The governor selected his outgoing deputy press secretary, Jim Evans, to head the commission, which is still missing a fifth member and an executive director. The commission oversees regulation and licensing of the state’s $10-billion gambling industry, primarily card rooms and tribal casinos.
Evans replaces Richard J. Lopes (pdf), 50, who abruptly announced his “retirement” as chairman last month. Lopes reportedly did not mention the ongoing scandal, which includes accusations against former gambling enforcement chief Robert E. Lytle, who worked with him during his 30 years at the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). His announcement came two weeks after Executive Director Tina Littleton announced she would take a lower-level position at the end of May.
The saga stretches back to 2003, when Democratic Attorney General Bill Lockyer appointed Lytle director of the Division of Gambling Control, before it was downgraded to a bureau. California has two gambling regulatory agencies: the commission (appointed by the governor) and the Attorney General’s bureau. A government reorganization shifted duties between them in 2013, but there remains a certain structurally-induced dysfunction in oversight of the gambling industry. The bureau is the enforcement arm of the commission.
In 2007, Lytle left the bureau, where multiple investigations of Casino M8trix in San Jose never gained traction, to become a gambling industry consultant and compliance officer at the company.
In May 2014, the Attorney General’s Office filed a complaint against M8trix and told the commissioners (pdf) she wanted them to pull its gambling license for allegedly skimming tens of millions of dollars, moving the money through a labyrinth of “shell” companies and refusing document requests from the government.
In December, the attorney general accused Lytle in a civil action of negotiating for a job at M8trix before he left the bureau, continuing to communicate with bureau personnel after he left in violation of a three-year “cooling-off” requirement, and receiving confidential information about the bureau’s ongoing M8trix investigation from an unnamed senior bureau agent.
In February, Lopes said he would recuse himself from any commission matters that concerned Lytle.
Dave Palermo at Pechanga.net named the agent as James Parker, the live-in boyfriend of former executive director Littleton. He reportedly worked for Lytle for a while after leaving the bureau.
Evans joins the commission after working in Governor Brown’s press office since 2013. He was journalist until 2005.
Evans was a reporter for The Industry Standard, through much of the celebrated tech magazine’s three-year run in San Francisco, from 1998 to 2001. He left for the Sacramento Review and News shortly before the Standard died to become managing editor of the California Journal.
Evans’ last job in journalism was staff writer for Sacramento Bee in 2003 and 2004. He bolted for the public sector in 2005, working as communications director for former Democratic state Senator Joe Dunn until 2006 and Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg until 2009.
Evans was a consultant to the office of California State Senator Mark DeSaulnier until 2012, when he moved to California’s Business, Transportation and Housing Agency as deputy secretary for communications and strategic planning. He was a consultant in the California State Senate Office of Research in 2013, before Brown hired him for the press office.
His new position of commission chairman requires Senate confirmation.