Conflict Between Gambling Officials

Conflict between Gambling Officials occurred when it came to decide on a matter affecting a former official who has gone to work for the gaming industry, two officials recently declared that they had conflicts of interest.

an image of a mans hands signing a document with two dices next to him

The officials at the state agency who oversee gambling had conflicts of interest with Robert Lytle.

Lytle, the former chief of the state gambling enforcement unit recently went on to build a successful business consulting for card rooms across the state after leaving his state job in 2007. He has been accused by the attorney general of receiving confidential information on investigations into his card room clients. Lytle violated rules about when official’s cam lobby their former agencies and misleading regulators.

At the Gambling Control Commission meeting on February 25, two officials said that they had conflicts of interest that prevented them from considering whether to extend Lytle’s state-granted license for a year.

Because Commission Chairman Richard Lopes worked with Lytle at the Department of Justice as his supervisor, he said was stepping away from considering Lytle’s case. Lytle reported directly to him when he worked as the chief of the Bureau of Gambling Control at that time.

Tina Littleton, The commission’s executive director, said she couldn’t take part in decisions about Lytle due to her having a private relationship with another former bureau official, one who briefly worked for Lytle.

Cheryl Schmitt, director of the watchdog group Stand Up in California, which monitors state gaming activity said that the twin recusals are one example of how regulators and the gaming industry have close ties that can cast a shadow over the commission’s work.

“It’s disturbing,” Schmitt said. “It seems the relationships there at the commission are much too friendly. There should be distance between the regulators and those that they regulate. Regulators should live by a required code of ethics to protect the integrity of their decision making. Otherwise, regulators give the appearance and perception of accommodating the industry.”

In December 2007 Lytle began negotiating a new job with a card room in San Jose, the attorney general said in an allegation that was filed Dec. 23.

Supposedly he told bureau agents in the fall of that year to “cut back ongoing investigatory activities” into the casino while he was negotiating a future job as a compliance officer for the card room.

Dec. 30, 2007, one day after retiring from state service, Lytle began working as a representative of the casino, and contacted both the bureau and the commission many times on behalf of his client, the state alleges.

The accusation also said that in 2012 and 2013, Lytle received confidential information into ongoing investigations into his clients, including the San Jose card room, from a bureau special agent in charge.

The special agent is not identified in the accusation, but Littlejohn said the person “may or may not be” her boyfriend, James Parker, who had that title.