Calif. Welfare Bucks End Up Spent as Tourist Dollars — Even in Vegas Slots

Monday, 04 Oct 2010 11:08 AM

By Mike Tighe

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Talk about a new twist on the old saying that what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas: What’s paid as welfare in California goes to Las Vegas — to the tune of nearly 12 million bucks since 2007. That’s wilder than a joker, according to officials and private citizens who are bristling at the fact that it’s only a fraction of the tally of Golden State welfare money that turned into tourism dollars in Nevada, Hawaii, Miami, Guam, and other spots of relaxation benefitting from California taxation.

Las Vegas, California, welfare, Hawaii, gamblingAnd, although many Vegas casinos block the use of welfare cards in ATMs amid the cacophony of coins coursing through the slots, that doesn’t stop people from getting their gambling stakes at a nearby 7-Eleven, according to the Los Angeles Times.

In fact, nearly $70 million in California welfare money intended to house and clothe the needy was spent or withdrawn outside the state between January 2007 and this past May, the Times reported today. The tally includes not only the millions of dollars in Vegas but also hundreds of thousands in Hawaii and thousands on cruise ships sailing out of Miami, the newspaper said.

State-issued welfare cards have been used at hotels, shops, restaurants, ATMs, and other places in 49 other states, the Virgin Islands, and Guam, since January 2007, the Times expose reports, citing data the newspaper obtained from the state social services department.

Las Vegas, slots, California, welfareAlthough there's no way to prove that the money has slipped into slot machines or been squandered on leis and luaus, the possibility that it could have been spent that way rankles citizens and officials alike. "How they can go somewhere like Hawaii and be legit on aid . . . they can't," the Times quotes fraud investigator Robert Hollenbeck as saying.

"This is money for basic subsistence needs," said Hollenbeck, who works for the Fresno County District Attorney’s Office.

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