April 24th, 2024

New Jersey gambling regulator who advised nation on integrity and oversight retires

By Wayne Parry, The Associated Press on March 1, 2024.

David Rebuck, director of the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement, speaks at a ceremony for the opening of the Ocean Casino Resort in Atlantic City N.J on June 28, 2018. Rebuck, who oversaw New jersey’s successful launches of internet gambling and sports betting and whose advice was widely sought from gambling companies and regulators across the country, retired from his position on March 1, 2024. (Erin Grugan/The Press of Atlantic City via AP)

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) – David Rebuck, who oversaw New Jersey’s development of nation-leading internet gambling and sports betting industries and advised more than two dozen states on setting up and regulating their own gambling operations, retired Friday after 13 years as one of America’s most influential gambling regulators.

Rebuck, 71, stepped down as director of the state Division of Gaming Enforcement after leading New Jersey though a turbulent period when some Atlantic City casinos closed and the state became a leader in emerging forms of gambling including sports betting, which came about after the state won a U.S. Supreme Court case to permit it.

“This industry is never dull,” he said. “There are always going to be challenges and opportunities. We wanted to be the pinnacle of regulating the industry so that the casinos would have a better chance of success while protecting customers.”

Rebuck was appointed by former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie in 2011 at a time when Atlantic City’s casinos were reeling from competitive economic pressures from casinos in neighboring states.

“The marching orders were clear: to implement the law that had just passed,” he said. “There was a feeling on the part of the casinos that they were overly regulated by rules that hadn’t been updated since the 1970s.”

A streamlined governmental oversight system helped reduce some of the casinos’ overhead expenses. But it would not prove enough to prevent five of the 12 casinos from shutting down in less than two years; two of them have since reopened.

“You thought you were doing everything you could do to help them survive in this market, and it didn’t work,” he said. “It was a tough time.”

A year later, in 2013, Rebuck presided over one of New Jersey’s greatest triumphs: the start of internet gambling. New Jersey led the nation in online gambling for 10 years until Michigan surpassed it by a small fraction last year in terms of the amount of money won from gamblers.

When Democrat Phil Murphy succeeded Republican Christie as governor in 2018, he kept Rebuck on as chief gambling regulator.

That year, Rebuck led the creation of rules and regulations for New Jersey’s sports betting industry after the state prevailed in its longshot legal battle to overturn a federal ban on it in all but four states. That U.S. Supreme Court ruling led the way for all 50 states to offer legal sports betting if they so chose; 38 states plus Washington, D.C, currently do.

Jane Bokunewicz, director of the Lloyd Levenson Institute at Stockton University, which studies the Atlantic City gambling market, said Rebuck helped launch “new gaming products that are changing the industry and keeping New Jersey at the top of the national market.”

Rebuck has also been highly sought for his advice and technical expertise by other states considering adopting new gambling operations or modernizing existing ones. He said he has advised and worked with more than two dozen states in this regard.

“We’d give them our actual book, and say, “˜This is what we do, this is how we do it and this is how you can do it,'” he said. “This is a copycat industry; once people see something that works, they want to do it, too.”

Mark Giannantonio, president of Atlantic City’s Resorts casino and of the Casino Association of New Jersey, called Rebuck “a thoughtful and progressive gaming regulator who advanced so many aspects of gaming in New Jersey.”

With internet gambling, “Dave led the team at DGE and built from the ground up the policies and regulations that created a whole new innovative business for New Jersey in a safe and secure manner,” Giannantonio said. “These regulations have been duplicated across the country.”

Mary Jo Flaherty, deputy director of the gaming enforcement division, will serve as interim director for an unspecified period.

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Follow Wayne Parry on X at https://twitter.com/WayneParryAC

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