Sara Slane’s decorated career in the gaming industry has already led to her induction in the Sports Betting Hall of Fame.
Slane was the perfect choice to be Gaming Today’s first interview in a series highlighting the contributions of women in the sports betting industry.
As former senior vice president at the American Gaming Association (AGA), Slane played a critical role in the campaign that overturned PAPSA in 2018. That paved the way for states to create their own rules and regulations for sports gambling. Today, just four years later, 30 states and the District of Columbia have legal sports gambling markets.
Slane previously served as vice president with MGM Resorts International, where she oversaw the largest gaming ballot initiative in the country. That led to MGM National Harbor’s eventual licensing and building of a $1.4 billion gaming resort on the Potomac River.
In 2019, she founded Slane Advisory. Slane now helps teams, leagues, and start-ups involved in the sports betting industry navigate those sometimes-difficult waters.
Gaming Today caught up by phone with Slane at her home in Baltimore for this exclusive interview.
An Industry On The Rise & Responsible Gambling
Gaming Today: What has surprised you the most when it comes to how fast the sports betting industry has been able to expand nationally in recent years?
Sara Slane: Because I’ve worked in gaming and in the legislative process for so long, the clip at which this moved has been shocking to me. But when I take a step back and dissect the groundwork that was laid prior to that, I’m not as surprised, because I think a lot of it has to do with the nomenclature around sports betting and gaming. It’s just (become) such a more widely accepted activity. The mainstream acceptance now of gaming is so widespread that I’m not surprised.
GT: Responsible gaming is a central advertising pillar for obvious reasons, but sometimes it can be overshadowed by the business of sports gambling. How do you help clients find a balance between the two?
Slane: That’s a really good question. I’m always trying to push my clients toward how they can proactively get in front of any potential fallout. It’s a really, really important area, and one in which, with the opportunity comes risk. This is definitely the risk area. Quite frankly, it affects every single state that’s involved in this business, so it’s not just a gaming issue. It’s a league issue, it’s a consumer issue, and it’s a team issue.
GT: What organizations are doing valuable work with responsible gaming platforms?
Slane: I love AGA’s “Have A Game Plan” program. There are very good and qualified organizations out there like NCPG (National Council on Problem Gambling) and NCRG (National Center for Responsible Gaming). GeoComply has done a lot of amazing work in this area as well. So, anytime there’s an opportunity to partner with groups like that, I think it’s super important that (clients) do that.
Women Are Vital To The Industry’s Future Growth
GT: How would you characterize the progress of women working and advancing in the gaming industry?
Slane: Slow. It’s definitely much more tilted towards men, but it is encouraging to see advancements now with women. There’s a bit of a misnomer around the job classifications in gaming. In reality, there are more than 500 different job classifications in the gaming industry, when you think about Las Vegas and the resorts side. There’s just so many opportunities. I’m encouraged to see more talent come into the industry and more female representation as well.
GT: What advice would you give to young women who’re interested in pursuing a career in the industry?
Slane: The same advice I’d give to any young person in any industry. The cream is always going to rise to the top. Do your job and go above and beyond. Keep reinventing yourself and figuring out what the next challenge is going to be. Nobody can argue with performance.
GT: How much effort is being made to get more women betting on sports?
Slane: It’s definitely going to be a tough nut to crack. That’s from a global perspective, too. Sports betting isn’t typically something that women are participating in. A lot of people are looking at creative ways to entice women to bet. It’s not going to happen overnight. I think that the US is definitely leaning forward on trying to innovate and modernize the industry. This will be an area of focus.
Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.
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