A House panel agreed Monday to dedicate some unclaimed gambling proceeds to paying costs of rape victims forensic medical exams.

The House Appropriations Committee approved the funding, rejecting opposition from the Louisiana Casino Association.

House Bill 143 would generate $1.5 million to $1.7 million annually from unclaimed slot and horse race track tickets. The committee exempted off-track-betting tickets.

State Rep. Helena Moreno, D-New Orleans, said victims of sexual assault have been charged for the forensic exams that are needed for health as well as evidence gathering for criminal prosecutions. She said that is untenable as well as a violation of federal law.

A separate bill - House Bill 194 - by Moreno bars hospitals from billing rape victims for the exams and sets up a mechanism for payments through the state Crime Victim Reparations Board. In addition, it specifies how rape victims should be treated.

HB143 provides for the funding to cover cost associated with an estimated 1,600 reported cases a year.

Casino Association lobbyist Wade Duty said the money being tapped is not unclaimed property.

“This is not players’ money,” said Duty. “It is the casinos money until the player redeems it....It is the property of the casino.”

Duty said the amounts are generally not large - pennies and dollars left on machines.

The bill now moves to the House floor for consideration.

Follow Marsha Shuler on Twitter @MarshaShulerCNB. For more coverage of the state capitol, follow Louisiana Politics at http://blogs.theadvocate.com/politicsblog/.