The lack of progress in gambling reforms in the United Kingdom is frustrating New Jersey’s top regulator, who says U.S. oversight of gambling is much stronger.
David Rebuck, director of the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement (NJ DGE), on Friday (July 28) acknowledged the difference in cultures of the two countries and said he did not want to get into an “international fight”, but he did not mince words in criticizing UK gambling reform efforts.
“I think our standards in the United States are much stronger and better than theirs were and currently are,” Rebuck told a room of about 70 gambling professionals at the National Conference on Gambling Addiction and Responsible Gambling in Washington, D.C.
“What they need to do is copy what we do,” Rebuck said.
An ongoing review of the White Paper, after its long-awaited release in April, is expected to take at least another year.
“They’ve been at it for two-plus years, maybe three, and when you look at that, that’s kind of discouraging,” Rebuck said.
The UK can and should enact three gambling reforms immediately, according to Rebuck.
One would be raising the minimum age to gamble from 18 to 21, which is a common requirement in the United States.
“You’re asking for trouble,” Rebuck said about the minimum gambling age of 18.
“People are more likely to try to get in to gamble if they’re 15 (or) 14,” he said.
A second reform should be an effective responsible gambling program, which includes self-exclusion – a process that allows gamblers to ban themselves from casinos and other gambling operations.
“They don’t have this in the UK the way we have it here in the United States,” Rebuck said.
The UK currently operates the GAMSTOP self-exclusion program for online operators and a series of different schemes for the various land-based segments.
Consumer protection is the third reform Rebuck recommended.
State and federal consumer protection laws for gamblers are widespread in the United States, but not in the UK, he said.
As for New Jersey, Rebuck sidestepped a question about the state’s new budget for fiscal 2024, which reduces the extension of internet gambling operations in the Garden State from ten to five years.
Rebuck, who engineered the advent of internet gambling in New Jersey in November 2013 and guided efforts to make the state the third largest online gaming market in the world, did not say if he was surprised by the reduction or if he supported it.
But he did say he does not think the reduction will have any impact on future investment in New Jersey’s thriving online gaming market.
“I think it’s fully explainable to the investment community. We’re fairly robust, and I think if the investment community is looking at anything, it’s what’s the opportunity for growth in New Jersey,” Rebuck said.
More importantly, Rebuck said, the internet gambling companies already operating in New Jersey are interested in expanding in other states and on tribal lands.
Rhode Island became the seventh state to legalize online casinos on June 20. The others are New Jersey, Delaware, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Connecticut.
“So what is the potential growth in the United States beyond what we have today and how is that going to play out?” Rebuck asked rhetorically.
“I have no idea other than to tell you it’s coming; it’s going to come.”
Rebuck, who will turn 71 in September, provoked a huge laugh from the audience with a crack about what happens to internet gambling in New Jersey after the next five years.
“It’s not my problem,” he said. “I’m not going to be around in five years.”