Paul Wierbicki, chief legal officer and general counsel of online gaming and sports betting company Rush Street Interactive (RSI), is helping the company explore new market opportunities from a revenue, profitability, and risk perspective. He also works hard to balance the interests of its two business lines—sports betting and online casinos—and help RSI best reach its key demographics and target markets.
Wierbicki, a New York University Law School grad who joined RSI in July 2021, has also worked for Neil Bluhm, the company’s largest shareholder, as the company went public in 2020. RSI, which has some seven hundred employees, has more than doubled in employee size in the past two years and also seen a jump in revenue since it went public, he says.
“With that, you have to build the structures, processes, and procedures of being a larger public company, and that’s where my team and I add value to the organization,” he says. “We’re helping to create processes that help mitigate risk, which is every lawyer’s responsibility, but also one of the primary objectives is to make sure there’s effective communication throughout the organization and the people that need to know the information are getting the information to be able to do their jobs.”
Wierbicki started his legal career working in corporate restructuring, and a decade into his career, during the market downturn, switched paths. “The market changed and I had to change with it and pivot into something else,” he says.
His pivot was successful because he was able to understand the circumstances and expand his knowledge. “I know a lot of people say you can’t think of your career like a straight line up; it’s more like a zigzag,” he says. “I totally agree with that.”
The third lawyer hired at Rush Street, Wierbicki has built out a team of nine internal lawyers and two external lawyers who help make sure the business is aligned on privacy and other laws. “We set up our player programs and protections in accordance with not only the law, the best practices, but also work to ensure that we’re best protecting all our player data, employee data, and all the other data RSI takes over in the course of its operations,” he says.
The team, whose role encompasses government relations, data privacy and protection, corporate governance, securities compliance, general risk management, and mitigation, works to ensure that the company’s strategic initiatives are implemented and executed. Team members work within government affairs on iGaming regulations in the United States and advocate for expanding the number of states doing iGaming across the country.
On a day-to-day basis the teams looks at and assesses legal, tax, financial, and political risk for market summaries to present to leadership. It also looks for solutions to structure and work around risks for further discussion.
The team supports RSI as it continues to look for opportunities to grow its core markets in the US, Canada, and Latin America. In the US over half the states have legalized sports betting, but only seven states allow online casinos. That’s a challenge for a company that derives over 70 percent of its revenues from online casinos, Wierbicki says.
“There’s a lot of thought and time that goes into what is the right message, the right narrative, the right benefits we can convey to some of these states that are having these discussions at the legislative level about potentially legalizing online casino,” he explains. “In LatAm it’s less about that and more about really understanding the business culture, vetting the sources and the potential partners, and then developing deeper relationships with those partners.”
Clear communication helps make it all happen, Wierbicki says. He makes open lines of communication and collaboration central for his team and a priority for how the legal team interacts within the organization.
He has also worked to create cross-functional groups for projects and encourages meetings to keep that dialogue going. “Miscommunication happens not because people aren’t saying the same thing, they’re just not being clear about what they’re saying,” he says.
Being willing to be available when someone wants to talk about an issue helps remedy that, he says. “Then you are really that trusted advisor who people can count on when something comes up, and they know that you’ll be there to help them address whatever their issue is.”
Honest feedback has been another hallmark of his leadership style, the general counsel says. “Providing honest feedback and then really trying to bring people together is important. I try to drop the barriers that are prohibiting communication, propose solutions, and try to build consensus so people understand the solution and what next steps should be.”
Overall, Wierbicki says he looks forward to seeing the company continue to grow and build out its legal team, as well as finding new states in the US where online casino can be legalized.
Dickinson Wright is a law firm that understands your high-tech world, where each day you work hard to design, create, and improve. The last thing you need to worry about is the security of your innovations. We believe that effective legal advocacy requires a comprehensive knowledge of the law and a thorough understanding of our clients’ businesses. Our lawyers provide practical advice, while vigorously advocating to achieve our clients’ objectives. We have the honor of partnering with Paul Wierbicki and Rush Street Interactive to continue expanding the exciting world of gaming into new markets. For more information, contact John Krieger at [email protected].