Outgoing New Jersey Regulator Advocates For Wider Online Expansion

March 8, 2024
In his first public comments since retiring last week, outgoing New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement director David Rebuck advocated for further legalization of online casinos and criticized other forms of gaming as being underregulated.

In his first public comments since retiring last week, former New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement Director David Rebuck advocated for further legalization of online gaming and criticized other forms of gaming as being underregulated.

Rebuck announced his retirement on February 29 after 13 years as one of the most influential and well-respected regulators in the United States, both among peer regulators and industry stakeholders.

Under Rebuck’s watch, New Jersey legalized, launched and regulated both online casino gaming in 2013 and then sports wagering in 2018.

On Thursday (March 7), Rebuck appeared alongside New York State Senator Joseph Addabbo, a Democrat, on a panel at the NEXT Gaming Summit in Manhattan to talk about the state of the online gaming industry.

“The problem you have right now is that you have over 40 states in the United States that treat online gambling as a criminal act and you have another 20 states treat online sports wagering as a criminal act and all focus on online gaming is on those two types of wagering entities,” Rebuck said. “That balkanized approach to online gaming is something that needs to be addressed by legislatures and policymakers.”

Rebuck said that the reason more states need to act is to put comprehensive guardrails in place to protect their markets against future grey areas of online gaming, referencing fantasy sports as one area of concern.

“The online industry will continue to drive you to have to do things that you never contemplated even ten years ago,” he said. “The balkanized approach that I've talked about this because everybody seems to fail to address the enigma of fantasy sports; is it sports wagering, is it gambling, is it skill-based?”

“Only five states don't allow it in some form, but it's not regulated,” he added. “And so all the protection you have for consumers and business opportunities and the employees, economic development, is just happening without any significant regulation that would require that to be overseen in a way just like you have online gambling, casino gambling.”

Rebuck was also critical of the emergence of social casino gaming and those who argue it is a skill game rather than gambling, comparing it to the rise of online poker in the mid-2000s before a crackdown led by federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York.

“Some of the best law firms in the United States wrote legal opinions that poker is a game of skill,” he said. “That ended because the federal government decided, enough of this nonsense.”

“And then there’s Black Friday, and online poker has never been considered a game other than gambling [ever since].”

“When we look to regulation, it has to be comprehensive, coordinated and collaborative and entail more than what we're talking about as it regards to casino and sports,” he added. “There's opportunities there for everybody in this room because the power of regulation allows it to be mainstreamed and protect all the entities that need to be protected as part of this.”

One state where many in the industry carried hope for online casino legalization in 2024 was the NEXT summit’s host state of New York, but Addabbo said Thursday that odds remained long on his bill to legalize the activity moving forward this year, amid opposition from one of the state’s most politically powerful unions, the Hotel and Gaming Trades Council.

“It’s tough,” he said when asked about the bill’s prospects. “It needs to be, in my opinion, governor-driven.”

“[Governor Kathy Hochul] would have to get us all to the table, the union, the legislators, me and say, okay, how do we go forward,” he added. “We are in a holding pattern until there’s a [fiscal] need.”

Rebuck said he believed union concerns about cannibalization and job losses were unfounded and not backed by data that New Jersey has seen in a decade of offering online casino gaming.

“When you hear the fearmongering of cannibalization, loss of jobs, and 13 years of the records that show the casino industry in New Jersey, which has challenges on many fronts, hundreds of jobs today remain unfilled,” he said.

“We haven't seen any significant job decreases,” Rebuck added. “I understand the union is concerned. I'd be more concerned at the union if you're going with [a different online gaming model than New Jersey's which requires a partnership with a land-based casino].

“But if you go with the New Jersey model, I don't see cannibalization, the data doesn't show it and the job numbers are steady.”


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