California welfare EBT cards accepted at casino ATMs; Recipients withdrew $1.8M

06/28/2010 // WPB, FL, USA // Nicole Howley // Nicole Howley

Los Angeles, CA—Over $1.8 million dollars of taxpayers’ money was withdrew at casinos over the last eight months by California welfare recipients, according to a Los Angeles Times investigative report. The electronic benefit transfer (EBT) cards work at 32 of the 58 tribal casinos and 47 of the 90 state-licenses poker rooms, which were also disclosed as usable ATM’s to welfare recipients by the Department of Social Services.

The report prompted Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to issue an executive order, which will require welfare recipients to “promise they will use the cash benefits only to meet the basic subsistence needs of their families.” The Department of Social Services also has seven days to manifest a plan to eliminate other “waste, fraud and abuse” amongst the welfare program.

“I will use every available power I have to protect taxpayers from waste, fraud and abuse in government,” stated Schwarzenegger.

The report, which was released on Wednesday, June 23, 2010, revealed that the Department of Social Services failed to notice that welfare recipients could use the state-issued EBT cards to withdraw cash at the casino ATMs for years. The EBT card program was implemented in 2002.

From October 2009 through last month, casino withdrawals accounted for less than 1 percent of the total welfare spending, which averaged just over $227,392 a month.

The executive vice president of Business Development, Scott Dowty said, “People who are recipients of EBT cards probably shouldn’t be gambling, so it’s something that would fall into our socially responsible mandate.”

Gov. Schwarzenegger has also ordered the vendor who operates the state welfare ATM network to prohibit the welfare cards from working at the casino machines.

Legal News Reporter: Nicole Howley

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