Smyler Tabbed as New Chair of Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board

Posted on: July 19, 2021, 12:22h. 

Last updated on: July 19, 2021, 03:08h.

Monday marks a new era in Pennsylvania gaming. Denise Smyler will take over as chairperson of the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board. She is succeeding David Barasch, whose six-year stint as PGCB chair ended last week.

PGCB New Chair
Denise Smyler (second to left) is sworn in as a member of the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board in October 2018. On Monday, she became the board’s chair, succeeding David Barasch (far left), who retired after serving six years as the chairman of the gaming authority. Others in the picture are Commissioner Mark Mustio (second from right) and Executive Director Kevin O’Toole. (Image: PGCB)

Gov. Tom Wolf (D) made the announcement last week, picking the commonwealth’s former general counsel to head one of the state’s highest-profile public agencies. Wolf also tabbed Nedia Ralston to fill Barasch’s seat on the board.

PGCB members are limited to two three-year terms.

Smyler, who was first appointed to a three-year term on the board in October 2019, managed her own law firm for more than 16 years before joining the Wolf Administration in 2015.

At last Wednesday’s Gaming Control Board meeting, Smyler thanked Barasch for leading the board in a “steady and even-handed” fashion.

“I’ve learned a lot from David,” she said. “He’s always been a friend, but as the chairman, I was in awe of how well he could navigate all of the difficult issues that have been presented, especially under the COVID 19 restrictions.”

O’Toole: PGCB Benefited from Barasch’s Experience

Barasch was honored with a resolution commending his service to the board at last week’s hearing.

His six years at the helm of the board coincided with a rapid expansion of gaming statewide. That included the legalization of video terminals at truck stops, as well as the launch of mobile sports betting and iGaming. In addition, the state has also opened two new casinos, with another preparing to open next month.

In a statement, PGCB Executive Director Kevin O’Toole said the state and the agency were served well by Barasch’s deep experience during his term.

At no time in the history of this agency were those qualities more important in a Board Chair than during the past year of unexpected and unprecedented disruptions to the gaming industry due to COVID-19,” O’Toole said.

At the end of last week’s meeting, Barasch noted that his term with the board was a “challenging but extremely rewarding” opportunity, and was proud of the work the gaming board accomplished during his term as chair.

Before taking over as chair of the gaming board, Barasch’s career as a public servant included serving as Pennsylvania’s Consumer Advocate, the deputy secretary for the state’s Department of Revenue, and as the US Attorney for Pennsylvania’s middle district.

“This concludes a legal career for me that has spanned 47 years, hard to believe, in both state and federal government as well as in private practice,” he said. “I think it’s kind of fitting that I’m finally retiring from public service, where I first started my career.”

Wolf Appoints Staffer to Penn. Gaming Board

Ralston comes to the board having most recently served as the director of Pennsylvania’s Southeast Regional Office, a position she’s held for more than six years.

Before that, she was the deputy finance director for Wolf’s gubernatorial campaign in 2015.

“Nedia has been a great asset to the commonwealth over the years, and I am confident she will continue to be so in her new position,” Wolf said in a statement.

Ralston’s public service experience includes serving on the board of the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission, the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau, and the Community College of Philadelphia.