NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

A Bid to Not Mix Welfare, Gambling

October 1, 2010

Welfare recipients have long been banned from using their benefits for alcohol and tobacco.  Now state lawmakers are eyeing the vice of gambling, a move some advocates for the poor see as unnecessary and unfair, says USA Today.

  • Michigan legislators are debating a ban on using public assistance debit cards at ATMs in casinos.
  • In June, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger issued an executive order banning the practice.
  • Minnesota and Arizona also ban it.

"This money was intended to provide for basic needs for people who are truly in need," says Michigan state Sen. Bill Hardiman.  "The willingness to help drops substantially when these benefits are being abused."

Laws such as these stigmatize people collecting benefits, said Marc Cohan, litigation director for the National Center for Law and Economic Justice.  "It's a solution to a nonexistent problem that may have an inequitable impact on low-income people," he says.

  • In June, the Los Angeles Times reported California welfare recipients had withdrawn $1.8 million over a seven-month period from casino ATMs.
  • Michigan state Sen. Hardiman says he has documented $87,340 in public assistance benefits withdrawn from ATMs at Detroit's MotorCity Casino over a 12-month period.
  • Hardiman acknowledges many ATMs within walking distance of casinos wouldn't be affected, but he insists the change would give pause to would-be gamblers.

Source: John Wisely, "A Bid to Not Mix Welfare, Gambling," USA Today, September 28, 2010.

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