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Job losses - and gains - at Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods

MASHANTUCKET, Conn. - Connecticut's two megacasinos had 300 fewer jobs at the end of June.

The Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation's Foxwoods Resort Casino laid off 100 employees, mostly managers and some in hourly positions, in the first cutback since the casino opened in 1992.

Foxwoods president and CEO Barry Cregan said the cutbacks were part of a strategic organizational review process to strengthen business and organizational efficiencies.

''This has been a difficult week for all of us. It is always sad to see fellow employees lose their jobs. As organizations develop, they often grow more than necessary during a sustained period of economic success. The impact of rising fuel, food and payroll costs dictate that our organization must make adjustments. These reductions will help position us competitively for the future, which is bright.''

Foxwoods currently employs 10,000 people.

Cregan said that ''considerable care was taken to ensure that the reductions would be implemented strategically without impacting the customer experience, marketing positions or employee services. Every effort has been made to make this process as uncomplicated as possible for all those affected.''

The reduction of jobs at Foxwoods was offset in May by the opening of the new MGM Grand at Foxwoods hotel and casino, which added more than 1,000 new jobs to the economy.

While the exact number of new jobs at the MGM Grand was not available, the number of people employed in the state rose by 2,900 in May. State labor economist John Tirinzonie attributed the gains to the opening of the MGM Grand and job expansion in several key sectors, including trade, transportation and utilities, which count employees at the various high-end stores there.

Ultimately, the new facility is expected to add around 2,000 hotel and casino jobs and an additional 1,000 jobs in the various restaurants.

Meanwhile, about 10 miles away, the Mohegan Tribe's Mohegan Sun had 200 fewer employees by the end of June.

The jobs were eliminated through attrition.

''We haven't laid anybody off here. As people leave a job, we always review our staffing level and if people aren't needed, we don't replace them. We haven't had to replace all the people who have left this year,'' said Mohegan Sun President and CEO Mitchell Etess, adding that the cuts were made ''across the board.''

But Mohegan will soon add hundreds of new jobs to the local economy with the $900 million Project Horizon - an expansion that will add a 1,000-room hotel, a House of Blues music hall, restaurants, retail stores and a new 64,000-square-foot gaming and entertainment complex, called Casino of the Wind.

The new casino is the first phase of the massive project to be completed. It is slated to open in August.

''We'll need to add some poker dealers and some others for our first expansion. We won't be needing the massive numbers of employees until 2010, when the hotel and rest of the shops open. We'll need around 500 people.''

The key is having the right numbers of people at the right time, Etess said.

While both Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun remain hugely successful, Foxwoods reported a 17 percent decline in slot revenue last December, while Mohegan Sun's revenue was down 18 percent. The decline is blamed in part on the slow economy and high fuel prices.

''The reality is revenues are down from previous years and profits are down from previous years,'' Etess said. But Mohegan Sun is very successful and doing very well.''