The Gambling Casinos (Last Part)

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Wednesday, June 11, 2014


CASINOS IN CLARK - Presently there are five gambling casinos in the Clark Freeport. The Pagcor run casino in Mimosa formerly operated by former Tourism Secretary Jose Antonio Gonzalez, Fontana Casino by Jimei Corporation of Hongkong, Widus operated by a Korean business group led by Dae Sik Han, Casablanca operated jointly by Engineer Damian Ramos and former Congressman Carmelo 'Tarzan' Lazatin and Oxford Princess Casino operated by Isabela Congressman Napoleon Dy and Mayor Bentot Panganiban.

BACKGROUND - One of the first locators in Clark was Tony Gonzalez. He renovated the former Chambers Hall and turned it into a four-star hotel, the Holiday Inn. He redesigned the golf course and made it into a world class playground. He spruced up the villas and later he established the Mimosa casino.

Mimosa was the crown jewel of the special economic zone, and the casino became the cash cow for the corporation reportedly having a revenue stream of about P150 million a month. In the succeeding years, Gonzalez lost everything in Mimosa following a Supreme Court decision favoring the suit filed by Clark Development Corporation (CDC), after the former allegedly failed in his payment obligations. The Mimosa casino was mothballed for several years, only to re-open when I became part of the CDC board of directors.

FONTANA CASINO - Fontana is one beautiful leisure park nestled on a mountain ridge overlooking the Sacobia river, and most beautiful during nighttime when one can see the bright orange sun setting while defining the outline of the mountain ranges as foreground. It was first developed by R.N Development Corporation of chinoy businessman Robin Tan, putting up a water park, restaurants and adding more villas. A separate building was built which housed the casino. Later, it was sold to commercial retailer Lucio Co of Puregold for P800 million. And few years later sold to the Jimei group of successful businessman and philanthropist Jack Lam of Hongkong.

Jack Lam poured more amount to further improve the park, making almost everything world class. The increased flights touching down at Diosdado Macapagal International Airport further boosted the incomes of the park, particularly the casino operation.

WIDUS CASINO - There are an estimated 15,000 Korean expats residing just outside the Clark Freeport, and hundreds more from South Korea are visiting Clark daily via flights landing at DMIA. Through this market force Widus has to expand the casino area and build a hotel annex to accommodate the Korean tourists.

CASABLANCA CASINO - Engineer Damian Ramos partnered with his friend Efren Canlas and acquired Hillmark Construction Corporation, builder of most SM Malls in the country. Their partnership chalked success after success and made both multi-millionaires. The two parted ways, and Ramos went into partnership with former Congressman Tarzan Lazatin and built Stotsenberg Hotel and operated the Casablanca Casino. The casino is not having much success compared to Fontana and Widus, but nonetheless getting a comfortable monthly profit margin.

OXFORD PRINCESS CASINO - While all the gambling casinos inside Clark Freeport are enjoying good incomes, this casino run by the two Isabela politicians was almost all the time in the red in their bottom line figures. It was not able to pay on schedules its obligation, that one time it was ordered closed by the Clark Development Corporation. The profuse bleeding continued and the owners reportedly divested, and that it was reportedly bought by Lubao businessman Rodolfo "Bong" Pineda. (The news is still being verified up to this writing).

ANOTHER ONE - Another Bong maybe indulging in casino business if the filtering news is true that Irineo 'Bong' Alvaro, Jr. will put up a casino in yet to be finished Hotel Midori inside the Clark Freeport.

Dr. Bong, some friends call him, was a colleague in the Angeles City Council in mid-nineties. He temporarily shelved politics and went into business with a Taiwanese group. It was a very wise decision on his part. Look where he is now. A successful businessman and a top man in the corporate ladder. And by schedule, the Hotel Midori will start operation sometime in the last quarter of this year.

Published in the Sun.Star Pampanga newspaper on June 12, 2014.

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