Governor Jerry Brown has come under fire this week for appointing Jim Evans, his outgoing chief deputy press secretary, to chairman of the California Gambling Control Commission (GCC).
The 46-year-old has worked alongside Brown since 2013, serving as the head of communications for the governor, scripting speeches, delivering press releases, and attending to the media.
Evans’ prior career appropriately readied himself for the communications role as he became involved in California politics by working for The Sacramento Bee and Sacramento News and Review, two leading media outlets covering happenings from the state capital.
The concern many have raised, especially those in the gambling industry and proponents of legalizing iGaming in California, is whether Evans has the necessary qualifications, primarily the legal skills required for such a position, prompting some to call the appointment nothing more than a political kickback and corruption at its finest.
Evans is replacing Richard Lopes, who in May announced his retirement amid scandal after it was revealed he had improper communications with Bureau of Gambling Control executive Robert Lytle regarding confidential information regarding open investigations.
While Lopes’ resignation certainly wasn’t one of honor or commemoration, when he was appointed to the position of GCC chairman in January, he came with two decades of experience within the state’s Department of Justice.
Considering the first bullet point of the GCC mission statement focuses on the “development and implementation of sound policy and regulation,” a legal background is an understandably welcomed qualification.
June 12, 2015: California GCC Chairman (salary: $138,867)
2013-June 11, 2015: Chief Deputy Press Secretary, Gov. Brown
2013: Deputy Secretary, Business, Transportation and Housing Agency
2012-2013: Consultant, California State Senate Office of Research
2009-2012: Consultant, State Sen. Mark DeSaulnier (D-District 11)
2006-2009: Communications Director, State Senate President Darrell Steinberg (D-District 6)
2003-2004: Staff Writer, The Sacramento Bee
Political kickbacks and cushy government-appointed jobs are about as new as a Clinton and Bush running for the White House, but while sweeteners have been going on for years, Evans’ promotion could have serious ramifications considering the hostile climate currently surrounding the online gambling environment in California.
Though rumors have surfaced that online poker is dead for at least 2015, lawmakers have brought three iPoker bills to the state Assembly, and the discussions among politicians, commercial gaming operators, and tribal leaders seem to be ongoing.
State Assemblyman Adam Gray (D-District 21) recently said regarding Internet poker, “The issue is alive,” and that his bill can be voted on at any given time.
That means Evans won’t have much time for on-the-job training, immediately being thrust into managing an industry estimated to be worth north of $10 billion.
The GCC board is about to embark on what could be a historically difficult period navigating a stretch of instability regarding gambling in America’s most-populated state.
Will Evans’ prior experience in communications lend to bringing parties from all sides of the online poker issue together through compromise? It’s a question left unanswered for now, but assumably not for long.