Robert "Bobby" J. Soper, 40, will be the first Mohegan tribal member to run the Mohegan Sun gaming enterprise in Uncasville, Connecticut. (bbbsnepa.com)

Mohegan Sun Lays Off 330, Replaces CEO With Pocono Downs Chief Executive and Tribal Member 'Bobby' Soper

ICTMN Staff
9/29/12

The Mohegan Sun casino in Uncasville, Connecticut is laying off more than 300 employees before the end of October and replacing its CEO, the chief executive of the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority (MTGA), Mitchell Etess, told The Day of New London.

Robert J. "Bobby" Soper, CEO of Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, will replace current CEO Jeffrey Hartmann. Both Etess and Hartmann have worked at the casino since 1996 when it opened, the Associated Press reported.

Etess said 282 employees will be laid off immediately and another 46 will be let go at the end of the month—the company's second largest layoff ever, according to the Norwich Bulletin. The casino plans to close and reopen a restaurant under new management in October, as well as end its keno operation.

Workers in nearly every department and job level are at risk of losing their jobs. Laid-off employees will receive severance payments ranging from four to 32 weeks' pay, Etess said on the Lee Elci radio show on Friday.

“We need to keep a company that’s strong,” he said. “We need to protect the jobs of the 6,400 people that are still here.”

The casino and nearby competitor Foxwoods Resort Casino, operated by the Mashantucket Pequot Nation, have both blamed the weak economy, increased competition in neighboring states, rising gas prices and tax increases for declining revenues. Foxwoods told the Norwich Bulletin it has no plans to reduce its 8,000-person workforce.

Soper will become the first Mohegan member to lead the tribal gaming enterprise when he assumes his position on October 22, reported The Day of New London. Etess will fill the role of interim CEO until Soper relocates to Connecticut. Also a tribal member and second in command, Raymond Pineault is the current chief operating officer of the casino.

"This is a perfect example of what tribal gaming was intended to do," Tribal Chairman Bruce "Two Dogs" Bozsum said in a statement. "My goal has always been to have Mohegan Tribal members in senior positions in our operations."

Soper's father, Robert Sr., is chairman of the tribe's Council of Elders, and his cousin is public relations manager at Mohegan Sun.

Soper, 40, started his career in 1997 as legal counsel for the Mohegan Tribe. In 2001 for four years, he served as senior vice president of administration for the casino, moving to Mohegan Sun's Pocono Downs facility in 2005 as its CEO and president.

"He has really done an amazing job building the property," Etess told The Day of Soper spearheading the property's major expansion and launching Pennsylvania's first table games. "He's got a great personality, he's a great communicator. He's a great choice...."

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