Michigan Seeks to Ban Welfare Debt Cards at Casino ATMs

The State of Michigan is weighing a proposal to introduce a law that would see the ban of the use of welfare debit cards at Automatic Teller Machines (ATMs) at casinos. However, the idea has been met by strong opposition by human rights advocates who see it as unnecessary stigmatization of the poor.

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The Republican who sponsored the bill, Senator Bill Hardiman said that he hoped that it would end the practice of those who claim welfare spending their money on gambling.

“This money was intended to provide for basic needs for people who are truly in need,” said Hardiman. “The willingness to help drops substantially when these benefits are being abused.”

The bill was brought before the Michigan Senate and approved unanimously this week. It will now be moved to the Committee on Families and Children’s Services after being moved up to the House of Representatives.

If passed, Michigan will join other states such as Minnesota and Arizona who ban the use of welfare debt cards for use at casino-based ATMS. Earlier this year, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger ordered Californian’s law books to be changed as well.

Welfare recipients in California were asked to sign an agreement that the benefits they received from the state would be used only for basic needs such as food and shelter. Schwarzenegger issued his executive order after an article in the Los Angeles Times revealed that over $1.8 million had been withdrawn from casino ATMS by welfare recipients in the state.

Michigan’s move, however, has been met with some opposition by a number of sectors, including the National Center for Law and Economic Justice. Speaking for the center, Marc Cohan said that these types of laws stigmatized people who sought to collect benefits.

Cohan said that banning the cards at casinos was a “solution to a non-existent problem that may have an inequitable impact on low income people.”

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