The Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority has announced the immediate resignation of its President and Chief Executive Officer.
According to a report from The Day newspaper, Robert Soper assumed the top job with the tribal operator behind south-eastern Connecticut’s giant Mohegan Sun casino in March of 2015 but has now been replaced on an interim basis by predecessor Mitchell Etess.
Born in Atlanta and a graduate of the University Of Georgia, Soper began his career with the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority in 2001 after being named as Chief Legal Officer and Administration Senior Vice-President for the Mohegan Sun. He was then promoted to the post of President and Chief Executive Officer for Wilkes-Barre’s Mohegan Sun Pocono in 2005 before returning to Uncasville seven years later to serve in the same role for the Mohegan Sun.
“Having served as [a] general manager [for] both our Connecticut and Pennsylvania properties, Robert actively pursued the growth of the [Mohegan Tribe Of Connecticut] gaming enterprise to ensure its viability and survivability in an ever-increasingly competitive industry and he helped us achieve important gains across the country and around the world,” read a statement from Kevin Brown, Management Board Chairman for the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority, which also operates the Resorts Casino Hotel in Atlantic City, New Jersey. “The [Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority] is on good footing with its lowest debt-leverage ratio since the recession; combined with the outstanding opportunities presented by a number of management agreements put into place under his stead, [the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority] is postured to sustain the tribe for generations to come.”
For his part, Etess served as Chief Executive Officer for the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority for nine years beginning in 2006 and was also named as the operator’s President from 2011. Since leaving his previous roles, the basketball enthusiast has acted as Chief Executive Officer for the tribe’s Connecticut Sun franchise of the WNBA where he has been responsible for overseeing all day-to-day operational and administrative duties.
“Mitchell’s experience and sustained connection over the past year will allow us to sustain our progress while we commence the search for a new corporate leader,” read the statement from Brown. “Though this is a time for change, it is important that we do not lose sight of all of this incredible progress. We will rely on the inherent strengths of our entire team that continues to deliver memorable experiences and unmatched personalized services to our guests. Our core values combined with the Spirit Of Aquai and open communication will ensure that we emerge an even stronger enterprise in this next cycle of our growth.”
Soper reportedly told The Day that he was leaving the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority “on good terms” and that he “was happy to take on a new challenge” although he explained that confidentiality agreements prevented him from specifically detailing his next career move.
“To be with any organization in this business for 20 years is a remarkable feat,” Soper told The Day. “Now’s the time and the opportunity.”
His departure reportedly follows the Connecticut operator issuing a statement to the United States Securities And Exchange Commission on Wednesday detailing that it was in the midst of conducting a review into “possible operational control deficiencies” at its Mohegan Sun Pocono and would be delayed in filing its latest quarterly report. Based on its own “preliminary findings”, the operator allegedly declared that the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board’s Enforcement Counsel Office “anticipates that Mohegan Sun Pocono will be subject to disciplinary action including a fine and undertakings to remediate the issues identified”.
“The operational control deficiencies, which we are presently in the process of remediating, relate to, among other things, our system of tracking and reporting the issuance of certain customer incentives such as free slots play,” read the statement from the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority.
For his part, Soper reportedly told The Day that the review grew out of an investigation into a scheme that saw three people including Robert Pellegrini, a former Player Development Vice-President for Mohegan Sun Pocono, plead guilty to federal money laundering charges that had involved the theft of more than $422,000.
“It did not occur while I was there,” Soper told The Day referring to the irregularities. “We’ve been very cooperative with the review.”
The Day moreover reported that the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board last month terminated the Wilkes-Barre casino’s business relationship with local marketing and advertising firm ReferLocal, which had done business with the property since 2011, following an investigation in which it discovered that Soper held a 5% allegedly undisclosed equity interest in the company.
“On February 3, 2017, we received a letter from counsel to ReferLocal asserting, among other things, that ReferLocal had suffered damages in connection with the termination of our business relationship and may seek recovery of such damages from us and our former President and Chief Executive Officer,” read the statement from the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority. “The outcome of the foregoing matters is uncertain and we cannot estimate the extent of materiality or the amount or range of reasonably possible loss that may result from them.”
Soper reportedly told The Day that the 5% stake had become a “collateral issue” and that he did not consider it “a material disclosure” as he was not involved in the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board’s decision to terminate Mohegan Sun Pocono’s relationship with ReferLocal.
“I invest in a lot of businesses,” Soper told The Day. “I did disclose it to my superior at the time to remove any potential conflict for myself.”