Pennsylvania May Soon Require Casinos to Withhold Overdue Child Support

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Pennsylvania May Soon Require Casinos to Withhold Overdue Child Support

There is currently a bill pending in the state legislature to study the feasibility of implementing a program under which past due child support might be withheld from casino winnings. Despite such a program’s obvious benefits to the Commonwealth and its citizens’ well being, there are political and legal issues, as well as logistical problems to be addressed, before Pennsylvania joins its neighbors New Jersey, New York, Ohio, West Virginia, and Delaware in mandating some form of such a collection mechanism through privately run casino operations. Not least among these considerations is the propriety of having private entities enforcing state mandated obligations, even such worthy obligations as child support obligations, not to mention the implied value judgement the state would be making by enforcing its mandate through private entities. Then too, there are current laws preventing casinos from tracking personal information of patrons. In the era of big data, and what seem to be weekly disclosures of unintended releases of personal information on the Internet, even by financial institutions that are renowned for protecting such information, it is not obvious that casinos should collect and store such sensitive information about patrons.

Additionally, the logistical question of how casinos may accurately conduct database searches for delinquent child support payments on their 24/7 operating schedule must be addressed. That 24/7 schedule and the allure of fast cash are major elements of how casinos operate and why they attract patrons and succeed. Conversely, the state child support system is, necessarily and properly, a far more deliberate and slower paced operation. The legislature will be called upon to protect casinos as long as they exercise a good faith effort in making a proper database search and withholding the right amount of money. Even so, the problem of correcting a mistaken withholding amount, and any possible liability for it, will need to be addressed. From the private side, casino operators might well object to what would seem an obvious requirement to take on the additional financial burden of adding more staff and providing additional training to implement such a policy.

All that being said, Ohio not only collects overdue child support, but also screens for back taxes and student loan debt on winnings of $1,200.00 or more. This amount is used as a threshold for screening because it triggers federal tax regulations that require the casino to hold-up payment until it processes certain information on the winner anyway. In New Jersey, only winnings that generate an annuity are subjected to collection and you can be sure that Pennsylvania’s casino operators will point out to the legislators the competition they face from New Jersey for casino patrons.

None the less, the smart money here says that the foundation has been laid, the feasibility is under review, whatever accommodations are necessary will follow, and that Pennsylvania will soon join its neighbors and the growing list of states nationwide that use casinos to collect on back due child support.

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About the author

About Lawrence Welsh

Lawrence C. (Larry) Welsh joined the firm in 2003 after five years of practice with the Delaware County Public Defender’s Office. Native to Lansdowne in Delaware County where he attended public schools, Larry graduated from St. Joseph’s College (in its pre-University days) and taught school briefly before entering the hospitality industry and working his way through hotels, restaurants and resorts in four states and the District of Columbia. As a graduate of Villanova University School of Law, Larry now focuses primarily on the firm’s family law practice along with other areas of the Law. Larry handles a full range of domestic relations matters throughout the five-county southeastern Pennsylvania area and looks forward to expanding the firm’s practice, especially in the family-law field, into New Jersey where he is one of three members of the firm (along with Gregory P. LaMonaca and Christopher R. Mattox) admitted to practice.