New CEO Soper is no stranger to Mohegan Sun

Mohegan - Bobby Soper, the fourth chief executive in Mohegan Sun's 16-year history, returned Monday to the Uncasville casino where he first served as a gaming executive in 2001.

Soper, 40, an Atlanta native who holds business and law degrees from the University of Georgia, served as Mohegan Sun's chief legal officer and senior vice president of administration before being named president and CEO of its sister property in Pennsylvania, Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs, in 2005.

Now he's back.

"I'm getting reacclimated," Soper said near the end of his first day in his new job. "Primarily evaluating and meeting up with old colleagues."

He said the biggest adjustments he faces have to do with the difference in the magnitude of the Mohegans' Pennsylvania and Connecticut properties.

"Mohegan Sun is a substantially larger facility and it's a much different market, but it's something I'm familiar with," he said. "I spent almost eight years here and I've been back many times. It's not a strange place."

In Pennsylvania, Soper oversaw Pocono Downs' 2005 opening with slot machines, a major expansion in 2008 and the introduction of table games in 2010. In July, the Wilkes-Barre, Pa., facility broke ground on a $50 million hotel and convention center. The facility has about 1,700 employees, less than a quarter of the number at Mohegan Sun, which last month announced it was laying off more than 300 people.

Soper is the first Mohegan tribal member to hold the top post at Mohegan Sun.

"It's certainly an honor," he said. "I guess you could say all the tribal members who work at the casino have skin in the game. We want to represent not only the organization but the family as well in a first class way. ... The reality is the whole team here is a family."

Mohegan Sun's second most senior officer, Ray Pineault, executive vice president and chief operating officer, also is a tribal member.

Soper succeeds Jeffrey Hartmann as president and CEO, a post Hartmann had held since January 2011. Mitchell Etess, the gaming authority's CEO, also served as Mohegan Sun's CEO from 2004 to 2010. Etess succeeded William Velardo, the casino's first CEO.

In Pennsylvania, Michael Bean, since 2010 the assistant general manager at Pocono Downs, has succeeded Soper. Bean is originally from Norwich.

b.hallenbeck@theday.com

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