CEO, Betfred Group
To be named successor to Fred Done – at a company that bears his name – shows how highly the Betfred founder values group chief executive Joanne Whittaker. Their working relationship dates back 20 years, covering two tenures at the operator and Whittaker’s own businesses, including childcare voucher specialist Fideliti and financial adviser Angel Advance.
“I have been able to understand our business from the ground up, as well as going away and developing my own businesses, experiencing the highs and lows that this brings,” Whittaker explains.
Her management style is simple: “I am known for saying it as it is, being persistent (some may say relentless), asking stupid questions to ensure I understand exactly what I am being told and working hard. I really believe that if you work hard, you can achieve whatever you want.”
She has no interest in living up to any stereotypes, and believes the secret to success is simply hard work and determination. “I am used to being either the only female, or one of a small number, in the room. It is important people are recognised for the work they do and the value they add; this is the culture I feel we have within Betfred and it is something I am proud of.”
Away from the office Whittaker is a mother of three, with her husband handling the day-to-day childcare duties, a setup she says works well for the family as she looks to build on a successful 2022 when turnover grew 37.5% year-on-year to £723.2m. This means she spends more and more time travelling as the business expands in markets such as the US and South Africa. “But I always plan my work diary so I am at home every weekend,” she says.
Clearly delighted to be named one of iGB’s Most Influential Women in Gaming for 2023, Whittaker says there’s an emerging female leadership class in the industry today. She’s proof of that.
Head of sustainability, Betsson
For Jonna Danlund, being named as one of iGB’s Most Influential Women is testament to her leadership in championing environmental, social and governance (ESG) initiatives in the workplace.
For Danlund, it’s all about establishing a place where talent can flourish. “It’s essential to create an environment that can cater to many different people and talent types,” she says. “To paraphrase a Swedish idiom, not all flowers bloom under the same conditions.
“Any strides a company takes towards sustainability need to happen out there in the organisation; it’s not a one-woman show. On the contrary it’s all the competent people at Betsson who drive sustainability within their respective fields, where diversity is one such key area.”
Jonna has been instrumental in the creation of – and is the driving force behind – Betsson’s Sustainability Framework. This strategic framework is made up of five crucial focus areas: responsible gaming, business compliance, employee impact, social impact and climate impact – with long-term goals and KPIs for each area.
“Every organisation needs a platform to help promote and support talent and, just like with any project, you need to have a unified philosophy and goals to drive the company forward,” she says.
“At Betsson, we have a number of supporting policies and procedures for diversity, inclusion and belonging and equal opportunities. But, more importantly, we have a culture that celebrates diversity.”
Danlund explains that Betsson is represented by 70 different nationalities across 2,000 employees. For her, this means “diversity is something we celebrate every day of the year”.
“We believe that diversity is the basis for an innovative company culture and we are committed to raising further awareness around DEI.”
Ultimately, Jonna partly attributes her success to the people around her. “If you’re lucky enough to be surrounded by a group that helps you, lifts you up and encourages you, then that makes all the difference.
“Because the thing is, you can be hardworking and talented and it might still not be enough. No woman, or indeed person, is an island – you don’t get anywhere without other people.
“On the contrary it’s all the competent people at Betsson who drive sustainability within their respective fields, where diversity is one such key area.”
As chief operating officer for Aristocrat-owned Anaxi, Las Vegas-based Cath Burns leads a team of 800 with a mission to expand the games provider globally, applying over 20 years of experience to her role.
At the forefront of Anaxi’s stellar progress over the past year, Burns has overseen deals with the fast-growing company’s expanding list of new partners, including BetMGM, FanDuel, Caesars and Penn Interactive.
Despite the company only being a year old, her influential leadership has ensured that Anaxi has become one of the most-sought after providers in North America.
Burns started her career in gaming at Bally Technologies as vice-president Asia Pacific back in 2006, where she established the company’s Asia Pacific head office in Macau. As well as holding key roles at Scientific Games, TCS John Huxley and Aristocrat, she has worked across Africa, South America and Europe.
As COO of Aristocrat’s newest business unit, Burns leads a strong team of leaders ranging from CXS to igaming, product, commercial, technology, content, communications and corporate affairs. As referenced by her own team, Burns’ dedication and valuable skills have made her the ideal leader to ensure Anaxi can truly establish itself on the global stage.
Her company mission has been to bring new games and innovative online experiences to players and customers every time – a proposition she has evidently succeeded in, given the company’s outstanding success over the past 12 months.
Under her leadership, the organisation has created a global team of creators and innovators to drive and inspire what they believe will be the next frontier of online gaming.
Ones to watch:
1. Danielle Calafato, chief commercial operator, Gaming Corps
2. Katie Kohler, igaming communications manager, BetMGM
3. Claudia Heiling, COO, Golden Whale Productions
4. Maria Loumpourdi, head of talent development, Betsson Group
Profiles by Robin Harrison and Nick Brown