Whether it's a dollar, a quarter or a nickel at a time, Massachusetts residents are the biggest contributor to New England's casinos.
Todd Pina walks past a few rows of chirping, cartoonish-sounding slot machines before settling on one that requires $1 per spin.
The 40-year-old Brockton resident, who used a day off from work to take a bus to the Foxwoods casino in Connecticut, feeds the machine a $20 bill and begins trying his luck.
But after about a minute, his money is gone.
"Just like that," Pina says with a laugh.
Whether it's a dollar, a quarter or a nickel at a time, Massachusetts residents are the biggest contributor to New England's casinos. Researchers say more than $1 billion a year leaves the Bay State for casinos in Connecticut and Rhode Island, fueling efforts by Gov. Deval Patrick and others to legalize casinos here and keep the money in state.
A good portion of that cash is leaving via bus. Recently, Pina and about 30 others boarded a tour bus bound for Foxwoods at one of several stops in southeastern Massachusetts.
This trip, run by the Taunton-based H&L Bloom Bus Line, departs the region for Foxwoods every day of the week. Other companies run daily trips to Mohegan Sun in Connecticut.
A reporter and photographer from The Enterprise accompanied local residents on a recent two-hour trip to Foxwoods.
One of the passengers on the trip, Gene Hardy of West Bridgewater, said he visits New England casinos three or four times a month. On this day he had $500 to spend playing slots.
But the 71-year-old said he probably wouldn't leave the state to gamble if a casino is built in Middleboro, as proposed by the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe. "It's closer, more convenient. I'd much rather go there," Hardy said.
Others on the trip agreed.
Sam Protentis of Brockton said he does enjoy the liveliness of Foxwoods, which has the most gaming space of any casino in the world with 340,000 square feet.
But when asked about the possibility of a Middleboro casino opening, the 81-year-old put it this way: "If they do, I'll be a victim."
Leilani Cronin of Taunton said she would seek a job as a card dealer at the casino, which she said has been a lifelong dream.
"Provided the casino opens up when I'm still young enough," said Cronin, 52, who works as a crossing guard and a cafeteria worker in the Taunton schools. For now, though, the most pleasant way for many people to get to the casino is on a bus tour.
"It's a nice trip. I don't have to buy the gas, I just sit back and nap and enjoy it," said 70-year-old Alma Coleman of Brockton.
H&L Bloom's Foxwoods tour cost $23. But in addition to getting a ride, participants are handed a voucher for a $17 buffet and $10 worth of Keno tickets.
Foxwoods, located outside Ledyard, Conn., feels like a small city. It's split up into six large casino rooms, along with a bingo hall, eateries and shops.
Massachusetts residents spent an estimated $549 million last year at Foxwoods, more even than Connecticut residents, who spent $525 million at the casino.
One local resident who was spending the day at the casino didn't take the bus tour. John Sylvia of Taunton said he didn't like the idea of being restricted on how long he could stay.
The 60-year-old also didn't care for the idea of a casino in Middleboro, saying he likes to get away from home when he gambles.
"I'd rather not see it there. It'd be too close to me," said Sylvia, while smoking a cigar and sitting at one of the casino's more than 7,000 slot machines.
Despite being just 15 miles apart, both Foxwoods and the Mohegan Sun casino in Uncasville are thriving. The casinos earned an estimated $1.6 billion apiece last year.
It's no wonder how they do it, after talking to the casino-goers at the end of the day. Gene Hardy said he lost the $500 he had taken with him at the slot machines.
"Today was not to be," he said.
Todd Pina also lost a bundle of cash - $250 - but vowed to return to Foxwoods soon.
"Next day off," he said.
Kyle Alspach can be reached at email@example.com.