The Associated Press reports that Karen Carter Peterson, a state senator from New Orleans and chair of the Louisiana Democratic Party, admitted to a gambling problem Friday – minutes after WWL-TV posted a news story reporting that she had violated a self-imposed ban on entering Louisiana casinos.
The station reported a Louisiana State Police trooper issued her a misdemeanor summons for violating a self-imposed ban when she gambled at L’Auberge Casino in Baton Rouge last month. a state police spokesman confirmed his agency issued the summons but declined to comment while the case is under review by East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore III, The Advocate reported.
The Advocate reported yesterday that it is highly unlikely she will be prosecuted for the misdemeanor. To read that story, click here.
The list on which Peterson placed herself is supposed to be confidential; it offers gamblers a way to police their access to casinos. As of Sunday, it wasn’t clear who had leaked the fact that her name was on the list.
To read the state’s offer of a self-ban, click here. The page reads, in part:
The information contained in the Request Form and the self-exclusion list maintained by the Board is not open to public inspection and every effort will be made to maintain its confidentiality. However, neither the Board, State Police, nor the Louisiana Department of Justice, Office of the Attorney General (“Attorney General’s Office”) are liable for any disclosures of such information other than a willful unlawful disclosure.
Peterson’s email included her worry that this incident might prevent others from placing themselves on a list that is supposed to be confidential – but apparently is not:
Unfortunately, I am having to publicly divulge these very personal challenges as a result of a breach in the confidentiality of the program. I recently learned that a news outlet was preparing to report that the Louisiana State Police had issued a summons as a result of me entering a casino. While the summons is surely a public document – as it should be – it has been confirmed to me that the issuance of a summons to me was leaked by one of the entities responsible for maintaining confidentiality. But for this leak, I am told the summons would have been processed as all others which have been issued to people in the confidential, self exclusion program.
I am, however, very concerned that others struggling with gambling addiction may be discouraged from participating in this voluntary program because the confidentiality has been breached. It is an important tool in the toolkit for people struggling with gambling addiction. I intend to work to strengthen this program because it has helped me immensely.
To read her entire statement, click here.
The Associated Press reports:
In a statement, Peterson said she has suffered from a gambling addiction for years.
“It is a disease,” she wrote. “From time to time, I have relapsed; I have let myself down as well as family and friends who are near and dear to me.”
One effort to treat the addition came two years ago when she voluntarily entered a program that made it illegal for her to enter almost any Louisiana gambling establishment.
“Under this program, I consented to allowing any of these officials who see me in a gambling establishment to escort me out and to issue a summons,” she wrote. “Recently while experiencing challenging times, I violated my voluntary ban and was issued a summons. The program worked as it should. I certainly regret failing to uphold my agreement to avoid casinos.”
In her email, Peterson also asked for forgiveness.
“I am sorry for the hurt and embarrassment my actions have caused my family and friends,” she wrote. “My commitment to my recovery and using my self-care tools will only grow stronger as a result of this experience.”
Peterson, 49, said she was going public because someone had leaked the summons to a media outlet.
Peterson is seeking a third and final term in the state Senate this year, after serving a decade in the state House. She was the first woman elected chair of the Louisiana Democratic Party in 2012, defeating former Congressman Buddy Leach, who had sought to retain the position. In 2017, she was named vice chair of civic engagement and voter participation for the Democratic National Committee, a position previously held by Donna Brazile.
Gov. John Bel Edwards issued a statement Saturday, saying, “Karen has shown strength and contrition in the face of a difficult situation. Addiction is a terrible disease and I am praying for her, her family and her recovery.”
Senate President John Alario, a Republican from Westwego, commended Peterson for taking steps to combat her addiction.
“I’m proud of her for addressing this disease head on,” Alario told The News-Star . “It speaks highly of anyone who is willing to take the hard steps necessary to overcome an addition, made even more difficult by being on a public stage.”