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With a continuing decline in business and with the prospects of additional competition over the next few months, a 16-year relationship between one of its top executives and the Mohegan Tribe came to an end last week.

Jeffrey Hartmann, a Mohegan Sun executive since 1996 and the casino’s CEO for the past year, left the property on Wednesday without explanation. His departure was announced by Mitchell Etess, CEO of the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority.

Etess indicated Hartmann’s position would be taken by Bobby Soper, who has been running the tribe’s Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs racino in Pennsylvania.

And, Etess had more bad news: some 300 employees were going to be terminated.

Such a large layoff is expected to have a major impact on the economy of Connecticut.

Etess indicated some 282 employees, representing just about every department in the casino, were being laid off immediately while another 46 would be terminated by the end of October.

Stressing the economic conditions, Etess urged his listeners to “put this in the context of the amazing decline in business we’ve experienced. The last thing we ever want to do is lay people off, but we had to do this to make the size of our workforce appropriate to our business volume,” he said.

Among the people losing their jobs will be workers in the keno operation, which the management plans to shut down.

This is the second major lay off announced by the Mohegan management in the past two years. On Sept. 14, 2010, the Mohegan Sun operators said economic conditions forced them to terminate 475 workers, many of which were involved in the food and beverage departments.

The Mohegan Sun, and its neighbor, Foxwoods Resorts, owned by the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe, are two of the world’s largest casinos. Both borrowed heavily to expand their gaming operations prior to the 2007 recession.

In addition to economic factors, the property has been facing growing competition. New York has created a major slots facility at Aqueduct racetrack in Queens and has seen the racino facility at Yonkers Raceway expanded substantially.

Maine has opened two casinos while Massachusetts is in the process of licensing as many as three casinos.

Ray Poirier is the longtime executive editor at GamingToday.

Contact Ray at Ray­[email protected].

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