Do I Have to Tell the Unemployment Office I Hit the Jackpot at a Casino?

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Not all unemployed workers are entitled to receive benefits. To qualify, you must meet certain legal and financial requirements. Once your claim is approved, you must continue to meet financial requirements to receive your weekly unemployment benefits. These financial requirements include reporting any income during a week you received benefits. However, the rules regulating income while receiving unemployment benefits -- including any casino winnings -- vary by state.

Income Types

States consider three categories when assessing your benefits entitlement: earned income, unearned income and in-kind income. Earned income includes any money you received for doing some kind of work, whether it is building a barn or selling shares on the stock market. Unearned income includes payments you receive without having to perform any work, such as disability benefits and pension payments. Gambling winnings generally are considered unearned income.

Unearned Income and Benefits

The purpose of unemployment benefits is to provide financial assistance to households who need help while searching for work. If you receive any income at all while receiving benefits, you must report it to your state unemployment insurance agency. The agency then determines if the income you received will affect your weekly unemployment benefit amount.

Unemployment Benefits Deductions

Income you receive while receiving unemployment benefits generally will be deducted from your weekly unemployment benefit amount. How much is deducted varies from one state to another. For instance, in Ohio you are allowed an income of 20 percent of your weekly benefit amount without deductions. However, in New Jersey if your unemployment benefit year began after March 6, 2011, every dollar you receive in income after the first $50 will be deducted on a dollar-for-dollar basis. This means that if you receive $250 a week in unemployment benefits and you hit a $200 jackpot, you will only receive $100 in unemployment benefits for that week.

Read More: Definition of Unemployment Benefits

Unearned Income and Fraud

If you fail to report any type of income while receiving unemployment benefits, you could be found guilty of fraud and your unemployment claim may be cancelled. The same applies for taxes. If you hit the jackpot at the casino, you must report any earnings in your income tax return as well as to the unemployment office of your state. Unfortunately, you cannot claim your losses at the casino as a tax deduction.