First African American Woman to Lead Atlantic City Casino Appointed by MGM Resorts

Posted on: May 5, 2020, 08:27h. 

Last updated on: September 14, 2022, 09:21h.

MGM Resorts has named Melonie Johnson the next president of Borgata. She is the first African-American woman to lead an Atlantic City casino.

MGM Resorts First African American Atlantic City
MGM Resorts executive Melonie Johnson is moving from MGM National Harbor to the Borgata in Atlantic City. (Image: Sean Kelley/Washington Business Journal)

Johnson arrives in town from MGM National Harbor, where she was president and chief operating officer. She’s served in that capacity at the $1.4 billion integrated casino resort since November of 2017.

Borgata also elevated Hugh Turner to chief financial officer. He’s been with the Marina District casino since it opened in 2003, serving as the property’s vice president of finance.

Borgata is by far the leading Atlantic City casino in terms of gross gaming revenue (GGR). The resort, fully owned by MGM since it acquired Boyd Gaming’s 50 percent stake in 2016, reported casino win of $797.82 million last year. That represents more than 24 percent of all land-based, online, and sports betting revenue won by Atlantic City’s nine casinos.

Borgata more than doubled its nearest competitor, Hard Rock, at $350 million. MGM Resorts has not officially announced the Johnson and Turner appointments, and the two haven’t publicly spoken about their new roles.

Borgata’s main tower is the third-tallest structure in Atlantic City, but is visible from many miles away because of its reflective gold glass façade.

MGM Shakeup

As reported last week, MGM Resorts is amid a leadership overhaul across the country. The casino giant has been shuffling its executive structure since longtime CEO Jim Murren walked away from the company to head the Nevada coronavirus task force in March.

Interim CEO Bill Hornbuckle is cutting costs by slashing executive positions and consolidating regional management. Instead of each MGM property having its own president/COO, the company is grouping certain casinos together.

Borgata falls into the company’s “Mid-Atlantic” category with MGM National Harbor. Transferring Johnson, a longtime industry executive with a proven track record, might hint that MGM is worried about Atlantic City.

MGM isn’t alone if that’s true. Last month, Hard Rock International Chairman Jim Allen said he’s troubled with the more than half a billion dollars the company invested to reimagine the former Trump Taj Mahal into the Hard Rock.

Allen explained, “We’re very concerned about that business as we try to navigate through the summer, which is traditionally the time of year when they have their most profitable months.”

Atlantic City casinos have been closed since mid-March. With New Jersey continuing to see an uptick in coronavirus cases, their reopenings don’t seem imminent.

Female Leaders

The gaming industry is appointing more women to executive roles in the aftermath of the #MeToo movement that essentially ended the career of one of the biggest casino tycoons, Steve Wynn.

Johnson joins Terry Glebocki in heading an Atlantic City casino. Glebocki was named CEO of Ocean Casino Resort in December of 2019.

In December of 2018, Marilyn Spiegel was named president of Wynn Las Vegas. She became just the third woman in the history of Las Vegas to oversee a Strip casino resort.