Thomas Winter, the founder of 10-year-old Golden Nugget Online Gaming (GNOG), announced he’s leaving his role as general manager of North America iGaming at DraftKings. He’d moved to DraftKings when the online gambling operator bought GNOG in 2022.
On Monday, in a lengthy post on LinkedIn, Winter thanked many former and current colleagues and said he would focus on his health, family, and travel.
Winter founded GNOG 10 years ago and guided it from a small operator to one of the top online casinos in New Jersey. Aside from New Jersey, Golden Nugget has established itself as a reputable operator in Michigan and West Virginia and recently launched in Pennsylvania.
Under Winter’s leadership, GNOG was spun off from the land-based business and went public through a special purpose acquisition company in 2021. At the time, GNOG was valued at $745 million. Eight months after it went public, DraftKings (DraftKings 38,30 -1,16%) offered to acquire the company in a deal with an implied value of $1.56 billion.
After completing the acquisition in May 2022, Winter moved and took his most recent role with DraftKings. Before DraftKings and GNOG, Winter served in various positions within European iGaming company Betclic Group, including as CEO and president.
Golden Nugget Held the Top Spot in NJ for Years
Golden Nugget was among the pioneers of iGaming in New Jersey. The operator enjoyed early success and held on to one of the top spots in terms of market share in the Garden State.
While New Jersey doesn’t release revenue data on each operator, it posts revenue per license holder. The Golden Nugget Atlantic City license, under which GNOG, FanDuel, Betway, and BetRivers operate, held the No. 1 spot for most of the time from 2013 until 2021. At one point in 2020, it had almost 40% market share in the state. In 2021, Borgata took the No. 1 spot. Golden Nugget has been sitting in third place this year behind Borgata and Resorts.
Some of the reasons for Golden Nugget’s performance were the app’s features. While it doesn’t offer the most games, the operator has easily accessible and detailed information for most titles. Unlike many competitors, players could find out key information before they played, including:
Golden Nugget also has intuitive filter options like theme, studio, type of game, and more. In the past, the operator attracted players with its leaderboards. Those included yearly giveaways with up to $10 million worth of prizes, including luxury cars.
Thomas Winter Thinks DraftKings Is in Good Hands
Judging by the responses to his LinkedIn post, many industry experts and executives will miss Winter and his leadership. In a post on X, gaming entrepreneur, advisor, and investor Chris Grove said that DraftKings’ online casino success is “a mix of GNOG’s legacy and DK’s own prowess with the product.” Grove added that Winter’s departure leaves DraftKings with “an outsized hole to fill.”
However, there is optimism around DraftKings. In August, the operator posted its first profitable quarter since it went public in 2020. Some notable quarter results included an 88% increase in year-over-year revenue and a 44% increase in monthly unique players. DraftKings also expects a strong Q4, forecasted to generate $150 million to $175 million of adjusted EBITDA.
Furthermore, DraftKings claims it has overtaken BetMGM for the No. 1 spot in iGaming market share. While BetMGM disagrees, combining DraftKings and Golden Nugget could be enough to take the top position.
On the sports betting site, DraftKings was among the first to go live in Kentucky on Sep. 28 and trails only FanDuel in market share.
Winter must have felt it was the right time to step down. In his post, Winter said he couldn’t wait to see what the DraftKings team led by “uber-talented” Gregory Karamitis, senior vice president of product management, and “superstar” Signe Yama, vice president of iGaming marketing and operations, will deliver.