GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP - About a dozen young men cracked open sweating sports-drink bottles Sunday afternoon during a break from a five-hour cricket match at Glenn by the Bay Park.
Since it began six years ago, the Galloway Township-based cricket organization has grown to 60 players on three teams and expects to reach 100 players by next year, according to 26-year-old co-President Chirag Desai, of Galloway.
Desai said he wants to expand the rosters to include people who are unfamiliar with the game and its history.
Currently, the players represent Asian-Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi-American men living in Galloway Township, Absecon, Atlantic City and Egg Harbor Township.
Within those towns, several neighborhoods are occupied by a high proportion of Indian families.
"A lot of people choose (those areas) because they work in the casinos and the bus station is right there," Desai said.
It is not news that culturally similar immigrants often live among one another in the United States, particularly upon arrival.
But better-paid, nonprofessional casino jobs have heightened that tendency locally and prompted such enclaves to crop up in suburban areas in addition to the urban settings where one might expect to find them.
"Migration is a story about what's going on in the home country and what's going on in the host country," said Janice Fine, an assistant professor at Rutgers University. "It could be economic ties, foreign relations ... whatever it is, there's some kind of affinity that is established, and they start to migrate."
Dharmesh Patel, 29, of Galloway Township, is one of about 600,000 Indians living in New Jersey.
Like other immigrants, they were drawn here by job opportunities and a proximity to airports for foreign flights, such as Kennedy International Airport in New York City. And during the past few decades, an increasing proportion of immigrants has held advanced degrees required by jobs in the state's pharmaceutical and biomedical industries, Fine said.
But "it's hard to find a job in northern New Jersey unless you're educated," Patel said. "Here, there are more opportunities for people who are not professionals in the service sector."
Indian workers constitute between 10 and 15 percent of casino laborers, about double their representation among the statewide population, according to the U.S. Census Bureau and Local 54 of UNITE-HERE multilinguist Jay Sodha.
The gaming industry here affords nonprofessionals better pay and benefits than those who work in the northern part of the state, according to Palimal Parikh, a 56-year-old engineering consultant who moved to the U.S. 30 years ago as a student and was instrumental in building the region's first Hindu temple.
He estimated that three-quarters of local Indians are nonprofessionals. Official numbers on local worker nationalities were unavailable from the Census Bureau, Casino Control Commission or individual gaming houses.
If Parikh is right, his approximation and Sodha's statistics could explain inland enclaves, given that nonprofessionals exhibit stronger tendencies to seek housing among those with a shared ethnic background that is close to public transportation, Parikh said.
Enough Asian Indian workers take the bus routes that run past the California and Concord apartment complexes that the drivers have picked up phrases or are proficient in their riders' native languages, according to 55-year-old Pradip Patel.
Patel has lived for 22 years in the Concord complex off Eighth Avenue and the White Horse Pike. Indian families occupy 85 of 90 units there, he said.
Inland communities along the White Horse Pike also offer newer, larger homes at lower prices than those available in Atlantic City and other seaside towns. The highway also hosts public bus routes, minimizing the convenience lost by moving inland, according to Parikh.
The suburban shift is a natural function of an immigrant class that has accumulated capital and established financial security, Fine said.
That abounds in Indian families, which the Census Bureau counts among Asian households as earning more than all other racial groups in every county in New Jersey. That is due, in part, to a tendency toward multiple-income homes, Parikh said.
Those forces have indeed landed many Indian families in Galloway Township.
The township's large Indian population prompted community leaders to locate the 12,000-square-foot Hindu Temple of South Jersey there. Membership has increased fivefold since it opened eight years ago, according to Parikh, secretary of the organization.
It also inspired 58-year-old Ashok Kamdar to open Shreeji Grocery on New Jersey Avenue in Absecon, just off the White Horse Pike. He figured resort workers would find it convenient to stop there on their way home to Galloway Township, where he lives.
It turns out there is so much business that Shreeji has prospered for seven years alongside DJ's Indian Grocery. Both stores carry Indian specialty items and offer international wire transfers.
Comfort in the familiar
Sadip Sheth, a 35-year-old casino dealer, lives in a predominantly Indian neighborhood bounded by Damson and Ebony Tree lanes between Abraham Avenue and the White Horse Pike in Galloway Township.
Sheth said he moved there on the advice of other Indians who knew he sought a more cohesive Indian community that would accommodate his 63-year-old father, who does not drive or speak English.
Demographers refer to this as chain migration, according to Fine, who studies immigrant demographics as they relate to the work force in New Jersey.
"Once there's a community that migrates or gets settled, it makes it attractive for people to settle," she said. "It's much tougher for the first people that come. People keep building on that base. They use that network for job contacts and for housing and for employment and to find out about public schools. ... Because the suburbs can be so isolating, people might really be looking for others ... from the same background. But not everyone is like this."
Like Sheth, Parikh shared his home with his wife, children and parents and also sponsored his brother and sisters once he secured work. But the 58-year-old engineering consultant settled on a mixed neighborhood when he moved to Linwood 25 years ago.
Patel chose similarly about six months ago when he moved a mile from the Concord Apartments on Theresa Court, the easternmost street in Galloway. He shared a place there with his mother, who is not fluent in English. It is advantageous for her to live surrounded by people of similar descent, he said.
He said he chose the Concord because it is near a grocery store, banks, pharmacy, hospitals and transportation.
It also is less than 15 minutes from Richard Stockton College, where his sons obtained degrees in finance and biology. Patel works in the security department at Convention Hall in Atlantic City. His wife is a housekeeper.
"Our generation comes here so their kids can study ... nursing, medicine, computers, engineering," he said.
It could get harder for subsequent generations to achieve the American dream of boosting earnings, assimilation, education and overall quality of life.
Opportunities in India have grown for middle-class students to fulfill career and economic aspirations while the U.S. recession and automation have eliminated jobs from the local market. Some casino workers, including Indians, have left the area to find work in the burgeoning gaming industries in Connecticut and Pennsylvania, according to Fine, Parikh and Riaz Rajput, chief of public affairs at Masjid Al Taqwa, a mosque in Atlantic City.
"(Before) this recession, it was a very good area in terms of jobs available - very basic jobs to start their life, without any problem," Rajput said. "It's a very difficult situation and definitely has a big impact on all those individuals."
Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, Indians and Egyptians are all represented at Al Taqwa and the other three mosques in the city. The increasing importance of subcontinental Asian immigrants culminated in two bids by such residents for Democratic nominations to City Council in June. Although Rizwan Malik and Nashir U. Sheikh failed, their attempt has encouraged Rajput and others that victory is inevitable and overdue on a governing body representing a city where the minority comprises 5 percent of the population.
Galloway Mayor Tom Bassford knew to prioritize the population upon his foray into campaigning for political office eight years ago.
"We have a decent population out here, and we pay attention to their needs and we're in touch with them all the time." he said.
Currently, the township is trying to get together money to establish an official cricket field for the three adult teams that play in the state league and the children who play on their own most warm nights behind the municipal complex, he said.
Most of the 50 teams in the Cricket League of New Jersey are concentrated in northern New Jersey; the closest hails from Camden County, more than an hour from Galloway Township. Teams play nationwide in all states and Puerto Rico, according to the league Web sites.
E-mail Emily Previti: