Outgoing New Jersey Gaming Chief Rebuck Didn’t See Online Lottery Popularity Coming

Eric Raskin

blindfolded money

For David Rebuck, who announced his retirement this year at age 71 after 13 years as the director of the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE), lottery regulation was never his top concern.

He was overseeing gambling in a state with casinos, horse tracks, online casino, online poker, and retail and mobile sports betting — most of which New Jersey was ahead of the curve on. The Garden State even has a separate lottery commission.

So Rebuck could move lottery to the side and just keep one casual eye on it during his tenure.

Still, in a recently published interview with EGR North America, Rebuck had some interesting things to say about lottery and where it fits in the gambling ecosystem.

‘We thought no one is going to do this’

Perhaps most notably, Rebuck admitted he didn’t see the popularity of online lottery and couriers such as Jackpocket coming at all.

The DGE worked with the New Jersey Lottery Commission, Rebuck said, to review Jackpocket’s original application for a license in the state.

“At the time,” Rebuck recalled, “everyone at the division was like, ‘Why would anyone buy an online lottery ticket?’

“There are probably 3,000 retail sellers in New Jersey and you likely pass 10 on your way to work each day. We thought no one is going to do this. Why would you pay a premium for a lottery ticket when you can just go to any store?

“Then we saw the numbers. They blew us away. We could not believe it.”

Rebuck said he asked his kids why anyone would use a lottery courier, and they opened his eyes to some of the generational divide and the preference for convenience.

“They buy everything online,” Rebuck learned. “Now I get it.”

Online casino by a different name?

Rebuck also had very direct thoughts on the topic of iLottery games that go beyond the purchase of tickets for draw lotteries.

While New Jersey is one of only seven states with regulated online casino games up and running, there are plenty of other states that permit eInstants and other online lottery games that bear similarities to online slots.

“With online lottery programs, they are nothing more than online casino gambling,” Rebuck bluntly told EGR. “Some states that don’t allow online gambling have online lottery sales, so it’s about states deciding what’s important to them to regulate.”

Notably, New Jersey is not among the states that permits iLottery games — only the use of courier services to purchase retail lottery tickets.

Jackpocket, however, has a branded online casino in New Jersey, the only state so far in which it operates that vertical. It launched in January, just a couple of weeks before the announcement that DraftKings was purchasing Jackpocket for $750 million.