Facing a federal probe into her financial transactions, the Louisiana state senator who blocked the reappointment of the state's chief gambling regulator suddenly announced her resignation on Friday (April 8) because of a gambling addiction.
The resignation by Democratic state Senator Karen Carter Peterson comes less than two years after she ousted Louisiana’s top gambling regulator and created an upheaval at the Louisiana Gaming Control Board (LGCB).
Federal officials told The Times Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate their investigation of Peterson is linked to her gambling activities but declined to offer details.
“As I’ve previously shared, I have personally struggled with depression and a gambling addiction for the entirety of my legislative career; in fact, it has been close to 30 years,” Peterson, 52, said in her letter of resignation on Friday.
“At this time, I must place all of my energy on my own mental health and personal well-being, and therefore have tendered my resignation effective immediately,” Peterson said.
Peterson described gambling as an “insidious” disease with the highest rate of suicide among all addictions.
Peterson’s office in the state capital of Baton Rouge did not immediately reply to a request for comment on Monday.
In March 2019, Peterson first acknowledged her addiction to gambling after a New Orleans television station reported she had violated a “self-exclusion” ban prohibiting her from entering Louisiana casinos.
In June 2020, Peterson exercised her right as a senator to block the nomination of her constituent, Ronnie Jones, to serve another five years as LGCB chairman.
Jones, who had served as chairman since 2013, claims Peterson blamed him for the leak which led to the television report that forced her to publicly disclose her gambling addiction.
After moving to Norfolk, Virginia, last year, Jones works as a consultant to the gambling industry and continues to deny he leaked the report about Peterson’s violation of the self-exclusion ban from Louisiana casinos.
Last year, Peterson told VIXIO GamblingCompliance she blocked Jones’ nomination for a new term because he was too close to the gaming industry he regulated.
“The first job the former chairman (Jones) took after my objections was to advise a gaming company (Entain), which exemplifies my very concern,” Peterson said in a statement to VIXIO in June 2021.
Asked for a comment on Monday, Jones referred to a comment he made earlier about Peterson.
“I believe the consensus sentiment is that I spent 45 years in public service with honor, dignity, and integrity. The jury is still out on Senator Peterson,” Jones said.
Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards named Mike Noel, who like Jones had served in the Louisiana State Police, as the new chairman of the control board within two days of Jones’ ouster.
But Noel served little more than a year before abruptly resigning last August on the day before his confirmation hearing before the Louisiana Senate.
There was speculation Noel might have been concerned about being asked about his actions as chief of staff of the Louisiana State Police in May 2019 when Ronald Greene, a 49-year-old African American, died in police custody.
Last month, Noel told a Louisiana House committee investigating Greene’s death that he was unaware texts on his phone might be considered as evidence in the probe of Greene’s death.
After Noel’s departure, Edwards picked former Republican state Senator Ronnie Johns last July to become the new LGCB chairman. Johns on Monday declined to comment on Senator Peterson’s resignation.