The Day – Mohegan Gaming Turns To Tribal Member To Lead Them Into The Post-Pandemic Era

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Mohegan – Ray Pineault was President and CEO of Mohegan Gaming & Entertainment for two weeks when he appeared before the Nevada Gaming Control Board last June.

Things got a little out of hand when Mohegan Sun Casino Las Vegas debuted in March, and it was up to Pineault to fix things.

While Mohegan Sun’s offer to pay a $ 60,000 fine for COVID-19 protocol violations on opening night might have helped do the trick, it’s easy to believe Pineault’s apology would be sincere, it will never happen again. regulators. Pineault, a Phil Collins lookalike who worked for the Mohegan tribe, of which he is a member, for 20 years, tends to pass for authentic.

“I take full responsibility,” he told board members, attributing the missing masks and the cases of lack of social distancing – the rule violations then mandated by the governor of Nevada – to “an error in judgment”.

Pineault had attended the celebration with his own mask in place, he said in an interview last week. The offenders were mostly people Mohegan Sun had invited, including celebrities.

“I was embarrassed,” he says. “It’s not the kind of organization we are.

Pineault, 55, originally from Norwich and living in Glastonbury, actually joined the organization in 2001. By then, the Norwich Free Academy graduate in 1984 had graduated from the University of Connecticut and the United Kingdom. Quinnipiac University Law School. Comfortably embarked on a career as a corporate lawyer, he accepted a position in his tribe’s legal team, never imagining that he would one day run the billion dollar business that Mohegan Gaming & would become. Entertainment, or MGE.

His final rise to the highest position in the company came in a hurry, with Pineault having been raised several times in 10 months, starting with his promotion in July 2020 from regional president to chief operating officer. When Mario Kontomerkos stepped down as President and CEO of MGE last March, Pineault was appointed to succeed him on an interim basis.

On May 27, the tribe, which had announced it would conduct a global search for a permanent CEO, appointed Pineault to the post and soon after raised his salary to $ 1 million per year.

“Within months of starting the research, we realized that none of the candidates were going to offer us the depth of experience, knowledge of our properties and the spirit of Aquai that we saw in Ray”, James Gessner Jr., the president of Mohegan. , a spokesperson said last week. “The fact that Mr. Pineault is a member of our family makes him even more special. ”

From 2015 to 2019, Pineault was President and CEO of Mohegan Sun, MGE’s flagship casino in the Uncasville section of Montville. Back then, as now, he said, he sought to instill the spirit of Aquai – the guiding philosophy of the tribe – in all of MGE’s “team members”. When asked to define ‘Aquai’, he described it as a state of mind that values ​​cooperation and mutual respect among colleagues. Happy team members are good for business.

“We want leaders to follow this culture,” said Pineault. “Five-star service is scripted. Instead, we are talking about providing “genuine service”: being kind, creating an atmosphere. This is how we set ourselves apart from our competitors.

Although Pineault’s previous roles have primarily involved operations, he said his new focus as the head of a parent company operating or seeking to operate in five states and three foreign countries relates to strategic direction. Pineault said he and his team are making a plan for the next three to five years.

However, first of all, the stabilization of MGE’s finances following the COVID-19 pandemic.

In August, on a quarterly earnings conference call with investors, MGE officials announced that the company had generated net revenues of $ 328.2 million in the three months ending June 30. That was three times the income she reported in the same pandemic-stricken quarter in 2020, but 5.6% less than the $ 347.6 million it raked in in the same quarter in 2019, long before COVID-19 broke out.

“How to maintain stability? How to resist another major event? said Pineault. “We’ve had three now over the past two decades: September 11, the Great Recession and the COVID-19 pandemic. It seems like we have to prepare for a once in a lifetime event every ten years. “

Reducing MGE’s nearly $ 2 billion debt is a priority, he said.

MGE has a lot to do, much of it close to home, with the rollout this month of sports betting, both at Mohegan Sun and on a virtual platform, and online casino games, all in partnership with FanDuel. Online betting could be allowed to start next week. Mohegan Sun’s main competitor, near Foxwoods Resort Casino, is engaged in the same rollout activity, and both casinos face new competition in the form of Connecticut Lottery Corp., which also rolls out retail sports betting. and online.

For MGE, which has introduced sports betting to some of its other US properties, the Connecticut deployment is a huge undertaking, Pineault said.

Another major project is MGE’s plan to develop the former Norwich Hospital property in Preston. Pineault said an environmental clean-up of the nearly 400-acre site off Route 12 still needs to be completed before MGE can acquire the property and market it to the developers. Concept plans for the development of the site showed a theme park, sports and entertainment venues, hotels, accommodation and a marina.

“We have to find the right partners and the right products that can lead people to both Mohegan Sun and the Preston property,” Pineault said.

Gaming facilities MGE owns or operates in Pennsylvania, Washington State, Atlantic City and Las Vegas have emerged from the pandemic, as have its two casinos in Ontario, Canada, which have maintained COVID-protocols. 19 in place longer than US jurisdictions. Pineault has categorically denied reports that MGE has entertainment offerings for Mohegan Sun Pocono, its casino racetrack in Wilkes-Barre, Pa.

“It’s not on the market,” he said.

Internationally, Pineault said MGE is still negotiating financing for the integrated complex it is building in Incheon, South Korea, and hopes to open it in fall 2023. Steel work at the construction site , arrested in the middle of the pandemic, have not yet resumed.

Pineault declined to provide an update on the timeline for the Athens, Greece project, which MGE has been allowed to develop.

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