Reel Lives: BetMGM’s Katie Kohler On Public Relations, Responsible Gambling, And Climbing The Career Jungle Gym

Eric Raskin

Updated on:

slot machine reel lives

Every gambler has a story to tell. And so does every person who chooses to make a living in this unique industry.

In our “Reel Lives” series, Casino Reports shines a spotlight on people working in the gaming business, from executives, to analysts, to media members, and all points in between.

The subject in this interview: Katie Kohler, the iGaming communications manager for BetMGM.

Casino Reports: What was your first job in the gambling industry, and how did it come about? 

katie kohler headshot

Katie Kohler: After over a decade working in local journalism covering everything from sports to township meetings, I was hired by Catena Media to be the lead writer for Play Pennsylvania in 2019. Online sports betting and iGaming were launching that summer in Pennsylvania and it was a tremendous opportunity. 

CR: What do you view as your signature accomplishment/achievement in this industry? Or, put another way, what are you most proud of? 

KK: At BetMGM, I work across sports betting, iGaming, and poker in public relations, so I am going to pick one from each. None of these accomplishments are just mine — they were able to be achieved with the collaboration of others. 

For iGaming, working on the award submissions that highlighted the accomplishments of so many and being trusted to tell the story of BetMGM. In 2023, it resulted in BetMGM winning Casino Operator of the Year at the SBC Awards, EGR North America Awards, and America Gambling Awards. Also, BetMGM won Digital Operator of the Year at the Global Gaming Awards.

For sports betting, BetMGM is coming off a tremendous Super Bowl that saw us debut our first Super Bowl ad and activate the brand in a variety of ways during the days leading up to the big game in the sports entertainment capital of the world.

In January, the Borgata Winter Poker Open powered by BetMGM displayed the growth of the omnichannel poker experience from when I started in 2022. The Borgata Winter Poker Open had 22 main events over about a month with $10 million in guarantees. It was a huge accomplishment for the poker team, but it also got us even more fired up about what’s to come.  

global gaming awards 2023

Kohler and industry colleagues at the 2023 Global Gaming Awards in Vegas, where BetMGM won Digital Operator of the Year

CR: If you told the 18-year-old version of yourself what you’re doing now professionally, how surprised or unsurprised would that younger version be? 

There weren’t cell phones, online sports betting, or iGaming, so it was quite a different world. At 18, I was editor of my high school newspaper, writing NY Post-ish headlines, and I always had deep curiosity about what if?/what’s next. That part of her wouldn’t be surprised. However, she would be surprised by the winding road and the grit it would take to get here.

KK: What’s the number-one challenge, in your view, for the industry going forward?  

To continue to promote and educate players about responsible gambling. It’s a challenge and imperative to the industry’s sustainability. I have the privilege of working with a responsible gambling team trained to identify at-risk players and dedicated to fostering a safe, fun environment for them.   

CR: What are the pros and cons of being a woman in a male-dominated industry? And, meta sub-question: How sick are you of being asked about being a woman in a male-dominated industry? 

KK: I start every day with a grateful heart, give my best, and try to treat others the way I would like to be treated. I want to be great at what I do. Not “she’s great at what she does … for a woman.”  

I don’t spend time thinking about the “pros and cons” about being a woman in this industry because I love working in this industry. There are number of women and men in this industry who have helped me and who I regularly call on for advice or to simply have a cup of coffee.

I am not sick of it when people ask the question and are open to a conversation about it. I want to hear their thoughts, too. The industry in North America is still in its early stages. What does the industry want to be “when it grows up”? How can we attract more women to work in the industry? These are things I will never be sick of talking about.  

CR: What made you want to work for BetMGM after establishing yourself on the journalist side of the industry?

KK: I loved being a journalist. But there is a quote that really resonates with me: “careers are jungle gyms, not ladders.” I saw how the journalism industry was changing and I knew that the skills I had would translate to PR.

I enjoyed my time at Catena and we accomplished so much at PlayPennsylvania. But the opportunity to work at a top-tier operator like BetMGM was something I couldn’t pass up. I knew the reputation of some of the people I would be working with, and I held them in high regard. I always want to be around the best people, because that’s the only way big things happen and you raise your game.  

Lightning round!

If you find me in a casino, the game/bet I’m most likely to be playing/making is … 

At the sportsbook — player props, NFL or NBA.  

My favorite sports team is … 

The Philadelphia Eagles.

Describe the offshore gambling challenge …  

lt’s lazy that some media is citing offshore odds when they are sponsored by legal sportsbooks.  

The worst job I ever had was … 

A pretzel stand in a mall.

My first car was a … 

’88 Oldsmobile Delta. The belts squealed so loud that everybody heard it.  

My favorite non-gambling thing to do in Vegas is …  

Sit by the pool at Bellagio and read, with takeout from Siegel’s Bagelmania. 

You can find Katie on X and on LinkedIn, where she’ll respond to your messages as long as you don’t cite offshore odds or propose a ban of the “tush push.”