Ronnie Jones, the former top Louisiana gaming regulator who was ousted from his post last summer, takes a new position as a consultant to UK gaming company Entain, helping the company steer the US regulatory process as it expands a sports betting company.
Jones, who chaired the Louisiana Gaming Control Board from 2013 until last summer, said Entain approached him in the fall and asked if he would serve on an advisory board with former gaming regulators from several states. The work focuses on the US sports betting business of Entain, a joint venture with MGM International Resorts.
The Louisiana Board of Ethics gave Jones the go-ahead for the job last week after Jones sought an advisory opinion on whether accepting the job would violate state ethics laws. These laws prevent former agency directors and board members from working for companies doing business before their previous agencies.
“My question to the ethics committee was pretty straightforward,” Jones said in an interview. “Can I go to work for these people? I never regulated these people, they were never licensed here. “
Jones was unceremoniously removed from his job as chairman of the Louisiana Gaming Control Board last summer when Senator Karen Carter brought Peterson of D-New Orleans against his reappointment in a surprise move that blinded and conflicted Jones Vetoed by Governor John Bel Edwards, who had nominated him. Jones was originally appointed by the then government. Bobby Jindal in 2013, after a 33-year career with the Louisiana State Police, and was widely regarded.
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“After 45 years in the service of the state, I was hoping to continue that service for a year or two,” Jones added in a text message. “Unfortunately and surprisingly, I did not find any support from others for this. But much later the doors opened and I will be better for the lessons I learned. “
In the fall, after stepping down as Louisiana’s top gaming regulator, Jones said he had been approached by several companies with job opportunities. However, taking on any of these jobs would have violated state ethics laws, as most companies had done business before the Gaming Control Board when Jones was chairman.
After getting approval from the Ethics Board last week, Jones said he accepted the job at Entain Monday. He added that he wanted to “strictly obey the law” and vowed not to defend their interests in front of the board or to get involved with the legislature or the governor. A request for an opinion from Attorney General Jeff Landry is pending, according to a Landry spokesman.
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Entain has partnered with MGM Resorts International, the US casino giant, in a sports betting company called BetMGM, which claims itself to be “the leading sports betting and gaming entertainment company pioneering the online gaming industry.” designated.
Sports betting is currently illegal in Louisiana. After voters in 55 of 64 municipalities approved the practice last fall, the legislature will discuss the details of its legalization in the spring legislature.
Jones said he doesn’t know if Entain plans to enter the Louisiana market, but said “it will be a wide open market” once the state works out the details. In his letter to the Ethics Board, he said he would not play a role in lobbying lawmakers or regulators in Louisiana, but would use his background as a gambling regulator to “help the company set general best practices.”
“It is possible that the company will later become involved in the game markets in Louisiana and therefore require a license from the (Louisiana Gaming Control Board). However, they made it clear that such potential licensing would not require my representation on their behalf before the LGCB. the legislature or some other subdivision of the executive, ”Jones wrote.
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The Ethics Committee believes that state law does not prevent Jones from accepting the position on the advisory board for which he is paid a monthly deductible and reimbursement of expenses. However, he is prohibited from “assisting Entain in solving any transaction or appearing in connection with a transaction involving your former agency, the Louisiana Gaming Control Board.”
State Senator Ronnie Johns, a Republican from Lake Charles, also asked Landry’s office for an opinion on whether Jones’ new job would violate state law, which specifically prevents board members or employees from putting a company or individual on the board for five Years represent years after leaving office.
Johns said he thought Jones was “one of the best gambling regulators our state has ever had” and “one of the most ethical people I have ever met”.
“I know he will never do anything unethical,” said Johns. “Most likely, he didn’t really need the attorney general’s opinion since the ethics committee had given him full approval. But that’s exactly the kind of man he is. He doesn’t want to leave anything unanswered or not get it right. “
Johns said he had “no doubt” that the legislature will pass laws allowing and taxing sports betting in the upcoming session, and hopes they will be available to consumers by the end of the year.
One of the big points of contention, he added, will be whether it should be allowed in physical locations like casinos or horse racing tracks, or whether people can bet online.