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Welfare recipients withdrew $1.8 million from casino ATMs

California welfare recipients withdrew more than $1.8 million in taxpayer cash on casino floors between October 2009 and May 2010, state officials said Thursday.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger also issued an executive order Thursday requiring welfare recipients to sign a pledge that they will use their cash benefits only to “meet the basic subsistence needs” of their families. It gave the state Department of Social Services seven days to produce a plan to reduce other types of “waste, fraud and abuse” in the welfare program.

The moves come in response to a Los Angeles Times story describing how Department of Social Services officials failed to notice that the debit cards they issue to welfare recipients could be used at more than half of the tribal casinos and state-licensed poker rooms in California.

--Jack Dolan in Sacramento

Comments () | Archives (80)

Yeah they probably drove to those casinos in their brand new cars.

Listen I get SSI, and I budget CAREFULLY so that I can eat at the end of the month! I do NOT gamble! I do NOT smoke or take out cash for drugs! I say we cut the bums off and increase the checks of the REAL needy with the saved money! It will never happen, of course.

@mothergrace: Hear, hear.

Recent scratchers ads: Need money for your daughter's braces? Wait a minute - scratch scratch - we just won enough for the dog, too! Boss asking you to work overtime? Hold on - scratch - No way, I'll be too busy shopping!

Shame on you, California Lottery: No treatment for all the pathological gamblers you and the Native tribes have created; no help for the families whose lives you've helped ruin; you reap what you sow.

Oh my, they are going to have to sign a pledge. Yeah, that will stop them. That is as bad as the United Nations throwing around their "condemnations", idle threats that only reinforce the stupidity of the leaders in this state.

I'm more outraged that you get paid a salary to write this story. $1.8 million out of almost $7 billion of public assistance is misspent and you think that makes a story? Your supposed finding is inflamatory and misleady. What "problem" are you really shedding light on or trying to help solve with this story?

Why not pass a state law that states that all people are not allowed to use ATM's in a casino. It seems like a no brainer that when someone drinks and gambles , that they should not have access to an ATM or to use their credit cards to get capital. All consumers of casino's should be able to bring in their own money. If California wants to raise money, they can add an entrance fee for all casino's and an extra security tax to enter American Indian casino's. They can also add a law that all recipients of any government money can not gamble with that money or lose the right to it. Remember when the state thought they would make extra money by having so many legalized casino's open up. Talking about being naive. Take progressive action to control the regressive tax on low income California citizens by making entrance to these casino's expensive to enter. Just as cigarettes are taxed, so should entrance to a casino.

I agree with RS, the system should be as follows, EBT cards should be payable to landlords, utilities, and grocery stores should use the WIC system, ie: meat, vegetables, staples for household use only, clothing should be limited to shoes, underclothes, outerwear, and put a cap according to the household size. Cable should not even be an issue, you can't have it, some of us work and when the budget get tough, the cable is the first to go...its not hard. So many stores get paid from the county to accept the EBT card, it should be overhauled.....

Correction - I meant "misleading." I encourage you to also correct your original article with this information about what a small problem this actually is.

Better start cracking down on these suckers.

I'm not sure why Indian gaming ever was allowed. It only benefits some tribes, and disproportionately some members. Oh, that's right, to funnel money to states and localities, since no one wants to raise taxes. It's a way to tax the poor and middle class. So, these welfare gamblers are really funding themselves by gaming at these casinos. They should be stopped from doing so, perhaps, but why not do away with Indian casinos? They're not a positive in their communities, nothing good ever comes from gambling.

Sign a pledge? Sounds like what some Republicans did promising not to raise your taxes. Guess what? They did the exact opposite and raised your taxes. Welfare reciepients will likewise do what the Republicans did: break their promise and spend your hard-earned taxes in the casinos.

heck, i want to go on welfare. sounds like fun!

Do we know if by "welfare benefits" that includes unemployment insurance payments?

@DB...you should get out more often, read a little, educate yourself. So you can have a better grasp on reality !

Simple solution, remove all recipients who used those cards at casinos. Obviously they are in a position where they don't need welfare, so remove them from the rolls.

LOL! Yea punish the casino for running their business! How are they supposed to know who is on welfare and who is not? So I guess that means that people are still not responsible for their own actions? Everyone that used their welfare money for gambling should be taken off welfare no questions asked because obviously they do not need it. This would be a great way to get people off welfare just allow them to use the card anywhere and the ones who use it in places like casinos will just get taken off the books, PROBLEM SOLVED!

Who's bright idea was to issue ATM cards ????

It is not only welfare recipients who are abusing the system but twice a month if one goes to casinos in Las Vegas we could easily identify social security checks by these seniors being used for gambling. That is why all these government subsidies do not work and there are vultures going after these small check. I am sure there are abuse with food stamps also. Any thing that comes without effort will disappear without effort. That is the human nature. We need to get rid of all these social programs for it makes people lazy and complacent. We as the citizen of this nation and as a human being on earth have the obligation to be responsible for our existence.

And your state wants to boycott Arizona? Why? We have lots of nice casinos here that will be more than happy to take your hard earned welfare money. BAWHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

You have to be stupid to pay taxes in the USA.

I was curious how long it would take for someone to crowbar immigration into this. It was the second post.

This program should distribute food not give people money to buy it. Secondly, there should be no housing assistance unless the person is out of work.

If a person works and cannot afford housing, they need to move to a more affordable city.

Yet, it's the merchants and landlords of this city who get richer as the working people in the middle are taxed to give money to the poor who hand it to the rich.

Boycott any place that takes EBT besides grocery stores.

OK, first what we need is a Bipartisan commission, a big one, to hold hearings for oh, let's say six months to get to the bottom of the problem.

Next we should create a whole new bureaucracy to manage those guys who have been managing the ebt benefits. I mean, hey, when has another layer of paid public officials ever hurt the state? Right?

Maybe we can put tony vilar in charge of the whole shebang, he seems to have a lot of spare time on his hands.

Just a thought.

I have to commend Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger on how he has handled this issue. He learned of it, investigated it and did something about it TODAY.

I think Obama should take note ......Arnold didn't wait 50+ days to address the issue. Go Arnold!

I agree with all on here to stop using ATM cards and GIVE out food vouchers instead. In my local store, I can't tell you how often I have seen someone using there State ATM card to purchase scratch-it cards to gamble and purchase total junk food. What a waste...

This is why they need to do away with the welfare program completely!!!

This is ridiculous! My siblings are both disabled since birth and cannot work. Both are on SSI, I would hate for their benefits to be reduced or taken away because some people blow their ill-gotten welfare on gambling. There are people that really need this money! I don't see how making people bring their own money into a casino will stop this either. Won't they just get cash using their EBTs somewhere else and just bring the cash in?
This is really truly sad. People that actually need this money are barely making it month to month and the entire system is ruined by a handful of bad people.

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