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Gary Trask

Gary  Trask
Gary serves as Casino City's managing editor and has worked as a writer and editor more than 20 years. The Boston native was a member of the Poker Hall of Fame's inaugural Media Committee and a current member of the Women in Poker Hall of Fame voting panel.

Contact Gary at and follow him on Twitter at @CasinoCityGT.

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Inside Mohegan Sun's new Earth Tower

21 Nov 2016

By Gary Trask
As someone who has been a part of the Mohegan Tribe and the Mohegan Sun brand for 15 years, Ray Pineault felt a special sense of personal and professional gratification last week when the Connecticut resort casino unveiled its new $139 million Earth Tower. "I've been here a long, long time," the Mohegan Sun president and general manager told Casino City in an interview last month. "When I came on board back in 2001, we were just starting to bring in some of the world-class amenities like the first hotel, the retail shops and the entertainment venues. I watched us get through the recession and have to put some big plans on hold. "So, to be here now and see us open the Earth Tower, I can't begin to tell you how excited and proud I am for the people here and the entire organization. To persevere through hard times and once again bring the Mohegan Sun brand to another level . . . it's amazing." As Pineault pointed out during last Friday's official ribbon-cutting ceremony, after starting out in 1996 as a 170,000 square-foot venue with a modest amount of amenities, Mohegan Sun, which celebrated its 20th anniversary last month, is now "one of the largest, most impressive, all-encompassing gaming, entertainment and resort destinations in the world." Helping put an exclamation point in that statement is the 400-room, 242,000 square-foot Earth Tower, which saw its plans get pushed onto the back burner in 2008 due to economic conditions. But as revenues rose and demand for rooms grew exponentially, the tribe broke ground in March 2015, leading to a much-needed opening of the 13-story tower as a complement to the already existing, 1,200-room Sky Tower Hotel. The tribe says it has turned away 1 million room requests in just the last year. "We've been running at a 99% occupancy rate, so we simply haven't had the ability to offer guests accommodations — particularly on weekends and other high-demand times," said Pineault, who has also served as executive vice president and chief operation officer at Mohegan Sun. "The Earth Tower is a game changer. Now, people looking to get a complete experience can come here and stay in rooms that offer the opulence and high guest services that they are accustomed to receiving in all other areas of the resort." The new tower's design was modeled after the Sky Tower. Among the 400 rooms that overlook the Thames River and New England forest are 39 suites, one of which can accommodate 10 people. The lobby is home to various lounging areas, including the Bean and Vine Café & Wine Bar, which will serve as a grab-and-go breakfast option in the morning and a spot for a cocktail in the afternoon and evening with outdoor seating. The outdoor Earth Tower Terrace has gas fire pits, a satellite bar and food service, and can also be used for private functions. Other amenities include a spa, a fitness center and a pool area. The Earth Tower will also aid Mohegan Sun in its quest to overcome increased nearby competition. In addition to the massive Foxwoods Casino Resort, which sits six miles away from Mohegan Sun, MGM Resorts International is under construction 70 miles north in Springfield, Massachusetts. "Obviously, we're cognizant of what's happening in Massachusetts and potentially in New Jersey, as well as New York," Pineault said. "We realize how the competitive landscape is changing in the entire northeast. So, our main focus and our biggest concern is from a guest services perspective. We think we do a superior job to our competition and we will continue to do so. The Earth Tower is obviously a huge, huge help in that regard." Mohegan Sun, which draws from the Boston, New York, Providence and Hartford markets, offers three casinos as well as a golf course and the 10,000 seat Mohegan Sun Arena. The Earth Tower fits in nicely with the tribe's plans to continue to add nongaming amenities. In May, the tribe reached an agreement with the town of nearby Preston to redevelop a site with office, retail, entertainment and recreation activities, sometime within the next five years. "It seems like everywhere you turn, our competition is adding another slot machine or gaming table or position," said Pineault. "But in order to be a primary driver of a full resort operation, we're going to continue to add nongaming amenities that will enhance our overall product and enhance the guest experience. It's an exciting time."

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