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Trailblazers of the Gambling World – The People behind the Industry’s Rapid Evolution

It is often the case when thinking about a certain industry; we just relate to the product or service, and not necessarily what goes on behind the scenes or how this affects the rest of the sector or even any knock-on effects there are around the world.

The gambling industry is one that, to many outsiders, is still regarded as somewhat undiscovered by the general public, even gaming enthusiasts. They might know particular brands and what they specialize in, but when it comes to operations, they are unaware of who the most influential people in gambling are.

Over the last two decades, we have seen the world of online gambling skyrocket, essentially creating an entirely new industry off the back of its original brick-and-mortar casinos as technology evolved to such a level to make this possible.

As a result of this, we have seen the emergence of completely new companies, coupled with highly influential people within the gambling industry who have, for all intents and purposes, played an important role in shaping it into the behemoth that it is today.

Considering the impact that it has had and the global footprint that it has created over the last couple of decades, we have formed our own list of influential people (for different reasons) in the gambling and iGaming industry industries that continue to drive the sector forward even today.

Denise Coates

Denise Coates - CEO of Bet365

Very few people (at least outside of the UK) had even heard of Stoke-on-Trent until the mid-2000s when an economics major helped to put it on the map. Denise Coates is the daughter of Stoke City FC owner Peter, however, determined to forge her own path and set about revolutionizing the gambling industry.

While online gambling was still very much in its infancy in the year 2000, Coates pounced on an opportunity from a small, indistinct portacabin in Staffordshire as she went about adding an innovative twist to sports betting.

bet365 was formed as she forged the idea to offer in-play betting - the first betting company to do so, and one that changed the way people placed their sports bets forever.

Today, Coates is single-handedly the biggest employer in Stoke-on-Trent, where the company has its headquarters, employs over 7,000 people around the world and has well in excess of 90 million customers.

It has swiftly become one of the leading live casinos and sportsbooks in the industry, having won multiple awards, and Coates is held as a highly influential figure in gambling.

Amy Howe

Amy Howe - CEO of FanDuel

The current CEO of US firm FanDuel, Amy Howe, has become an inspirational leader who is well-regarded by her employees for her open approach to business, work ethic and dynamism.

Since taking the role in 2021, she has moved FanDuel forward considerably, spearheading a change in working culture and making it an even more enjoyable atmosphere to be around.

There have been significant effects as well, with FanDuel winning multiple awards and gaining the premier position in a number of states across the US, while Howe herself has been, and continues to be celebrated and recognised for her achievements.

William Hornbuckle

William Hornbuckle - CEO of MGM Resorts International

Armed with the job of leading MGM Resorts International, Hornbuckle has never actually buckled and is CEO of a company that is arguably the heavyweight in the global casino and resort industry.

His opinion about business matters is highly sought-after, and, as a result, he chairs the US Travel and Tourism Advisory Board, which advises the US Secretary of Commerce.

MGM has a considerable global presence, being one of the major casino real estate companies in the world. Additionally, they have also made significant inroads with online gambling following the creation of BetMGM, which is half-owned by UK conglomerate Entain.

Jason Robins

Jason Robins - CEO of DraftKings

As the founder of (at the time) one of the most innovative companies in the sports entertainment industry, which revolutionized the fantasy sports model, Robins is a true luminary of the online gambling sector.

His company DraftKings, which he still runs, has grown considerably since its humble beginnings in Boston, though it was a huge hit when it launched with US residents able to make fantasy sports wagers against each other.

Having built his brand, it meant that by the time online gambling became legal in the US, Robins was strategically well-positioned to hit the ground running with its own sportsbook and online casino - a natural progression of sorts.

Robins is still well-thought-of in the industry, often taking part in interviews, while DraftKings remains one of the most popular online gambling companies in the US, competing with both FanDuel and BetMGM.

Fred Done

Fred Done - Owner of Betfred

Along with his brother Peter, Fred is the founder of British bookmaker Betfred, which has one of the most intriguing and wacky stories in the industry in terms of how it started. Now with a thriving online presence across multiple markets as well, the firm still retains a number of its betting shops in the north of England.

Done grew up close to Manchester in the north of England and had an affinity to gambling and sports working in his father’s illegal bookmaking business from the age of 15. With this still being considerably frowned upon in the country at the time.

Then in 1966 the brothers made a decision that would change both their fortunes. Borrowing an eye-watering sum of money and put it on England to win the World Cup.

This single decision provided the launchpad towards billionaire-dom, with their winnings providing the capital to launch Britain’s first legal bookmaker. The rest, as they say, is history.

Victor Chandler

Victor Chandler - Owner of BetVictor

Founder of the gambling firm named after himself, BetVictor. Chandler was arguably the first bookmaker to take operations solely online, while also moving gambling operations to Gibraltar in the late nineties - also the first betting company to do so.

Known now as BetVictor, Chandler stepped away from his company in 2012, though is still fondly remembered for appearing in all of the bookmaker’s advertising campaigns, which helped to substantially raise its profile.

Edward Wray

Edward Wray - Co-founder of Betfair

The co-founder of online betting firm Betfair, Edward Wray, helped to revolutionise the gambling industry in the early 2000s by creating an entirely new way to make sports bets. As a result, a betting exchange was launched whereby customers could bet against each other, creating their own odds. Wray is still considered to be a game-changer in the global gambling industry.

Jette Nygaard-Andersen

Jette Nygaard-Andersen - CEO of Entain

Having been in charge of one of the biggest online gambling conglomerates in the world since 2021, the Danish business executive oversees the operations of a company that has well in excess of 25 online gambling brands, including Coral, Ladbrokes and Bwin.

During her time, she has driven the company further forward and into new territories as well as fighting off two takeover attempts, first from MGM Resorts International and then DraftKings, to keep the company in British hands.

Teddy Sagi

Teddy Sagi - Owner of Playtech

Perhaps a name that is often overlooked in the gambling industry, Sagi was a luminary, considerably ahead of his time.

The Israeli entrepreneur founded Playtech, having come up with an idea for the online slots sector. He secured funding from a host of venture capitalist investors in Tel Aviv, Sagi set about hiring the brightest mathematicians from around Europe and putting them to the task.

Founded in 1999, it took just seven years for the company to float on the London Stock Exchange. Sagi stepped away from the company in 2011, though still retains very minor shares.

Peter Crouch

Peter Crouch - Brand Ambassador of PaddyPower

Formerly an England international footballer, who also, most notably played for Liverpool and Tottenham, plus a host of other clubs, Crouch was appointed brand ambassador of controversial online operator PaddyPower in 2020.

His down-to-earth, self-deprecating approach was exactly what the firm was looking for and being well-liked by football fans, this has further helped to raise the brand’s reputation, especially in terms of increasing revenue through advertising campaigns.

The Influential Figures Shaping the Gambling Industry

While this list is about as comprehensive as it could be, there are certainly many more influential people in gambling that we could have mentioned, all of whom have left their mark on the industry over the decades and who continue to do so.

There is a considerable amount that goes on behind the scenes in a gambling company in order to help make sure that customers are satisfied, and it is often the unsung heroes working in such roles who go unnoticed and unrecognised.

What cannot be in doubt is those that have been mentioned here have had their effect on the industry - not just customers, but also those who work with and for them, who they inspire to exceed their own expectations.

As the industry continues to change, it is likely we could well see the next raft of leaders emerge over the next few years, in addition to a few luminaries who may just reshape the sector as we know it!

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