10 Women Rising in Gaming

January 2023

Jessica Welman

Hometown: Lexington, Kentucky

Current position: Editor at SBC Americas and Canadian Gaming Business

First position in the gaming industry: In 2008, a company called PocketFives hired me to be a tournament reporter at the 2008 World Series of Poker. I spent six weeks in Vegas taking pictures and counting the chip stacks of online poker players playing in WSOP events.

What do you like about working in gaming?

I fell in love with poker and gaming because of the fascinating personalities in the industry. I am grateful to be a part of the industry where there are still people who experience the “old” version of Las Vegas before the corporate takeover. Now, I am in a position where I am always meeting and interacting with new people from all walks of life, most of whom seem to have fallen into gaming versus seeking it out.

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

I learned very quickly that this industry certainly throws better parties than my careers of the past (granted, it is pretty easy to throw a better party than academia). I also think people on the outside don’t realize just how many rules and regulations come with working in gambling. It seems like this free-wheeling endeavor, but every little piece of it has regulatory oversight.

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

I learned to play poker from a guy I wanted to impress in college. Through him, I became interested in the game and I started playing around my hometown in small home games just about every day of the week, I thought I was pretty decent as a player. After a couple of years of reporting on poker players, I hardly ever wanted to play anymore because it was so transparent I would never be as good as these pros I was reporting on every day.

Once I started moving into covering the larger gambling industry, I think the biggest shift in my understanding of the industry was just how widespread it was. In my head, it was this thing confined to Vegas or to the offshore gambling sites. It was something done out of the public eye. Perhaps it is because I entered the industry at a time of unprecedented growth, but I have really had to widen my scope of what all falls under the umbrella of “gambling”. We have casinos, horse racing, lottery, historical horse racing, VLTs, virtual sports, bingo, daily fantasy sports, sports betting, and the list goes on. I thought this would be an industry where the innovation was just replicating what existed in real life online. Instead, it is an industry where new verticals are created all the time and the innovations go far beyond just making the roulette wheel appear on my phone,

Did you apply for work in other industries? Do you think it was easier to find a job in gaming than other career paths?

When I first got out of college, I was actually trying to break into the entertainment industry, which is a tough field. In order to get into production or development, you had to put in time as someone’s assistant for a year or two before you would ever be considered for any other role. It took a good four months to find that assistant gig, and even then, I only got a foot in the door because I knew the right people.

Comparatively, I cold-applied for the job with PocketFives and, by the end of that summer, I had an offer from the World Poker Tour. I was honestly surprised how quickly I rose up through the ranks of the poker media, so I was resistant to try and pursue anything else.

Even switching from poker-specific content to more general gambling affiliate content, I was approached by a friend of a friend, I didn’t apply for anything. I think from 2012 to around 2020 I didn’t even have a current resume because I was never asked to produce one.

While I think it was easier to break in and work my way up, I am fully aware I am very much someone who was in the right place at the right time. I started in US online gambling content in 2017. By the time PASPA was repealed, there was a greater need for people who could write about these things than there were people available. That was a very lucky position to be in.

Can you envision making a career in the gaming industry? Do you think there’s a long-term career path for you? What are your long-term goals?

I had a period of time during the past couple of years where I questioned if this was an industry I could keep working in. If you look at sports betting and gambling content in the US, we’ve gotten into a very picks-driven world that plays out largely on social media. I have always been very involved with social media, but the idea of committing to mastering TikTok to put out five NBA prop picks for the day had me questioning my path. Don’t get me wrong, I admire the people who can do that kind of content and build a following, it just didn’t play to my strengths.

In all honesty, starting with SBC has completely changed my views on things. Getting to put forth and participate in major conversations the industry is having and create content that relates to those conversations is exactly what I want to be doing. I have found a space in gaming where my skills suit my team’s needs.

Over the long term, I obviously want to keep building up SBC Americas as a site known for comprehensive and informative content covering North America. I also have a passion for education, though. I love teaching my team of writers about the industry or appearing on a panel at a conference to educate people on a subject. I’d like to carve out more space to do more of those sorts of things, but for now, the work of keeping track on the fast-moving North American gaming industry is keeping me pretty busy.

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