‘Casino Bus’ Entices Korean-American Seniors to Gamble

A packed bus heading to the casino. (Photo via Korea Times)

Some Korean-Americans worry that the cheap “casino buses” that take hundreds daily to regional casinos from Flushing and other Asian-American neighborhoods are causing gambling problems, especially among Korean and Chinese seniors, reported the Korea Times. A translation of the Korean article is below. 

Around 10 a.m. on July 14, in front of Flushing No.1 Municipal Parking Field, Lee, a Korean woman in her 60s, got onto a bus to Foxwoods Casino in Connecticut, ran by a tourist business. She said that she rides the “casino bus” once or twice a week. After visiting the casino several times, she has lost some money, but she says that is not a big deal for her.

“The bus carries us, so it is convenient,” she said. “So it gives me a chance to go out and about.”

Kim, in his 50s, who also got onto the casino bus to Foxwoods, said that going to casinos is a kind of summer vacation.

“In the summer, it is too hot in the house, but in the casino, the air conditioning works pretty well, so I often go there,” said Kim, who said he goes to casinos five or six times a month. “The great part is that it is almost free, so when I’ve spent the money I’m comfortable with, then I leave. So it is just a fun activity.”

These are the comments of Korean-Americans who often use the so-called “casino bus” in Flushing’s Korea Town. Recently, the number of buses, which go back and forth from Flushing in Queens to casinos near New York City area, has been increasing, and Korean Americans who visit casinos often have increased accordingly. Many of the riders are seniors, older than 50 or 60, or middle-aged women. However, some younger Korean-Americans have been seen getting on the bus to gamble. There are 20 buses per a day that leave from Flushing No.1 Municipal Parking Field to Foxwoods Casino, according to the businesses. Including buses to Mohegan Sun and the newly opened Aqueduct resorts, the number of buses a day to casinos amounts to 30.

Most buses depart from Flushing No.1 Municipal Parking Field, Main Street, Elmhurst, Fresh Meadows, Little Neck or Whitestone. There are around five or six tourist businesses running casino buses, including new businesses. In particular, on weekends, when clients crowd the buses, it is common to see three or four packed buses in a row waiting for people at the pick-up spots. Most clients on the buses from Flushing are Korean or Chinese. With around 50 people per bus, hundreds of people a day go to casinos on the casino buses.

Casino buses cost around $15 to $40 per person, and provide casino buffet coupons and game money tickets worth around $20 to $40, making the buses an effectively free service. The problem is in the side effects — some clients gamble go beyond relieving boredom with gambling, and end up losing huge amounts of money and becoming addicted.

[Another person who the Korea Times identified as] Lee, in his or her 50s, heading to Foxwoods recalled such an incident.

“I knew a senior in his 60s who used to go to casinos to escape boredom, and became addicted to gambling in the end,” Lee said. “To make matters worse, he even lost all the money that he had saved, and got divorced in his old age.”

Some seniors have lost all their welfare benefits and became homeless.

Experts warn that an excessive obsession with gambling can cause huge problems.

“When [a person] becomes addicted to gambling, over the degree of getting rid of stress or relieving boredom, it can lead domestic abuse or divorce,” Regina Kim, the executive director of The Korean Family Counseling and Research Center. “These problems require community-level solutions.”

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