Massachusetts casinos helped recoup more than $3.6 million in unpaid child support and back taxes from customers. The funds were taken from those who chose to gamble instead of fulfilling their state-mandated financial obligations.
Slots players gamble at Plainridge Park Casino, the slots-only casino in Massachusetts. Casinos helped recover more than $3.6 million in back child support and delinquent taxes during the state’s 2022 fiscal year. (Image: The Sun Chronicle)
Massachusetts’ 2011 Expanded Gaming Act requires that casinos in the commonwealth perform player past-due background checks on winners seeking to claim a substantial prize. In Massachusetts, any slot win in excess of $1,200 or more, or a non-cash prize such as a car or vacation with a fair market value of $1,200 or more, or a table game win of $5,000 or more, is subject to the background check.
During last week’s meeting of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC), Bruce Band, chief of the commission’s Gaming Agents Division, revealed that past-due background checks resulted in more than $3.6 million in prizes seized during the state’s 2022 fiscal year. The undistributed winnings were instead credited towards those players’ past-due child support and/or delinquent state tax obligations.
The approximately $3.6 million is about $200,000 more than what casino cage staff intercepted in the previous year.
Massachusetts lawmakers more than a decade ago authorized as many as four commercial casinos. Three have since opened — Plainridge Park, MGM Springfield, and Encore Boston Harbor.
The MGC retains an unissued full-scale resort license earmarked for the southeastern counties of Bristol, Plymouth, Nantucket, Dukes, and Barnstable. The state is holding off on considering bids for the region until a lengthy federal and state lawsuit from a state-based tribe that wants to build a tribal casino in Taunton is fully settled.
The 2011 Expanded Gaming Act includes numerous provisions designed to limit the societal harms gambling can inflict. Along with an array of responsible gaming safeguards, Massachusetts lawmakers sought to make sure a father who is behind on his child support can’t collect certain winnings from a state-authorized casino.
Prior to disbursement of cash or a prize … a gaming licensee shall review information made available by the IV-D agency, as set forth in Chapter 119A and by the Department of Revenue, to ascertain whether the winner of the cash or prize owes past-due child support to the commonwealth or to an individual to whom the IV-D agency is providing services,” the state gaming law requires.
The provision adds, “If the winner of the cash or prize owes past-due child support or has a past-due tax liability, the gaming licensee shall notify the IV-D agency or the commonwealth, respectively, of the winner’s name, address, and Social Security number.”
The law goes on to say that the casino must retain the full past-due outstanding amount the winner owes. If the gambler’s win exceeds his or her past-due obligations, the casino is to disperse the remaining amount to the patron.
The term “IV-D” comes from Title IV, Section D of the Social Security Act, which established the Child Support Enforcement program in 1975. The federal program provides information to state agencies seeking to locate absent parents and enforce support obligations.
Child Support Safeguards
Even if a parent behind on their child support payments gambles in a Massachusetts casino and is given their full prize, the odds are good that the individual will soon receive a call or knock on their door from state officials. In the case of a casino worker missing a past-due child support obligation, the individual could later be detected by the MGC.
The 2011 law requires that each casino on a monthly basis provide the MGC with a list of players who won $600 or more in the previous month. The MGC is then tasked with comparing the list of winners against the IV-D list of past due individuals to see if any gambler should have had all or part of their prize confiscated.
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