A recently resigned state senator, Ronnie Johns, has been chosen head of the Louisiana Gaming Control Board. His decision comes at a time when the state is gearing up to start sports wagering.
Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Republican, appointed Johns to lead the Louisiana Gaming Control Board this week. Johns, 71, is from Sulphur, near Lake Charles, which is a gambling center in Louisiana. That area of South Louisiana, near the Texas border, is still recovering from the devastation caused by two terrible storms last year.
The Isle of Capri riverboat casino in Lake Charles was blown from its moorings by a hurricane and slammed into a bridge. Nobody was hurt. The casino is set to launch as a land-based gaming establishment next year.
Johns resigned from his parliamentary post in a brief letter this week, stating it was an honor to represent the senate district for 9 years. According to the Associated Press, he stood down for more than two years before he would be unable to run again due to term restrictions. Mike Noel, who retired in June as the legislature was winding up its two-month session at the Capitol in Baton Rouge, has been replaced by Johns.
If Noel had remained, he would almost certainly have faced legislative grilling concerning the 2019 death of a Black driver during a State Police check in North Louisiana. Noel was the State Police chief of staff at the time of driver Ronald Greene’s death, and he was in charge of day-to-day procedures. Greene’s death is being investigated by the FBI.
Veto Session was Skipped
Some Republican lawmakers blasted Johns for skipping the two-day veto session this week, according to the Associated Press. During the short session, Republicans sought but failed to override two of the governor’s vetoes. Edwards vetoed a bill that would have barred transgender students from participating in school sports, as well as another that would have reduced the conditions for obtaining a permit to carry concealed weapons.
Due to knee surgery, Johns was unable to attend the veto session, which finished on Wednesday. According to the Associated Press, many conservatives accused him of skipping the override session in order to guarantee the Democratic governor’s nomination to the Control Board and the chairman’s salary.
Sports gambling is on the Radar
Johns takes over as the Control Unit establishes the regulations for sports gambling in the 55 of 64 districts whose voters approved it in Nov. This year, the legislature enacted measures authorizing sports gambling on mobile devices, such as smartphones, as well as in-person at casino sportsbooks. Sportsbetting will soon be allowed to place bets at kiosks in restaurants and pubs that sell alcohol.
However, no one will be able to place a legalized sports wager in Louisiana until the commission establishes regulations to govern the business. Some state authorities have stated that sports gambling may not be available in the state until next year.