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HOME > STRATEGY > Strategies & Tips > Ask the Slot Expert: W-2G jackpots and Social Security cards

Ask the Slot Expert: W-2G jackpots and Social Security cards

11 July 2018

By John Robison, Slot Expert™

Question: I've just been told for the second time that casinos are requiring that they physically see your social security card when completing the paperwork on winnings over the $1,199 threshold.

Last week a friend of mine was in line at a Wisconsin Indian casino cashier window and the person in front of him was being denied a large winning because he did not physically have his Social Security card with him.

It has long been recommended that your Social Security card not be carried in your purse or wallet, thus it's understandable that many, if not most, people do not carry their card, if they know their SS number.

I've looked at the IRS gambling reporting forms W-2G, 5754 and W-9 and do not see any requirement that the card has to be actually shown, only that the number has to be furnished.

Am I missing something?

Answer: No, you're not missing anything. There's no new requirement that a casino must see your Social Security card — which is good because I don't think I could find mine.

For W-2Gs in Atlantic City and Las Vegas, I've always just written my SSN on a slip of paper, which has always been returned to me along with the W-2G. Some casinos — maybe all — have had me sign a W-9, Request for Taxpayer Identification Number and Certification. No casino has ever asked to see my Social Security card.

I asked Jean Scott, one of the authors of Tax Help for Gamblers if she had heard of casinos asking players for their Social Security cards and she pointed me to this article she wrote for Blackjack Insider about casinos and Social Security called, strangely enough, Casinos and Social Security.

She said that there is no federal or state law requiring the casino to see the card, but the casino is responsible for having the correct SSN on the W-2G. Hence it may ask to see your Social Security card for proof of your correct number.

I put the word proof in italics because there are no security features on Social Security cards issued before October 31, 1983 and there were multiple designs over the years, so older cards are relatively easy to fake.

Requesting the card seems to occur only in newer or smaller jurisdictions. No one reported being asked for their cards in the three oldest jurisdictions: Nevada, Atlantic City and Mississippi. Looking at some posts on message boards, many posts mention Native American casinos in Wisconsin asking players for their Social Security cards.

I found this notice on the Potawatomi website about new ID rules for jackpot payouts as of May 1, 2013. On that date, the casino started requiring two forms of government-issued IDs to claim a taxable jackpot. Acceptable forms of ID are: driver's license, voter registration card, military ID, federal ID, Native American tribal enrollment card, passport, state-issued ID, resident alien card, and — wait for it — Social Security card.

A few interesting things about this notice. First, many Social Security cards have "NOT FOR IDENTIFICATION" printed on them. But it looks like that warning has never been honored. I remember my college posting grades by SSN; that's when I memorized by SSN. Even Franklin Roosevelt issued an executive order allowing federal agencies to use Social Security Numbers for identification seven years after the program started. A site for notary publics, however, said that a Social Security card is not valid for identification because it has no picture or physical description.

Second, the notice said that two IDs are needed "to meet federally mandated ID requirements." If the requirements are federal, how come I haven't had to produce two forms of ID after 2013? Which is a good thing because I would have a hard time producing two forms of ID from its list. I carry my driver's license, of course, but I don't carry my passport so I would have to go home to get it and come back with it.

Let's look deeper into the federal mandate. The latest instruction sheet for the W-2G has a section entitled Expanded Payee Idenfication Rules under What's New. This section states that the payee must present "two forms of identification, one of which must include the payee's photo. A completed and signed Form W-9 is acceptable as the other form of identification." Maybe all of the casinos did get a W-9 on file for me; they already had my driver's license. I'm pretty sure that some of the casinos I'd had W-2Gs from last year had me sign a W-9 when I got a W-2G this year. In any case, this instruction went into effect in 2018, so it isn't the federal mandate mentioned by Potawatomi in 2013.

What can you do if a casino requires that you present your Social Security card and you don't have it? First, say that you don't carry your card and you would be happy to fill out a W-9. If that employee won't accept the W-9, then ask to speak to a supervisor or casino executive. Say that by signing the W-9, you are certifying under penalty of perjury that you have provided your correct Social Security Number. (This form should relieve the casino of the responsibility of having the correct number and put it onto you. Jean said that some people who play in small or Native American casinos carry W-9 forms with them.) Also point out that the new W-2G instructions state that a photo ID and a signed W-9 satisfy the two forms of ID requirement.

All is not lost if the casino won't accept a W-9 and you can't produce the card.

The casino is not required to get your Social Security Number at all. You can refuse to provide it and the casino must still pay you your winnings. But if the casino can't get an SSN, it will withhold 24% (down from 28% as of 1/1/2018) of your winnings for federal income tax. The IRS will match the W-2G to your return based on your name.

You can even request that the casino withhold some of your winnings for your federal income tax. I once heard a recreational gambler request that a casino withhold some of her winnings for federal tax just to ensure she didn't have a big tax bill on income tax day.

Send your slot and video poker questions to John Robison, Slot Expert™, at slotexpert@slotexpert.com. Because of the volume of mail I receive, I regret that I can't reply to every question.

Copyright © John Robison. Slot Expert and Ask the Slot Expert are trademarks of John Robison.

John Robison
John  Robison
John Robison is an expert on slot machines and how to play them. John is a slot and video poker columnist and has written for many of gaming's leading publications. Hear John on "The Good Times Radio Gaming Show," broadcast from Memphis on KXIQ 1180AM Friday afternoons. You can listen to archives of the show online anytime.

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