A Los Angeles Times review of records found that California welfare recipients are able to withdraw cash using their welfare cards on gaming floors in more than half of the casinos in the state.
The Times crosschecked ATM addresses on the Department of Social Services website with addresses on the California Gambling Control Commission's website. According to the review, the cards work in ATMs at 32 of 58 tribal casinos and 47 of 90 state licensed poker rooms. Most of the ATMs impose a withdrawal limit of about $300 per day.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who threatened eliminating the state welfare program in his May budget proposal, was not aware of this problem until asked to comment by the Times. He promised to take immediate action.
“We have instructed our vendors to prohibit these cards from being accepted at ATMs located in casinos and card rooms,” Schwarzenegger spokesman Aaron McLear said. “It is reprehensible that anyone would use taxpayer money for anything other than its intended purpose.”
The cash portion of California's welfare benefits come from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, which gets $3.7 billion from the federal government and $2.9 billion from state and local governments.