Indiana Bill Could Withhold Casino Winnings For Child Support Owed

By Laura Donaldson

June 18, 2010 Updated Jan 11, 2010 at 7:20 PM EDT

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Indiana’s NewsCenter) - A proposed bill in Indiana could force deadbeat parents who win big casino jackpots to fork over prize money to their children.

Legislation considered by a state Senate committee Wednesday would withhold gambling winnings from parents behind on child support payments.

If passed, the bill would allow collection from delinquent parents who win more than $1,200 on slot machines or more than $600 from other types of gambling.

Indiana Department of Child Services officials are pushing the legislation saying only 58 percent of child support payments are collected each year.

They say of the 350,000 cases, more than 165,000 non-custodial parents each owe more than $2,000 in child support equaling more than $2 billion.

“The custodial parents that are owed money could truly benefit from any money collected,” Indiana Department of Child Services Spokesperson Ann Housworth said. “And if we could get any portion of that $2 billion that is owed into the hands of the custodial parents for the benefit of the children, then it's well worth our time.”

But Hoosier casino representatives aren't fans of the bill.

“This is a government function,” Casino Association of Indiana President Mike Smith said. “It would be better left to the government. Is it really a function of the casino industry to get into the government's job of collecting child support?”

Smith says most gamblers are from out-of-state.

“I'm not sure how many people we would capture with 70 percent of our business coming from out of state,” Smith said.

“In looking at the 70 percent it's very possible that just because someone doesn't live within the border of Indiana any longer, they may still have family within the state,” Houseworth said.

DCS officials say states like Colorado are already doing this. Colorado began withholding money July 2008 and collected $523,000 that year.

The Senate committee could make changes and vote this week. If passed, it would move to the House of Representatives.

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