Emerging Leaders of Gaming™


Emerging Leaders of Gaming (ELG) is a program that supports today’s young executives on their path to becoming tomorrow’s industry leaders through education, networking, and other career development opportunities. Each year, in partnership with Global Gaming Business magazine, the program sponsors an industrywide search for the most promising of these individuals called the ELG 40 Under 40. Nominate yourself or a colleague by August 1.



In addition to empowering our clients to create successful destinations, The Innovation Group is dedicated to propelling the gaming and hospitality industry to even greater heights. Working in conjunction with several industry partners, we play an active role in shaping the strategies, technologies and leaders of tomorrow.

Emerging Leaders of Gaming™, a program designed to turn today’s young executives into tomorrow’s industry leaders, was formed by The Innovation Group as a means of giving young professionals that extra advantage in the already competitive gaming, entertainment, leisure, and hospitality industries.

The program launched in 2012, when nominees were selected and then granted access to the array of resources and connections that The Innovation Group has been building for more than 20 years. That year, we hosted our first Emerging Leaders networking event at Global Gaming Expo (G2E). The program has since provided ongoing networking and career advancement opportunities that bring the Emerging Leaders closer to future senior-level and C-suite management positions.

“Being part of Emerging Leaders of Gaming has been an incredible honor, and has facilitated networking with the people who will be running the industry in 5-20 years.”

— Brett Abarbanel, Ph.D.
Director of Research
UNLV International Gaming Institute
University of Nevada, Las Vegas


Nimota Adebowale, Director of Casino Operations, Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa
Bahar Alaeddini, Partner, Harris Hagan
Juliann Barreto, COO, Spectrum Gaming Group
Stephanie Barrett, Senior Director Commercial Finance Gaming Ops / Game Sales, Aristocrat Gaming
Crystal Beauchemin, Business Manager- Sports Wagering Division, Massachusetts Gaming Commission
Holly Billy, Tribal Services Manager, BMM Testlabs
Courtney Brack, Vice President, Gaming Operations, Everi
Caroline Byne, Senior Account Executive, Konami Gaming
Brooke Cartus, Vice President, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, Seminole Hard Rock
Davis Catlin, Managing Partner, Discerning Capital
Lauren Cordeiro, Senior Director, Product Management, Light & Wonder
Andy Dalugoda, Director Analytics, Bluberi Gaming
Paolo Roberto De Leon, Senior Director, Online Casino Content, Caesars Digital
Tomash Devenishek, CEO, Kero Sports
Charles Dwaileebe, Director of Regulatory Compliance, Live! Casino & Hotel Maryland
David Forbes, Cyber Security Manager, NJ Division of Gaming Enforcement
Meghan Frye, Executive Director, NHBP Gaming Commission
Katelyn Gehrke, Marketing and Communications Manager, JCM Global
Samuel Gerrity, CEO, Saratoga Casino Holdings
Leila Goelz, Chief People and Transformation Officer, Games Global
Jose Gonzalez, Director of Compliance, Tuolumne Gaming Agency
Qidan (Kiki) Guo, Vice President of Gaming Operations, Interblock Gaming
Blake Hill, Vice President of FP&A, AGS LLC
Christopher Jewett, Senior Vice President, Corporate Development, Bally’s Corporation
Amy Jiang, Vice President, Velvix
Blake Katsnelson, General Manager, Gila River Resorts & Casinos
Anastasia Kokova, Group Kyiv Subsidiary Director, Playtech
Mike Lei, Assistant Vice President of Slot Operations, MGM MACAU
Jai Maw, Co-Founder & President, Betting Hero
Nick Migliacci, Vice President, Revenue Management, Caesars Entertainment
Oliver Musovski, Special Projects Manager, Ainsworth Game Technology
Sara Panek, Vice President of Marketing, PENN Entertainment (via Hollywood St. Louis and River City Casino)
Troy Pettie, Sales Engineering Director, Acres Technology
Jesse Robles, Executive Editor, Pechanga.net
Kelly Trask, Director of Slot Performance & Strategy, SciPlay
Ricardo Valdivia, Partner, Portilla, Ruy Diaz & Aguilar
Danny Valoy, Vice President, Business Development & Acquisitions, VICI Properties
Olia Wall, Legal Counsel, Eclipse Gaming Systems
Joe Watkins, President, Worldpay Gaming Solutions
Christopher Wood, Senior Interior Designer / Associate, HBG Design


8/25/2021 – Beyond Traditional Thinking: Finding the Right Partnerships to Deliver Gen Z
Gen Z demands a more experiential product from sports betting and iGaming offerings. With the influx of new entrants from media and sports organizations, there is a massive opportunity for leaders in iGaming and sports betting to go beyond traditional branding partnerships in order to capture the next generation of bettors in the US. Hear this panel, composed of SBC Leaders and Emerging Leaders of Gaming, consider how Gen Z behaves differently and what the industry needs to do now to position themselves at the front of the pack with this key demographic. Considerations will include: 1) How do Gen Z bettors behave differently from traditional bettors, and how do iGaming and sport betting leaders need to adapt?, 2) What is the long-term potential for operators of partnering with sports teams and media organizations?, 3) What opportunities exist to drive greater fan experience within Fantasy and Esports?, 4) How do leaders continue to enhance fan experience without attracting the wrong attention from regulators?, 5) How will these new models pan out? Is a seismic industry shift on the horizon? [Speakers: Allen Ambrogio, U.S. Director of Operations, Tipico USA Technology INC / Tipico NJ LLC | Sarah Crennan, Vice President & Head of Content, Yahoo Sports | Joseph Solosky, Managing Director of Sports Betting, NASCAR]
Watch video

10/22/2020 – ELG 40 Under 40 Digital Awards Celebration
The next generation of leaders in the gaming industry named for this prestigious honor will take the industry into the future. This online event introduces and applauds the Emerging Leaders of Gaming 40 Under 40 Class of 2021 as well as the five “Judges Choice” honorees, featuring comments from the respected judges for the program. [Speakers: Michael Soll, President, The Innovation Group | Roger Gros, Publisher, GGB Magazine. Judges: Mark Birtha, President of Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Sacramento at Fire Mountain | Christie Eickelman, Vice President of Global Marketing for Gaming Laboratories International (GLI), and Chairwoman of Global Gaming Women | Mick Ingersoll, Director of Gaming Strategies at Everi Holdings, Inc. | Virginia McDowell, former President and CEO of Isle of Capri Casinos, and former Chairwoman of Global Gaming Women]
Watch video

6/11/2020 – Reopening Realities: Cautious Celebration & Planning for the Future
Part of  “Gaming in Crisis: The Path Back” Webinar Series, by The Innovation Group, RMC, & GGB
Now that many of the American casinos have reopened or have dates for reopening, it’s time to get a reality check. While some local and tribal casinos have experienced great business and long lines, questions still remain about the long-term recovery and the related tourism amenities that often drive a casino resort. At this session, operators who already have reopened explain how they prepared and what they experienced, along with how they plan to retain and build new business going forward. [Speakers: Mark Birtha, President, Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Sacramento at Fire Mountain | Kathy George, Chief Executive Officer, FireKeepers Casino Hotel | Luann Pappas, Chief Executive Officer, Scarlet Pearl Casino Resort. Moderator: Robert Russell, Gaming Analyst, Regulatory Management Counselors, PC]
Watch video
Download presentation

5/28/2020 – Design Changes: What Will a Casino Resort Look Like in the Wake of Covid-19?
Part of  “Gaming in Crisis: The Path Back” Webinar Series, by The Innovation Group, RMC, & GGB
We’ve already seen Plexiglas partitions, more space between slot machines, limited numbers of players at table games and every other slot machine deactivated. So what’s next? How will restaurants survive and thrive? Will lounges be the center of entertainment for a casino resort? How will showrooms be restarted in the wake of social distancing? What will the meetings and conventions space look like? At this session, visionary architects and designers will interact with casino operators to discuss what might work and how customers may respond. [Speakers: Frank Freedman, COO, Four Winds Casinos | Robert Gdowski, Principal | Director of Hospitality Design, JCJ Architecture | Nathan Peak, Principal / Partner, HBG Design. Moderator: Michael Soll, President, The Innovation Group]
Watch video
Download presentation

5/14/2020 – Moving Forward: iGaming in the Covid-19 Era
Part of  “Gaming in Crisis: The Path Back” Webinar Series, by The Innovation Group, RMC, & GGB 
While most of the gaming industry has been devastated by the Covid-19 crisis, one part of the business is thriving. With players barred from casinos, online gaming has taken a giant leap forward. Not only does it provide continuing revenue for casino companies in times such as these, but states collect taxes where none existed before. But will the bloom fade when the crisis is over, or will states and jurisdictions rush to fill the void left by the continued absence of iGaming? Experts will discuss the long-term viability of online gaming and how the Covid-19 crisis has awakened some of its most subtle critics. [
Speakers: Sue Schneider, VP, Growth & Strategy/Americas, Sports Betting Community (SBC) | Dermot Smurfit, CEO, GAN | Kresimir Spajic, CEO, Hard Rock Interactive. Moderator: Roger Gros, Publisher, Global Gaming Business Magazine]
Watch video
Download presentation

4/30/2020 – Tribal Troubles: How Indian Gaming Will Rebound
Part of  “Gaming in Crisis: The Path Back” Webinar Series, by The Innovation Group, RMC, & GGB 
The coronavirus knows no boundaries so the impact on tribal gaming in the U.S. has been just as devastating as it has been in the commercial gaming sector. But tribes are different. Shareholders might grumble about lower dividends or stock prices, but the slump in Indian Country impacts tribal members in much more dramatic ways. Whether it’s money to fund tribal government activities, employment at the casino, or other benefits received by tribal members, the current situation has a massive impact. At this session, tribal gaming executives and those familiar with Indian Country will examine how the tribal gaming industry can recover, what the steps will be, and how this crisis will change operations from now on. [Speakers: John J. James, Former President and CEO, Foxwoods Resort Casino | Ray Pineault, President and General Manager, Mohegan Sun | Matthew Wesaw, Tribal Council Chairman, Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians.
Moderator: Roger Gros, Publisher, Global Gaming Business Magazine] Watch video
Download presentation

4/29/2020 – Building Blocks: Physical Planning for Sports Books
As states continue to legalize sports betting, casinos are faced not only with the operational impacts of this new form of gaming, but also the physical challenge of incorporating these operations into their facility. From creating an area for a few kiosks or retrofitting existing space for a small sports book to full-on expansion, how do you determine the best route for your market, property, and players? During this webinar, experts in operations and design who have lived through the experience will offer guidance on the process, share what worked for them, and provide insight into roadblocks they encountered that you can avoid. [Panelists: Paul Heretakis, Principal, WESTAR Architects |  Jennifer Saragnese, Director of Retail Development, PointsBet |  Erich Zimny, Vice President of Racing & Sports Operations, Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races. Moderator: Brian Wyman, Ph.D., Senior Vice President, Operations & Data Analytics, The Innovation Group]
Watch video
Download presentation

4/23/2020 – Taking Care of Business: Difficult Decisions Ahead
Part of  “Gaming in Crisis: The Path Back” Webinar Series, by The Innovation Group, RMC, & GGB 
Re-opening is still a ways off. It’s a hopeful time, but a stressful one as well. Each property is going to have to make difficult decisions about what the “new normal” will look like. Who continues to work during the shutdown, and who comes back early to prepare for reopening? What about executive compensation? Should you use debt to cover the costs of reopening and what are the regulatory implications? How do you re-boot your systems and operations? What about hardware and timely software updates? How do you restart your marketing programs and how will they change in the new environment? These and other questions will be address by a variety of experts at this session. [
Speakers: Bobby Soper, President + CEO, Sun Gaming & Hospitality | Josh Swissman, Founding Partner, The Strategy Organization | Ellen F. Whittemore, Executive Vice President, General Counsel and Secretary, Wynn Resorts. Moderator: Michael Soll, President, The Innovation Group]
Watch video
Download presentation

4/16/2020 – Beyond CARES: How the Relief Bill Helps the Industry and Employees and Where it May Fall Short
Part of  “Gaming in Crisis: The Path Back” Webinar Series, by The Innovation Group, RMC, & GGB 
The CARES Act provides $2 trillion in aid and relief to American companies and workers. Included in the bill is assistance for the gaming industry, one of the industries hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic. But how relief applies to different properties and companies will vary. This session will review how funds can be distributed to large and small companies in gaming to assist employees to retain employees or furlough them with the least financial impact. Experts will explain who qualifies for assistance and what constitutes a large vs. a small business and how revenue and the number of employees are weighed. While companies made decisions on whether to continue to pay employees and for how long, there are other decisions about employees that have to be made soon-some will be difficult. Health protocols have to be implemented, but what about liability issues and mitigation? HR, finance and legal experts will weigh in on this session. [
Speakers: Jennifer Martinez, President and CEO, Consult HR Partners, LLC | Anthony Sanfilippo, Co-founder of Sorelle Capital, Sorelle Entertainment and Sorelle Hospitality | Matt Sodl, Founding Partner, President & Managing Director, Innovation Capital. Moderator: Robert Russell, Gaming Analyst, Regulatory Management Counselors, PC]
Watch video
Download presentation

12/11/2019 – A Closer Look: Sports Betting Operations at Tribal Casinos
Nearly 20 states now have legalized sports betting with more expected to follow next year. While the opportunity is growing across Indian Country, only a handful of tribal facilities are actually operational. During this session, we discussed how sports betting has been negotiated and launched by tribal operations to-date to help you better understand how your tribe or facility can navigate the opportunity. [Panelists: Neal Atkinson, Director of Table Games, Pearl River Resort  |  Staci Chafins, Player Development Manager, Marketing – Players Club, Isleta Resort & Casino  |  Sue Schneider, VP, Growth & Strategy/Americas, Sports Betting Community (SBC)  |  Seth Young, Chief Innovation Officer, PointsBet]
Watch video
Download presentation

3/25/2019 – Breaking it Down: Sports Betting Partnerships & Market Access
With March Madness here, an estimated 40 million Americans will soon complete an average of two brackets each. Sports betting operators from around the world are now competing to access this engaged American audience. During this discussion, learn how the scramble for market access will impact the overall landscape of sports betting in the United States. What are the industrywide repercussions of a partnership deal like that of Caesars and DraftKings? How do deals of that scale actually work? Hear a panel of experts on sports betting business, operations, and marketing discuss all this and more. [Panelists: Chris Grove, Managing Director, Eilers & Krejcik Gaming  |  Dan Kustelski, Co-founder & CEO, Chalkline Sports  |  Brian Wyman, SVP, Operations & Analytics, The Innovation Group]
Watch video
Download presentation

12/12/2018 – Machine Learning in Practice: Applications for the Gaming Industry
Luis Serrano, a mathematician, software engineer and data scientist now leading a continuing education program, will provide a primer on machine learning (ML), breaking down the basics and sharing examples of real world successes in practice. Following his presentation, Serrano and Wyman will discuss ML in gaming, looking at forward thinking applications already at play and the vast opportunity that lies ahead.  [Panelists: Brian Wyman, Senior Vice President, Operations & Data Analytics, The Innovation Group  |  Luis Serrano, Head of Content, Artificial Intelligence and Data Science at Udacity] Watch video
Download presentation

7/18/2018 – Comprehensive Online Strategies for Casinos – Taking Control
Many casinos still face the dilemma of whether to expand from bricks and mortar to online, and how. In this one hour video webinar, Emerging Leaders of Gaming and American iGaming Solutions will cover all of the angles including how to analyze and prioritize opportunities, forecast ROI, and address outreach from vendors.  [Panelists: Jason Rosenberg, CEO, American iGaming Solutions  |  Itsik Akiva, Online Gaming & Marketing Consultant, American iGaming Solutions] Watch video
Download presentation

3/14/2018 – Sports Betting Survey Results: A Detailed Discussion
TIG produced a targeted, consumer-focused survey on sports betting with data informing operators, state governments, Tribes, and lotteries on how consumers may respond to the myriad of sports betting options that could follow the resolution of Christie v. NCAA. This one-hour video webinar will provide a detailed overview of the results of this informative survey.  [Panelists:  David Schwartz, Ph.D., Director, Center for Gaming Research, University of Nevada, Las Vegas  |  Brian Wyman, Senior Vice President, Operations & Data Analytics, The Innovation Group] – Watch video
Download presentation

11/15/2017 – Evolution of Non-Gaming Amenities
Comparing gaming properties today to casinos of the past, it is clear that the gaming experience has changed dramatically since casino-style gaming was first introduced in the U.S. Just as gaming devices have evolved, so too has the non-gaming amenity. While some of the first diversified gaming experiences relied on relatively “standard” amenities such as traditional food and beverage outlets and box-style meeting space, gaming properties can no longer rely on cookie-cutter non-gaming amenities. Join us for this one-hour video webinar which will explore the evolution of the non-gaming amenity as well as what it takes to differentiate gaming properties and attract new customers.  [Panelists: Tom Wucherer, Principal, YWS Design & Architecture | Joe Scibetta, VP, Development & Operations, Rush Street Gaming]
– Watch video
Download presentation

8/9/2017 – Sports Betting: Opportunities Inside & Out of Nevada
This video webinar will feature a panel of experts covering how casinos can use sports betting for customer acquisition and retention inside and out of Nevada, as well as provide regulatory updates for gaming jurisdictions throughout the U.S.  [Panelists: Will Green, Sr. Director, Research, American Gaming Association | Dan Kustelski, Co-Founder & CEO, Chalkline Sports | Dan Shapiro, VP of Strategy & Business Development, William Hill US – williamhill.com]
– Watch video
Download presentation

4/19/2017 – Emerging Gaming Technologies & the Gamification of Casino Properties
This video webinar will feature experts covering a number of emerging trends including skill-based gaming and incorporating game-like experiences throughout properties to influence both staff and patrons, among others.  [Panelists: Aron Ezra, Chief Executive Officer, OfferCraft | Marcus Yoder, VP Business Development, Regulated Markets, Gamblit Gaming]
– Watch video
Download presentation

12/14/2016 – Data Science in Gaming
Join TIG’s data science division, Innovation Analytics, as they discuss data science and how it directly applies to the gaming industry. Topics will include building a data science team, promotional testing and guest satisfaction analysis.  [Panelists: Anthony Mason, Principal, Innovation Analytics  |  Matthew Konopka, Principal, Innovation Analytics]
Watch video
Download presentation

11/17/2016 – Decision 2016 & its Impact on Gaming
Join the Emerging Leaders of Gaming for an in-depth review of the election results and its potential impact on the gaming industry. This video webinar will feature experts from both sides of the aisle who can address regional and national implications for commercial and tribal gaming. Be sure to register to hear unique insights and analysis on this momentous election.  [Panelists: Kirk Blalock, Co-founder & Principal, Fierce Government Relations  |  Shanti Stanton, Principal, Subject Matter  |  Aurene Martin, Managing Partner, Spirit Rock Consulting]
– Watch video

9/14/2016 – Conquering G2E 2016
With Global Gaming Expo (G2E) fast approaching, join Emerging Leaders of Gaming for a video webinar previewing this renowned industry gathering. During the session, learn how to make the most out of your time on-site. Topics will include: Trends to explore on the expo floor; Key speakers and topics at Elevate: G2E education; Not-to-be-missed networking opportunities  [Panelists: Peter Arceo, Chief Marketing Officer , San Manuel Indian Bingo & Casino  |  Corey T. Nyman, Director of Operations , The Nyman Group, Ltd.  |  Dana Takrudtong, Vice President of Sales & Marketing, GAN]
– Watch video
Download presentation

7/26/2016 – The Rise of eSports: A Discussion on the Industry and its Potential Impacts on Gaming
The eSports industry is rapidly evolving and intersecting with casino gaming. During a one-hour video webinar, gain a high- level overview of the evolving eSports industry, including: Top games played; Growth of the industry; Size and scale of various eSports events.  Further, understand the opportunities the nascent industry is providing to the gaming industry from both an operational and a betting perspective.  [Panelists: Brett Abarbanel, Head, Social & Recreational Gambling Research, UCLA  |  Seth Schorr, Chairman Downtown Grand, Las Vegas  |  Hai Ng, Partner, Neomancer]
– Download presentation
Download audio recording
To listen online, click this “play” icon:
ELG Podcast

4/13/2016 – How to Engage Millennials in the Workplace
While Baby Boomers and Generation Xers are delaying their retirement, millennials are simultaneously joining the workforce, creating an ever-widening generational gap in the workplace.  This leaves many of us wondering: As a non-millennial manager, how can I engage my millennial employees?  As a millennial, how can I effectively communicate with my non-millennial manager?Emerging Leaders of Gaming intends to answer these questions (and more) during our upcoming video webinar, the goal being to bridge generational gaps and ensure success by capitalizing on each generation’s strengths.
– Download presentation
– Download audio recording
To listen online, click this “play” icon:
ELG Podcast

For information on future webinars, join our mailing list or email info@theinnovationgroup.com.

You can also follow us on social media:

LinkedIn small COLOR (30x30) Twitter small COLOR (30x30) Facebook small COLOR (30x30)

Stay Connected