Elderly Asian Gamblers Major Targets of Casinos

The passengers walked off the white coach bus into the cold early Monday morning. They hid ceramic mugs of rice and soup under trees, railings, walls, and grassy knolls.

They stashed their sandwiches and entered the casino at the end of the pavement.

Dozens of elderly Chinese immigrants board the bus two hours north from NYC to the Resorts World Catskills resort in Monticello, N.Y., each time earning a $45 slot machine coupon.

Casinos pursue people of Asian ethnicity and casino shuttles have been common in Chinatowns and Koreatowns for decades.

Asians are likely to form a major client group in New York City’s first full-service casino, possibly three of them, expanding their problematic connection with casinos.

Laws Enabling Them

Many of the city’s senior Chinese inhabitants rely on the regular bus routine for fun — and even revenue from selling their coupons — to cope with language isolation.

Constant gaming may lead to addiction and debt, compounded by clever casino promotion and a lack of problem-gambling programs.

Asian Americans are more likely to acquire a gambling disorder than the general population, according to limited data.

Attracting Asian gamblers will be important in New York’s casino bidding round, which begins early next year.

Legislators passed new permits hoping for more tax income and jobs. Regulators say casino proximity decisions won’t be made until “later in 2023 at the earliest.”

New York Metropolis has the most Asians of any American city, 1.2 million. According to those familiar with the conversations, casinos scoping out ideal sites this year mentioned proximity to significant Chinese populations as a primary priority.

It’s unclear how casino growth would affect Asian New Yorkers’ problem gambling. Industry analysts said casinos in the metropolis would benefit from proximity, drawing clients from nearby casinos.

Asian customers are vital for East Coast casinos near big cities.

New York City is “the hub,” says industry expert Steve Karoul. The bus initiatives began decades earlier when casinos attempted to entice gamers who did not possess vehicles, he added. Many casinos hire outside bus firms.

Many casinos feature Asian marketing divisions targeting a wide variety of races and ages. Some target elderly Chinese, Vietnamese, or Korean immigrants, whereas others cater to youthful Asian Americans with large families, say industry experts.

Many New Yorkers take the casino bus to sell free slot machine certificates to other gamers. Casinos employ coupons to attract all races.

Peter Chan, VP of international marketing at Resorts World Catskills, said the casino is proud to provide Asian customers with a beautiful, friendly venue where our culture is acknowledged and cherished.

Depressing Situation

A report financed by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission showed stress and social isolation rendered working-class Asian immigrants more sensitive to casino promotion, raising worries about casinos exploiting a susceptible demographic.

The report’s authors interviewed 40 Cambodian, Korean, Chinese, and Vietnamese residents in the Boston area and found casino gambling offered low-wage immigrants a “false sense of achievement.”

Many respondents stated they needed to borrow money from their friends or loan sharks to maintain gambling, but casinos were their only entertainment choice.

A veteran casino driver in New York City discussed the mind-numbing impact of seeing the same riders for years in a Cantonese interview.

Some of his commuters return to NYC at night to board a bus to Pennsylvania casinos. Since the epidemic began, some undocumented riders relied more on casinos since travel bans prohibit them from seeing friends and family in China.

This article appeared in The Political Globe and has been published here with permission.