David Rebuck talks New Jersey and online gaming
I recently took some time to interview David Rebuck, director of the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement, about a number of issues and trends currently impacting the state’s casino industry. Here are some excerpts from our conversation:
We are approaching the 18 month anniversary of the commencement of Internet gaming in New Jersey. Looking back, is there anything you would have done differently if you could turn back the clock?
Rebuck: In the months leading up to the initial go live back in November of 2013, the Division established a compliance deadline which all the Internet gaming operators achieved. However, in the race to meet that deadline, many manufacturers focused on technical compliance and did not have the resources to also focus on the user experience. As a result, their user interface and initial response to patron complaints suffered. Over the last several months our casinos have responded to these issues and will continue to refine that aspect of their business to ensure a positive user experience.
Although revenues from Internet gaming have been less than predicted, no one can dispute that you have alleviated the concerns of some naysayers regarding underage gaming, gaming from outside New Jersey, etc. How did you accomplish that?
Rebuck: We have demonstrated that regulating the Internet can be done effectively and with a high degree of integrity, particularly in the critical areas of know your customer, geo-location, player protection, responsible gaming and underage gambling. Like any organization, this was accomplished through a coordinated effort of highly qualified staff. Our Licensing, Regulatory Enforcement and Technical Services Bureaus drew upon years of experience and technical expertise to develop and enforce a regulatory model that can be easily adapted to other emerging jurisdictions.
I have heard you mention responsible gaming as one of the critical areas regarding online as well as brick-and mortar based casino regulation. Can you give an example of how the Division has taken the initiative in this area?
Rebuck: We strive to be innovative and remain at the forefront of important issues such as responsible gaming. In February 2015, we implemented a self-exclusion app that can be found on the Division’s website at www.njdge.org. Individuals interested in self-exclusion can simply visit the Division’s webpage; complete the process instead of physically appearing at a Division office or having to create an online gaming account for self-exclusion. A verification quiz will be generated for citizens to confirm their identity. Initially, this option is for online only self-exclusions.
The DGE has let the world know that skill-based wagering is welcome in New Jersey. Borgata started it off with a free throw shooting contest. What’s next in store?
Rebuck: The challenge is to reach the Millennials who are currently avoiding the casino floor in favor of bars and nightclubs. These individuals have grown up with their mobile devices and seem to find slot machines unappealing. I believe that the race is on to determine how to reach those individuals and to compete for their entertainment dollar. The Division has challenged the industry to innovate and to bring their products to New Jersey. Whether it is a social gaming approach, or a tournament such as the Borgata’s, the Division is prepared to accept new products and to evaluate them for fairness, functionality and suitability for the New Jersey market.
How does the Division ensure regulations are current and responsive to industry trends?
Rebuck: As regulators, we value the ability to interact directly with the industry and we frequently meet with stakeholders in order to solicit feedback on our regulations and processes. For instance, we hold monthly meetings with the casino industry and attend conferences where vendors, affiliates and licensees are invited to meet with Division staff to express their thoughts on what is working and what can be improved. These interactions provide a forum for stakeholders to ask question about things like our skill-based initiative and our testing, monitoring and licensing process.
How do you expect the overall regulatory landscape for gaming to change (if at all) in the next two years?
Rebuck: As debate continues in the United States about whether online gaming will expand beyond New Jersey, Nevada and Delaware, there is currently a regulator-led effort to prepare for the growth of iGaming in the United States. The effort is sponsored by the International Association of Gaming Regulators (IAGR) through their Technical Standards Committee which I currently chair. This effort seeks to develop technical standards for the operation of online gaming before a patchwork of requirements is put into place by emerging jurisdictions. This is important because standardization means different jurisdictions will be speaking the same base technical language making it more efficient for the industry to introduce online gaming systems in new jurisdictions.
Director Rebuck, thank you for your time and for your leadership of the Division of Gaming Enforcement.