Getting Welfare Payments in Casinos: Gambling With Government Money?

gamblingIn California and Michigan, welfare recipients have been using their Electronic Benefit Transfer cards to withdraw state-funded payments from ATM machines in casinos. The degree to which the casinos benefited from this is not known, but politicians in both states have called for the machines to be programmed so as not to accept the ATM-like EBT cards.

"You may say that someone can go to the corner store, use the ATM machine there, withdraw funds, and then go to the casino," acknowledges Michigan Senator Bill Hardiman (R-Kentwood), who introduced a bill that would stop casino ATMs in his state from processing welfare payments. "But my feeling is that we shouldn't make it easy for people [to gamble] if they have gambling issues."


In California, where, according to The Los Angeles Times, 79 out of 148 tribal casinos and state-licensed poker rooms have welfare-friendly ATM machines on the premises, it's particularly easy.

"What these people are doing inside casinos in the first place is a good question," says the State Assembly's Republican Leader, Martin Garrick (R-Solana Beach). Stating that $1.8 million in state welfare revenues were withdrawn from ATMs in gambling establishments over an eight-month period, Garrick adds, "It's disgraceful and needs to cease immediately."

While it's unclear whether the casinos were merely laissez faire about the welfare-dispensing ATMs or actually complicit in the machines being there, this is a softball issue that any politician will find easy to take a stand on. California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger released an executive order forbidding welfare recipients from using their EBT cards at casino ATMs.

Casinos' Payday Lures

Nevertheless, there's at least one person who disagrees. According to the Detroit Free Press, Maureen Taylor, state organizer of the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization advocacy group, feels that Hardiman's bill singles out welfare recipients unfairly. "This is a way to corral low-income welfare recipients, put a red mark on their face and say, 'You're not welcome,'" she told the paper.

Maybe Taylor should move to Las Vegas. No word on whether or not welfare recipients are collecting their government dollars in casinos there, but plenty of working-class folk cash paychecks, without charge, in casinos every week. Places including Palms, Hard Rock, and Green Valley Ranch lure in workers on payday by offering free drinks, T-shirts, or gratis play for anyone who cashes a paycheck at the cage.

"It's brilliant from both sides," says Anthony Curtis, publisher of Las Vegas Advisor and a frequent casino casher. "You get a free drink in exchange for going in there to cash your check. And the casino gets you in when you feel flush and have money to wager. Of course, though, the best thing to do is go in, get your money, have your drink, and hit the road. That's basic strategy."

States Banking Gamblers?

What does Curtis think of welfare-dispensing ATMs near the blackjack pit? "The welfare thing is going too far," he admits. "That's just wrong."

There is, however, a potential bright side: What if some of the welfare recipients gambled with their money and won? "If they won, then the state banked them," says Garrick, agreeing that lucky welfare recipients might owe 50% cuts to their local governments.

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Marilyn Morrison Hoo

to make the news more clearer. not every one who receives Food stamps or the EBT CARD RECEIVES CASH....... if you receive this assistance you are checked every six months to be qualified. sooner or later if you lie about income you will be found out and can even be jailed for fraud....YOU CAN NOT BUY ANYTHING BUT Food that you have to prepare yourself. you can not even purchase Chickens all ready cooked or Fruit plates. Not every one who receives this assistance is proud and boasts. BECAUSE IT REPRESENTS HARDSHIP AND MANY PROBLEMS...You never know until one Day you may need this. there may be People taking advantage of the system because they represent there selves dishonest but its the Children they have who suffer I KNOW AS I HAVE BEEN INVOLVED BEING AN ADVOCATE FOR MANY.....perhaps if our economy was stable and people made decent wages , and our Corporations had more items made in the USA. and the costs of Food and Medical was affordable there would not be so many EBT CARDS.......

March 08 2012 at 4:18 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

One time at one of the three casinos in Detroit, I heard a man proudly tell a woman ...'' I come here everyday ! '' I think he was trying to impress her. I wouldn't be impressed with a man who goes to the casino everyday .

August 30 2010 at 1:51 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

David, Couldn't your comments be a little longer ?

August 30 2010 at 1:48 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

So that's why the lines are always so long at the ATM.! Not with my tax money, they DON'T !! I live in Mich, and I refuse to pay taxes for those on welfare to use my money to gamble! Next year, I just won't pay my taxes! And when they audit me , I'll tell them why !!

August 30 2010 at 1:47 AM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply

So that's why the lines are always so long at the ATM.! Not with my tax money, they DON'T !! I live in Mich, and I refuse to pay taxes for those on welfare to use my money to gamble! Next year, I just won't pay my taxes! And when they audit me , I'll tell them why !!

August 30 2010 at 1:47 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

mandmp11- Your's was the last post I read that I want to respond to. I THANK MN for trying to STOP the stupidity. However, PLEASE DO NOT blame the Casino's, blame the system and the PEOPLE receiving the fund's. ATM's are in gas station's all around the state's, so the indian Casino's did not comspire to get them there. Please STOP blaming ANYONE other then the Recipient, THEY ARE the THIEF and I would immediately cut their benefit OFF. American's are as pissed off, IF NOT more so about the ABUSE of WELFARE, then the abuse by Obama. However, most of us see it as one in the same. UNEMPLOYMENT- I DO NOT nor have I ever considered Unemployment as Welfare. You/we ALL pay UNEMPLOYMENT Insurance in our check's, it is up to the gov't if they decide to insure themselve's, but I see Unemployment no different then Life Insurance. There is a BIG difference between the two. I honestly believe that Welfare, should be related to your work time, just like SS Disability. You MUST have worked so many hour's/quarter's, month's, year's before you can receive Welfare and then what you receive, is TOTALLY dependent on your OVERALL work Status. However, what I have learned since Obama has been in office, is that WELFARE has been a total scam since it's inception. People/group's similar o ACORN (I believe) run the welfare system and ORIGINALLY applied for the FREE GOV'T money they we alway's see on TV that they are trying to sell to tell US how to get all of this FREE MONEY. However, as time went by, the office grew, the SYSTEM grew and WE ALL came to accept it. HOW SAD. I can remember as a kid growing up in the 60's, you ONLY heard of people receiving Welfare, but you didn't know anyone that did. You were shamed by receiving Welfare. NOT ANYMORE. Shame is just another word today. FREE MONEY these people think. WELFARE or should I say the Abuse OF IT, IS WHAT HAS ruined OUR COUNTRY. Welafre has taught people that they DO NOT have to get their LAZY azzes UP and GO to work. We USED to be a country that prided ourselve's on our work ethic, Most people can't even spell it today. If you want to fix America. First, bring God back into our live's, second, get rid of Obama, third, put a time limit on benefit's, just like we do with Unemployment. What is sad, is that I have known a few WORKING families that ONLY needed a Hand Up, NOT a hand OUT temporarily and have been refused help by the welfare system, whether it be food stamp's or whatever. I would MUCH rather help a person UP, then KEEP thm DOWN. Welfare and ALL money system's like it in the US is what has ruined us financially.

August 30 2010 at 1:06 AM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply

EBT should be used for food and shelter thats it..gosh no wonder this economy is suck a mess!!!

August 29 2010 at 11:09 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

When my kids were little, I had to tell them there were three things that were so much more important than having new clothes and new shoes: first was paying the rent so they would have a place to live, second was buying food, so they wouldn't be ever hungry and third was paying the utilities so they would be warm inside when it was very cold outside, and they would have a phone if they ever needed to get to mom when she was needed !!. I asked my mother's oldest sister to come and live with us and take care of my children while I worked as a waitress and I paid her a small salary and her Social Security while she stayed with us for six or seven years. It wasn't easy, and we didn't have much, but we did have each other and we made it through. Vacations? I didn't take vacations, but I did have two days off. One day to take care of personal/financial business and one day so Auntie and the kids and I could take "day trips". We went to the beach We saw the Giant Redwoods, we went to the park and played on the swings and slides and "monkey bars". Do I think Welfare money should be spent in a Casino? Absolutely, NOT !! If our taxes are being used by the illegal aliens on welfare, someone better check it out !! If I did without and my kids did without, so can they!! And I don't want to hear how poor they are. They are not any poorer than I was - -I MADE IT - SO CAN THEY !! I guess I just wasn't too good to work and try to make something of myself. What entitles them to the rest of my taxes and Social Security???---- GET WITH IT, LEGISLATORS AND LEGALESE - - GIVE US BACK WHAT BELONGS TO US - NOT TO THEM !!(AND NOT TO YOU)

August 29 2010 at 10:09 PM Report abuse +5 rate up rate down Reply

Disable the account of any one withdrawing money from a casino ATM. Penalize them one check and take their card and make them go downtown to pick up their ckecks.

August 29 2010 at 6:34 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to dredselw's comment

Welfare for indigent people does not include gambling! It's supposed to be for food, shelter and necessities of life.

August 29 2010 at 6:38 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply

If welfare recipients have received the equivalent of the billion dollars dumped in Iraq that went missing without any oversight under Paul Bremmer's eyes, then I say stop them from cashing in at Casinos. Also, the US should stop sending billions of dollars to countries that do not have our best interest at heart and focus on helping their own citizens, those who lost their jobs and have rent and food to buy for their families.

August 29 2010 at 5:57 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply