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New Law Ensures PA Lottery Winners Pay Debts Before Collecting Prize

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Some Pennsylvania Lottery players will be taking home a smaller winner’s check if they are lucky enough to cash in.

Lottery players that are delinquent in paying child support, taxes, or other financial obligations to Pennsylvania, should be ready to hand over their prize – or at least part of it.

The tax man cometh

In 1992, the PA Lottery obtained permission to collect any back child support owed from a lottery winner’s prize. Recently, the Intercept Program expanded its reach giving the lottery more authority to “intercept” prize money to pay off old debts.

A law signed by Gov. Tom Wolf last year went into effect at the end of Oct. and impacts lottery winners of prizes larger than $2,500.

Anything left after securing back child support payments will go towards any unpaid tax debts. If there is still money left over, then the prize will pay off other financial obligations owed to the state including court costs, fines, and additional fees.

But wait, there is more.

Additionally, every effort will be made by the Department of Human Services to determine if the lottery winner is collecting public assistance benefits from the state.

The law reads:

“If the prizewinner is found to be a recipient of public assistance benefits in this Commonwealth, the Department of Human Services shall determine the prizewinner’s eligibility to continue to receive public assistance benefits as a result of winning the lottery prize.”

State Rep. Adam Harris, the sponsor of the legislation, spoke about the importance of the welfare check to Penn Live.

“[It is] an important part of the bill because it is imperative that public assistance funds are available for people who truly need them,” said Harris. “It protects those who are less fortunate and ensures the integrity of the welfare system.”

Who else might be coming for their share?

The recent $1.6 billion Mega Millions jackpot frenzy caused plenty of people to speculate on the downside of winning such a huge prize.

An article in Forbes talked about the potential for a plethora of lawsuits. For instance, you should be careful about what you say to the person selling you your ticket. A verbal “sell me the winning ticket, and I’ll split it with you,” may be binding.

In fact, the Florida Supreme Court ruled in such a case that a verbal agreement can be valid. The result of the court case turned a $1 million lottery winner into a $500,000 lottery winner.

Let’s go back to the child support issue for a moment.

If a person was skipping out on child support payments, how likely are they to pay over and above the required amount?

Lottery winnings are income. A parent can ask the court to increase child support when there is a significant change in income. A big win definitely constitutes a significant change.

Let’s face it; money brings out the greed in people. This new law, however, is about doing what’s right.

There is something wrong with a person playing the lottery while skipping out on their child support responsibilities. It seems only fair to make sure the lucky winner shares the luck by paying off old debts.

Even if it took the entire prize amount to pay off those old debts,  it seems like it would be a good feeling to leave the lottery office empty-handed but debt-free. Nevermind, who are we kidding?

One thing is for sure, though, the custodial parent that has been struggling to make ends meet will feel better about it.

About

Kim Yuhl is a freelance writer and blogger who writes about poker culture and the online gambling industry. A part-time member of the poker media since 2013, Kim recently sold her marketing business to write full-time while traveling around the world. You can learn more about her work and travels at kimyuhl.com.