N. California casinos live on Asians' love of gambling

Every morning at 9 a.m. in front of the Cathay Bank at the Asian shopping center on 65th Street, fortune hunters line up for the free shuttle bus to Thunder Valley Casino.

The burgundy shuttle will become a rolling United Nations, boarded by Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese, Laotians, Filipinas and on one morning last week, a handful of African Americans and whites, too.

When the shuttle pulls up, a few Chinese women spill out. "We played baccarat all night long," explained Helen Yee, 71. How did they do? "Not too good."

"Asians love to gamble," declares another Chinese woman in line.

That's something casinos already know. From 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., casino shuttles and private charter buses make pickups in Asian neighborhoods throughout Northern California.

They stop in Sacramento's mini-Saigon along Stockton Boulevard or at Asian apartment complexes downtown. They ferry gamblers waiting at casino storefront offices in San Francisco's Chinatown and San Jose's Little Saigon. The free shuttles don't offer incentives like vouchers or buffet coupons, but the private charters often do – and charge their riders a portion of the $10 each gets from the casinos on arrival.

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