In the Arena with Stanton Dodge
Stanton Dodge is the Chief Legal Officer for DraftKings LLC. DraftKings is the official fantasy partner of the NFL, MLB and PGA TOUR as well as an authorized gaming operator of the NBA and MLB and an official betting operator of the PGA TOUR. Among other accolades, Stanton has been recognized as one of America’s 50 Outstanding General Counsel by the National Law Journal.
As the Chief Legal Officer of DraftKings you are responsible for all legal and government affairs, as well as corporate communications. The corporate and political landscape has changed dramatically over the last few months. What issues are you focused on at the moment and have those priorities changed? Our priorities haven’t really changed. We’re still in the early innings of sports betting as a business so our main focus remains getting out there and educating legislators about the benefits of legalized sports betting. As states face budget crunches, we hope they will consider sports betting as a part of the solution. At maturity in Colorado, sports betting is expected to bring in $30 million a year in additional tax revenue, and effectively 100% of that revenue goes toward funding the Water Plan. It is not going to solve all budget problems but it’s a meaningful number.
Legalization also pushes people out of the illegal market. As much as it generates revenue for the state, it also gets this stuff out of the shadows so you can protect consumers. Colorado has done an incredible job at crafting legislation and regulations that actually allow us to be competitive against offshore operators. We continue to spread this message across the country.
What suggestions do you have for your fellow business leaders on building and maintaining positive relationships with legislators? Do it. It’s incredibly important. I frequently hear that government affairs doesn’t matter or that it doesn’t have an impact on business, so people ask why they should be involved. At a minimum I recommend that every CEO, or at least someone on their executive team, develop a relationship with the members of our federal delegation. There are only two Senators and seven Representatives, you can have a relationship with all of them but at least start with your region. Because when something important comes up, you will be glad you invested the time. Get to know these people and develop relationships over the long term before it’s too late. We’re fortunate to be in a great state like Colorado where people are generally friendly to the business community and really care about the state of the economy.
The same applies to the state level. Get to know the Governor and your local elected officials. Get to know people on committees that may impact your business. One of the really great benefits of Colorado Concern is that you can meet these people. We host the Governor and other elected officials throughout the year, come to the lunches and start building those relationships. You’ll be glad you did.
Last year you championed Proposition DD, which approved the tax paid by sports betting operators to help fund the Colorado Water Plan. What did you learn while working on the campaign? I learned that in order to get things passed on the ballot in this state you need to have broad, bipartisan support. For Proposition DD we had Republicans and Democrats, environmentalists and ranchers – you name it. Our team did a great job of figuring out who was going to be firmly with us, who was going to be firmly against us, and who was in the middle. It was all about building a coalition that could resonate with people across the board. You’re not going to win a ballot referendum, especially not a tax increase, unless you have board-based support; it can’t be partisan. That was the key to winning it.
Finally, from your unique vantage point, what are the biggest opportunities you see for the state? We need to seize on the economic boom we’ve been experiencing with all these hip companies coming to Colorado. We should embrace that identity, do everything we can to help it grow and make it very hard for any company to say “no” to setting up shop in Colorado. The worst thing we can do is put the brakes on by introducing low growth initiatives. We are very fortunate to be a destination where people would want to come and start a business. We need to seize on that and in the process secure our economic fortunes for years to come.
Rapid Fire Round:
Who inspires you? My father
What is your favorite place in Colorado? My home with my family
What are you reading? Action Park: Fast Times, Wild Rides, and the Untold Story of America’s Most Dangerous Amusement Park by Andy Mulvihill and Joke Rossen
What’s your favorite restaurant? Shanahan’s Steakhouse in Denver