$1.2 million intercepted from gamblers who owe child support

A state law that allows state government to grab casino winnings from parents behind on their child support has surpassed the $1 million mark.

The state Department of Children and Family Services announced Thursday that it has collected $1.2 million from 969 noncustodial parents at casinos across Louisiana.

The biggest single interception was $23,298.42 from the Amelia Belle near Morgan City last year.

The collections make a small dent in the more than $1.3 billion that is owed by noncustodial parents.

“Reaching this amount in less than two years shows that the casino intercept program is an essential tool to ensure that noncustodial parents who owe child support meet their obligations of providing financial, medical and emotional support to their children,” Suzy Sonnier, the agency’s secretary, said in a prepared statement.

The state started by seizing winnings at Hollywood Casino in Baton Rouge, the Belle of Baton Rouge, Amelia Belle, Shreveport’s Eldorado Casino and Evangeline Downs Racetrack and Casino. The first payment was collected two days after the program launched.

Now the state is intercepting winnings at 19 state-licensed casinos across Louisiana. The only casinos that do not divert winnings from gamblers owing child support are the Indian reservation casinos.

The biggest total collectors were:

Hollywood Casino in Baton Rouge, $147,831.68.

Evangeline Downs in Opelousas, $110,162.03.

Boomtown Belle in Harvey, $105,756.28.

Harrah’s New Orleans, $105,140.54.

A 2010 state law sponsored by then-state Sen. Nick Gautreaux, of Meaux, allowed those behind on their child support payments to be stripped of their casino winnings.

Casinos lock slot machines when jackpots of $1,200 or more are won in order to comply with federal tax reporting requirements, allowing gambling houses to also check for back child support from a state database.