For the past 20 years the online gambling industry has been grappling with a stratospheric growth spurt. Boosted by fast internet connections, massive improvements in technology and a worldwide loosening of gambling legislation, the business is truly booming. But of all of the big-hitters within the industry, few have been as successful as gamer-turned-serial entrepreneur Noel Hayden.
Managing director and creator of Gamesys, one of Europe's top online gaming software developers, 43-year-old Hayden is currently worth £208m, thanks to Gamesys' similarly hearty profits. In 2012-13 the company made £58m on sales of £181m. This, however, is only his most recent success.
Back in the mid-nineties, the then-fresh faced Hayden set up online gaming company Internet Digital Media. His skills had been honed during a childhood spent coding and designing games on a retro Tandy TRS80 computer, and this experience allowed IDM to take advantage of the rapidly developing tech sector during the dot com boom in the late nineties.
Sold in 1999 to Gameplay for £7m, Hayden immediately used the takings of IDM's sale as capital for his new company, Gamesys. The company started small – Hayden only employed two developers at the beginning - but 12 years later over 900 people now work for the globe-spanning company and it now has more than 40 million individual users logging on worldwide.
Some of the best-known online gaming brands are the brainchildren of Hayden. Jackpotjoy, StarSpins, Sun Bingo, Virgin Games and European hit Botemania were all developed by the company. In 2012 the entire group saw $6.4bn (£4.2bn) of wagers made each year. Jackpotjoy itself pays out over $312m in prizes each and every month, earning £67m on revenues of £130.9m during 2014.
All of this contributed to Gamesys being named the world's fifth most influential online gaming company. So it wasn’t surprising that when Jackpotjoy was sold to Canadian group Intertain in February 2015 the deal was worth a staggering £426m.
In 2014, the company became one of the first overseas operators to enter into an agreement with an American casino operator after the legalisation of online gambling in a number of states. The partnership with New Jersey's Tropicana Atlantic City Casino & Resort has seen the company release Virgin Games, currently one of the fastest growing online gaming brands in the States. Hayden was also ranked number 13 in MT’s Top 100 Entrepreneurs list last year.
Will Hayden's lucky streak continue? With his track record, it probably wouldn’t be a gamble to bet that it will.