Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley wants regulators to prohibit casinos from placing liens on homes of people with unpaid gambling debts.
"Protecting against predatory lending and overly aggressive debt collection in the gaming industry is critical, because the odds are stacked against the patron being able to earn back the value of the loan, Coakley wrote in a letter to the state's gambling commission. "This practice by the gaming industry in which customers homes are put at risk should not be allowed."
Coakley, who is also a candidate for governor, cited a recent Boston Globe article that detailed the practice by the two large Connecticut tribal casinos, Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods, of placing liens on homes of residents who owe the casinos money advanced for gambling. Casino industry specialists have said it is unusual for a gambling business to employ property liens as a collection tactic.
Gambling companies have access to credit bureaus to determine if a player has the financial resources to cover an advance. Many casinos offer credit to gamblers, as a convenience for big players who would be uncomfortable traveling with huge wads of cash.
When a casino approves a credit line, a player signs what is essentially a check for the amount loaned.
If the loan is not repaid before the customer leaves, the casino will cash the check and the money will be drawn from the players bank account. If the account is short, however, the check will bounce.
Since the early 2000s, Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods have placed dozens of liens on Massachusetts properties, seeking payment, interest and fees.
State law will allow the states casinos to extend gambling credit to customers, under rules established by the Massachusestts Gaming Commission. The rules must include procedures for confirming that a patron has an established credit history and is in good standing, according to the states gambling law.
The commission has not yet written those rules and procedures, but that task is coming up: The panel intends to place the issue on the agenda of an upcoming meeting, according to commission officials.
In Coakleys letter, she offered the commission her offices expertise to help in crafting regulations that effectively protect consumers, while allowing businesses to operate fairly in the marketplace.