David Rebuck, the director of the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement and thus perhaps the nation’s most prominent regulator, has a bone to pick with traditional sports media.
This view has been expressed in speeches at various gaming conferences over the past few years, and as of last week, it has been codified in a “Director’s Advisory Bulletin.”
Rebuck — living in a state with close ties to the nation’s largest market of the New York City and with another in the Philadelphia region — knows all too well how many media outlets blithely reference illegal offshore sportsbook betting lines in mainstream articles.
In his bulletin dated Nov. 26, Rebuck lays down his recommendations:
- Only source information from sites that are licensed either in New Jersey or another U.S. jurisdiction;
- Limit discussion on wagering odds for an event when there is no authorized source available;
- If an unauthorized site must be mentioned in a report, include a statement that the site is not licensed to provide sports wagering bets in New Jersey, and instead direct readers to the DGE website that contains the approved list of sports wagering entities and events;
- Avoid including a hyperlink that takes readers directly to an unauthorized website, as individuals may utilize this path to access illicit wagering;
- Contact [email protected] for all questions on unauthorized wagers.
The path of least resistance
Rebuck’s frustration particularly lies with major publications with well-established reporters who have a large following among sports fans. There are countless diehard sports fans who have never placed a wager, but who have some awareness of the increasingly widespread legality of sports betting thanks to a May 2018 ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court.
Those fans clearly are liable to take their cue from those reporters on where to make a bet, setting themselves up to deposit money on an unregulated site, with all the consumer risk that can entail.
Having spent half my career in the pro sports media, I am particularly familiar with this scenario. Contrary to what fans may believe, very few pro beat writers have any interest in gambling.
So when I have reached out to some of my former colleagues who tout the odds offered by illegal sites, the response I invariably get is that the offshore books “make it easy” by sending out press releases citing those odds. If a legal book does the same, they say, they would be content to feature those numbers instead.
That’s something for legal books to digest: Journalists of all types are increasingly pressed for time in a dwindling marketplace. Complaining about “free advertising” for offshore sites may be understandable, but the beat guys aren’t working for those entities in any fashion; they’re merely taking in and sharing convenient information.
A sternly worded warning
Of course, Rebuck’s reach on mainstream media is limited to an advisory role. But he adds in this two-page letter:
“DGE encourages all outlets to follow these suggestions, but reminds entities that are licensed or registered with DGE that they are obligated to comply with DGE’s mission to uphold the integrity of the Casino Control Act … DGE also reminds outlets that … they should not enter into contracts with illegal sites, as such contracts will negatively impact their suitability for licensure.”
If that language doesn’t sound imposing … it should. The state legalized online poker and many other forms of online casino gaming in 2013, and companies that have been willing to keep flirting — and more — with offshore sites have been bluntly informed that they have no current, or even likely future, standing in New Jersey.
As for traditional media outlets, Rebuck is left in this letter to being “committed to work with news and media outlets to educate them about unauthorized gaming websites. A news or media outlet that has been in contact with a website offering unauthorized wagering is encouraged to contact DGE immediately, regardless of whether the outlet is presently licensed or registered with DGE, to obtain more information on the standards for sports wagering licensure in New Jersey.”
Left unsaid is whether a media outlet that breezily touts illegal betting lines to its readership will have full access to Rebuck’s office for news articles in the future. One doesn’t have to read this letter too closely to suspect that may not be the case. That’s the gamble, one might say, that those outlets are taking.
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