State Senate Ousts LA Gaming Control Board Chair At A Pretty Inopportune Time

Posted on June 3, 2020 - Last Updated on October 27, 2020

At an interesting time, the Louisiana Gaming Control Board is seeking new leadership. The next person to occupy the Board’s chair could oversee one of the biggest expansions of legal gambling in the state’s history.

This fall, LA voters will decide whether to legalize sports betting. Sometime before then, Gov. Jon Bel Edwards will fill the now-vacant post.

What’s going on with the Louisiana Gaming Control Board?

Although the governor of LA appoints individuals to the office of the chair of the LGCB, the LA Senate confirms those appointments. On Monday, the LA Senate did not confirm the reappointment of Ronnie Jones.

Bel Edwards’ predecessor, Bobby Jindal, appointed Jones to the position in August 2013. Reports indicated that Jones had some foreknowledge that he would not be confirmed, as he had already cleaned out his office before the closure of the LA Senate’s executive session.

Senators have thus far provided no rationale for the decision not to confirm Jones. There is speculation, however, that it may have been motivated by political “revenge.”

In March 2019, LA Sen. Karen Carter Peterson publicly admitted that she deals with compulsive gambling issues. Circumstances somewhat coerced the confession, however, as Carter Peterson had been found in a casino in violation of her placement on the state’s self-exclusion list.

Although Jones insisted that he had nothing to do with Carter Peterson’s incident going public, it’s possible it may have motivated Carter Peterson’s decision not to confirm Jones. Jones says he was blindsided by the decision and Carter Peterson would not meet with him.

What happens to Louisiana gaming now?

The duty now falls upon Bel Edwards to replace Jones on an interim basis. So far, there are no rumored candidates. It’s no given that Bel Edwards will simply promote an existing member of the Board. Jones came to the Board from law enforcement.

The pressure is on Bel Edwards to act quickly. The LGCB is currently overseeing the reopening of casinos in the state amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

As in every other state, the duty falls on the LGCB to ensure casinos are complying with all regulations including new distancing and sanitation protocols. Doing so without a chair only compounds the difficulty of that process.

Additionally, the LA Legislature just put the state on the precipice of its largest expansion of legal gambling since it allowed parishes to vote to authorize video poker in 1996. LA voters could grant themselves legal sports betting by the same method soon.

How legal sports wagering can come to parts of LA

While it’s rare among states to leave the question of gambling expansion to each county’s voters as opposed to doing so statewide, it’s been the trend in LA.

LA not only introduced riverboat casinos and video poker that way but daily fantasy sports as well. Right now, whether you can legally play DFS games online depends on which LA parish you’re in at the time.

Legal sports betting could see a similar patchwork introduction. The LA Legislature just enacted a law that will pose the question to voters this November. In each individual parish that votes the measure down, wagering on sports will remain illegal.

If any of the parishes approve the measure, however, the LGCB will be immediately responsible for regulating the new gambling vertical. That will keep the Board’s new chair busy for quite a while.

That person will also have a strong influence on what those regulations look like. Bel Edwards is currently in an unenviable position of needing to fill the vacancy quickly but also with a person who is qualified to help LA casinos navigate unprecedented situations as well.

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Derek Helling

Derek Helling is a freelance journalist who resides in Chicago. He is a 2013 graduate of the University of Iowa and covers the intersections of sports with business and the law.

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