Gov. John Bel Edwards on Friday appointed Sen. Ronnie Johns as chairman of the Louisiana Gaming Control Board, the authority struggling to launch sports betting timely. The state is likely to miss the launch of the new industry this fall amid the abrupt departure of the former regulatory chief.
Edwards is from Sulphur, near Lake Charles, one of the Sugar State’s gambling hubs.
The 71-year-old submitted a resignation from his senatorial seat, saying it was an honor to serve the Senate district for nine years.
Johns, who’s from the Louisiana State District 27, resigned from his position with more than two years in his tenure. He would be unable to run again for the senatorial seat because of term limits.
Why Did Former Head Resign Abruptly?
The former senator replaces Mike Noel, who resigned last month days before he was to appear before a Senate hearing regarding his previous actions as State Police commander.
Noel had to face legislative inquiry concerning the death of Ronald Greene, a black man who died during police custody in 2019. At the time of Greene’s death, Noel was the State Police chief of staff. The black man’s death is under federal investigation.
Noel eventually stepped down on June 9. He was paid $152,531 annually as chairman of the nine-member Gaming Control Board, according to the Associated Press.
What Did Johns Say About His New Role?
A state lawmaker since 1996, Johns had indicated an interest in his role as chairman when the seat was open both times.
“It’s something that I felt I would be good at. It’s a position that requires a real steady hand and hard decisions,” he said. “The chairman has to ensure the gaming industry is clean and compliant in what they do.”
The former senator said the chairman must also be “very fair” to the gaming industry, allowing them to conduct business in a compliant way.
John has worked in the Senate Judiciary B Committee, where all gaming-related legislation is filtered.
The new chairman said he thinks he has those qualities.
How Can We Test Johns’ ‘Qualities’?
Nobody will doubt Johns’ qualities as the chair of the Gaming Control Board if he ensures the timely launch of Louisiana sports betting by the upcoming NFL Season.
The governor had signed into law the remaining two sports betting bills, paving the way for launch by September.
Last November, voters in 55 of 64 Louisiana parishes had approved sports betting, allowing the state lawmakers to legalize betting on mobile devices and through retail locations. Louisiana bettors will also be able to place legal bets at kiosks in bars and restaurants that serve liquor.
Louisiana Gaming Control Board was authorized to prepare sports betting rules – which are effective from July 1 – to ensure the state bettors may have the legal betting option this football season.
But The Launch May Delay…
However, the Louisiana sports betting launch is likely to miss the original goal. The absence of the regulatory chief for some time appears to be one of the reasons.
Johns has already said the rules won’t likely be written until November as “it’s a comprehensive process to go through.”
The Sugar State’s 15 riverboat licenses, the Harrah’s casino in New Orleans, and the four racetracks will be the first to get the go-ahead with sports betting as all of their background checks have been made, Johns said.
The smaller business applying for licenses via the Louisiana Lottery will be included in the second phase.
However, no one will be allowed to offer legal sports betting in Louisiana until the LGCB sets the rules to regulate the new industry. Sports betting might not be operational this year, according to some state officials.