You Can Bet On It, Thanks To NJ’s Retired Top Gambling Regulator

Written By David Danzis on March 22, 2024
Dave Rebuck had huge influence on NJ gambling industry

Dave Rebuck’s retirement announcement was one of those things that is completely expected, yet it still takes people by surprise when it actually happens. The long-time director of the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement stepped down at the beginning of March, as announced in a press release.

It was about as anti-climactic an announcement as there has ever been for a public official of Rebuck’s caliber. Subdued and straight to the point.

Which, to be honest, is entirely on par with who Rebuck is and, to a certain extent, exactly how he performed his duties as NJ’s chief gaming regulator for 13 years.

Ebbs and flows of Atlantic City casinos, NJ gaming don’t faze this guy

I had the pleasure of working with Rebuck for six of those years. In the world of media-government relations, six years is an eternity.

During that time, I reported on the launch of legal sports betting in NJ, the opening of two Atlantic City casinos, the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown and the 10th anniversary of NJ online casinos.

Pre-dating my time, there were the five AC casino closings in a two-year span, the start of online gambling and a three-month-long casino workers’ strike on the Boardwalk.

All of this occurred under the watchful and diligent supervision of Rebuck and his team at the NJDGE. For most state gaming regulators, any one of those events could define a career. For Rebuck, it was just another day.

The guy is as cool as the other side of the pillow. Nothing seems to faze him.

Maybe that’s how he survived serving under a Republican and a Democrat governor, something only a few top-level state bureaucrats can claim. He was appointed by former Gov. Chris Christie in 2011 and I can say with some certainty that Gov. Phil Murphy never considered replacing the man after taking office in 2018.

The ‘Godfather’ of NJ online casinos, sports betting

Director Rebuck (I never called him Dave) would not be a fan of a fawning retrospective of his career. He would, without hesitation, tell you that anything attributable to his success is entirely the result of the hard-working employees at the DGE.

Whenever I would ask Rebuck a question, whether on the record or off, he turned the attention to his staff. His responses were more befitting a mentor or a proud parent than that of a boss.

It’s not that he doesn’t acknowledge some of the historic and unprecedented happenings during his tenure. He’s aware of all of it. But, to hear him tell it, he’s more of a head coach than an all-star player.

So, it makes sense that he laughs off suggestions that he is the “Godfather” of legal, regulated gaming in the US. Although to be fair, if anyone has earned that title, it would be Dave Rebuck. Not only is NJ’s online gaming regulatory structure widely considered the “gold standard” in the US, but Rebuck and the DGE have advised, counseled and aided several other regulatory agencies around the country.

Congrats on a well-deserved retirement, Director

All of this leads to Rebuck being this year’s recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award at the East Coast Gaming Congress on April 18 in Atlantic City. He will be just the fifth recipient in the 27-year history of ECGC.

Rebuck will come on stage, graciously accept the award, nod his head a few times and tell everyone to stop clapping (they won’t) before finally getting a chance to speak. After thanking all the appropriate people, Rebuck will spend the next 7-12 minutes explaining why his former colleagues, peers and friends at the DGE deserve all the credit. That’s just who he is.

Thanks to Director Rebuck, you can bet on it. (Not really; it was just a turn of phrase.)

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David Danzis

David Danzis is the lead writer for PlayNJ. He is a New Jersey native and honors graduate of Rutgers University. As a newspaper reporter for the New Jersey Herald and Press of Atlantic City, David earned statewide awards for his coverage of politics, government, education, sports, and business. Today, he is PlayNJ’s Atlantic City “insider” and gaming industry expert on casinos, sports betting, and online gambling. David lives in Atlantic County, NJ with his wife and two children.

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