Mohegan Sun laying off 355, closing food outlets

Buy Photo Tim Martin/The Day An employee of Mohegan Sun walks along Sandy Desert Road in Uncasville, Conn., after leaving work Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2010. The employee declined to give her name.

Citing a relentless decline in revenues, Mohegan Sun announced today it is laying off 355 employees — the casino's first mass layoffs since it opened in 1996 — and said it would close one of its two buffet restaurants, a snack bar in its race book and two food-court outlets that will reopen under third-party management.

Mitchell Etess, Mohegan Sun's president and chief executive officer, told reporters that 475 positions were being eliminated. He said 120 employees whose jobs were being eliminated would be shifted into other positions at Mohegan Sun, leaving a net loss of 355 employees. In addition, he said, the new operators of the food-court outlets would provide jobs.

The food outlets closing include the Sunburst Buffet, Chief's Bagels, Subs and Sweets and Woodland Wok.

Prior to the layoffs, Mohegan Sun employed about 9,000 full-time employees at its Uncasville casino. Since the fall of 2008, about 900 jobs have been trimmed through attrition.

"We've worked hard the last two years to reduce our labor expenses while waiting for the economy to improve, but the economy has not improved, the economy has not stabilized," Etess said in addressing the need for the layoffs. "The recovery is much slower than expected … consumer confidence is sagging … unemployment is rising."

He said the casino could no longer rely on attrition to pare its workforce and still meet its financial obligations.

"We were not 'attritioning' fast enough," he said.

Etess also said technological advances have enabled casinos to operate more efficiently on gaming floors, where fewer employees are needed to supervise table games and slot machines.

Of the 475 positions eliminated, 275 were in the food and beverage department. The remaining 200 were "across the board," Etess said, including slot attendants, slot technicians, shift managers and other supervisors and marketing jobs. Forty-seven of the positions eliminated were at the director level and above, up to vice president, he said.

All those laid off will be offered severance packages of two weeks' pay for each year of service, with a minimum of eight weeks' pay and a maximum of 28 weeks' pay. Health coverage will continue for the duration of the severance.

Some employees were informed that they were being laid off Monday night. Management planned to finish informing all of those affected Tuesday. By midday, about 70 percent of those affected had been told, Etess said.

Mohegan Sun employees cross Sandy Desert Road as they report to work Tuesday Sept. 14, 2010.
Buy Photo Tim Cook/The Day Mohegan Sun employees cross Sandy Desert Road as they report to work Tuesday Sept. 14, 2010.
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