Reel Lives: OpenBet’s Jess Feil On Player Protection, Running An International Team, And Riding Horses

Brett Smiley

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 of this interview: Jess Feil, VP of Regulatory Affairs & Compliance for OpenBet, an international sportbook technology group owned by Endeavor Group.

Casino Reports (CR): Where are you from originally and in what city are you based now?

Jess Feil (JF): I grew up just outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, but now I call Washington, D.C. home.

CR: Will you tell us about your first job in the gambling industry?

JF: It was sort of an accident that I found myself in the gambling industry. I am a lawyer by training with a background in criminal law, mostly on the criminal defense side. I took a job at a boutique, white-collar criminal defense firm in Washington, D.C. in 2016. The firm had a number of clients that were part of or adjacent to the gambling industry that we handled litigation and some other services for. Then in 2018, when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the federal ban on sports betting, we found ourselves with an opportunity to support a number of clients in entering various states. So I began shifting gears to licensing and regulatory work for gaming companies, and the rest is history!

CR: OpenBet is an international company and you’re working on different matters with unique cultures all over the globe. Within the realm of Regulatory Affairs & Compliance, as it pertains to gambling, what’s an area where you’d desperately like to see more uniformity or consistency?

JF: One of the things I love about our business is the variety of cultures and markets we work in — it keeps things so interesting! However, the one thing I’d love to see is better adoption of modern technology for the licensing process. At OpenBet, we have dozens of licenses worldwide, which means dozens of different ways of submitting licensing applications, conducting investigative interviews, and more. So many regulators still rely on hard copies, post or courier, and in-person meetings, when there are modern solutions that are both efficient and secure.

Further, these sorts of processes are hard to manage amid heightening legal requirements around data security and privacy in many countries. It’s a challenge that I know many in the industry have been working on for years, and we’re seeing some progress. With the increasing number of technological solutions for licensing and document management, I’m hopeful we’ll continue to see positive trends on this issue.  

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

JF: I’m extremely proud of the team I’ve built here at OpenBet. When I was hired here, it was to help build out a compliance team and program to transition with the business as we were being acquired by Endeavor Group Holdings, Inc. I was able to shape the policies and processes for our compliance program, hire truly incredible talent that I get to work alongside every day, and advise the business on regulatory affairs and compliance matters. The professionals on my team are truly the best, I can’t say enough positive things about them. Working with them to run and develop our international compliance program has been a highlight in my career so far.

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

JF: With the rise of digital gaming, I think player protection is going to be the central issue for our industry for the foreseeable future. That covers a wide array of issues, such as responsible gambling, data privacy, AML (anti-money laundering), and more. But how we treat our players and ensure they can enjoy gambling safely and responsibly will be at the heart of our success. This means being proactive in developing and deploying responsible gambling tools, not so it is just an option but it is a normal part of every player’s online gaming experience. And players also demand top-of-the-line data security when they provide us with such detailed PII (personal identifiable information), and we owe it to our consumers to be ahead of the curve when implementing cybersecurity strategies. The online gaming space opens up so many opportunities to customize the experience for players, but we should harness this power to protect players too.

CR: How do you like to spend free time away from work? Any interesting hobbies or secret talents?

JF: If you’ve seen me on a virtual event recently, you may have noticed some horse pictures and items in my background — I’m a horse girl! I’ve been riding and competing seriously in the hunter and jumper disciplines basically my entire life. I have two horses myself, although one is retired and the other is recovering from an injury. But I’m lucky enough to be able to borrow other horses to ride and show, and be able to be at the barn and horse shows to support my friends.

Lightning Round!

What’s the last book you read?

The Employees: A Workplace Novel of the 22nd Century, by Olga Ravn

Another person in gaming who has my utmost admiration is …

There are so many, but I’ve always admired Laura McAllister Cox’s (Rush Street Interactive) leadership and expertise in gaming compliance.  

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

Slots!  

First word or phrase that comes to mind when you hear “cannibalization debate”:

A very complicated debate that requires nuance.  

The best thing about gaming industry conferences is …

The energy of our industry meeting in person.

First vehicle you drove?

I was allowed to drive golf carts at a much earlier age than I should admit to!

Best airport?

Washington D.C. National (DCA)

Favorite TV sitcom?

I will always watch Scrubs or BoJack Horseman.

You can find Jess on LinkedIn and on X, while BoJack Horseman is available on Netflix and Scrubs appears on pretty much all the other streaming platforms.

For previous installments of Reel Lives:

SBC’s Sue Schneider On The Interactive Gaming Council, Mentoring, And The Mississippi River

Maine GCB Chair Steven Silver On Rulemaking, Consumers, And Pickleball

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

Advantage Media’s John Mehaffey On The Absolute Poker Scandal, Comedy Clubs, And Setting A Casino Record