Senate approves legislation to prevent taxpayer dollars from being withdrawn from casino ATMs

LANSING — The Michigan Senate approved legislation Tuesday that will help protect state taxpayer dollars by preventing cash assistance recipients from withdrawing funds from ATMs located in casinos.

In June, officials in California found that cash benefit assistance cards could be used to withdraw money at more than half of the state’s tribal casinos and state-licensed poker rooms.

“Taxpayer dollars issued to residents who need assistance should be used for that purpose,” said Sen. Mike Nofs, R-Battle Creek. “While there are currently no restrictions on how the money can be spent, I think it’s reasonable to prohibit funds from being withdrawn directly from an ATM in a casino.”

Under Senate Bill 1432, recipients of cash assistance cannot receive the benefit from an ATM within a casino. The measure would require the Department of Human Services to work with other state agencies to block access to the ATMs.

As technology has changed, the way that cash assistance is provided has also been updated. Residents who receive assistance now use a “bridge card” or debit card. Food assistance recipients cannot withdraw money directly using the card, but cash assistance recipients can.

Nofs said department officials have determined that more than $87,000 in assistance funding was withdrawn from the MotorCity Casino in Detroit from September 2009 through August 2010. Numbers are not yet available for the state’s other casinos.

“I think most people would agree that gambling with taxpayer dollars isn’t an appropriate use,” Nofs said.

The legislation has been sent to the House for further consideration.