As we previewed last month, on Saturday 25th July the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa once again opened up its doors to its customers for the first time since March under the first Black Female COO. This was the 9th and final Atlantic City casino to open and despite having intended to do so in June, Gov. Phil Murphy made some changes which delayed the reopening. In response to the limitations on eating, drinking and smoking indoors, the Borgata at that time released the following statement:
“…our guests expect a special experience when they come to our property and if we cannot provide that level of hospitality, we feel it best that we remain closed.”
We have seen these regulations relaxed during the first weeks of July and that is when plans were put back in place to fire up the slot machines and get things back in operation. Operating at 25% capacity however is not the only new thing which the casino features, it has also come back with a brand new COO in Melanie Johnson. Johnson is now the very first black female COO working in an AC casino , and she has some challenges ahead of her at the famed casino, which we cover in more detail here.
First Black Female COO’s take on her new role
Melanie Johnson has come into this position from left field having spent her career as a loan teller before working in accounting in the oil and gas sector, not exactly the usual route to this position. Finally ending up in financial accounting for Harrah’s and working out of New Orleans for MGM, before switching to one of AC’s top casinos, and now is the time to get to work. When asked in an interview with Philly Mag as to what responsibilities Johnson has as a black female COO, she was more than clear in her response:
“In this role, I have a voice. We are having courageous conversations as far as what we can do and what we should to in terms of diversity. One of the Borgata’s core values is diversity and inclusion. We stand by that”
For MGM this is a clear show of support and faith in the abilities of Johnson and it is a landmark decision, welcomed by many in the industry. Putting this in context, at executive level in the USA just 19% of positions are occupied by women, of those just 4% are women of color.
Challenges for Melanie Johnson
The main challenge which this talented black female COO faces is how to remain on top spot when it comes to revenue, the default position of the casino in previous decades. The Borgata will have certainly been hurt in 2020 with total gaming revenue in Atlantic City having dropped by almost 70% between April and May. The Borgata is always at the top of the tree by miles, last year raking in $800 million, more than double the revenue that the second place casino made.
Owing to the constant success of the casino it is interesting to see them make this move to move on outgoing COO Marcus Glover. This is however a move which those companies make who enjoy staying on top, and MGM is most certainly one of those.
We have already seen some small changes taking place, as we covered last week the Moneyline Bar is now named the BetMGM Sportsbook & Bar and we have seen a multitude of ideas put forward for the rest ofd this year, as the casino looks to come out of the closure and recoup as many of those revenue losses as is possible. We wonder whether COO Johnson reached out to the navigation app Waze to ensure customers arrive at her doors and not elsewhere, following the glitch we reported on earlier this year!
Challenges for Borgata
The decision not to open up in June as originally planned has actually gone some way to boost the reputation of the casino, who were applauded for putting customer experience ahead of making dollars, and regulars will certainly not forget that. We have covered the quality of the online casino which Borgata offers, but nothing is the same as physical betting. Black female COO Johnson understands this perfectly and she knows where their priorities should be:
“There’s nothing worse than a casino with no people,” Melonie Johnson, president of the Borgata, said. “What makes the casino come to life is our employees and our customers.”
Borgata are widely anticipated to close out the year on top again, but the revenue figures are likely to be markedly different, Johnson is more than just the first black female COO, she is an experienced and highly talented executive and her team will be looking beyond the end of this year as to how they can become the lions of Atlantic City once again.