‘Godfather’ Of Online Gambling In New Jersey Retires After 13 Years As DGE Director

Written By Grant Lucas on March 1, 2024
Image of David Rebuck, who announced his retirement after 13 years as director of the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement

A monumental era has come to an end in New Jersey.

David Rebuck, the longtime director of the Division of Gaming Enforcement, announced his retirement after 13 years in the position – the longest tenure of any DGE director in history.

He was there when online gambling first took hold in the Garden State, with online casinos in New Jersey launching in 2013 and leading to over $1 billion in state tax revenue. He was there when NJ sports betting went live five years later, leading to another $450 million for the state.

New Jersey established itself as the gold standard of legal gambling expansion, creating a template for other states. And Rebuck, considered the “Godfather” of online gambling, was at the forefront. Now, he rides off into the sunset.

Yet even on his way out, with an overall 36-year career serving New Jersey, Rebuck remains as humble as he ever was.

“I have always said the achievements at DGE have not been the result of any one person,” Rebuck said in a statement.

“I have been privileged and grateful to work with an amazing team at DGE and to serve under two governors and eight attorneys general.”

‘Godfather’ of online gambling steps down in New Jersey

Rebuck came onto the scene in January 1988, stepping in as the deputy attorney general to provide legal advice and helping evaluate and review legislation.

He saw Atlantic City casinos begin their downward trend, unfortunately, resulting in four closures in 2014 alone. But Rebuck also helped spearhead the launch of online casinos in New Jersey, which helped keep the resort afloat. That was the purpose of iGaming, after all.

“The focus has been on the rebirth of Atlantic City,” Rebuck said in November 2013. “The thinking is that new revenue streams that could come about through more attractive play by casinos and the internet could generate that much more revenue.”

Indeed that has been the case. As online casinos took off, Atlantic City’s nine land-based properties began to slowly rebound. In 2023, AC casinos reported a modest 2.2% year-over-year revenue increase. (Still, it should be noted, the retail side of things leaves much to be desired considering the peak of the industry nearly 20 years ago.)

While he will forever defer credit elsewhere, Rebuck was the leader into this new age. And he justifiably has not gone unnoticed. In fact, during the East Coast Gaming Congress next month in Atlantic City, Rebuck will become the fifth recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award.

“As a result of his leadership,” Lloyd Levenson, co-founder and chairman of the ECGC, said at the time, “the gaming industry has grown and so has New Jersey’s reputation as a jurisdiction that knows how to regulate effectively.”

Rebuck helped turn New Jersey into ‘leader and pacesetter’ in US

By February 2010, Rebuck moved on as Senior Policy Advisor in the governor’s office, held at the time by Gov. Chris Christie. Christie, champion of state-regulated gambling who paved the way for online launches, nominated Rebuck for the DGE director position in April 2011. And when Phil Murphy succeeded him, the new governor elected to keep Rebuck in that spot.

Rebuck was in that chair when the state assigned the DGE to oversee the New Jersey gambling industry, helping the division re-examine the set of regulations while ensuring consistency and efficiency, according to the press release announcing Rebuck’s retirement. Rebuck helped install a new set of regulations in December 2011.

“Throughout his career, David Rebuck has 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,” Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin said in the press release.

“His extensive knowledge of the gaming and casino industry has made New Jersey a recognized regulatory leader and pacesetter in the United States.”

Platkin appoints Flaherty as interim director

With Rebuck leaving, a spot obviously becomes vacant in the DGE director seat.

Platkin filled that space with Deputy Director Mary Jo Flaherty, a “respected and talented lawyer,” Platkin said.

Flaherty “brings with her over 40 years of experience of regulating the gaming industry within DGE. I am grateful for her stepping up to lead the Division at this critical time.”

Flaherty began her interim director service on March 1, began her DGE career in 1979 and is a graduate of Seton Hall Law School.

Photo by PlayNJ
Grant Lucas Avatar
Written by
Grant Lucas

Grant Lucas is a longtime sportswriter who has covered high school, collegiate, and professional levels. A graduate of Linfield College in McMinnville, Grant now focuses his attention on the growing NJ online gambling and sports betting scene.

View all posts by Grant Lucas
Privacy Policy