SEPTEMBER SAW the appointment of Jacqueline Grace to Senior Vice president and General Manager at Tropicana, one of the most popular destinations for playing slot machines in New Jersey, meaning Atlantic City can now boast that 4 of its 9 major casinos are run by women.
Late this year, Melonie Johnson also stepped into her role as President and Chief Operating Officer at Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa, and MGM Resorts Luxury Destination.
Both women expressed pride in the hard work, achievements, and skill from years of experience that allowed them to rise to meet the positions enthusiastically--something that is its own triumph, considering the managers are both taking up the mantle during a global pandemic.
Karie Hall, Bally’s General Manager and Senior Vice President, and Ocean Casino Resort CEO Terry Glebocki welcome Grace and Johnson to Atlantic City.
Laying a Foundation
While the majority of the gaming industry doesn’t look like Atlantic City, where women run nearly half the casinos, Johnson and Hall both want to see the market continue the trend. “This is a progression. We want to keep it moving forward,” Hall said, talking about the importance of acknowledging laying the “pipeline”.
“I hope I live to see the day where this is not considered news,” said Johnson. “I think the world is starting to catch up, but it’s probably going to be another 10 years before we get all the inequity out of the workforce.”
The Newest Recruit
With an M.B.A. from the University of Virginia’s Darden School and a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Stony Brook University, Jacqueline Grace has more than 20 years of experience in the casino industry. Her most recent position was at Caesars Entertainment’s Horseshoe Baltimore as Vice President and Assistant General Manager. Now, returning to the place where her career in gaming first started, Grace says her focus as a manager is on inclusivity, representation, and leadership.
“There are plenty of women who aspire to leadership roles and senior leadership roles,” she said, commenting on the misconception that women don’t want leadership positions in the gaming industry. “That’s why I think it’s so critical to have representation. Representation matters. So, when women see other women in the role, they believe it’s possible.”
Leadership and Support
Melonie Johnson brings with her nearly 25 years of practice as a leader in gaming and hospitality services, coming from another MGM COO position in Maryland. This practical experience in the field has helped her with the incredible undertaking of reopening. She graduated from the University of New Orleans, is the first black woman president of an Atlantic City casino, and now also serves on the board of Global Gaming Women, an independent organization that aims to support women in the gaming industry.
It’s no wonder Johnson dedicates her time to GGW; she says one of the hardest parts of growing her career was that there were not many other women to seek occupational advice and guidance from on the way. Johnson’s own support network at the time became her family. To other women considering business, she says this: “I think you need to have a great foundation, meaning that you’ve got to have the educational background, you’ve got to have the skillset, you’ve got to have mentors and you’ve got to have sponsors as well. You need all of those things because you cannot do it by yourself.”
Making a Difference
There aren’t any official statistics kept on the number of casinos in the United States run by women. That being said, the American Gaming Association said that Atlantic City was a notable exception to the norm. The gaming industry is typically male-dominated, a fact that Grace said she’s well aware of.
“I don’t think it’s a coincidence,” she commented, noting the increase in women managers in Atlantic City. “I think it’s corporations being thoughtful about a workforce that looks like their communities.”
David Schwartz, a gambling historian at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas, weighed in on the remarkable shift as well, saying, “I think it speaks to the rapid changes in the gaming industry, which was traditionally very male-oriented, over the past few years.