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Casino economies continue their downward spiralApril 1, 2014
Asians at Sands Bethlehem casino ‘ride bus to live’
By Matt Assad and Pamela Lehman
March 29, 2014
The Morning Call
The endless hum of whirling slot machines washes over the food court at the Sands casino in Bethlehem, as Yuli Cui of Flushing, N.Y., reads a Chinese newspaper.
Huddled at a table with her friends, Cui, 50, plucks a tangerine from the bagged lunch she brought from home. She’s been to the casino hundreds of times over the past three years and, like almost every other time, she’s doing her best to kill five hours until her bus returns.
Sometimes she walks the scenic path through south Bethlehem or visits the bookshop at Lehigh University, and sometimes she window-shops at the Sands outlet. But one thing she almost never does is gamble.
Instead, she and her husband sell the $45 free-play cards the casino gives them for making the 100-mile bus trip, and they spend the rest of the day absorbing what the Christmas City has to offer until they return home.
For them, riding the casino bus is a job — the only one they can find.
“We can sell our cards for about $1,200 a month,” Cui said in Mandarin through an interpreter. “I cannot find a job in Flushing. This is our only income. We come every day. Every day.”
Cui is among thousands of bus riders who flood into the Sands on more than 50 buses a day from heavily Asian-populated New York City neighborhoods in Flushing, Chinatown and Brooklyn. Lured by the best casino deal in the region — $45 in free slot play for the price of a $15 bus ticket — hundreds sell their casino cards every day on the underground market moments after stepping off the bus. Many are low-income and some are even homeless, revealing that for some, riding the bus to the Sands is not only a way of life but a way to live….
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