AP NEWS

Louisiana Democratic leader admits to gambling relapse

March 23, 2019

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — 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 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 .

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.”