Black Executives On The Rise

August 2023

Kim Barker Lee

Current company and role: Executive Vice President and Chief Legal Officer, Bally’s

Hometown: East Harlem in New York City. The distinction is important to me because I grew up in an area called Spanish Harlem, or El Barrio, in New York, which was a beautiful combination of hardworking families of African American and Caribbean heritages.  I practiced law in Chicago for many years after graduating from NYU Law School and now consider Chicago my “professional hometown”.

First job in the gaming industry: General Counsel of Northstar Lottery Group, the private manager of the Illinois Lottery from 2011 to 2018. IGT was the majority owner of Northstar with Scientific Games holding a minority interest. The Illinois Lottery was the first U.S.-based lottery to be privately managed, and during my tenure sold the first lottery ticket in the United States over the internet.

What do you like about working in gaming?

The industry is always evolving, the ability to contribute limitless and we are still finding ways to engage players and customers of today and tomorrow. That “creator” mentality is at the heart of what makes Bally’s so great.  In my role as chief legal officer, the capabilities of the legal must evolve to match our dynamic business and regulatory environment.

Did anything surprise you about the industry when you first started?

The gaming industry is a community in and of itself and while competition defines us so does a huge sense of pride in what we do and how we create value and impact in the communities where we operate. That is certainly the case at Bally’s.

Were you familiar with gambling before landing a job in the industry? What were your thoughts about gaming before starting to work in industry? Has your impression of the industry changed at all?

Before joining the industry my exposure to the industry was limited to bricks-and-mortar retailers who sold lottery tickets. I did not have exposure to the casino gaming side of the business or full appreciation for the rapid evolution of sports betting and i-gaming in the United States. The growth of sports betting and omni-channel gaming across multiple verticals, including in lottery exciting and provides for opportunities to innovate for a multi-generational player base in ways that are exciting. I am also excited about the ways that the industry has embraced diversity and inclusion as a necessary component of our business and player acquisition strategies.

What major trends do you see emerging in the gaming industry over the next 5 to 10 years?

  • Continued evolution of cross-channel play
  • Multi-media engagements
  • Content that is more customized to the user
  • Re-imagining the player experience through the lens of the huge demographic shifts occurring world-wide

Diversity in our industry will continue to be important in many respects – generational, gender, language, race/ethnicity and more and the growth of the role DEI is playing in business strategies and how we talk to players is something I hope will continue to advance and evolve.

What advice would you give to aspiring leaders in the gaming industry?

  • Find mentors and sponsors everywhere and seek out those who will challenge you and with whom you may feel like you have nothing in common, your success will be what connects you
  • Focus on adding value, delivering results and acquiring the skills you need long-term
  • Always lift others up because you may need a lift at some point
  • Keep your personal networks strong and intact

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