Riverboat Economic Development and Gaming Task Force Chairman

Riverboat Economic Development and Gaming Task Force Chairman Ronnie Jones at December 19, 2017 hearing.

When casino gambling was approved in Louisiana a generation ago, critics predicted it would create an orgy of corruption, and at first, it looked like they were right.

Federal prosecutions kept the jailers busy, and former Gov. Edwin Edwards served an 8½-year stretch at Club Fed.

But you don’t hear much about gambling scandals anymore, and one reason was the steady leadership of Ronnie Jones, chairman of the Louisiana Gaming Control Board.

Jones was in the news this week because he took a job with the British gambling firm Entian, which seeks to expand into sports betting in the United States. Always careful, Jones sought and won approval from the state Ethics Board before taking the post.

Jones was every bit a civil servant. After a 33-year career with the State Police, Jones was appointed to the gambling regulating agency by former Gov. Bobby Jindal, a Republican.

When Democrat John Bel Edwards took charge, he was no fan of the Jindal administration, but the new governor kept Jones around.

Jones was happy to continue serving, and Louisiana would have been better off if that had happened.

But state Sen. Karen Carter Peterson, in a secret and selfish move, used a senatorial privilege to block Jones’ reappointment. It was a shabby gesture by Peterson, who now wants voters to promote her to Congress, and an odd way for a woman who headed the state Democratic Party to treat a Democratic governor.

She acted against Jones through a little-known Senate rule allowing an individual senator to block appointments during the so-called confirmation process. This has been an abuse of legislative authority for decades, but because Democratic and Republican senators want to keep their privilege to act unilaterally against appointees, for either personal or political reasons, the Senate has never changed its rules.

Jones is not the only appointee to find, without notice and without a hearing on his performance, that a senator has without a vote of the full body turned him out of his office, that he has served in capably for years.

In this case, Jones would have been happy to stay on, but he is entitled to earn a living. He’ll be fine.

The losers are the voters of Louisiana, who have freshly approved the most consequential increase in gambling in a generation and would have been better off if Jones had been around to enforce the rules as the sports betting era begins.