New Jersey’s Rebuck Retires After Blazing Regulatory Trail For U.S. Online Market

March 1, 2024
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The state official chiefly responsible for setting the regulatory foundations for the multibillion-dollar U.S. online gambling market has abruptly retired from the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement.
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The state official chiefly responsible for setting the regulatory foundations for the multibillion-dollar U.S. online gambling market has abruptly retired from the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE).

The retirement with immediate effect of David Rebuck as DGE director was announced late on Thursday afternoon (February 29) in a statement issued by New Jersey Attorney General Matthew Platkin.

Rebuck, 71, had led the DGE for nearly 13 years, joining the agency at a time when regulated online gambling was essentially non-existent in the United States, other than for horseracing. 

Last year, New Jersey’s regulated online casinos and sportsbooks generated total revenue of almost $3bn and accounted for close to 50 percent of the state’s overall gaming market.

In a statement, Platkin said Rebuck “exemplified professionalism, innovation, and leadership as the gaming industry transformed, first with the legalization of internet gaming in 2013 and then with the new era of sports gaming in 2018.”

He also credited Rebuck’s “extensive knowledge of the gaming and casino industry” in establishing New Jersey as “a recognized regulatory leader and pacesetter in the United States.”

American Gaming Association CEO and president Bill Miller said Rebuck had enjoyed “a remarkable career that established the NJDGE as a leading regulator and set the example for productive regulator and industry collaboration.”

“In New Jersey and across the country, his work has helped shape legal sports betting and online gaming, strengthen industry responsibility, and blaze the trail against the illegal market. We wish him the best in his well-earned retirement,” Miller said in a statement to Vixio GamblingCompliance.

Rebuck took the reins of the New Jersey DGE in 2011 with a mandate to implement a fundamental regulatory restructuring of the Atlantic City casino market, which was suffering a precipitous decline in revenue following the opening of casinos in neighboring Pennsylvania.

A landmark casino reform law folded many of the responsibilities of the New Jersey Casino Control Commission into a newly empowered DGE, with Rebuck overseeing the adoption of streamlined regulations and the launch of various initiatives designed to reduce regulatory burdens and allow for the speedier deployment of new casino games, among other things.

Still, land-based casino revenue continued to decline and Atlantic City suffered its annus horribilis in 2014 when four of 12 casinos closed, although the market has since attracted new investment and revenue has increased every year since 2015, with the obvious exception of 2020.

Under Rebuck, the DGE adopted the United States’ first set of regulations for online casino gaming through the implementation of a landmark state law passed in 2013.

Internet gaming was initially considered to be a financial disappointment, albeit not so from a regulatory perspective, before revenues exploded following the later legalization of sports betting and New Jersey became established as one of the largest regulated online gambling markets in world.

As head of the DGE, Rebuck is broadly credited with modernizing formerly hardline licensing standards that were adopted in the 1970s and 1980s in order to keep organized crime away from New Jersey’s land-based casino industry, towing the line between maintaining those rigorous processes while adopting a more pragmatic approach that would enable international online gambling companies to quickly go to market alongside their New Jersey partners and ultimately become licensed in the state.

In 2018, Rebuck and the DGE also adopted the U.S.’ first regulations for online sports betting, establishing the template for more than two-dozen states that have since followed New Jersey into the market.

Rebuck was directly involved as an appellant in the U.S. Supreme Court case that ultimately opened up the U.S. sports betting market through the state of New Jersey's challenge to a 1992 federal ban.

The DGE and Rebuck have more recently turned their focus to issues such as cybersecurity and especially responsible gaming, with new DGE guidelines last year requiring iGaming and sports betting operators to use automated systems to flag potentially problematic behaviors among their players.

New Jersey was the first of a small handful of U.S. jurisdictions to impose such a requirement. 

Rebuck had hinted at his plans to retire during several conference appearances in recent years, although his immediate departure is somewhat of a surprise given that he had been scheduled to appear at two industry events taking place next week in Newark and in New York City.

Platkin said Rebuck would be replaced on an interim basis by DGE Deputy Director Mary Jo Flaherty, a long-serving regulator most recently responsible for licensing and financial reporting at the agency.

The New Jersey attorney general described Flaherty as a “respected and talented lawyer [who] brings with her over 40 years of experience of regulating the gaming industry within DGE.”

Additional reporting by Chris Sieroty.

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