Community college sued for casino’s refusal to turn over winnings

By: - April 14, 2022 4:54 pm

A Webster County woman is suing Iowa Central Community College after being denied her gambling winnings at a central Iowa casino. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

A Webster County woman is suing Iowa Central Community College after being denied her gambling winnings at an Iowa casino.

Clarisa Bernard’s lawsuit, filed this week in U.S. District Court, alleges the college and its hired debt-collection firm, Hauge Associates, have violated both state and federal debt-collection laws.

Bernard alleges that “at some point in time” prior to 2019, she became indebted to Iowa Central Community College and then defaulted on the obligation. Later, she filed for bankruptcy and the college assigned her debt, which then totaled $4,820, to Hauge for collection.

In October 2019, she alleges, her bankruptcy case was closed and her entire debt to the school was discharged.

Despite that, she claims, Hauge sent her a letter last month informing her she still owed $3,669 to the college. One week ago, Bernard alleges, she won what she describes only as a “hand payout” at Wild Rose Casino in Jefferson.

The term “hand payout” typically refers to the payment of winnings that are large enough to make a mechanized slot-machine payout impractical, or large enough to trigger a tax obligation on the part of the gambler.

According to Bernard, the casino retained a portion of her winnings – her lawsuit doesn’t state the amount – “for the benefit of Iowa Central Community College.”

Bernard says the college and Hauge have each violated the federal Fair Debt Collection Act and the state’s Debt Collection Practices Act. The casino is not a party to the lawsuit.

Hauge and the college have yet to file a response to the allegations.

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Clark Kauffman
Clark Kauffman

Deputy Editor Clark Kauffman has worked during the past 30 years as both an investigative reporter and editorial writer at two of Iowa’s largest newspapers, the Des Moines Register and the Quad-City Times. He has won numerous state and national awards for reporting and editorial writing. His 2004 series on prosecutorial misconduct in Iowa was named a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting. From October 2018 through November 2019, Kauffman was an assistant ombudsman for the Iowa Office of Ombudsman, an agency that investigates citizens’ complaints of wrongdoing within state and local government agencies.