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Gambling with Workers’ Comp in Pennsylvania

The Times-Tribune.com of Scranton recently posted an interesting Opinion column about an issue that arose at a recent state Senate hearing: that some unemployed people are gambling away their workers’ compensation benefits at casinos. It appears to be a reflection of our current economic conditions: people who have lost their jobs are trying to cover those losses at a slot machine or black jack table.

According to the article, neither the state Department of Labor and Industry nor the state Gaming Control Board has data on how many Pennsylvanians gamble with their workers’ compensation benefits because there’s no way to track it. But the issue came up at a State hearing on extending benefits for about 45,000 of the 450,000 Pennsylvanians receiving workers’ comp.

By regulation, casino ATMs must reject debit cards issued by the state Department of Public Welfare. Similarly, state Sen. Lisa Boscola, a Northampton County Democrat, has introduced legislation that would require casinos to block workers’ comp debit cards as well. However, her amendment has failed every time it’s been introduced.

There are some problems with this legislation. First, workers’ comp is a form of social insurance, and does not have restrictions as does public assistance. Also, workers’ comp benefits can be received as a debit card or as direct deposit. So those who could not use their workers’ comp debit cards at casinos could switch to direct deposit to access their funds.