The Bush administration’s plan to target the proceeds of gambling winnings to pay overdue child support is a proposal with a commendable goal but dubious tactics. While the American Gaming Association will certainly review the plan in detail, it appears to raise the same concerns as similar proposals made by the Clinton administration in 1994 and again in 2000.
First and foremost, the industry strongly condemns any efforts to avoid child support payments. But mandating the gaming industry to garnish winnings from those listed in a government database raises serious privacy questions. Thousands of gaming industry employees would need to have immediate access to accurate information seven days a week, 24 hours a day from all 50 states in order to fulfill our legal requirements to pay winnings when they are due. Any misuse or mistakes could create a host of liability issues for both casinos and the federal government.
The creation of what amounts to a new federal bureaucracy to process this information would only seem to compound the potential for mistakes. Instead of deferring to individual states, which historically have handled child support cases, this plan appears to set up a system with additional, unnecessary layers between the payee and the deadbeat parent.
Using private industry to perform functions that normally are within the realm of state government also sets dangerous precedents. For example, should banks be forced to check the child support database before they allow customers to withdraw money from their bank accounts? Should investment firms be required to scour their list of customers prior to paying dividends or posting portfolio gains? Should automobile dealerships check the list before allowing a customer to drive off the showroom floor?
Everyone agrees that parents should live up to their family obligations and that it’s wrong for them to gain at the expense of their children. But accomplishing this through selective use of private industry is likely to yield more problems than solutions.