Child support taken from winnings

Before gamblers can collect their winnings, if more than $1,200, casinos first must fill out paperwork and check a database for back child support.

The casinos subtract the arrears from the winnings and send the money to the state Department of Children and Family Services.

Through June, casinos intercepted for the state $2.05 million from 1,526 “non-custodial” parents who hadn’t kept up with their child support obligations, the agency reported Tuesday. The single largest collection to date came from the Boomtown Belle, of Harvey, in June totaling $23,465.

“Every single dollar paid goes to the family,” Lindsey deBlieux, DCFS spokeswoman, said Tuesday. The administrative costs are covered by state and federal funds.

But it’s a drop in the bucket from the $1.4 billion total arrears as of July, she said.

August is national Child Support Awareness month. Research has shown that child support collections significantly reduce the federal, state and local costs of providing cash assistance to single parent families, according to a DCFS news release.

The program, which began in September 2011, collects child support arrears from casino winnings totaling more than $1,200 at 19 state-licensed casinos. It is the product of legislation by then state Sen. Nick Gautreaux, now a lobbyist from Meaux. Other states with similar laws include Colorado, Mississippi, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, New Jersey, New Mexico, Ohio and West Virginia.

Failure to pay court-ordered child support also can result in liens against the non-payor’s property, seizure of assets, suspension of driver’s, business, professional, hunting or fishing licenses, interception of state and federal tax returns, passport denial and contempt of court charges, among other enforcement actions.

“Each collection made, large or small, proves that this program is an essential tool for collecting what is owed to Louisiana’s children,” said DCFS Secretary Suzy Sonnier in a news release.