|The US government plans to recoup child support payments from the winnings of gamblers – including casino gamblers. |
Child support collection advocates say they would welcome any tool to recover some of the estimated $89 billion owed by deadbeat parents. But opponents say it would impose an onerous duty on gaming industry staff.
'Good intention, good cause, but it's implausible,' said Chris Scherf, spokesman for the National Thoroughbred Associations, which represents 45 racetracks. 'It's no more practical than saying you're going to do it in every bar, when someone orders a drink, taking the money and saying 'He's a deadbeat dad, and this money should be sent to Washington.' '
Under the plan, the 2004 budget will include a proposal to aggressively pursue gambling winnings to raise $700 million for families over five years.
At present, the government can garnish lottery prizes, but not winnings by child support scofflaws at casinos, horse tracks, keno parlors, jai alai arenas and off-track betting parlors.
Indian-run casinos would be exempt from the garnishing, unless they are owned by tribes with federally funded child support enforcement agencies.
The estimated cost of implementing the Internet-based system is $40 million.
In the year 2000, Americans reported $25 billion in gambling winnings on their income tax returns.
Under Bush's plan, which needs congressional approval, anyone who wins more than $5,000 would have their name checked by the Federal Parent Locator Service before they could collect, according to Wade Horn, Assistant Secretary for Children and Families.
If the person owed child support, the money would be deducted from the jackpot and given to the state child support collection agency for payment to the custodial parent.
Horn hopes that the system would also discourage deadbeat parents from gambling in the first place, leaving more cash to pay what they already owe.
Child support advocates approve of the proposal, but American Gaming Association President Frank Fahrenkopf Jr. said casino industry employees would need immediate, 24-hour access to accurate information about debtors from all 50 states to enforce the garnishing.
'Using private industry to perform functions that normally are within the realm of state government sets dangerous precedents,' he said.
'For example, should banks be forced to check the child support database before they allow customers to withdraw money from their bank accounts? Should investment firms be required to scour their list of customers prior to paying dividends or posting portfolio gains?' said Fahrenkopf.