Amid earnings decline, Mohegan authority committed to expanding

Editor's note: This version corrects the total amount of earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization.

Mohegan — Despite reporting dramatic declines in earnings and profit for the quarter that ended June 30, Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority executives said Tuesday they’ll aggressively continue to pursue out-of-state gaming licenses and expect to break ground by the end of the year on a $110 million hotel at Mohegan Sun.

Prior to a conference call with gaming analysts, the authority announced its net income, or profit, for the quarter was $13.9 million, a 37.7 percent decrease over the same three-month period in fiscal 2013. Adjusted EBITDA — earnings before interest, depreciation, amortization and other payments — was $69.1 million, down 18.7 percent.

The authority, the gaming arm of the Mohegan Tribe, owns and operates Mohegan Sun and Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. It also includes Mohegan Gaming Advisors, which manages Resorts Casino Hotel in Atlantic City.

Mitchell Etess, the authority’s chief executive officer, called the quarterly results “mixed” and attributed declines in gaming revenues at Mohegan Sun to the state’s sluggish economic recovery and competition.

“We face the same challenges as many of our peers,” he said.

Mohegan Sun derives 59 percent of its “gaming trips” from state residents who also provide 53 percent of the casino’s gaming revenue. The casino’s quarterly EBITDA of $63.7 million was down 14.8 percent. Slot revenue, the largest single source of casino revenue, was down 9.1 percent.

At Pocono Downs, adjusted EBITDA was $13 million, a 17.3 percent decline.

The authority’s corporate expenses increased significantly during the quarter, a reflection of costs incurred in pursuing casino projects with partners in Revere, Mass., Philadelphia and New York’s Catskills region.

“If MTGA were to win even one of these licenses, that would go a long way toward helping us achieve our goal of diversifying,” Kevin Brown, the tribe’s chairman, told analysts.

Closer to home, Mohegan Sun is on the verge of finalizing an agreement with a partner to develop a 400-room hotel at the casino, a $110 million project that would require little capital investment by the Mohegans, said Mario Kontomerkos, the authority’s chief financial officer.

“It will be built and financed by a third party and leased back to MTGA,” he said.

Asked about a timetable, Kontomerkos said construction would begin by the end of the year, with the hotel expected to open 18 to 20 months thereafter. The hotel would bear the Mohegan “flag,” he said.

Mohegan Sun already has 1,200 hotel rooms.

Plans to add a $50 million nongaming addition to the casino also are advancing, according to Etess. The so-called “Downtown District” project, featuring space devoted to retail, entertainment and dining, would be owned by the developers.

b.hallenbeck@theday.com

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