Peggy Richardson, a former circuit judge from Central Missouri, will be the new executive director of the Missouri Gaming Commission, reports the Fulton Sun.
In an announcement made last Thursday, the Commission named Richardson, 63, the eighth executive director and the first woman to serve in the role.
Richardson, who became an associate circuit judge for Moniteau County in 1998 until November 2016 when she was appointed circuit judge by Gov. Jay Nixon, will be paid $113,000 a year. Her first day will be May 14.
Richardson was among 41 applicants for the position, which has been open since David Grothaus stepped down a year ago. Many of which were from the casino industry or regulatory agencies in other states.
Richardson will be expected to deal with lingering issues from Grothaus' tenure, including the role of the Missouri Highway Patrol's Gaming Division in the enforcement of state law on casino property and investigating license applicants. She will also be responsible for renegotiating the deal with the Highway Patrol that is embodied in a memorandum of understanding signed in the 1990s
Grothaus, who was executive director from March 2019 to the end of April 2020, stepped down due to furor over his efforts to cut costs associated with the patrol, questions whether the on-site security work could be done by local law enforcement or casino guards and whether career investigators would be a more effective tool for licensing than patrol personnel.
Chairman Mike Leara said: "I have expressed our desire as a commission to have a new, fresh memorandum of understanding with the patrol, with discussions of cutting costs, however, we do that. That will aid in smoothing over some of the tension between civilian staff and the Highway Patrol."
The commission's main source of support is the $2 admission fee paid by casinos for every person who enters the gambling floor. Half of the money goes to the host community and half pays for commission administration, with any surplus going to support Missouri veterans' homes and other needs.
Over the five years ending June 30, 2019, before the pandemic, casino admissions fell almost 16 percent, transfers to the Veterans Commission fund fell almost 30 percent, from $26.7 million in fiscal 2014 to $19 million in fiscal 2019.
Admissions continue to fall, this year down 24 percent over the first nine months of fiscal 2020. Casinos closed in mid-March last year and did not reopen until June.
Lara said that Richardson will also advise the commission on how to handle the Graves Garrett report, which cost $400,000 and was delivered to the commission. The report has been held as a closed record since.
Leara commented: "We still have that Graves Garrett report we have not come to our final conclusions on as a body. She will be a great asset for analyzing the report and the conclusions, and not being affiliated with any of that, she is going to aid in that tremendously."
Pending legislation could create additional work for the commission. While passage is seen as increasingly unlikely, lawmakers could legalize sports wagering and put the commission in charge of certifying video lottery terminals to replace 'gray market' machines in bars and convenience stores.