Kirkwood, Indian casino team up on marketing |

Kirkwood, Indian casino team up on marketing

Susan Wood

Long known for their combined efforts in the South Lake Tahoe area, skiing and gaming have become promotional bedfellows in Amador County as well.

Kirkwood Mountain Resort kicked off an early ski season in October with a new ally to help publicize the small county southwest of the lake as a travel destination – the Jackson Rancheria. The Indian casino is 55 miles southeast of Kirkwood off Highway 88.

“If we get people to stay at Jackson or Minden, they’ll ski at Kirkwood. There’s not a lot going on out there,” Kirkwood Sales Manager Holly Collins said Tuesday. “They just look at us as a gold mine and we think it’s a nice option.”

In the last few months, Kirkwood has provided photographs, logos, brochures and most frequently video footage for a television commercial that Jackson wants to produce. The casino ran an advertisement on the back page of “Via,” AAA’s membership magazine.

Kirkwood, which has offered no funds for the cooperative advertising, has sold 50 tickets to the casino for $47 each. In turn, the Rancheria places them in $85 ski packages that cover a ticket and hotel room.

“We have found (skiing is) an activity people enjoy and we want to support Amador County businesses,” Jackson Rancheria spokesman Rich Hoffman said.

Under a remodel that management claims cost “tens of millions of dollars,” the Rancheria added 10 more table games to bring the number to 40. It also put in 50 more hotel rooms, increasing the total to 146. In February, the Rancheria plans to move machines out of its events center where it will host the band Hootie and the Blowfish, and later, George Carlin.

The two businesses are located an hour apart off Highway 88, but management from both agree they’re close enough for visitors to frequent the two resorts.

If a large group wants transportation between Kirkwood and Jackson, casino management may consider running a shuttle bus between the towns.

“We’re confident Kirkwood is a great resort. We’ve already identified this as a no-brainer,” he said. “And it’s common for the casino industry to put in these kinds of special offers.”

Thunder Valley Casino General Manager Scott Garawitz agreed to a certain degree, but he added cooperative advertising is no new trend.

“They must have found a mutual benefit,” he said.

Thunder Valley once teamed up with Macy’s for a similar campaign.

Garawitz said there’s some overlap in competition but not to a great extent.

National Indian Gaming Association and American Gaming Association officials were unavailable for comment.

Hoffman said the Rancheria’s marketing efforts don’t necessarily compete with Stateline.

The casino built in 1991 receives most of its players and guests from Stockton, Lodi and Modesto.

“Our bread and butter is really the San Joaquin Valley. Fortunately for Tahoe, it’s a destination that has the lake and beauty. It wouldn’t be as concerned as if it was Reno,” he said.

In the gaming business for nine years, Hoffman said most Indian casinos tap more into their local surrounding areas than Nevada casinos, which draw from markets farther away.

“The bottom line is, tribes want others to be successful,” explained Hoffman, who is not a member of the Band of Miwuk Indians.

“The unspoken philosophy is they’re not going to go in smack down in the middle of our market and try to draw from it,” he said.

– Susan Wood can be reached at (530) 542-8009 or via e-mail at

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