Boardwalk birthday marks 23-year career for Casino’s opening team staffer

Siyanda Mtongana was a fresh-faced 27-year-old when he was part of Boardwalk Casino’s opening team, working his first permanent job as a guest service attendant. Twenty-three years later, he is one of just three of his original team remaining at the Sun International beachfront casino in Gqeberha. Through customer dedication, passion, commitment to furthering his career and displaying leadership qualities, he has worked his way up to the position of gaming floor manager.

“Boardwalk’s opening was an exciting opportunity for me, as I was doing piece jobs before it opened, such as working as a petrol attendant. It meant job security,” he said. Mtongana nostalgically recalled how he forgot an essential part of his wardrobe on opening day, when 20 000 people flocked to see the new casino in October 2020.

“We opened at 10am and it was hectic. I had left my belt at home, and that was where you would hang your keys for the slot machines,” he said. “Our uniform was issued to us, and by the time I got home that night, my feet were burning from standing all day in a brand-new pair of shoes.”

Over the years, he has become used to being on his feet all day, as he assists guests and manages the guest attendants on his shift.

Training and support have been a hallmark of his time at Boardwalk Casino. “Since the beginning, we have always been given proper training. We were taught Boardwalk’s mission statement and we composed it into a song which we sung at our training graduation. It was drilled into us, and we lived it.”

After a number of years, Mtongana was recognised for his hard work and was promoted to slots floor operations supervisor; a position for which he received training for a full year. We spent a night at the Fish River Sun, which, as my first-ever hotel stay, was extremely memorable.” His first flight was also made possible by the hospitality group, when he flew to Johannesburg for work.

Mtongana has many memories from his years working at Boardwalk. “My first long service awards (five years) with Sun International was themed ‘Night of the Stars’. It seemed like we were in Hollywood, with the cameras flashing on us upon entering the Conference Centre – the glitzy decor, the mood and the music really made us feel like stars.

“A British customer once gave me one pound as a tip, which I asked if I could keep as a souvenir, and I still keep it in my wallet today. When it comes to winners, the Millennium Mania machine paid out R2-million, and I remember the excitement of that winner. Several people have also won R1-million on the Dream Machine during my shifts.”

As a sport fanatic, meeting cricketing greats from the West Indies and Australia on their respective tours in the city when they visited Boardwalk are some of Mtongana’s highlights – and of course, many Springboks too over the years.

He feels emotional intelligence is key to working with people, both customers on the casino floor and staff.

“In 2015, I decided to make use of Sun International’s financial assistance to further my studies and started studying towards a degree in law at Unisa. It was challenging to balance work, with shifts that sometimes start at midnight and would run until 8am, but I completed it in 2020.”

He has completed several modules of a post graduate diploma in labour relations management and is currently taking a break from studying.

“Boardwalk is a close family who support each other – this is one of the things that have kept me going. I wouldn’t trade the memories and relationships I’ve built over the years for anything.”

For Mtongana, success in the workplace still comes down to the basics: “Your customer comes first at all times.”

Categories: Sun International.