BATON ROUGE, Louisiana (AP) – A longtime Lake Charles-area lawmaker resigned from the Senate on Friday to take over as head of the Louisiana Gambling Regulatory Council.

Governor John Bel Edwards has appointed Republican Ronnie Johns of Sulfur chairman of the Gaming Control Board. Johns is one of the Democratic governor’s longtime allies in the Legislature.

Johns resigned his legislative seat to fill the post, leaving the Senate more than two years before being forced to step down due to the term limitation. He will take over the gambling board as he begins rolling out legalized sports betting around Louisiana.

The out-of-state senator was criticized within the Republican Party when he skipped the two-day veto session that ended on Wednesday. Johns said he did not attend the session because he was recovering from knee replacement surgery. The Tories accused him of avoiding the session to dodge politically sensitive exemption votes so he could get the Gaming Control Board job and his six-figure salary.

The post was vacant because Mike Noel stepped down as president in June, ahead of a Senate confirmation hearing where he could have been questioned about his work in the State Police during the fatal arrest of Ronald Greene, a black man whose death is still under investigation.

Greene’s arrest prompted a federal civil rights investigation and calls for a more in-depth review of state police policies and practices. Noel was the agency’s chief of staff – managing its day-to-day operations – at the time of Greene’s death in May 2019. Noel retired in June 2020 when Edwards appointed him head of the gambling regulatory council of Louisiana.

The nine-member gaming council regulates Louisiana’s river casinos, the New Orleans land-based casino, over 2,000 video poker sites, four-track slot facilities, fantastic sports betting – and coming soon betting on live sporting events.

Members of the Board of Directors serve staggered terms of six years. Johns will have to get Senate confirmation at the next regular session to stay at the helm of the Gaming Control Board. A special election will be held to fill the vacant Senate seat representing part of southwest Louisiana.


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