California Welfare Cards Can Be Used in Many Casino ATMs

Jack Dolan, Los Angeles Times, June 24, 2010

California welfare recipients are able to use state-issued debit cards to withdraw cash on gaming floors in more than half of the casinos in the state, a Los Angeles Times review of records found.

The cards, provided by the Department of Social Services to help recipients feed and clothe their families, work in automated teller machines at 32 of 58 tribal casinos and 47 of 90 state-licensed poker rooms, the review found.

State officials said Wednesday they were working to determine how much money had been withdrawn from casino ATMs by people using the welfare debit cards.

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McLear said the system of paying out welfare benefits via bank cards was created under Schwarzenegger’s predecessor, Democrat Gray Davis. Since the late 1990s most states have adopted this system, which is a viewed as a more efficient way of distributing and tracking government aid.

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Those cards, known as Electronic Benefit Transfer cards, look and work just like ordinary debit cards. They allow welfare recipients to access two accounts: the cash offered so needy parents can provide a home for their children while they train for better jobs, and an electronic version of food stamps that comes with rules governing where and how the benefits can be spent.

The cash benefits, however, can be withdrawn and spent just about anywhere.

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