|By Donald Wittkowski, The Press of
Atlantic City, Pleasantville, N.J.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Sept. 26, 2012--Veteran casino executive Gary Van Hettinga has taken over as president and chief executive officer of Resorts Casino Hotel as part of a management shake-up by the casino's new operator, Connecticut-based Mohegan Sun.
Mohegan Sun, which owns two casinos in Connecticut and Pennsylvania, has entered into a new management deal to operate Resorts and own 10 percent of Atlantic City's oldest casino. New York real estate magnate Morris Bailey, who bought Resorts in December 2010 for $31.5 million, holds the remaining 90 percent.
Van Hettinga, who had been serving as president of Mohegan Gaming Advisors, Mohegan Sun's management subsidiary, heads the new executive team announced Tuesday evening by Resorts. A 30-year veteran of the casino industry, Van Hettinga had previously held senior executive positions at Caesars World and Tropicana Casino and Resort before becoming president of Mohegan Gaming Advisors in February 2011.
Van Hettinga and the Indian-owned Mohegan Sun are rebuilding Resorts' executive ranks. The management changes are part of efforts to create "strong leadership and expertise" crucial to the casino's success, Van Hettinga said in a statement.
"As some of the management team took advantage of other opportunities and we were able to combine our resources in certain areas, new team members were added to Resorts. The changes were very limited and provided us with the opportunity to draw on the experience of veteran Atlantic City executives who we are confident will contribute to the Resorts team," Van Hettinga said.
One top addition is Mark Giannantonio, a former Tropicana president who has been named Resorts' new vice president of hotel operations and food and beverage. Giannantonio was ousted from Tropicana during a management overhaul last year.
Mary Tindall, formerly vice president of marketing at Tropicana, has been named to the same position at Resorts. In another move, Tom Cantone will oversee entertainment bookings at Resorts through his position as vice president of sports and entertainment at Mohegan Sun.
At the same time, other senior members of Resorts' executive staff have left. They include Jon Arnesen, vice president and chief administrative officer, Sherry Amos, vice president of marketing, and Stephanie Nielson, vice president of entertainment.
Arnesen, Amos and Nielson were part of a management "Dream Team" assembled by Resorts' CEO Dennis Gomes when he became the casino's co-owner, along with Bailey, in 2010.
After Gomes died last February, it opened the door to new management at Resorts. Gomes' 30-year-old son, Aaron, resigned as Resorts' executive vice president early this month to take a casino job in Australia.
Amos said Aaron Gomes' resignation signaled a good time for her to leave Resorts. She also noted that Dennis Gomes' death was a pivotal moment in her career. Amos had operated a public relations and marketing firm before Dennis Gomes persuaded her to work for him at Resorts.
"I went back because of him. When he died, it wasn't the same for me," Amos said. "He coaxed me to come back, because my business was very successful. Then I stayed on with Aaron, because he was carrying through with plans that Dennis and I and Aaron put together for Resorts."
Amos and other senior executives helped Dennis Gomes to rebrand Resorts with a Roaring '20s theme and implement a series of marketing initiatives to boost business. The casino posted a small operating profit in the second quarter of this year to finally pull itself out of the red.
Nielson, as vice president of entertainment, was responsible for booking shows at Resorts. She declined to discuss the circumstances surrounding her departure, but stated, "I don't have any hard feelings at all."
"It's a normal thing with a regime change. The Mohegan Sun people are coming in," Nielson said. "The Mohegan Sun people are wonderful."
Like Amos, Nielson was operating a private consulting firm when Gomes persuaded her to join him at Resorts. Both Nielson and Amos said they will likely restart their firms while looking for other opportunities in the casino industry.
Nielson has served as an entertainment consultant. While Nielson was working in Las Vegas in the 1970s at the former Silverbird Casino, she was the first one to book singer Tina Turner as a headliner in a major casino showroom.
Arnesen, who could not be reached for comment Tuesday, once was thought to be a candidate for Resorts' CEO position following Gomes' death. Arnesen originally worked at Resorts in the late 1980s. He spent time at other casino and hotel companies before returning to Resorts in 2010 under Gomes.
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