BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Gov. John Bel Edwards quickly tapped a new leader for Louisiana’s gambling regulatory board Wednesday, only two days after the Senate surprised the governor by blocking confirmation of his previous pick who had held the job for seven years.
The Democratic governor announced that Lt. Col. Mike Noel of the Louisiana State Police will retire from the law enforcement agency where he’s worked for three decades and take over as chairman of the Louisiana Gaming Control Board.
Noel most recently has worked as chief of staff to the state police superintendent. He will replace Ronnie Jones.
Jones was ousted by state senators who refused Monday to confirm his reappointment to the chairman’s job he’d held since August 2013. Jones and Edwards were blindsided by the decision.
Senators debated the confirmation decisions behind closed doors in an executive session, offering no explanation for rejecting Jones. The Senate traditionally has given individual members the privilege to block confirmation of appointees from their home districts. Jones said he lives in the New Orleans district of Sen. Karen Carter Peterson, also the chair of the Louisiana Democratic Party. Peterson hasn’t spoken publicly about Jones’ ouster.
The nine-member gambling board regulates Louisiana’s riverboat casinos, the New Orleans land-based casino, more than 2,000 video poker sites and the slot machine facilities at four racetracks. Board members serve staggered, six-year terms.
Edwards said in a statement that Noel “brings a wealth of experience and knowledge and has served the state well during his tenure with state police, which is why I have no doubt he will do the same in this new role.”
Noel will begin the Gaming Control Board job next week and will have to be submitted for confirmation in next year’s regular legislative session.
As chief of staff to State Police Superintendent Kevin Reeves, Noel has overseen the day-to-day operations of the state police. Before that, he worked for 17 years in the state police’s Gaming Enforcement Division on industry licensing and regulation.
“I look forward to building upon the success of Chairman Jones’ tenure by continuing to work with the board, elected officials, industry representatives and the public to promote economic development and ensure the integrity of gaming in Louisiana,” Noel said in a statement.
Jones was also a retired state police official with a long history of gambling industry oversight. He had been appointed chairman of the board by Republican former Gov. Bobby Jindal and then reappointed by Edwards.