By Tatum Wheeler • July 02, 2018•Ms. JD, Writers in Residence, Careers, Issues, Sexism, Sexual Harassment, and Other Forms of Discrimination, Women and Law in the Media
I’m pleased to welcome Stacy Papadopoulos, General Counsel and Senior Vice President of Industry Services at the American Gaming Association (AGA). Stacy, a double Hoya, has been at the American Gaming Association since 2014. Prior to the AGA, Stacy worked as a partner at the Potomac Law Group, building her career working both in-house at Freddie Mac’s Corporate Governance Department and the firms of Gibson Dunn & Crutcher LLP and King & Spalding.
Welcome, Stacy! Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with Ms. JD! I’d like to begin by asking about your background. When you were a Georgetown University law student, did you ever expect you’d enter the gaming industry? What are some common misconceptions people have about the industry?
Stacy: Definitely not. Being from Hawaii (one of only two states in the US—Utah being the other—that still doesn’t have casino gaming or lottery), it wasn’t a familiar industry.
There are several misconceptions about gaming. Many people aren’t aware of the extensive impact the gaming industry has on the economy. Casino gaming in the United States is a $261 billion industry that supports 1.8 million jobs across 40 states. Casino industry employees are building careers in gaming that are enabling investments in homes and education for themselves and their families. We are good stewards of our communities, not only through the direct economic benefit of tax revenue, but through the support of local small businesses.
The American Gaming Association was integral in the Murphy vs. NCAA Supreme Court decision, outlining the federal ban on sports betting as unconstitutional. How do you think this decision will impact NCAA athletes?
Stacy: Betting on sports has been happening across the country for some time. It’s been occurring illegally to the tune of $150 billion annually and without the consumer protections and associated tax revenue that legal betting will allow.
The Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 paved the way for states and sovereign tribal nations to empower legal sports betting markets in their jurisdictions. A legal, regulated sports betting market will better protect all athletes, including those who remain the most vulnerable in the thriving and vast illegal sports betting market.
How did your experience as in-house counsel and at private firms prepare you for your role in the American Gaming Association? In what ways have your day-to-day tasks changed in each of these roles?
Stacy: I wear several hats at AGA. In addition to serving as general counsel, I oversee operations and lead industry services, which includes membership, revenue development and our two trade shows. Critical thinking, excellent writing, teamwork and staying goal-focused are the hallmarks of my current position.
My early law firm experience as a corporate and securities attorney exposed me to many different industries, complex legal issues and top business priorities. It also helped me to develop a client mindset, which easily translates to a member mindset at AGA. Additionally, corporate work is inherently collaborative and working as a team to devise a strategy or complete a deal is something that has remained a significant focus throughout my career.
Working in-house and on corporate governance matters allowed me to broaden the number of business issues on which I worked and understand how legal advice is translated and implemented at the highest levels. Writing for non-lawyer clients is another skill I honed in-house that is critical in my current position.
Communication is so important. How did you refine your writing to communicate better with clients?
Stacy: I sought feedback from clients and made a point of noting how well non-lawyers understood my written advice. I also noted how many follow-up questions they had. Though it wasn't a formal process, it informed my future work. It helped me realize that, for the most part, non-lawyers don’t need to understand or appreciate all of the nuances or complexities of the law to make a decision. They just need to trust the lawyer.
As General Counsel, how do you prioritize competing responsibilities? What helps you discern which legal items remain in-house, and which you outsource?
Stacy: I prioritize issues based on their importance to the organization and my own time. I focus on the most critical issues and outsource more routine matters. I also seek outside advice when an issue is critical and requires an expertise that I don’t possess.
I was disheartened to read recently that no women appeared on the Forbes Top 100 highest paid athlete list. What do you think the gaming profession has done and can do to bring more women, including athletes and lawyers, to the sports law table?
Stacy: The gaming industry is a strong community partner throughout the U.S. Gaming supports 1.7 million jobs and few industries offer as diverse a workforce as gaming. Forty-five percent of gaming’s workforce is composed of racial or ethnic minority employees—far more diverse than the U.S. average of 33 percent. Women make up nearly half of gaming’s workforce (48 percent)—also higher than the national average.
Many aren’t aware of the breadth of career opportunities in gaming. Gaming employs workers in more than 200 job classifications, including high-tech, engineering, software development and the law. According to projections, the industry is on track to add more than 62,000 well-paying jobs in the next decade.
The gaming industry is committed to diversity and inclusion. In addition to on-the-job experience and training, many leading gaming companies support job training for those interested in gaming careers, offer flexibility for employees to pursue education, and provide a path to upward mobility. The industry and the AGA have been long-time supporters of Global Gaming Women, an organization committed to providing women in the gaming industry with the resources they need to achieve personal and professional success, and we continue to partner with the University of Nevada, Las Vegas to support their professional development programs. As states and sovereign tribal nations explore avenues for legal sports betting markets, there is great opportunity to involve the expertise of women in sports law in the process.
Finally, what advice can you give to those looking to enter this space? Are there any resources in particular that have helped you?
Stacy: These days, if you’re thinking about a legal career in gaming, there are several law schools that offer courses in gaming law. Beyond law school, if you’re excellent at what you do, there are opportunities for you in the industry. If it’s something you’re considering, attend a gaming conference or event. I recommend our upcoming trade show and conference at G2E in Las Vegas on October 8-11!
Thank you so much for your time and thoughtful answers, Stacy!
Tatum Wheeler is a fellow law aspirant based in the San Francisco Bay Area. When she’s not working, she spends her free time exploring new trails with her dogs, reading narratives, and cheering on her favorite sports teams. Please feel free to contact her with any questions, comments, or further advice.