Rebuck Describes Challenges Dealing With Leagues On Integrity

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New Jersey’s top gaming regulator has had both positive and negative experiences with sports leagues in pursuing integrity issues in the wake of legalized betting on their contests, and he described both on a national panel Monday.

David Rebuck, the state’s director of gaming enforcement since 2011, said his division offered to work jointly with all of its former “adversaries” after New Jersey’s success in overturning the federal law that barred states from allowing sports wagers. 

Pro leagues and the NCAA had fought the state’s legal effort, ultimately decided in its favor by the U.S. Supreme Court in May 2018. The decision led to legal retail and online sports betting in New Jersey soon afterward, followed by other states.

New Jersey officials knew the best path to ensuring the integrity of sports wagering was through cooperative efforts with those same legal opponents, Rebuck said as one of four regulators in a presentation at the Global Gaming Expo conference in Las Vegas, held annually by the American Gaming Association.

“We had a choice to make: We could pound it in their heads that they have to cooperate, or we could reach out with like a Marshall Plan to understand what their needs are, what action they currently take in the area of gambling, and begin a dialogue to break down disputes that existed,” Rebuck said.

The NBA scores an assist

In seeking that dialogue, Rebuck told a large group, state regulators found the NBA very receptive, as they began discussing mutual issues to help one another. But that favorable response wasn’t universal.

“Another major league’s question was, ‘What are you going to do to help us?’” rather than any two-way street of communication.

That type of non-collegial attitude was what Rebuck and regulators from Nevada, Mississippi, and Louisiana agreed needs to be avoided if public trust is to be built in the still-young industry of legalized sports betting beyond Nevada.

It’s incumbent upon gaming regulators and operators, the leagues, and law enforcement agencies to all work together and share information for the greater good as the key players involved, the panelists agreed. But it goes beyond just those obvious parties, Rebuck said.

“The commitment to integrity must come from those who profit from sports wagering,” which he said also includes the media, broadcast networks, internet companies, credit card companies, and others.

“Legal sports wagering in the U.S. is clearly in its infancy stage, and we have an opportunity to do things differently from ever before” to help build trust and prevent match-fixing and other problems, Rebuck said.

Regulation and monitoring go hand in hand

No representatives from sports leagues were represented, but panelists spoke of how operators and regulators in Nevada have sometimes been the ones identifying betting scandals that have occurred in pro or college athletics in the past. The widening legalization and regulation taking place in additional states should only be advantageous in that sense, they said.

“If we’re going to have a lot more eyes, that’s a good thing,” said Jay McDaniel, deputy director of the Mississippi Gaming Commission. “At the end of the day, a lot of us agree the real danger comes from the illegal market.”

He said a cooperative discussion with NCAA officials led to a decision in Mississippi to deny betting on individual player performance in college football games, though such wagers are permitted for, say, an NFL quarterback’s total passing yards in a game. Operators agreed they didn’t need to offer such an option pertaining to amateurs, considering the potential risks, McDaniel said.

He and the other regulators voiced optimism that the proper communication, monitoring, and integrity assurance can be achieved by building on the early efforts of the Sports Wagering Integrity Monitoring Association. It’s a nonprofit group created by sportsbook operators nationally last year to encourage reporting of any suspicious betting activity that can then be promptly investigated by regulators, law enforcement, and leagues.

Rebuck said New Jersey is requiring its licensed sports betting operators to take part in the association’s efforts, which will only be helpful in more quickly safeguarding the public’s interest.

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Gary Rotstein

Gary is a longtime journalist, having spent three decades covering gambling, state government, and other issues for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, in addition to stints as managing editor of the Bedford (Pa.) Gazette and as a reporter for United Press International and the Middletown (Conn.) Press.

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