Hann Casino Resort in Clark, Philippines, announced in late March the appointment of highly respected industry veteran Dennis Andreaci as its new Senior Vice President of Casino. IAG sits down with Andreaci to discuss the role, his plans for the property and how he sees Clark developing in the years ahead.
“The idea,” explains casino industry veteran Dennis Andreaci, “is that when you are the first to build a world-leading property in an emerging jurisdiction, you get way ahead of everybody else and you create a whole new market for that jurisdiction to build upon.
“Then if you take that world-leading property and continue to maintain it and develop it, the competition will never catch up and you will always be the market leader. That’s what we’ve done here.”
Andreaci is discussing the Philippines’ Hann Casino Resort – located about 80 kilometers north of Manila in the Clark Freeport Zone – which last year completed a US$600 million expansion and rebranding project aimed at elevating the property to this world-leading standard. Originally launched in 2008 as Widus Hotel & Casino, and with a modest offering of 24 gaming tables and 150 slot machines, the Hann expansion covers 130,000 square meters with 147 tables and 868 machines, plus the Philippines’ first ever Swissôtel, specialty dining options, retail outlets, a swimming pool, an executive lounge and event venues such as a ballroom and function rooms.
As Andreaci points out, Hann is to Clark what Solaire Resort is to Manila’s Entertainment City.
“Solaire set the standard in Manila and the others followed afterwards, and here it’s the same thing,” he explains. “Hann is open and trying in many ways to model itself on what Solaire has done in Manila – to be the best, build the best, bring in the best people and put in the best policies and procedures so that when the customer walks into the property you far exceed their expectations.
“Now everyone in Clark knows what the standard is and I hope [the other casino-resort operators] build to it, or at least close to it, because then it helps us grow the market as a whole.”
It is this pursuit of excellence from Hann Casino Resort and its charismatic leader, Daesik Han, that has led Andreaci to come on board as Hann’s new Senior Vice President of Casino, tasked with ensuring the property’s gaming offering is on par with the best Asia has to offer. Certainly, the long-time casino executive brings the necessary pedigree to the role, having previously held senior roles with Sands China and Galaxy Entertainment Group in Macau, and with Marina Bay Sands in Singapore, among others. He was also on the opening team at Solaire back in 2013, allowing him to gain strong insight into the Philippines gaming market.
“What I bring to Hann is the ability to take what was Widus and what is the Clark area and make it an international destination by running it like an international company – like Marina Bay Sands, like MGM and like I did with Solaire,” Andreaci explains.
“Mr Han has built a spectacular property, we have very good hotels and the F&B is all excellent, so for me it has been about bringing the standards, the policies and the procedures, the recruitment and training, the vision and marketing that goes with these integrated resorts to Hann and to Clark as a destination.
“Clark still has a long way to go before it reaches any kind of critical mass. The [upgraded] airport is open but Clark as a whole doesn’t have enough hotels yet.
“But it will keep expanding and my role is to keep Hann moving forward, open up new areas and be creative in where we expand and what we do. That’s the kind of experience I have in international jurisdictions and the expertise I bring. Clark to me is the next big destination.”
Where Clark already provides a point of difference to many of its regional peers, particularly those in Macau, is its golf offering. Currently home to three high quality courses within the freeport plus half a dozen more nearby, Mr Han recently outlined his vision to turn Clark into a unique golf tourism destination by developing another three golf courses of his own – part of his sizeable new Hann Reserve project – plus four new hotels and other attractions on 450 hectares of land in New Clark City.
“If you look at the recent IRs that have come online, such as Hoiana and Corona Resort in Vietnam and us here at Hann, we are holistic resorts now,” says Andreaci.
“We have golf courses, we have environmental attractions, be it beaches or mountains, so we are giving people alternative destinations to their traditional gaming hubs like Macau.
“At this point in time our core customers are Koreans and Filipinos, and the Koreans love to golf, so that’s a big piece of our business. The Filipinos love to come to Clark to get away from Manila for the weekend. Plus a lot of the Philippines is located to the north of us and for all of those communities, Clark is the destination of choice rather than travelling further to get to Manila. That’s an interesting piece of the business.
“So those two things going forward are important for us, the golf courses and the boutique hotels, because we’re adding some quality brands. And then, as more facilities and amenities come online in the region, Clark will broaden its appeal to customers in Japan and Thailand and Singapore and Malaysia.
“As a destination Clark still has a long way to go, like when The Venetian Macao was the only place on Cotai. That’s where we are right now.
“But like Macau, it’s the multiplier effect, so one plus one equals three and as more high-quality properties open the multiplier effect makes all those businesses successful.”
As for his impression of Mr Han himself, Andreaci likens the company founder to a few other notable industry figures he’s worked alongside in years gone by.
“I’ve always been very, very happy working for companies where the top guy is the boss, be it [Las Vegas Sands founder] Sheldon Adelson or [Galaxy Entertainment Group Vice Chairman] Francis Lui or [Bloomberry Resorts Corp Chairman and CEO] Enrique Razon and now Mr Han,” he says.
“It’s a very nice position for someone like myself to be in because I run all the casino operations. I say, ‘Okay boss here is what I think we should do.’ He will say that’s either a good idea or not a good idea and we go from there. I like that, the ability to do things on your feet and not have to put it to committees.
“All of those people I mentioned are visionaries. They see where they want to go, they have a very strong, focused idea of what they want to do and what they want to achieve, and being part of that dynamic is quite exciting. Following a dynamic leader who has a vision is exciting for me and it’s exciting for the team. When you are free to think outside of the box in terms of operations, free to develop new ideas and be innovative, that’s what I love to do.”