Leader Interview: Melonie Johnson

Photo of the Borgata Casino

LIGHTs On-Leader Interview: Melonie Johnson, President & COO Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa

Melonie Johnson

Melonie Johnson, president and chief operating officer for Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa

Who is Melonie Johnson? 

Melonie Johnson at the heart is a small-town girl. I’m originally from Lacomb, La., it is a very small town north of New Orleans. I spent the first 46 years of my life in my hometown, and I absolutely loved it. I love to travel, but I never saw myself living outside of my hometown. 

It was where all of my family was. It was an easy lifestyle, very safe community. I embraced the community and thoroughly loved it and just never thought I would leave. And at 46 years old I packed up and I moved to work for a casino in Tunica, Miss. I’ve never looked back and the journey has been awesome to be quite frank with you.

I’ve learned an astronomical amount not only professionally but personally. Lifestyles, changing likes, wants, needs, meeting new people, experiencing different cultures, and it's been a phenomenal ride. 

Present day Melonie Johnson is president and chief operating officer of Borgata Casino Hotel and Spa, but she’s still a person, she’s still a mother. She’s a wife. She’s a grandmother. She’s a sister. She’s an aunt. She’s a friend and she’s a businesswoman. So much.

How would you describe your role as President and COO at Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa?

For me it’s quite simple. It’s a strategist. And it’s the role where it's not micromanaging, it's developing individuals, driving strategy, and empowering and embracing leaders to make decisions. Making sure they’ve got the proper resources, tools to be successful in their roles. Giving them responsibility, and along with that responsibility giving them that authority to execute. 

It's also visionary. It's understanding current market conditions, understanding what’s driving the business, understanding what potential pitfalls could be down the road – that could negatively impact our success. 

What would you consider your greatest current challenge?

Like everyone else COVID-19. COVID is something that no one could have imagined. Managing through these current conditions and not knowing what could or could not happen. Managing employees’ concerns, guests’ concerns, making sure that we’re following our seven-point health and safety protocols on property to ensure that we are providing a safe, clean environment for our employees and for our guests - that’s been a huge challenge. 

I’ve got experience in gaming and I feel comfortable with that knowledge and working in a plethora of gaming markets. It's just navigating through this, the uncertainty of COVID. You don’t know what’s going to happen from one day to the next. That’s been the biggest challenge. 

What would you consider your greatest current success?

The biggest success is opening, reopening the property safely. Bringing employees back to work and having our guests feel comfortable when they come to the property. That’s the biggest success right now. 

It’s opening in a safe environment where we feel that we are doing everything humanly possible to ensure safety and constantly evolving our safety strategy. 

Given the many changes that have taken place in the Atlantic City/Atlantic County region, what do you think the area will look like in five years?

I’m part of an advisory committee that is sponsored by the governor of the state of New Jersey, focused in particular on the revitalization of Atlantic City and there are plans for beautification, driving new businesses into the area. 

The hope in five years? It’s a revitalization of Atlantic City and truly getting it back to its place as a destination in southern New Jersey. 

What do you think about Stockton University’s presence in Atlantic City?

I had the opportunity to tour the campus. The campus is amazing. It’s open, it’s airy, it brings the exterior into the interior of the building, it's got clean lines. It’s a revitalization of that area of the city and we need more of this in Atlantic City. But the campus is amazing, just truly amazing it blew me away.

What role do you see Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa playing in the future of Atlantic City?

Borgata has done a great job in partnership in the community and I can’t take credit for any of that. That was already in place prior to my arrival in May of 2020. The role will continue as is – supporting the community, having a high presence with volunteerism, contributions and just lending a hand where we can because we want to ensure that in the community where we operate we are giving our all to its success.  

COVID is one of the big things that the entire industry is facing right now, the entire world is facing right now. Other than COVID, which three issues do you think will be most important for the region’s gaming, hospitality and tourism industry in the next few years?

The stability of the economics. If the market were to crash that would definitely hurt Atlantic City tremendously because, you know when people are unemployed they can’t find jobs. Everything takes a hit at that point.

So the economy is one thing, and whatever happens in the next four years as far as healthcare. I heard Dr. Fauci announce on CNN this morning that in order for us to have herd immunity and feel good by the summer and fall of 2021,we need at least 75% of our American populace to get the vaccine. 

So the economy, healthcare and just establishing Atlantic City as a destination once again. So we can get our visitors back from New York and Pennsylvania. 

Do you have any other remarks or comments you would like to share with our audience?

I’m very happy that Stockton University made the change and transition to Atlantic City. I cannot tell you enough what it does for community by having this young audience living on campus, going to the school, shopping at the shops, eating at the restaurants. I want to applaud you guys for helping with the revitalization of Atlantic City. Job well done. And a phenomenal facility, phenomenal.