Legislators are considering the idea of forcing the state-licensed casinos in Iowa to confiscate jackpots of more than $1200 if the gambler owes the state money — debts like back-taxes, unpaid child support or court fines.
Casinos already run such a debt-check for jackpots of over $10,000, but Susan Cameron, a lobbyist for the Ameristar Casino in Council Bluffs, says collecting debts on smaller payouts could cost them customers.
“Obviously these people owe the state and they need to pay their bills to the state,” Cameron says. “But we’re a private business being put in this position…these are patrons and so we want to maintain these good relationships with these patrons.”
Cameron suggests casinos will face security issues with the move.
“If they come up to the counter and they’ve won, you know, $1500 and they owe the state more than that and then they don’t receive any prize and they’re going to be frustrated with our cashiers who are the ones that have to tell them, ‘Well, sorry, we have to keep it because you owe it to the state,'” Cameron says. “And sometimes those people might act out.”
Cameron made her comments Wednesday afternoon as a Senate subcommittee considered a wide-ranging government reorganization bill that included this proposal as a means of collecting more unpaid debts. The lobbyist for the Prairie Meadows Racetrack and Casino told legislators some customers from the casino in Altoona may choose to go to the Meskwaki casino near Tama instead because the Native American casino is not subject to state law and doesn’t collect any unpaid debts from prize-winners.
Senator Staci Appel, a Democrat from Ackworth who’s been reviewing government reform proposals for the past eight months, told reporters after the meeting that she’s “not interested” in the complaints that the move will damage the casinos’ relationships with certain customers.
“We’re looking to pick up kind of dead-beat people who haven’t paid on their back taxes or child support,” Appel said. “They probably shouldn’t be there (gambling) in the first place.”
Appel and the two other members of the subcommittee have signed off on the massive state government reorganization bill and Appel says the bill will be debated in the Senate State Government Committee next Wednesday.