California Welfare Recipients Spending Millions At Casinos

Following an L.A. Times report that revealed the California welfare debit card program allows benefits recipients to withdraw cash at ATMs at casinos, state officials disclosed that over $1.8 million in taxpayer cash had been withdrawn on the gaming floors of casinos in just the last eight months.

Though this amount represents less than 1% of total welfare spending in the state during those months, it’s still set off alarm bells in Sacramento, where Governor Schwarzenegger has ordered the vendor that runs the welfare system’s ATM network to prohibit the cards from working at casino machines.

Schwarzenegger has also issued an executive order requiring welfare recipients to promise they will use cash benefits only to “meet the basic subsistence needs” of their families. California Republicans are asking the administration to identify those welfare recipients who withdrew money at casinos and to recover the cash from them.

Explains a rep for the State Assembly’s Republican Leader:

I’d say that $227,000 per month is an astounding waste of taxpayer dollars… To me it is absolutely clear that the department failed in its duty to provide oversight. We should explore all options to get the money back.

The to-do over the withdrawals comes after the L.A. TImes found that the welfare debit cards worked at ATMs in 32 of the state’s 58 tribal casinos and 47 of California’s 90 state-licensed poker rooms.

California welfare recipients withdrew $1.8 million at casino ATMs over eight months [L.A. Times]