National attention: Seton Hall’s gaming law bootcamp continues to grow, attract key figures in industry — and those who want to be

With attendees hailing from Nebraska, Ohio and Texas, Seton Hall University School of Law‘s two-day gambling industry bootcamp is pulling interest from all over the map.

Devon Corneal, assistant dean for the school’s Gaming, Hospitality, Entertainment and Sports Law program, resists making any easy puns about the creation of this program — the only one of its sort on the East Coast — being a bet that’s now paying off.

But the purely-word-of-mouth, couple-year transformation of a regional event into one with a national audience sounds a lot like it hit the jackpot.

The Gaming Law, Compliance and Integrity Bootcamp, as it’s called, is marketed as a way for those still studying the field to learn of compliance pitfalls and other issues in gambling, and for longtime industry professionals to keep apprised of the current trends.

Corneal spoke with ROI-NJ about that program as well as what its now-national crowd is there to learn more about.

ROI-NJ: Do you want to start off talking about the impetus for this program and how it has grown through the years?

Devon Corneal: We’re going on our fifth annual Gaming Law, Compliance and Integrity Bootcamp here at the school. This was the brainchild of our advisory council several years ago, which recognized that, once sports betting became legal in the United States in 2018, there would be a real need for compliance education in this space. There’s a lot of moving pieces as the majority of states race to legalize (sports betting). There was going to be a huge expansion and influx of companies from other countries coming in to get licensed. It made a lot of sense for us to provide the kind of legal education we do for the profession. And, we’ve been really fortunate to see some great growth in the program. Last year, we had more than 120 participants. … We’ve created a really vibrant community through this. And we’re excited about our fifth year of it.

ROI: What’s some of the feedback you’ve gotten from participants over time?

DC: By and large, it has been really positive. People now see it as something you have to come to in the industry. They’ve called it a must-attend event. And we get people coming back year after year, which is always gratifying to see. People really value the sort of one-on-one connections they can make here. We emphasize that it’s not a conference — it’s a compliance certificate program. So, people who complete the program receive a certificate, and people are proud to have that opportunity to say they’re doing this extra layer of ethics, integrity and compliance programming for themselves. It makes compliance programs more robust for (casino) operators, or gives regulators additional skills and connections. It’s a more intimate experience, because it’s not a conference of 500 people you’re sitting in a room with. There’s breakout sessions, case studies, and people tend to like having the hands-on ability to talk through specific problems with leaders in their field. We’ve also added panels that are responsive to the feedback we get, whether it’s interest in AI and software development or tribal gaming. It has been a collaborative process with attendees.

ROI: What’s the biggest draw for those attendees?

DC: For our students, they’re able to get a certificate and then, when they enter the job market, they’re able to say they didn’t just take classes, they did an intensive program grappling with complicated questions of the day. They also come into it with an understanding of the connections and professional relationships in the field. For our compliance officers, of whom we have a great number, they’re delving into deeper issues that their colleagues are facing — if someone in Nebraska is facing a question, they can talk to someone in Ohio to see what they’re doing. They’re both building up professional networks and getting people exposed to issues facing the industry across the entire country. And, that way, you might be able to better anticipate problems in a way they might not have before if they were narrowly looking at the industry in their own state. We also provide continuing legal education credits as well as compliance education units for lawyers. And, we have people who go work for operators, such as the (companies like) FanDuel as well as other roles.

ROI: So, what are some of the industry issues those in the sector, and those aspiring to enter it, are discussing?

DC: For me, right now, one of the big ones is collegiate sports betting. I think anyone who pays attention to sports has certainly seen the news from Alabama and Ohio this past spring, where there were some sports betting irregularities, with coaches or players violating rules for their schools or the NCAA. The NCAA issued a letter in July that said there were 175 infractions of sports betting policies since 2018, and there’s 17 active investigations ongoing. We’ve seen it in professional leagues as well; the NFL has reported several cases this past spring. There’s a real concern about how sports betting is accessible to college students or collegiate athletes. There’s questions of how schools can manage this. A majority of students on campuses are not legally allowed to bet on sports. And, yet, we know they are. So, schools, teams, leagues and conferences all have to start thinking about how they’re going to manage this. There’s a ripple effect when an athlete knows something about a game, tells their girlfriend or boyfriend and that person tells someone else — can they use that information? Again, are they of age? And what does the school know or not? These are questions for operators as they build their brand or market on university campuses. And they have to be mindful of the rules in place in any given state. And there are bigger questions about what we want sports betting to be on collegiate campuses, how you’re going to monitor it and regulate behavior — and whether it should even be there at all.

ROI: A basic question: Why is this venue the right place to continue to host these conversations?

DC: New Jersey has a uniquely strong, vibrant and thoughtful gaming regulator. The state’s Division of Gaming Enforcement is considered one of the leaders in the country of thinking through these issues. They’ve taken the lead in how to regulate advertising in gambling. That became a tricky proposition when the market broke open and was saturated with advertising in 2018. The state took the lead on controlling that. I think (Director of the Division of Gaming Enforcement) David Rebuck and his team are extraordinary civil servants and thinkers. They’re really mindful of respecting what operators are trying to do from a business standpoint, while also recognizing what controls should be in place. (Rebuck) has always been generous with his time with us. They’re always here and willing to share their insight. They make New Jersey the place to want to come talk about these issues the whole industry is facing in similar ways nationally.

And one of the great things (at Seton Hall) is that we don’t just have the bootcamp. We have our Gaming, Hospitality, Entertainment and Sports Law program for our students. It allows them to get a concentration in this area and gain a certificate to go work in one of these fields. There’s no program like this in the country, where we’ve recognized these four industries all are interwoven. A casino isn’t just a place to gamble — there’s a hotel, restaurants, it hosts concerts or sports events. It’s all part and parcel and connected. We’re preparing students to be nimble, creative thinkers to get jobs at gambling operators, stadiums or with other hospitality businesses. We use the bootcamp as a part of preparing students in a unique way — and send them out in the world to be the sort of professionals that will come back and help us train the next generation of professionals in our bootcamp as well. So, we’re really excited about what we’re doing.