SPRINGFIELD — Parents who owe delinquent child support and like to gamble be warned; if you win big at Illinois casinos, it’s your children who will benefit.
In a joint venture between the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services and the Illinois Gaming Board, the state recently launched its Child Support Intercept program at all 10 Illinois casinos. Noncustodial parents who owe delinquent child support and win a large-enough jackpot to file a federal W2G form will see that money turned over to HFS’ Division of Child Support to pay down the debt to their families.
HFS has already collected nearly $120,000 in child support funds owed from gambling winnings in the state’s casinos since the program’s implementation in the fall, officials said Friday.
“Gaming winnings are windfalls, and if the person winning that game owes child support, that windfall should go to support his or her child,” HFS Director Julie Hamos said.
HFS information services staff built a web-based system that allows casino workers to enter winners’ names, birthdates and Social Security numbers if the winner is required to file a W2G. Once entered, the system checks for a child support debt match with families enrolled in the IV-D child support program. If there’s a match, a specified maximum is withheld after taxes and a service charge by the casino. The intercepted winnings are transmitted to HFS and then sent to the family.
Officials said it was unknown when the program began how quickly families would begin to benefit, but the payouts have exceeded expectations.
“I am thrilled to see the results of our authority to intercept gaming winnings so soon after we began,” Child Support Services Administrator Pam Lowry said. “These intercepts place needed dollars in the hands of families who have waited too long for support.”
The system was approved in August 2013 by the Illinois General Assembly as Public Act 93-0318. The web-based program — called the Gaming Intercept Program Certification System (GIPCS) — went live in each casino during October and November in a staggered manner after each site completed employee training. Implementation started with the largest casinos — Harrah’s in Joliet and Rivers in Des Plaines — and finished with Harrah’s in Metropolis.
The Intercept program’s first success came during its second day in place at Harrah’s in Joliet, IGB Administrator Mark Ostrowski said. The noncustodial parent owed more than $30,000 in delinquent support and won a $1,224.48 jackpot. He previously had been making payments of just $61 a month, Ostrowski said.
“While this payment made only a small dent in the amount owed, it was a nice surprise for the custodial parent,” Ostrowski said.
Since it began the program has intercepted 56 jackpots from 42 people. One noncustodial parent had winnings intercepted 11 times, which paid off his past-due balance of more than $21,000. Another noncustodial parent had winnings intercepted three times, while two others had their winnings intercepted twice. The largest jackpot resulted in a $5.850 collection.
The program will not affect video gaming terminal winnings because those are not high enough for winners to file a federal W2G form, officials said.