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The IRS Doesn't Play Games with Gambling Winnings

7 May 2008

By John G. Brokopp

Now that income tax season is over, it's time to start planning for 2008. If you're a recreational casino gambler, this can mean some unusual record keeping, especially if luck is on your side and you win a jackpot playing the slot machines.

Collect a slot jackpot of $1,200 or more and the casino is obligated to notify the Internal Revenue Service of your good fortune in the form of a W-2G (certain gambling winnings). This means you must report the winnings on your federal income tax return.

The expansion of gambling that has taken place across the United States during the last 15 years has meant that more people than ever are required to do this.

That's the bad news. The good news is that you can claim losses up to the amount of the winnings if you are eligible to itemize deductions. But you had better have the proper documentation to support those losses in the event the IRS calls looking for proof.

According to tax expert Richard LaGrant, a partner with Denis Gioletti at Consolidated Tax Services, Inc. in Park Ridge, Illinois, the IRS has stepped up efforts in recent years to hold gamblers accountable.

"I have seen more audits on gambling," says LaGrant, an enrolled agent who has earned the privilege of practicing (representing taxpayers) before the IRS. "Requirements for supporting losses against gambling winnings have always been around, but they used to be loosely enforced. The IRS is not looking the other way anymore. They are really holding people to the letter of the law."

LaGrant recommends keeping a daily log to track your gambling activity. The information should include the name of the casino, the date, the particular game you played, the machine's serial number, and the length of time you played.

Other forms of documentation to keep include canceled checks, receipts from ATM withdrawals, records of cash markers from casino credit departments, parking and dining receipts; anything which proves that you withdrew cash from the casino or were present on that date.

The win/loss statements that you can request at the end of the year from casinos you have patronized may not be good enough documentation if you wish to claim losses to offset federal tax liability on gambling winnings.

To play it safe, you can request that the taxes be taken out on the spot when you win a jackpot.

If you can substantiate losses at the end of the year, you will take a credit for the amount they withheld and you'll get back some if not all of the money.

"The IRS can detect hasty records made up two years after the fact," he said. "They're looking for a timely kept diary of when this gambling takes place. They're serious about it. They want to see the proof."

CASINO NEWS: Blue Chip Casino Hotel in Michigan City, Indiana, has become the first Boyd Gaming property in the nation to introduce the new "B Connected" player's club program which will allow guests to earn and redeem points at any of the company's casinos and resorts in Las Vegas. Boyd's three Downtown Las Vegas properties and those in Illinois, Louisiana and Mississippi will come on line in the near future.

John G. Brokopp
John G. Brokopp's gaming column appears in Chicago Sun Times (Chicago, Illinois), The Times (Northwest Indiana), The Quad City Times (Davenport, Iowa), The Courier News (Elgin, Illinois), The Gazette (Southwest Suburban Chicago) and Senior Wire (Denver, CO). He's also a regular contributor to The Colorado Gambler, Midwest Gaming & Travel, Casino Player and Strictly Slots. John possesses 28 years of experience as a professional handicapper, publicist, freelance writer, and casino gaming correspondent. He is also the author of two very popular books, The Insider’s Guide to Internet Gambling and Thrifty Gambling.

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