By Gerri Elder
A new law in Colorado may not curb the gambling compulsions of some people, but will cause some gamers to walk away without their winnings. On July 1, 2008, racetrack and casino operators will be required to confiscate the winnings of deadbeat dads and moms who owe back child support payments. The money will be sent to the custodial parent to satisfy or pay down Colorado child support obligations that are owed and past due.
The law allowing gambling winnings to be taken to pay child support debts was passed by the state legislature in Colorado last year despite the objections of gambling operators and the idea has caught on. Within 90 days, the Department of Health and Human Resources in West Virginia plans to implement a similar program to collect overdue West Virginia child support from parents who have neglected to pay.
In Colorado, the law says that slot machine wins of more than $1,200 and other gambling wins of more than $600 will be confiscated if the winner is a deadbeat dad or mom. The gambling operations will be provided with a list of people subject to the Colorado child support garnishments so that any winnings by these people can be collected for the children who are owed support.
There is hope that the new Colorado child support law will be enforced so that past due child support can be collected from parents who otherwise would simply never pay. Mississippi and New Mexico have similar laws that allow gambling wins to be confiscated from people who owe child support, but these laws go largely unenforced. Other states allow for collection of lottery winnings to pay back child support, but Colorado will be the first state to actually collect the lottery winnings of deadbeat parents for child support, according to All Headline News.
Gambling operators fought against the child support garnishment law because of the additional burden of paperwork it will place on them. Until now, casinos and racetracks have been immune from the hassle of checking records to see whether back child support is owed before allowing the winner to walk away with the cash. However, banks and other businesses are routinely required to search for delinquent child support debts before completing transactions. Casinos are already required to report large wins to the IRS but have never had the responsibility of collecting tax debts.
While the law in Colorado seems like a major win for custodial parents who are owed back child support, casinos are often visited by out-of-state visitors. In both Colorado and West Virginia, the states only have the capacity to have gambling operators to check in state name and Social Security databases to collect the child support debt. Therefore the impact of the law in Colorado and the program in West Virginia may not be as harsh on deadbeat parents as it may seem on the surface. It remains to be seen how much past due child support will be collected from gamblers who have refused to voluntarily support their children.