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HomeNewsMelonie Johnson is winning in the gaming industry

Melonie Johnson is winning in the gaming industry

Melonie Johnson is a leader in the gaming business.

PRINCE GEORGE’S COUNTY, Md. — Melonie Jonson was always good at math. She parlayed that skill, got a degree in accounting, but then she decided to turn the tables. She made a major bet and is still winning in an historically male-dominated industry.

“As soon as I hit the floor, it’s ‘Good morning!’, ‘Good morning!’ ‘How are you?’, Melonie says as she greets staff members.

It’s import to Johnson to make that daily connection with her team. The president and COO of MGM’s National Harbor Hotel and Casino knows that kind of contact helped her rise to the top of the business.

She breezes through the room as she gives a brief tour to WUSA9’s Allison Seymour. “This is BET MGM. This is where the action is happening right now for March Madness. No matter where you’re sitting, you see the game,” Johnson said.

Whether she’s interacting with former NFL running back Brian Mitchell or in the midst of the crowd, Johnson says BET MGM is the sports betting extension of MGM Resorts. BET MGM spearheads the sports betting lounge area at MGM National Harbor.

It’s quite an accomplishment for Johnson, and a long way from her humble beginnings on the Northside of New Orleans in Lacombe, Louisiana. 

“I lived in a very small town, rural. We didn’t have a traffic light,” said Johnson.

But what she did have were parents who raised her to have a strong values, perseverance, and, “Not feeling entitled and working very hard for everything that you got, so education was important,” Johnson said.

She left home at 17, enrolled at the University of New Orleans and graduated four years later with a degree in accounting. But that degree didn’t guarantee that she would get hired.

“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.”

Johnson’s gamble on that headhunter paid off. She went from bank teller to becoming the first Black woman to serve as president and COO of casinos in Atlantic City, New Jersey and Prince George’s County, Maryland.

She credits those early jobs with teaching her how to navigate the waters, manage challenges and prepare her for the casino business.

“My younger years were the formative years for me. It was managing having a courageous conversation versus being cocky, managing emotions without being labeled the ‘angry Black woman’, managing being assertive versus being aggressive,” she said.

She said her parents were a pillar of support.

“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,” Johnson said.

The MGM National Harbor president and CEO adds, “I’m am the first person that will say I’m surrounded by great people. I do not know everything. But I do know that the team that we have at this property is magnificent, and this team carries us to the finish line. It’s not me.”

Johnson, true to her humble beginnings growing up in Louisiana said, “A title doesn’t make me. It just doesn’t. I am Melonie Dupree Johnson, that’s who I am at the end of the day.”

WUSA9 has reported on how sports gambling tax in Maryland has not generated enough revenue to support its schools. 

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