In a move cheered by single parents and child advocates, Colorado enacted a law in 2008 wherein those who won big at casinos and racetracks would not be allowed to take home their winnings if their names were on a state registry of parents who are behind on court-ordered child support. In the two years since the law was enacted, the state has recovered more than $1 million for children, leading many to wonder if this law would be as effective in California and in states around the country.

The Colorado law, which has been copied in a handful of other states, requires casinos and racetracks to check the child support status of any gambler who wins at least $1,200 or $600, respectively, which are the same amounts that require reporting to the IRS. If the gambler's name is on the registry, the winnings will be diverted to the state, and any amount left over will be given back to the winner.

Since the law was enacted, almost 450 gamblers have had their winnings garnished for back child support. Almost half of them were repeat offenders, having had their payouts taken for the same purpose at least once before. The largest amount collected from a single person was $35,000.

Although almost $1 million has been collected since the law went into effect two years ago, it is just a small fraction of the $1.4 billion that is owed to the state. A similar effort garnishes money from state lottery winnings, but that has only collected $50,000 in the past year. The relatively small amounts may be due to the fact that the laws only apply to child support cases that are enforced by counties, such as if it is initially court-ordered, if the court is assisting with enforcement of a child support order, or if a family is on public assistance.

Source: Denver Post, "Deadbeat parents' luck pays off for kids", Karen Auge, 23 December 2010