Annemie Turk, Carnival City’s General Manager, could not be further from your stereotypical image of a casino manager.
Turk ended up in gambling almost by accident; when she followed her husband to Carousel, in what used to be Bophuthatswana and now falls under the north of Gauteng.
Her career at that time was in the food and beverage sector, and she had completed her internship at Southern Sun. Having been unable to find a position in her sector, she ended up accepting a position at the Bingo tables instead.
Turk has never looked back. Gaming is something for which she feels deeply passionate, and she quickly moved up the ladder from bingo to slots, and then gaming management, which includes slots and tables.
Turk was headhunted to Carnival City from Tsogo Sun, where she held the position of Group Gaming Manager for three years. She also served as the Gaming Manager at Hemingway’s Casino, and as Gaming Duty Manager and Slots Manager at Montecasino.
Along the way, Turk learnt as much as possible. “There is not a day that goes by that I don’t learn something new. This is especially true during Covid – it’s been a difficult time for all of us with many challenges that we have never had to deal with before.”
One of Turk’s secrets is to find colleagues whose strengths are her weaknesses, and to lean on them for support.
Turk was responsible for developing and executing the first Group Slots Host Championship in South Africa and Internationally.
“I absolutely love the gaming side of things; no two days are ever the same. I have learnt so much.”
Among the aspects that Turk enjoys in her role now is the general business side of running Carnival City: retail and hospitality facets, putting customers first, and learning more general business skills.
A day in the life
Turk’s strengths also lie in aligning gaming operations to marketing strategies and initiatives.
Although no day is typical, Turk – who has a Diploma in Business Management from Henley which she obtained in 2002 – spends much of her time reviewing data so she can figure out what will work going forward. “Figures don’t lie.”
By carefully analysing socio-economic indicators of residents in a radius of up to 90 kilometres, her and her team can work out what promotions and shows will work, and who the audience should be.
These sorts of facts also enable Turk to ensure that the restaurant selections are right.
Some days, she deals with human resource issues, which mostly involves coaching and talent management interspaced with the unfortunate aspect of discipline issues.
As with all customer-facing organisations, the customer experience is key.
Turk spends much of her time on her feet, walking around the casino and ensuring that all offerings are “tip top”. “Everything you do is to see how that would impact the customer.”
Complaints and compliments are followed up on, and improvements are constantly being made.
With such a busy day, balancing a career and a family life would usually be more than tricky, but Turk has the benefit of a late start to her day (10am) which allows her to make sure children are fed and safely packed off to school. A partner who works from home, a dedicated home helper and making certain that Sundays are family days, helps keep her on track and ensures a good work-life-balance.
“You make it happen; I believe that everything in life can be done if you put your mind to it.”
That doesn’t mean that she isn’t kept up late worrying, especially now that lockdown has eased. Turk is constantly thinking about getting business back to what it was a year ago, while managing the issues that curfew creates for an industry that usually never closes its doors. She is also dedicated to ensuring that her staff have a future.
Looking after her staff and their children is clearly a passion: Turk is deeply motivated by an initiative started by their Human Resources Director some time ago, which sees senior management and executives dig into their pockets to help out a deserving staff member. Whatever they contribute, the company doubles. Wishes granted range from school fees and clothes, to fixing a roof, children who need eye operations, or a cochlea implant, or a while in rehab. “Many of these are heart-breaking. Many warm my heart, like the young man who went to rehab and has since finished school, and started working. He came to see me a while ago.”
Not every day is a party at the casino though, even if some revellers think it is. When guests get out of hand, Turk’s solution is to deal with the person without destroying relationships and causing an unhappy atmosphere for the other patrons. “Generally, if you just listen for long enough, the matter can be resolved. You have to make sure that balance is maintained without becoming a nanny state.”
A final word of advice for women seeking to climb the ladder: “Stay true to yourself. Often women are too scared to say they are the nourishing type and are caretakers in the workplace. Focus on uplifting those around you, and surround yourself with great people. Be firm, yet kind.”