Atlantic City Casino Attorney Calls for More Diverse Leadership

Atlantic City is celebrating 45 years since commercial gambling became legal in the New Jersey beach town. That came by way of the state’s 1977 passage of the Casino Control Act.

Atlantic City casino CEO women LIGHT Stockton
Atlantic City casino CEO women LIGHT Stockton
A panel hosted by Stockton University’s Lloyd D. Levenson Institute of Gaming, Hospitality, and Tourism discusses 45 years of legal casino gambling in Atlantic City on Dec. 8, 2022. Lynne Kaufman, center, believes more women and/or minorities should be leading Atlantic City casinos. (Image: Stockton University)

To commemorate the historic gaming bill, Stockton University’s Lloyd D. Levenson Institute of Gaming, Hospitality, and Tourism (LIGHT) hosted a conversation featuring industry leaders to discuss the past, present, and future of Atlantic City’s casino industry. One matter raised was ongoing concerns with the industry’s lackluster track record of having women and minorities run the town’s gaming resorts.

Lynne Kaufman is a leading gaming attorney in not only Atlantic City, but across the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast. A partner at Cooper Levenson who co-chairs the law firm’s gaming practice, Kaufman had a major point during the December 8 roundtable: the industry is still failing when it comes to promoting diverse people to chief executive capacities.

Today, none of the nine casinos in Atlantic City are led by women. The resorts additionally do not have anyone identifying as a minority at the helm, as the properties are all run by white men. That’s a change from just a few years ago.

Better Leadership, Better Returns?

Kaufman has worked as an attorney in the gaming industry since 1988. She joined Cooper Levenson in 1998 and has since advised varying gaming interests in Atlantic City. Kaufman has also worked in other commercial gaming states, most critically in Pennsylvania, where she consulted state lawmakers in 2017 during the commonwealth’s vast gaming expansion.

In Atlantic City, Kaufman says the resort industry might be smart to promote more diverse leaders.

Why aren’t more women CEOs? We need more of them,” Kaufman questioned.

Atlantic City casinos continue to seek ways to lure gamblers to the New Jersey coast. It’s a challenging endeavor that has become more cumbersome over the decades as gaming has expanded into the nearby states of Pennsylvania, Maryland, and New York.

Kaufman believes allowing women and diverse executives to tailor an Atlantic City resort’s operation could make the properties more appealing.

“If you hire more diverse people at the top that represent your customers, you’re going to get a better product,” Kaufman opined.

Atlantic City Backtrack

Atlantic City casino CEO offices weren’t always so male and white. In the fall of 2020, four of the nine casinos were led by women — with two, Melonie Johnson at Borgata and Jacqueline Grace at Tropicana — identifying as African Americans.

Johnson returned to MGM National Harbor in Maryland in January of this year. In September, Grace took a job with a property management firm in New York.

Atlantic City’s two other former female chief executives — Terry Glebocki at Ocean Casino and Karie Hall at Bally’s — have also since departed Atlantic City.

Glebocki resigned after the Boardwalk property’s ownership arrangement was reconfigured in October 2021. After Caesars Entertainment sold Bally’s in 2020, Hall transitioned to a special projects role with Caesars before deciding to move west to spearhead the operations of Harrah’s Lake Tahoe and Harveys Lake Tahoe in Nevada.

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