JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Mike Leara hit the ground running with his first meeting of the Missouri Gaming Commission as its chairman — but he’s not planning to change much in his capacity.
Leara, a former Republican state representative, officially took over as the commission’s chairman on Aug. 14, but Wednesday was its first meeting with him at the helm. The commission tackled a few license renewals and rule changes as well as levied one fine — $5,000 to NRT Technology.
“I think the gaming industry in Missouri runs well. It’s effective,” Leara told The Missouri Times in an interview. “I don’t think there needs to be any big changes to the rules or with oversight needing to be enhanced. … Coming to the commission, I was not aware of anything that required immediate attention.”
But Leara maintained there is always room for “fine tuning,” and the commission did approve some rule changes Wednesday to bring certain electronic gaming regulations more up-to-date.
Leara also declined to levy a fine — which he said would be “the greatest in Missouri history” — against an entity during his first meeting. He said he requested more time to do his own research before making such a dire decision.
“I don’t believe large fines should be levied unless there [are] serious, serious actions on someone’s part that warrants that,” he said. “I don’t believe the government should be in the business of [issuing fines] that would be devastating to a business. We need to be cautious about fines that are thrown out there.”
Leara is a self-proclaimed “St. Louis guy,” having been born, raised, and educated in the area for most of his life. He first got involved in politics when he was invited to a rally for the late former President George H.W. Bush while he was living in Houston, Texas, for a brief five years.
Upon returning to the St. Louis area, Leara wanted to become more involved in his community. He campaigned for other elected officials in Missouri before he successfully ran for the state House in 2008. Leara left the General Assembly in 2017 due to term limits.
Aside from his work in the investment advisory business, Leara most recently served on the Missouri State Employees’ Retirement System (MOSERS) board as its vice chairman.
“I enjoyed serving on a board — particularly one that size. I had a good time, and I left it with the Governor’s Office that I would be interested in continuing in that type of service,” Leara said.
And in June, he heard from the Parson administration about an opening on the Missouri Gaming Commission. He went through the decision process, and by the end of it, Gov. Mike Parson decided not only would Leara be on the commission, but he would chair it, he said.
The Missouri Gaming Commission is tasked with regulating charitable gaming, riverboat casinos, and fantasy sports contests. It was established by the General Assembly in 1993; nearly 9,000 people are employed by the gaming industry with an annual payroll of more than $314 million.
Aside from Leara, the Missouri Gaming Commission is made up of Brian Jamison, Daniel P. Finney III, Brandon J.B. Boulware, and Pat Conway.
Kaitlyn Schallhorn is a reporter with The Missouri Times. She joined the newspaper in March 2019 after working as a reporter for Fox News in New York City. Throughout her career, Kaitlyn has covered political campaigns across the U.S. and humanitarian aid efforts in Africa. She is a native of Missouri who studied journalism at Winthrop University in South Carolina. Contact Kaitlyn at firstname.lastname@example.org.