Global Gaming Awards Las Vegas 2022: Shortlist for American Executive of the year revealed

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The Shortlist for the only category that recognizes the individual rather than the company, has been finalized.

The Global Gaming Awards Las Vegas 2022 are pleased to reveal the final Shortlist for the American Executive of the Year category, sponsored by White Hat Gaming. 

For nearly a decade, the Global Gaming Awards have been rewarding success achieved by operators and suppliers across the Americas.

These are the most trusted and prestigious Awards in the gaming industry, due to the strict rules and procedures that have been put in place to establish the nominees and later, the winners.

Winners a chosen by a panel of 100 C-level industry executives, such as Carsten Koerl, Founder & CEO of Sportradar; Peter Arceo, General Manager of Yaamava' Resort & Casino at San Manuel; Sheila Morago, Executive Director of the Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association; Mary Cheeks, President & General Manager at Jamul Casino; Alex Dixon, CEO of Q Casino and Dubuque Racing Association.

KPMG in the Crown Dependencies is once again independently adjudicating the voting process to ensure full fairness and transparency.

“Our industry is full of remarkable individuals,” said Julian Perry, Editor-in-Chief of Gaming America and Gambling Insider. “We can’t possibly reward them all but we can certainly try to recognize the efforts of as many people as we can,” he added.

Every company and individual is shortlisted for the Global Gaming Awards for a specific reason, which is made publicly available in the official Shortlist magazine. The magazine will be available to read in the coming days so watch this space.

American Executive of the year is the only Awards category with 25 rather than 10 nominees.

Below you can see the full Shortlist for this year’s American Executive of the year (listed in no particular order), together with the reasons for each individual’s nomination.

  • Amy Howe, CEO, FanDuel - This brilliant executive continues to take FanDuel to new heights in the US market, following her permanent appointment in October 2021. In a recent interview, she told Gambling Insider that she wants to grow FanDuel into a $7-10bn brand. Howe wants to boost the brand's iGaming presence, with sports betting market share already claimed by parent company Flutter Entertainment to be 51%.
  • Renato Ascoli, CEO, Global Gaming, IGT - Renato Ascoli leads IGT’s entire gaming enterprise, which extends across six continents and approximately 100 countries. Under his leadership, IGT led in 2021 North America unit sales, emerged as the premiere cashless gaming technology supplier and maintained its dominance in global video poker and VLTs in North America. Ascoli also mentors the next generation of leaders and is the executive co-sponsor of PRIDE with IGT, the group that was integral in IGT achieving the “Best Place to Work for LGBTQ+ Equality” distinction from the Human Rights Campaign.
  • Jay Snowden, CEO & President, PENN Entertainment - Jay Snowden has overseen an exciting year in PENN’s history, which included the company’s recent rebrand. Under his leadership, the company has continued to post strong financial results, finalized the acquisition of theScore (which has already taken the lead in the Ontario market), and purchased the remainder of Barstool Sports, effectively turning PENN into a betting and media behemoth.
  • Jordan Levin, CEO, OpenBet - Jordan Levin has overseen OpenBet’s exponential growth across North America, including over 20 US launches in the past year and a 25% increase in revenues, driven by its ability to scale and enter new markets efficiently with an unrivaled portfolio of technology, content and services. He was instrumental in the company’s acquisition of SportCast and its pioneering BetBuilder product, significantly improving OpenBet’s content offering. He was pivotal in securing OpenBet’s long-term future following its $1.2bn sale to Endeavor, providing a platform for the company to enter a new  era.
  • Brooke Fiumara, Co-CEO, OPTX - Heading up OPTX is a team of civic-minded leaders who are not only dedicated to the company and their clients, but to their communities as well. Co-CEO Brooke Fiumara regularly volunteers with her local Southern Nevada food bank, mentors other women entrepreneurs, and uses an inclusive leadership style to ensure her OPTX team remains driven to provide an unparalleled customer experience. 
  • Dan Schrementi, President of Gaming, Incredible Technologies - Dan Schrementi has overseen Incredible Technologies’ gaming initiatives in one of the most challenging set of circumstances to impact the industry. Not only has he maintained the supplier’s gaming presence and reputation, he has furthered it. Under his leadership, Incredible Technologies has entered new markets beyond the US, launched its first electronic table game, expanded its Class II footprint and released the game-changing PrismVXP to casinos across the country.
  • Allie Evangelista, President, Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Bristol - This year Allie Evangelista, a veteran casino gaming executive, opened the new Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Bristol, Virginia, which has seen huge success since its launch in July. Under her leadership, the temporary casino’s popularity  exceeded expectations and received great support from the community. 
  • Hector Fernandez, CEO, Aristocrat Gaming - In just three years as Aristocrat’s President of the Americas and EMEA, Hector Fernandez has left an indelible mark on the company, its customers and its team members. Now, as CEO of Gaming, he has led the charge for Aristocrat to push further, think bigger and embrace the company’s value of enjoying play. He has led the company to strike landmark deals with the NFL, changed the way the gaming industry and film studios work together with the milestone Dune game, and has inspired the global company to take care of its employees. 
  • Soo Kim, Chairman, Bally’s Corporation - Bally's Corporation continues to expand at a breakneck pace: it has been on a casino acquisition spree, has submitted applications to obtain licenses in marquee locals and, perhaps most importantly, last year acquired European iGaming operator Gamesys, overnight turning Bally's from strictly a land-based operator to half land based, half online. The main person who has driven the company throughout the process is Soo Kim. Under his leadership, Bally’s also secured the sole casino license in Chicago.  
  • Derek Stevens, Owner & CEO, Circa Resort & Casino - Since the grand opening of the fabulous Circa Resort & Casino during the Covid-19 pandemic, Derek Stevens has and continues to change the face of Downtown Las Vegas. Stevens’ sports betting brand, Circa Sports, known for the world’s largest sportsbook at the flagship downtown Las Vegas property, also continued to expand. It recently opened its first brick-and-mortar sportsbook at Legends Bay Casino in Northern Nevada, and Stevens and his team are working hard on expanding Circa Sports’ online footprint. 
  • Latisha Casas, Chairwoman, San Manuel Gaming & Hospitality Authority - Latisha Casas leads the San Manuel tribe’s gaming business arm. Under her leadership, the tribe recently ventured into commercial gaming and made history as the first tribe to own and operate a casino in Las Vegas, following San Manuel’s purchase of Palms Resort Casino. Casas is also actively involved in the various charity initiatives the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians organizes. 
  • Jason Robins, Co-Founder & CEO, DraftKings - Under Jason Robins’ leadership, DraftKings continued its expansion throughout the US by launching in more states, diversifying its product offering and officially finalizing the $1.56bn acquisition of Golden Nugget Online Gaming in May this year. Robins commented that acquiring GNOG will give DraftKings synergies across its business. 
  • Stephanie Lepori, Chief Administrative and Accounting Officer, Caesars Entertainment - Stephanie Lepori has guided Caesars Entertainment during a time of change (the merger with Eldorado Resorts). Following that, she now leads Caesars’ CSR strategy, which addresses the ways in which the company makes a positive contribution to people, the environment and communities through its business and responsible conduct. Lepori is dedicated to giving to others by sitting on the board of the Boys and Girls Club and supporting organizations that encourage women in accounting and other professions.
  • Jyoti Chopra, Chief People, Inclusion and Sustainability Officer, MGM Resorts International - Jyoti Chopra is a key asset to MGM Resorts as she oversees environmental, social and governance (ESG) reporting and is responsible for directing enterprise-wide human and social capital initiatives. She also oversees the MGM Resorts Foundation and community relations. Chopra is championing diversity and inclusion, not just across MGM Resorts but in the industry as a whole.  
  • Alex Dixon, CEO, Q Casino and Dubuque Racing Association - Last year, Alex Dixon was tasked with heading the Dubuque Racing Association and Q Casino, one of only two not-for-profit casinos in the country. He has focused a lot of his efforts on reinvesting in the casino. Beyond that, he works with his team to unlock the potential of Dubuque, Iowa and the Mississippi River, and attract more people to the region. Last but not least, Dixon oversees the African American Gaming Network, a resource to pay it forward through coaching, mentoring and developing future executives in the industry.
  • Brian Gullbrants, President, Wynn Las Vegas & Encore - Brian Gullbrants oversees the operations of one of Las Vegas’ best properties, which constantly sets the standard for luxury experience. Gullbrants took part in Wynn Resorts’ series of leadership classes as one of the people teaching a large number of executives. In a recent interview with HOTELS Magazine, Gullbrants revealed that he constantly communicates with his team and tells them stories from throughout his career, thus helping them better understand the business, the brand and ultimately customers. By doing so he also develops future industry leaders.
  • Kelly T. Gee, Executive Director, Virginia Lottery - After serving as a member of the Virginia Lottery’s leadership team as the Manager of Government Relations for several years, Kelly T. Gee was appointed Executive Director earlier this year. She was immediately tasked with navigating the legislative journey towards opening the state’s first land-based casino (Hard Rock Bristol) and oversaw the launch of the Virginia Lottery’s new app. Additionally, together with her team, she ensures that the Lottery has a positive impact in every corner of the state. 
  • John Connelly, Global CEO, Interblock Gaming - While the industry struggled with the effects of the pandemic, John Connelly made health and safety a priority for Interblock’s workforce, while methodically ramping-up R&D efforts to better serve the company’s customers and offer unique solutions that have aided in bringing players back to the casino floor safely. Earlier this year, under Connelly’s leadership, Interblock was acquired by Oaktree Capital Management. The deal has given Interblock the ability to further accelerate its momentum, concentrating on both organic growth and potential acquisitions. 
  • Anna Sainsbury, CEO, GeoComply - In January of this year, Anna Sainsbury stepped back into the CEO role of the company she co-founded and since then has reaffirmed GeoComply’s mission to power the future of digital trust for customers, regulators and communities. In addition to growing the company’s footprint, Sainsbury is also deeply dedicated to philanthropy and is a strong advocate for gender equality in the workplace and stopping digital child exploitation. As soon as the war in Ukraine started, Sainsbury and her team put their colleagues first, endeavoring to successfully relocate GeoComply’s Ukraine-based staff to Poland and Canada. 
  • Ernie Stevens, Jr., Chairman, Indian Gaming Association - Ernie Stevens, Jr. is not just the Indian Gaming Association’s leader, he has now become the global face of Tribal gaming. In his role, he continues to educate Congress, the media and the public about the positive impacts of gaming on Tribal and nearby communities. In the past year, he continued to represent the Tribal gaming community and its interests at various industry events across the US and beyond. 
  • Kimberly Van Amburg, CEO, Casino del Sol - Casino Del Sol has experienced continued growth with Kimberly Van Amburg as CEO. She ensures the property has the latest offerings. Under her leadership, Casino Del Sol recently completed an extensive expansion with a second hotel, new RV park, expanded conference center, new event center, and a brand new sportsbook. She leads a team of more than 1,400 employees with respect and passion, and believes in teaching others. She serves as a mentor to team members, preparing them for future roles which will propel Casino Del Sol to future success. She has also been instrumental in organizing the property’s nonprofit partnerships, events and fundraisers. 
  • LuAnn Pappas, CEO, Scarlet Pearl Casino Resort - Under LuAnn Pappas’ leadership, Scarlet Pearl Casino Resort was the first casino in the country to have a 100% vaccination rate among all applicable employees and was able to do so through a concerted effort of one-on-one communication, vaccine education, and on-site vaccinations for associates and their families. Additionally, the executive has taken steps to support employees at times of financial need by implementing the UKG Wallet, a financial wellness mobile application that provides employees immediate access to a portion of their already earned but unpaid wages. UKG Wallet Scarlet Pearl also empowers people with budgeting tools, educational resources and financial counseling.
  • Jennifer Carleton, Chief Legal Officer, Sightline Payments - Jennifer Carleton has spent her entire legal career in the gaming sector. Currently, as the Chief Legal Officer at Sightline Payments, she shares her expertise and speaks to state and Tribal gaming regulators about the implementation of cashless, as well as other issues such as cryptocurrency and its role in the payments industry. Carleton also dedicates a substantial amount of time to professional development and corporate philanthropy within her community.
  • Brooks Pierce, President & COO, Inspired Entertainment - Brooks Pierce supports his team with training, resources and an open door, and then encourages them to drive change and innovate. He has been in his role at Inspired for a little over four years. In that time, the company has grown significantly, not only in performance and revenue but also in its culture and team development. The executive has led the company to expand and achieve tremendous success across the US, particularly in the past year. 
  • Anika Howard, President & CEO, Wondr Nation - Anika Howard is widely recognized for her unparalleled ability to drive gaming companies and products into evolving territories. Up until recently, she was VP for Brand and Digital at Foxwoods before the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe tasked her with heading its new business arm - Wondr Nation, which was created to expand the tribe’s digital footprint. In her new role, Howard is focusing on innovation, creativity, and bringing a fresh approach to what’s next for the gaming industry.

The Global Gaming Awards Las Vegas are organized by Gaming America and Gambling Insider, with KPMG in the Crown Dependencies independently adjudicating the voting process. BetConstruct is the event’s Lead Partner.

Category sponsors include IGT, Aruze Gaming, White Hat Gaming, CasinoTrac, Interblock Gaming, Aristocrat Gaming, Relax Gaming, EGT, Velvix, Bragg Gaming, Amelco and Novomatic.

The winners will be revealed at a luncheon ceremony on October 10 in Las Vegas. The event will be live-streamed for those who can’t be in attendance.

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