Meet Melonie Johnson, the first black president and CEO of MGM Casino & Resorts

Abu Mubarik April 11, 2023
Melonie Johnson. Photo credit: University of New Orleans.

From the small town of Lacombe, Louisiana, along Lake Pontchartrain, Melonie Johnson has braved all odds to top leadership positions in several major resort casinos. Her success has seen her achieve several historic firsts.

In 2017, she became the first black person to join MGM National Harbor in Maryland as President and COO, making her the first Black person to lead a casino in Maryland. Prior to that, she was the second black person to head Gold Strike in Tunica, Mississippi, as general manager and later, as president and COO.

In 2020, she also became the first black woman to become president and COO of Borgata Hotel Casino and Spa in Atlantic City. Today, she is the first black president and CEO of MGM Casino and Resorts.

In her new position, Johnson will oversee the day-to-day operations of the property and also provide strategic direction and focus on employee engagement and community relations, according to a press statement.

“I am thrilled to be back in Maryland where I look forward to re-engaging with our employees and reconnecting with the Prince George’s County community,” said Johnson. “I was able to witness many of our resort’s successes during my previous three and a half years there, and I’m looking forward to working with the team towards many more in the years to come.”

Reflecting on her 25-year journey in the gaming and hospitality industry, Johnson noted that her family was big on education. She was told to go to school and excel although she was not sure of what she wanted to do in the future.

“There were hard times for me, but I had two parents that I could talk to. They told us if you’re going on a job – they were old school – to keep your head down, don’t get into trouble, and do it the best of your ability because no one owes you anything,” she told WUSA 9.

After high school, she proceeded to the University of New Orleans, where she graduated with a degree in accounting. However, she struggled to find a job after graduating, owing to the color of her skin.

“I was a person of color and in the ‘80s, a person of color really struggled to find a career. And it was deflating. I ended up going to a headhunter and they sent me on an interview at a bank. I landed the job. I made a whopping $9,600 a year,” said Johnson.

However, her turning point came when she took her chance with a staff recruiter and it worked. She started her career at the banks before exploring a career at casinos.

She’s also proud of where she came from; Johnson said that the building blocks for her achievements later in life came from the strong women in her family. Today, Johnson reflects on how far she has come, and she couldn’t be less proud of herself.

Last Edited by:Annie-Flora Mills Updated: April 11, 2023


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