today BettingJobs is one of the premier headhunting, consulting & recruitment solutions providers in the gaming industry.

Nadia Popova, CRO & VP Sales & Marketing, EGT - Since assuming the CRO role in 2021, Popova has been responsible for EGT’s revenue generation processes, driving better integration and alignment between all earnings-related functions, including marketing, sales and customer success. She has been instrumental for the company’s commercial success and establishing EGT as a leading supplier in Europe, Africa and the Americas.

Gustaf Hagman, Founder & CEO, LeoVegas Group - When launching LeoVegas just over a decade ago, Hagman identified an untapped niche in the industry - the mobile casino. He led LeoVegas from strength to strength and established the brand as the “King of Casino” across many European markets. Following MGM Resorts’ acquisition of LeoVegas in 2022, Hagman is now tasked with growing MGM internationally in the digital space through LeoVegas. Under his leadership LeoVegas powered the very successful launch of BetMGM in the UK market in 2023.

Shelley Hannah, CPO, Relax Gaming - Shelley Hannah served as Relax Gaming’s Director of Casino Products for a number of years - a role which saw her operating at the helm of the vast expansion of the brand’s Powered By Relax and Silver Bullet aggregation streams - both of which set the company apart from competition early on in its journey. In 2023, Hannah was promoted to Chief Product Officer, after proving to be instrumental to Relax Gaming’s success throughout the years. 

Simon Thomas, Executive Chairman, The Hippodrome Casino - Thomas had a key role in negotiations with the UK’s Government to revise the Gambling Act, up to and beyond the publication of the white paper and subsequent consultations. He has brought to life the argument for legislative modernisation by demonstrating the economic and social benefits of entertainment-led, destination casinos in Britain. He has excited policy-makers about the sector’s potential while at the same time addressing the important social responsibility and sustainability concerns. His contribution is expected to deliver changes that will pave the way for long term expansion by single and multi-site operators alike.

Brooks Pierce, President & CEO, Inspired Entertainment - Since joining the company in 2018, Pierce swiftly developed strategies and recommendations, contributing significantly to Inspired's growth, culture, and team development during his six-year tenure with the company. He has been instrumental to the company’s success across global markets in recent years, which naturally led to him being promoted from President & COO to President & Chief Executive Officer early last year.

Matevž Mazij, CEO, Bragg - Matevž Mazij founded Oryx Gaming in Slovenia in 2010, building the company into a leading full turnkey iGaming technology provider which was acquired by Bragg Gaming Group in 2018 and has proven key to Bragg’s success in recent years. He continued to play an important role and serve as CEO of Oryx Gaming throughout the post-acquisition integration period until 2021, when he moved on to join the Bragg Board of Directors. In 2023, he took on the Chair of the Board role, and shortly after - the one of CEO. He has already implemented strategies to grow the company’s scale of operations across Europe, NA and evolving global regulated iGaming markets. 

Lisa O’Connor, Head of Safer Gambling Strategy, Flutter UK&I - Flutter Entertainment is one of the companies leading the way in actively promoting and heavily investing in safer gambling. O’Connor has played a key role in Flutter’s RG efforts within the UK & Ireland. In late 2022, she moved up from Paddy Power Betfair to lead the design and delivery of the safer gambling strategy for each of Flutter’s unique brands in the UK & Ireland. She ensures the business is leading from the front on safer gambling and building a sustainable customer base.

Daniela Johansson, Chief Responsibility Officer & Deputy CEO, Paf - Johansson has been involved in Paf’s responsible gaming strategy for over a decade now. During her time as CRO Paf has become a forerunner in the field. She has been vocal about the key role loss limits and transparent reporting of customer spend can play in advancing RG and customer protection. Under her leadership, in 2022, Paf implemented a lowered loss limit of €10,000 for young people aged 18-24 and in 2023, a loss limit of €1,800 was introduced for the youngest customers (18-19-year-olds).

Carsten Koerl, Founder & CEO, Sportradar - Koerl has led Sportradar’s business since its inception in 2001, spearheading its growth from a start-up to successfully trading on the Nasdaq since 2021. Koerl remains fully invested in fueling the continued growth of Sportradar. Under his leadership the company became a global leader in sports data and technology, serving more than 1,700 clients in over 120 countries, and continues to deliver game-changing products year after year.

Sam Sadi, CEO, LiveScore Group - Since assuming the CEO role at LiveScore Group in 2019, Sadi has played a pivotal role in shaping the company’s convergence strategy to connect sports media and betting seamlessly. He has led LiveScore to remarkable growth, with employee headcount rising by 29% and annual revenue soaring from approximately £10m to over £120m. His leadership and strategic vision have been instrumental in shaping the industry's direction, driving innovation and fostering growth in the global sports betting market.

Elena Shaterova, CCO, 7777 Gaming - With over a decade of international business development experience in the gambling industry, Shaterova’s main focus is on expanding 7777 Gaming’s  online casino products and solutions to regulated markets worldwide. She has been key to the company’s commercial success in recent years. In the past year alone, under her leadership, the company signed a number of deals in markets such as Nigeria, Montenegro, Romania, Bulgaria, South Africa. 

Irina Cornides, COO, Pragmatic Play - A seasoned gaming executive, Cornides took on the COO role at Pragmatic Play in 2022 and was tasked with driving growth across the company’s international business. She has successfully guided the company to new heights over the past couple of years with Pragmatic Play now producing up to eight slot titles a month, while also delivering Live Casino, Virtual Sports and Bingo games. Under Cornides’ leadership, the company has expanded its presence in key and emerging markets while continuing to innovate on the product front.

Jesper Svensson, CEO, Betsson Group - Since taking on the CEO role at Betsson Group in 2017, Svensson has taken the company to new heights. Under his leadership Betsson delivered fantastic financial results in 2023 with Q3 becoming the 7th consecutive quarter of growth, record revenue, and earnings for Betsson. He also continuously pursues new business opportunities and has significantly expanded Betsson’s presence globally.

Erwin van Lambaart, CEO, Casinos Austria - Following a six-year tenure as CEO of Holland Casino, van Lambaart took on the role of CEO of Casinos Austria and Austrian Lotteries in 2022. He has led the company through its post-Covid recovery and has focused on the entertainment value and the experiences that the company delivers to guests and customers. Under his leadership, Casinos Austria launched a refreshed social responsibility program in 2023, called ‘Playsponsible’. In February last year, Lambaart was also appointed Chairman of the European Casino Association.

The Executive of the Year category is sponsored by Interblock Gaming – the global leader in luxury electronic table gaming products, boasting three decades of innovation and craftsmanship.

The Global Gaming Awards are powered by Gambling Insider. BetConstruct is the event’s lead partner and the voting process is independently adjudicated by KPMG in the Crown Dependencies. Category sponsors include Atlas-IAC, Spribe, WA.Technology, GR8 Tech, Bragg Gaming, Galaxsys, Digitain, Soft2Bet, Imagine Live, SOFTSWISS, Interblock Gaming and EGT.

After the Global Gaming Awards EMEA in February, Gambling Insider will host two more Global Gaming Awards events – the third edition of the Global Gaming Awards Asia-Pacific in June, followed by our flagship event in Las Vegas in October. More details will be released in the coming weeks.

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