Welfare Recipients Using State-Issued Debit Cards at California Casinos, Media Mostly Mum

The Los Angeles Times on Thursday published a blockbuster report concerning California welfare recipients using state-issued debit cards at casino ATMs to be able to instantly gamble with taxpayer dollars.

"The cards, provided by the Department of Social Services to help recipients feed and clothe their families, work in automated teller machines at 32 of 58 tribal casinos and 47 of 90 state-licensed poker rooms, the review found."

Despite this shocking revelation, America's media largely ignored the findings.

But before we get there, KTLA-TV logged a fabulous report on this subject Thursday evening (video follows with more highlights from the Times piece and commentary):

"In a time when we have a $19-billion deficit, and we're taking a serious look at the future of many safety-net programs, it's appalling to think that welfare beneficiaries can use their cards in a casino," said Seth Unger, spokesman for the Assembly Republican Caucus.

Democratic leaders, who have vowed to protect the state's fraying social safety net, also began calling for reform Wednesday.

"In these tough times, when so many children and vulnerable families depend on the safety net, we have to make sure food stamps and other services are being used the way the people of California intended them to be," said Shannon Murphy, spokeswoman for Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez (D- Los Angeles). "Other states have closed this loophole, and the Assembly will work with the Schwarzenegger administration to make that happen."

The casinos are listed on a Department of Social Services website that allows welfare recipients to search for addresses of ATMs where they can withdraw cash provided under the Temporary Aid for Needy Families program. The monthly grant ranges up to $694; most of the ATMs impose a withdrawal limit of about $300 per day.

To be sure, there IS a national interest here:

The cash portion of California's welfare benefits comes from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program. Each year, California gets $3.7 billion from the federal government for the program, while state and local governments kick in an additional $2.9 billion.

Furthermore, as many states also issue these cards for their welfare recipients, who knows how many Americans are gambling with taxpayer dollars across the fruited plain?

Yet outside of California, the media weren't very interested in this story.

According to LexisNexis, no newspapers outside of the Golden State reported the Times' findings. Neither did ABC, CBS, CNN, MSNBC, or NBC.

This boycott seems especially odd as the Associated Press and UPI covered this matter over their respective wires with the former logging reports on Thursday AND Friday.

Also bucking the trend were Fox News's Sean Hannity and Greta Van Susteren who both discussed this on Thursday as did NPR.

The well-read Drudge Report featured this as a "developing" story at 6:47 PM Thursday. 

With this in mind, why did the rest of our national media completely ignore it? 

Those interested can read more about California's Electronic Benefit Transfer program here

Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard, Associate Editor of NewsBusters, passed away in March of 2014.