Mohegans trumpet move into gambling management

Mohegan - The Mohegan Tribe has cranked up the volume of its pitch for gaming management and consulting contracts, formally announcing in a press release this week the formation of its months-old Mohegan Gaming Advisors.

The announcement prompted stories about the group in The Wall Street Journal, the New York Post and other publications.

The MGA's birth was first noted late last year when Mitchell Etess, former president and chief executive officer of Mohegan Sun, relinquished his casino post to focus on other ventures as CEO of the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority. In May, the authority announced it had reached an agreement with Westchester, N.Y., developer Louis Cappelli to develop the Mohegan Sun Concord, a $600 million racetrack casino, in upstate New York's Catskills region. MGA would manage the facility.

"Going forward, MGA will be responsible for any management contracts we have, including those projects we're already involved with," Etess said Thursday in a phone interview. "This release today is about us getting our name out there and getting additional management contracts."

Etess said the authority waited to make a broad announcement of the MGA's launch until a website and certain marketing materials were ready.

In addition to the Concord project, the MGA will assume responsibility for the Mohegans' partnership with the Cowlitz Tribe, which hopes to build a $510 million casino in southwestern Washington state. Last December, the federal government approved the Cowlitz' acquisition of a 152-acre reservation that would accommodate the project. That approval has been challenged in federal court.

"We would help the Cowlitz build and manage the project when that litigation is successfully completed," Etess said. "We've said that should be in 12 to 18 months."

MGA would also be involved in the Mohegans' plan to develop a non-Indian casino in Palmer, Mass., a project contingent on the Bay State's authorization of casinos. Another proposed casino project involving a partnership between the Mohegans and the Menominee Tribe of Wisconsin, though not considered imminent, would be handled by the MGA as well, Etess said.

Executives at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs, the tribe-owned racetrack casino in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., will continue to report directly to Etess.

"We believe our experience and track record are solid," Etess said. "We come in as owners and operators with the ability and wherewithal to get things done in the Native American space or commercially. As a tribally owned company we're sensitive to cultural issues, but we're not focusing on tribal projects over commercial ones."

According to the MGA's website, its top management includes Gary Van Hettinga, president; Toby Arnheim, senior vice president of project management; Paul Brody, vice president of development; Paul Tresnan, director of program management; Peter Schultz, project coordinator; Joseph Lobe, senior financial analyst; and David Rome, senior regulatory counsel. Schultz served as vice chairman of the Mohegan Tribal Council from 2000 to 2005.

b.hallenbeck@theday.com

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