The eighteen-year-old would work night shifts with his friends. They finished at 4:00 a.m., rode home together, grabbed food, put something on the TV, and dealt cards until daybreak. Efraín Pérez Agosto wasn’t part of some strange sunrise poker game or after-hours secret society—he was practicing his craft.
Today, Pérez Agosto is MGM National Harbor’s vice president and chief financial officer. Back then, he was making his humble entry into the world of hospitality and gaming as a croupier in his native Puerto Rico.
It all happened, quite appropriately, by chance. Pérez Agosto didn’t set out to launch a career in a casino. He simply accompanied a friend who wanted to apply for a position in a new property. He decided to apply too. Pérez Agosto got a job; his friend did not.
At first, Pérez Agosto was in dealer school. Before long, his entry-level colleagues weren’t just practicing shuffling and dealing at home. They had a series of table games laid out in the apartment and spent countless hours memorizing lingo, calculating payouts, and learning how to handle chips.
It didn’t take long for Pérez Agosto to see his future in gaming. “What I thought would be a side job to help me pay for college slowly turned into a wonderful career,” he says. The realization led him to pause his formal studies and move to the US mainland to manage table games for Rising Star Casino Resort in Indiana.
Pérez Agosto stayed with the organization for more than sixteen years. During that time, he returned to the classroom to earn a bachelor’s degree in business and a master’s degree in finance. In 2017, after a four-year stint with Caesars Entertainment in Cincinnati, Ohio, Pérez Agosto joined MGM Resorts.
It was the hospitality company’s reputation that first attracted him. “MGM Resorts is known to give employees the opportunity to grow and develop, and it also cares about diversity,” he says. “I wanted to become a CFO, and I wanted to do it in a place that values me for who I am.”
Achieving the lofty goal of reaching a top finance spot wasn’t easy, especially for someone with a nontraditional background. Unlike his industry counterparts, Pérez Agosto isn’t an accountant and hasn’t logged decades at one of the big three firms. He worked his way up through the cages, count rooms, and credit rooms of casinos throughout the country.
While some people may have seen this as an obstacle, Pérez Agosto turned it into an asset. “My background in casino operations helps me really understand the challenges people face in this industry and how I can help partner with the business to guide them in certain strategic ways,” he says.
After improving controls, reducing cash holdings by 30 percent, and stacking up other wins, Pérez Agosto reached his goal of becoming CFO of the MGM National Harbor luxury resort and casino in April of 2022. Now, he manages financial teams that oversee the casino, hotel, restaurants, theater, retail stores and more. He also covers financial planning and analysis, casino finance, labor management, procurement and inventory control, technology, compliance, and risk management.
A diverse team driven by MGM Resorts International’s overall commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) helps the leader thrive and make a difference. More than 30 percent of the company’s US workforce is Hispanic, and a partnership with Blue Wave International Supplier Development Platform helped leaders create an eight-month curriculum for minority-owned businesses and Hispanic Business Enterprises (HBEs) in gaming. MGM Resorts has graduated six cohorts and aims to put a total of 150 companies through the program by the end of 2025.
Pérez Agosto uses the same approach as he leads the finance department. “I’m building an intentionally diverse team because diverse perspectives help you succeed in a high-pressure space like hospitality and gaming,” he says. “We have a culture where I don’t always have to be right. People will challenge me, and we can all keep a willingness to collaborate, learn, and try hard together.”
In recent years, MGM Resorts increased DEI initiatives across their thirty-three domestic and international properties and built more robust employee resource groups. That’s given Pérez Agosto a greater opportunity to increase his personal involvement. He is now part of a “Courageous Conversations” program built to help MGM Resorts find new ways to promote internal and external inclusion.
Pérez Agosto and other leaders, including MGM Resorts President and CEO Bill Hornbuckle, work with their corporate social responsibility committees to share their views and experiences in dialogue with colleagues. It’s just one of many ways Pérez Agosto is giving back to his community. He also volunteers to help students create budgets, plan for emergencies, and increase their financial literacy.
After more than three decades in the industry, Pérez Agosto is ready for more. The property has only been open since 2016, and the veteran leader is betting that its best days are in the future.
FACTS AND FIGURES: MGM NATIONAL HARBOR
Opening Date: December 2016
Total Cost: $1.4 billion
Gaming Square Feet: 160,000
Table Games: 150+
Poker Tables: 45
Slot Machines: 2,200+
Hotel: 24 stories, 308 guest rooms
Theater Capacity: Nearly 4,000
Past Headliners: Bruno Mars, Cher, Sting, Aerosmith, Mariah Carey