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Friday, June 27, 2008

Gambling winnings will be taken for unpaid support

For Colorado gamblers who owe child support, those "Wahoos!" and fist pumps that come with a big jackpot will soon be cut short with a string of expletives or a big "D'oh!" Beginning Tuesday, people delinquent with their child support payments will have their debt taken from any big winnings in state casinos and racetracks. Their names will be checked against a database at the cashier's cage, and the amount owed to their children will be withheld on the spot. The casino or racetrack then has 24 hours to submit the intercepted money to the Department of Human Services through an online system developed for the program. "I do expect that it will increase collections," said Laura Davidson, senior site manager for Policy Studies Inc., a company that collects delinquent child support under contract with the El Paso County Department of Human Services. El Paso County received more than 18,000 delinquency cases last year; Davidson's office collected nearly $40 million, the most in the state. Colorado currently suspends driver's licenses and hunting and fishing licenses for people who don't pay their child support. It also intercepts lottery winnings. But Davidson predicts gambling winnings will occur more frequently than lottery winnings, given the popularity of gambling and racetracks as entertainment. The law was sponsored by Rep. Joel Judd, D-Denver, who has tried unsuccessfully to pass similar measures since coming to the statehouse in 2003. He said casinos and tracks opposed the measure because they didn't want to be responsible for withholding winnings for customers they're trying to make happy. Judd said the idea came to him years ago while he practiced law. A client was robbed of more than $175,000. Although the woman who stole from the client was convicted, restitution never came. One day Judd received a call that the woman won $5,000 in Black Hawk. He rushed to have the money seized, but by then it was already spent. "I thought there ought to be a law. There ought to be a way to deal with that," he said. The program was established through the Colorado Department of Revenue and cost about $16,000 to set up, said spokesman Mark Couch. Winnings will be collected when they reach levels that would require the Internal Revenue Service to issue withholding forms - about $1,200 for slot machines and $600 for poker or parimutuel, or betting pools. Child support is established by a complex formula that considers income, visitations, employment and a host of other factors, Davidson said. The state operated Family Support Registry is a clearinghouse for payments and is used to identify people who stop paying or never start. Davidson said there are almost as many excuses as cases, but recurring ones include a lack of income or not getting to visit the children.

I think that this is great, although I have a problem: if he or she hits the lottery can the mother go and claim that since the father hit the lottery that the child should hit it as well? What if the person has been faithfully paying child support and that happens is it right for the mother to try and cash in on his winnings?

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