Soper resigns as head of Mohegan gaming authority

Bobby Soper, the Mohegan tribal member who´s been the tribe´s top gaming executive since 2015, resigned Tuesday.
Bobby Soper, the Mohegan tribal member who´s been the tribe´s top gaming executive since 2015, resigned Tuesday.

Bobby Soper, the Mohegan tribal member who’s been the tribe’s top gaming executive since 2015, resigned Tuesday.

Soper, 45, who confirmed his resignation in an email, wrote that he was “happy to take on a new challenge” but was unable to describe it because of “certain confidentiality obligations.” He did not indicate whether he was leaving to take another position in the gaming industry.

Mitchell Etess, a senior adviser to the tribe and Soper’s predecessor as president and chief executive officer of the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority, will replace Soper on an interim basis while the tribe searches for a permanent successor, Chuck Bunnell, the tribe’s chief of staff, said.

Bunnell would not elaborate on Soper's resignation. Messages left with Kevin Brown, the Mohegan Tribal Council chairman, and other members of the council were not returned. Etess declined to comment.

“It’s has been a great run and I have been fortunate to be part of, and lead significant growth of, the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority and its properties,” Soper wrote. “... While I will certainly miss all the great team members I have been surrounded by the past 20 years, I am also happy to take on a new challenge.”

Although the gaming authority recently reported a year-over-year decline in revenues in the quarter that ended Dec. 31, its financial performance during Soper’s tenure mostly has been positive. In the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, Mohegan Sun, the authority’s flagship casino, had net revenues of $1.02 billion, a 2.8 percent increase over the previous year.

In 2016, the authority headed a partnership that secured a gaming license to develop an integrated resort at the Incheon International Airport near Seoul, South Korea. The first phase of the project, costing $1.6 billion, is being designed. The authority also operates Mohegan Sun Pocono in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., and manages Resorts Casino Hotel in Atlantic City and the Tunica-Biloxi Tribe of Louisiana’s Paragon Casino Resort in Marksville, La.

The authority is partnered with the Cowlitz Indian Tribe in developing a $510 million casino near Portland, Ore. It's considering adding a convention center to Mohegan Sun and has plans to develop the former Norwich Hospital property in Preston. It also hopes to open a casino in the Hartford area in a joint venture with the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe.

Soper, a native-born Atlantan with a law degree from the University of Georgia, went to work for his tribe in 1997 and began his gaming career at Mohegan Sun in 2001, serving as chief legal officer and senior vice president of administration. He became president and CEO of Mohegan Sun Pocono in 2005.

Seven years later, he returned to Connecticut to serve as president and chief executive officer of Mohegan Sun, succeeding Etess in that role.

Soper’s most recent contract with the authority, which was to expire March 31, 2018, called for a base annual salary of $1 million.

b.hallenbeck@theday.com

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