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Foxwoods Casino president resigns

Mashantucket, Connecticut (AP)

The president of one of the world’s largest casinos has resigned in the midst of an expansion and a fight against a union drive by dealers.

The Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, which runs Foxwoods Resort Casino, announced that John O’Brien resigned effective Jan. 18.

“I’ve truly enjoyed serving as president of Foxwoods,” O’Brien said in a statement. “With a solid strategy and a strong management team in place, it’s the right time for me to move on to pursue other interests, including spending more time with my family.”

A telephone message was left for O’Brien, who did not disclose what interests he is pursuing.

Foxwoods senior vice president of operations Barry J. Cregan will serve as interim president while the tribe begins a search of internal and external candidates.

Cregan has more than 25 years experience in the hotel and gaming industries, including a stint as president and chief operating officer of Trump Plaza Casino Hotel in Atlantic City, tribe officials said.

O’Brien became president of Foxwoods in July 2006 after nine years as chief financial officer.

“During his tenure, John made significant contributions to the success of Foxwoods, particularly during his nine years as CFO,” Tribal Council Chairman Michael J. Thomas said in a statement. “We wish him well in his future endeavors. As we enter an exciting phase at Foxwoods, we are fortunate to have someone with Barry’s expertise and knowledge in the gaming and hospitality industry to fill the president position on an interim basis.”

O’Brien’s resignation comes after the United Auto Workers won a Nov. 24 union election to represent more than 2,100 dealers at Foxwoods following a campaign that raised issues such as pay, health insurance and cigarette smoking by casino customers.

Tribal officials are challenging the election in a complaint to the National Labor Relations Board. Attorney General Richard Blumenthal has supported the dealers in their quest to join a union and called the tribe’s complaints “flawed and futile.”

Lori Potter, a spokeswoman for the tribe, said O’Brien’s resignation was not related to the union issue.

The union urged the interim president to work with them.

“Dealers have been unhappy with management decisions for many years now,” said Lina Ellsworth, a dealer on the union organizing committee. “The interim president has an opportunity to change the direction Foxwoods’ management has taken. We invite them to take this opportunity to sit down with the UAW dealers and work together with us to put Foxwoods back on top.”

Foxwoods also has been experiencing declining slot machine revenue due to growing competition.

In the spring, Foxwoods plans to open its MGM Grand expansion, which involves another hotel and casino, a 4,000-seat theater, the largest ballroom in the Northeast and new convention space to accommodate thousands.

Foxwoods and nearby Mohegan Sun have grown rapidly over the past decade, enjoying a monopoly in most of New England. But growing competition is prompting the tribes that run the casinos to expand around the country and at home, trying to become national entertainment destinations like Las Vegas that offer much more than gambling.