California Gambling Commission Chairman Evans Bids Farewell

The days when the California Gambling Commission was simply a tool of the state cardrooms is over. Five years under Chairman Jim Evans has returned professionalism and integrity to the organization, said Evans upon his exit.

California Gambling Commission Chairman Evans Bids Farewell

California Gambling Control Commission Chairman Jim Evans bid farewell to friends and colleagues as he retired last week after five years on the job, since June 2015.

According to Commission spokesman Fred Castano, “Jim announced his departure at the commission’s public meeting on September 24, which included well-wishes from the other commissioners, commission staff, the Bureau of Gambling Control, and the public. Any statement we would put out would pale in comparison to the warm words shared at the meeting. However, we do plan on commemorating his departure in our quarterly newsletter in January.”

Castano added, “His replacement has not been announced yet. The Governor’s Office appoints the commissioners, and are subject to Senate approval.”

In Evans’s farewell email to staff and friends, he said he never expected to be named to the job.

“If you told me in 1995 (when I was in journalism school) that 20 years later I’d be the chair of the California Gambling Control Commission I would have laughed at you. Shoot, I would have laughed if you told me that in 2014,” he wrote in his farewell email.

For many years the commission appeared to many critics to be in the thrall of the Golden State’s card rooms. Evans in his five years on the commission restored much of the credibility of the process.

He called his tenure “a little bumpy” when he first arrived—he actually called it a “sh*t show.” He learned how important the work was and how “the efficacy of regulation relates directly to the economic security of workers in the industry.”

When he arrived as chairman, he recalled, “my number one goal was to help create a commission where the people who work here can come to the office, focus on the job during work hours and go home without a second thought about some stupid work drama or personality conflict. The work is important and the public counts on us to do a good job—whether we see that every day or not.”

Evans credited his learning on the job to the influence of fellow commissioners who came and went, but especially several who were appointed by former California Governor Jerry Brown. Before those appointments, said Evans, “the commission was bogged down in grade school divisions and minor league antics.” The arrival of “grown-ups” “set a new tone,” said Evans.

This led to the appointment of the current executive director, Stacey Baxter, who Evans credits with turning around the commission. “She’s a boss, and in my next job I’ll probably often think ‘What would Stacey do?’ when I’m in a real bind. We made a pretty damn good team,” he wrote.

He also paid tribute to former executive director Richard Schuetz.

“Schuetz was the one who really imparted on me how important the work is,” Evans wrote. “He made the point that the efficacy of regulation relates directly to the economic security of workers in the industry. Richard’s experience as a practitioner, regulator and gambling policy enthusiast (and raconteur) was impactful.”