New Jersey’s Top Gaming Regulator Talks Internet Gambling Launch

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New Jersey is only weeks away from launching regulated online gambling. But despite the brief window before launch, myriad questions regarding how Internet poker and casino games will operate – and who will operate them – remain to be answered.

Last week Marco Valerio conducted a wide-ranging interview with David Rebuck, the head of New Jersey’s Division of Gaming Enforcement that covered many of those questions.

You can read the entire interview here. What follows are key excerpts highlighting what Rebuck thinks about the present – and future – of regulated online gambling in New Jersey.

NJ is looking to let companies in, not to keep companies out

Several of New Jersey’s casinos have elected to partner with international companies for online gambling, and several of those companies have had brushes with US law enforcement. Rebuck had this to say about how his agency approaches applicants with checkered pasts:

When you look at these companies, you look at the individuals who are running them to see if they have the right character, suitability, and what are the tentacles of the leadership as such that it taints the whole company, or if it’s such you just cut out the person and they get replaced by somebody who is of good character and honesty and integrity.

If that means that we have to put significant conditions on them which they can either accept or reject, then we’re going to look at that. It leads it in the hands of the company at the end to say, “Well, you’re telling me we have to get rid of this guy, that gal, and this partner?” “Yeah. Now you need to make a decision.”

As a regulator, I don’t like to be in a position of killing a company unless I can show that the leadership, the tentacles of leadership are such that they have unduly influenced the operation of the company so that no matter who you take out, you can’t correct the problems that you’ve identified.

Regulated iGaming could spread to states with no land-based gambling

Talk of iGaming regulation often begins and ends with states that house land-based gambling, but Rebuck suggested that Internet gambling expansion might be an especially attractive proposition for states with little or no gambling in the status quo:

Now the interesting thing I did hear today (which I was never thinking of this) is there are some states that don’t have any gaming at all, don’t have any land-based gaming at all. It’s a way to get involved in gaming, would they just move to an Internet gaming partnership with the state (in this case, one of the three) that already has it, and there they would just be a revenue receiver. The oversight of their state — essentially their gamers would be playing on the platforms that exist in one of those other three states.

I think this is an interesting proposition because if I was that state, it would be: “I’m getting the revenue, I’m getting the high level of confidence that it’s being well regulated, and I just get a tax revenue source coming to me.”

Intrastate compacts won’t happen overnight

WIth the first wave of states finally launching regulated online gambling in 2013, the attention of players and industry has turned toward what many assume is the logical next step: Compacts (or liquidity sharing agreements) along the lines of Powerball. But Rebuck cautioned that, while logical, the step may be longer coming than hoped for:

It’s not as easy as just flipping the switch and say you’re going to have an agreement. You really — I think we all recognize that you’re going to have to sit down with the executives from each of those states and come to a negotiated agreement on how to embark.

Once there’s an agreement, then we’re fine; but it’s going to take time. If either the three states are not real successful in their operations of attracting people who want to game on the Internet — don’t have to worry about compacting.

Read the complete interview here.

- Chris is the publisher of Grove also serves as a consultant to various stakeholders in the regulated market for online gambling in the United States.
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