Sangil: There’s no business like casino business

MONEY. Big money. At any given day a gambling casino in the entertainment complex in Pasay City gets a gross net of around P100 million, according to a source who requested anonymity. Casino business is a special category business. There's nothing like it.

Here in Clark Freeport there are several casinos, and that include on-line gaming which is raking in the big money. 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 businesman Dae Sik Han with alleged dummies as partners, Casablanca operated by former Congressman Tarzan Lazatin in partnership with the heirs of the late Engineer Damian Ramos, Royce Hotel and Casino by sportsman Rodolfo Pineda and Midori Hotel and Casino operated by Irineo Alvaro, Jr. with Chinese partners.

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 now Quest Hotel, formerly Holiday Inn. He redesigned the golf course and made it into a world class playground. He spruced up the villas and later established the Mimosa casino.

Fontana is one beautiful leisure park nestled on a mountain ridge overlooking the Sacobia river, and most beautiful during night time when one can see the bright orange sun setting while defining the outline of the mountain ranges as foreground. It was first developed by Chinese businessman Robin Tan,putting up a waterpark, 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 the International Airport further boosted the incomes of the park, particularly the casino operation.

The estimated 15,000 Korean expats residing just outside the Clark Freeport, and hundreds more from South Korea who are visiting Clark daily via flights landing at Clark International Airport are the main bulk of Widus Casino. Through this market force Widus has to expand the casino area and build a hotel annex to accommodate the Korean tourists.

Former Congressman Carmelo 'Tarzan' Lazatin, a known risk taker all his life 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. Lately it is up for sale, according to Lazatin.

It was first known first Oxford Princess Casino, then it closed down. In the early years while all the gambling casinos inside Clark Freeport are enjoying good incomes, this casino run by certain politicians from Isabela province 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 sold it to businessman Rodolfo 'Bong' Pineda. There was total renovation and now it's called Royce Hotel and Casino.

The latest to open its doors for casino patrons is the Midori. The operators who are on on-line gambling via their Eagle Sky based in Clark for many years now ventured in real table casino operations and are succeeding. (More on casino operation in the next article)

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