Widus Hotel & Casino is a standout example of just how far Clark’s casino industry has come in less than a decade.
One of the foundation properties of the Clark area, having first opened as a hotel in 2008, Widus Hotel & Casino is now leading the charge of new development within the Clark Freeport Zone.
Having first introduced casino gaming to the property a little over 12 months after launch in 2009 with 24 tables and 150 slot machines, it now boasts 67 tables and 370 slots on a sleek, modern gaming floor that followed an initial 2014 expansion but is soon set to grow yet again thanks to its latest development initiative which, when complete in late 2020, will bring total investment in Widus to US$500 million.
“When we started in 2008, we didn’t have a casino and it was very, very difficult,” explains Assistant Vice President – Corporate Planning and Compliance, Neki Liwanag. “We quickly realized that if you don’t have a casino in Clark, you won’t survive because there really wasn’t much to do in Clark aside from play golf and stay in the hotel.
“But the reason the owners wanted to invest in Clark was the airport. We saw the potential there to grow and luckily they were able to bring in more business.”
Owned and operated by Korea’s Widus International Leisure Inc, Widus Hotel & Casino also targets Koreans as its primary international customer source.
“That’s the market,” Liwanag continues. “Clark has this unique mix of features that Koreans like – golf, casinos and nighttime entertainment (local bars).
“Of course, they can’t play in the casinos in Korea so they come here where we have an airport five minutes away which makes Clark very accessible to them.”
This latest expansion of Widus is a substantial one, with the new casino to house 200 gaming tables and between 800 and 1,000 electonic gaming machines, plus new junket rooms to be utilized by major Asian junket operators. The casino will be supported by three hotels – including Mercure and Swissotel – offering a combined count of almost 1,000 rooms and complemented by 9,000 square meters of retail space.
Widus isn’t stopping there, however, having last month signed an agreement with the Bases Conversion Development Authority to lease around 450 hectares of land in New Clark City – a planned community 30km north of Clark Freeport Zone – on which it will develop three golf courses and four hotels.
The resort, named Hann Lux, will be built in two stages with Phase 1, expected to be finished by 2025 at a cost of Php5 billion (US$100 million), to include the Angsana Hotel and Banyan Tree Hotel, an 18-hole championship golf course and a clubhouse.
Phase 2, scheduled for a 2030 launch, will include a Luxury Collection by Marriott and a Westin, two 18-hole championship golf courses, outdoor recreation facilities, premium villas and residences, a mixed-use commercial center and a 10-hectare public park for a total investment of Php7 billion (US$140 million).
“It’s a project planned to support this one (Widus Hotel & Casino) because we have a lot of guests who play golf but at the moment we have to take them across the road to other courses,” Liwanag says. “We might as well take them to our own golf course.”