Philippines Casino Opens on Former Grounds of US Air Force Military Base

Posted on: July 7, 2019, 04:00h. 

Last updated on: July 5, 2019, 02:25h.

A new casino in the Philippines has opened for business. The gaming venue is inside the Clark Freeport Zone, which was a US military base for the Air Force from 1903 to 1991.

Philippines casino Clark Freeport Zone
The Clark Freeport Zone in the Philippines has added a sixth casino destination. (Image: ABS-CBN)

The Business Mirror, a media outlet in the Philippines, says the D’ Heights Resort and Casino opened its doors this week with 576 slot machines and 50 table games. The $250 million development will soon be accompanied by a Hilton and Hyatt Regency hotels featuring 310 total guestrooms.

D’ Heights Resort and Casino General Manager Albert Pascual told reporters that the resort isn’t finished just yet. Plans for an indoor waterpark, artificial lake, private residences, restaurants, and 36-hole golf course are in the works.

In its mission statement, the Clark Freeport Zone says the goal is to transform the area “into a modern industrial estate and premier service and logistics hub, with facilities for training, conferences, tourism, and leisure.”

Casino Scandals

The freeport is home to five other casinos – Midori, Royce, Widus, PAGCOR Mimosa, and Fortunegate. PAGCOR, the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation, functions as both a regulator and operator.

The Fontana Hot Spring Leisure Parks previously housed a casino floor, but was shut down when the Filipino government raided the property in 2016 and arrested 1,316 Chinese nationals allegedly working illegally. Hong Kong gaming tycoon Jack Lam fled and hasn’t returned since.

The Philippines argued that the Chinese nationals were helping Lam run an illegal online gambling operation that specifically targeted players located in the People’s Republic. Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte and China President Xi Jinping have a healthy relationship, but this week Philippine Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III revealed that the two countries have not discussed online gambling.

“We are not talking to the Chinese government about it,” Dominguez said.

The Philippines gaming industry has endured plenty of unwanted headlines in recent years. A deadly attack in 2017 at Resorts World Manila left 36 people dead, and Duterte’s controversial leadership and decision to personally halt PAGCOR-approved casino investments has thrown the industry into chaos.

Duterte’s tenure has been engulfed in criticism. This week, nearly two-dozen UN countries called for an investigation into Duterte’s war on drugs, which has led to the deaths of more than 5,000 suspected illegal narcotics dealers. The Philippines government claims all of those killed put up a fight with federal law enforcement.

Zoned In

Measuring roughly 121 square miles, the Clark Freeport Zone is a designated area adjacent to the current Clark International Airport.

The base was formed between allies the US and Philippines in 1903, and named for US Army Signal Corps Major Harold Clark. The stronghold military base played critical roles in both World War II and the Vietnam War.

Clark Air Base was perhaps the most urbanized overseas US military facility, and at its peak had a population of around 15,000 people. After US forces departed in 1991, the Philippines transitioned the base into a commercial international airport.

The Philippines’ Bases Conversion and Development Act of 1992 designated the area a special economic zone and freeport.