LIers no strangers to casino-bound buses

Hundreds of Long Islanders each day jump on buses bound for casinos in Connecticut, Yonkers and Atlantic City.

They board buses run by numerous companies that make stops at card shops, variety stores, diners and cafes, sometimes early in the morning or late at night. Return trips home after midnight aren't unusual.

Tickets to places like Mohegan Sun, Empire City Casino and Tropicana often come with offers of free buffets and plays of keno and slots.

It's a practice going back decades.

Classic Coach Companies of Bohemia has been going to Atlantic City since 1980. The company runs eight trips daily to Atlantic City, with pickups in Suffolk, Nassau, Queens, Brooklyn and the city. The route averages 200 to 500 passengers a day.

On Saturday, Classic's passenger tally was 500.

"It really does attract a very diverse crowd, especially in age," said Classic Coach president Mike Schoolman.

Corporate, senior and other groups also charter buses for gambling trips, he said.

The company website touts its safety record, saying Classic has "a full time safety director who continually trains and retrains the motorcoach operators in defensive driving and several other safety issues" that has earned it high awards for safety in the motorcoach industry.

It's also not uncommon for casinos to hire bus lines to bring people in, said James Marino, president of the Long Island Travel Agents Association.

Mohegan has at least 10 bus lines serving New Yorkers. Empire City in Yonkers has a share of bus riders as well.

About 200 people stream through Broadway Diner in Hicksville every three weeks to buy tickets for buses heading to Yonkers and Atlantic City. It's been a practice since long before manager Marino Frangomihalos started.

"I think it's a headache, but I'm doing it," he said, noting that it brings more cars to the parking lot and that he has to turn his attention from diners to ticket buyers at busy times. "Atlantic City is very popular."

Foxwoods Resort Casino in Mashantucket, Conn., has a special lobby equipped with flat-screen televisions and new seats to welcome the hundred buses arriving daily from New York, New Jersey and New England.On narrow, one-way 40th Road in downtown Flushing yesterdaySaturday, hawkers sold tickets as casino buses queued up for the 1 p.m. departure rush.

Foxwoods-bound bus driver Alex Chen, 48, said passengers who'd heard about the Bronx crash were apprehensive.

"They're talking about it. They're scared," he said.

With Matthew Chayes

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