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Kim Barker: How This Trailblazing Woman Became Bally’s Chief Legal Officer

Kim Barker, the Executive Vice President and Chief Legal Officer at Bally’s Corporation, is not just a legal expert in the gaming industry; she’s a trailblazer playing a pivotal role in a company helping to reshape the gaming landscape nationwide, especially in Chicago.

Barker shared her journey with The Chicago Defender, from growing up in Spanish Harlem in New York to helping lead one of the top gaming and betting corporations in the world.

Her early decision on a future profession was made possible thanks to her mother, who recognized her daughter’s intellectual gifts and penchant for debate.

“There’s this saying sometimes that a bossy child makes an assertive adult. Let’s just say I grew up bossy, opinionated, and arguing every point,” Barker said.

Her tendency to question and dissect everything made her mother come to a conclusion that would help shape the course of her life.

“I think she’s just going to be a lawyer,” said Barker, remembering her mother’s words.

“Thankfully, for me, with a single mom who had a deep appreciation for raising an inquisitive child who didn’t take anything at face value, I was raised in a way that supported that part of who I was.”

Driven by a keen intellect, Barker pursued her education at prestigious institutions, graduating from Yale College and New York University School of Law.

“I always thought about how I could make a difference for myself, my family, and those who come behind me, both economically and in terms of education opportunity,” Barker said. All of those things, when you put them together, led me to the direction of being a lawyer and pursuing a degree in law.”

Barker also credits her grandmother, who made her realize the value of education, but more on that later.

Navigating the Legal Landscape

Thanks to her role with Bally’s, Barker is now based in Providence, Rhode Island, the corporation’s headquarters. However, she spent her early years working for a large law firm in Chicago.

Barker said those early years at the firm were tough.

“I did not have the best experience. It was isolating. It was a new experience,” she said.

“I’m a kid coming out of Harlem, and even though I went to Yale, NYU and all of these other places, the fact of the matter is that I was living in a world professionally that I had not lived in personally.”

It’s a familiar story for anyone who is the first in their family to work in a particular profession.

 

“I want to share that story because there are many of us who are first-generation, whatever it is. So, I struggled with the culture, I struggled with the firm, and I struggled with my sense of ability to contribute,” she said.

 

Despite those challenges, Barker found a mentor in a Black partner at the firm who would profoundly impact her legal career.

Through her mentor, she was exposed to public finance and governmental law practice, a specialty area that would lead her to the world of gaming.

“How that relates to gaming is that, at the end of the day, many gaming entities and developments are strong partnerships between public entities and private industry,” she said.

Through this specialty area, Barker found a way to make a difference.

Before coming to Bally’s, she was the first Global Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion at International Game Technology. She was also the general counsel and vice president of legal and regulatory affairs at Northstar Lottery Group.

“So moving from one partner who introduced me to governmental law, supported me, and became my mentor, my career had many bobs and weaves,” Barker said, “But ultimately, I ended up in an industry where the public-private partnership is the basis of success.”

Her Role with Bally’s

Former Bally’s CEO, Lee Fenton, praised Barker’s experience when her hiring was announced in December 2022.

“The depth and breadth of Kim’s legal expertise, especially in gaming and lottery, will be instrumental as the company continues to expand and evolve during this period of significant growth,” he said.

“Additionally, her strong network and understanding of our key markets, including Rhode Island and Illinois, is particularly valuable as we explore new opportunities in the jurisdictions where we conduct business.”

Barker has a global legal team of about 100 people, including team members in London, Malta, Chicago and many other U.S. states.

As Bally’s Chief Legal Officer, her team ensures that Bally complies with all regulatory requirements in any jurisdiction where it operates.

“My team is responsible for ensuring that our contracts are in place, that we are supporting the business and meeting its goals for Chicago, and also for making sure that we comply with every law and regulation in the operation of the casino,” she said, citing an example of her team’s duties.

Her Grandmother’s Influence and Keeping Her Legacy Alive

When Barker reflects on her success and appreciation for learning, she looks no further than her grandmother, Rosalie Estelle Barker, who married young and raised nine children in New York public housing.

“Every year when I would start school, she would send me (to school) with a letter in an envelope, and I would come home with two sets of books: one for her and one for me,” Barker said. “She was always learning and developing and showing me an appreciation for education.”

When asked about keeping her grandmother’s legacy alive, Barker mentions a nickname she and her relatives share, an ode to their matriarch’s influence and a reminder to share her legacy.

“We called her the Rose of Spanish Harlem, and so we call ourselves The Rosebuds.”

“We all feel this deep sense of obligation from a legacy perspective: to live that truth she tried to share with us both personally and as a family and not to lose sight of how we move forward,” she said.

Barker is certainly doing her part. As a Black woman in the C-suite for Bally’s, she has a leading role in helping to shape the gaming industry in Chicago and beyond.

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