The ‘Godfather’ of Online Gambling in New Jersey Retires After 13 Years as DGE Director

An era that profoundly shaped New Jersey’s gaming industry has come to a close with the retirement of David Rebuck, the longtime director of the Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE). After an impressive 13-year tenure, the longest of any DGE director in history, Rebuck has stepped down, leaving an indelible mark on the state’s gambling landscape.

Rebuck oversaw the launch of iGaming in New Jersey, becoming the first state to launch online casinos in 2013 with over $1 billion in state tax revenue. He was present when sports betting became operational five years later, contributing another $450 million to the state coffers.

As Rebuck steps down, the Garden State is a national leader in gambling with a record gaming revenue of $5.77 billion generated in 2023 alone, according to AP News.

Early Career and Appointment as DGE Director

A 36-year veteran of public service in New Jersey, Rebuck began his career in the Attorney General’s Office in 1988. His extensive legal background and understanding of the gaming industry proved invaluable when he was appointed DGE Director in 2012. 

This was a pivotal time for New Jersey, as the national conversation surrounding online gambling was heating up, and the state was at the forefront, eager to capitalize on the potential revenue and challenge the federal government’s restrictive stance.

Rebuck’s leadership proved to be exactly what New Jersey needed. He spearheaded the creation of a comprehensive regulatory framework for online gambling, ensuring consumer protection, responsible gaming practices, and a fair playing field for casino operators. In December 2011, a complete set of regulations was implemented, paving the way for a historic launch.

Rebuck’s foresight wasn’t limited to online casinos. He recognized the growing popularity of sports betting and its potential economic benefits. 

Following a landmark Supreme Court decision in 2018 that overturned a federal ban, he spearheaded efforts to get sports betting up and running in New Jersey as quickly as possible. Within months, the state launched retail and mobile sports betting, further solidifying its position as a leader in the legalized gambling market.

Navigating Industry Transformation and Teamwork

Even as he embarks on this new chapter, Rebuck remains humble, crediting his achievements to the collective efforts of his team and colleagues. He expressed his gratitude and privilege to have collaborated with an exceptional team at DGE and to have served under two governors and eight attorneys general.

Rebuck’s career with the DGE spanned a transformative period for the gaming industry, both in New Jersey and nationwide. He was at the helm when online gambling first gained a foothold in the Garden State, with the launch of online casinos in 2013, which has since generated over $1 billion in state tax revenue. 

Five years later, he oversaw the rollout of legal sports betting in New Jersey, contributing an additional $450 million to state coffers. Beyond that, under Rebuck’s leadership, New Jersey established itself as the gold standard for legal gambling expansion, creating a template for other states to follow. 

The Rebirth of Atlantic City

Rebuck’s impact extends beyond the realm of online gambling and sports betting. He played a pivotal role in the rebirth of Atlantic City, a once-thriving resort destination that had fallen on hard times. As Atlantic City casinos struggled with four closures in 2014 alone, he spearheaded the launch of online casinos, providing a much-needed lifeline for the city.

True to his vision, as online casinos gained traction, Atlantic City’s nine land-based properties slowly began to rebound. In 2023, AC casinos reported a modest 2.2% year-over-year revenue increase, a positive sign for an industry that had faced significant challenges.

Accolades and Recognition for a Trailblazing Career Path

While Rebuck remains steadfast in deferring credit to his colleagues, his exceptional leadership and contributions have not gone unnoticed. During the upcoming East Coast Gaming Congress in Atlantic City, Rebuck will be honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award, becoming the fifth recipient of this prestigious accolade.

Rebuck’s trailblazing career in public service began in January 1988 when he joined the Attorney General’s Office as a deputy attorney general, providing legal advice and assisting in the evaluation and review of legislation.

By February 2010, he had risen to the position of Senior Policy Advisor in the governor’s office under Chris Christie, who championed state-regulated gambling and paved the way for online launches. In April 2011, Christie nominated Rebuck for the DGE director position, a role he would maintain under Governor Phil Murphy’s administration.

His tenure as DGE director was marked by his commitment to regulatory reform and oversight. He spearheaded a comprehensive review of the state’s gaming regulations, ensuring consistency and efficiency. In December 2011, a new set of regulations was implemented under his guidance, laying the foundation for the successful launch of online gambling and sports betting in subsequent years.

Passing the Torch

With Rebuck’s departure, the DGE directorship has been filled by Deputy Director Mary Jo Flaherty, a seasoned legal professional with over 40 years of experience regulating the gaming industry within the DGE. Platkin conveyed confidence in Flaherty’s leadership skills during this pivotal time, commending her for stepping up to the challenge.

Flaherty, a graduate of Seton Hall Law School, assumed her interim director duties on March 1, 2024, and is tasked with building upon the solid foundation laid by her predecessor, the esteemed “Godfather of Online Gambling” in New Jersey, David Rebuck.

Wrapping Up

While David Rebuck’s departure signifies the closing of a significant chapter, it also ushers in a new era for the New Jersey gaming industry. The robust regulatory framework and commitment to responsible gaming practices established under Rebuck’s leadership provide a solid foundation for continued growth and innovation. His successor will have the privilege of building upon this legacy and steering the industry towards a prosperous future.

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