There is only one award in the casino industry that recognizes the marketing efforts of Tribal casinos and acknowledges their importance in the success of a gaming enterprise. Created seven years ago, the prestigious Barona/VCAT Award for Excellence in Indian Gaming Marketing was awarded to Lucky 7 Casino, Smith River, CA, at a special industry luncheon on January 29, 2014, at Morongo Casino Resort Spa, Cabazon, CA, during Raving’s 16th Indian Gaming National Marketing Conference.
Lucky 7 Casino joins industry leaders Barona Resort and Casino, CA (2007), Santa Ana Star Casino, NM (2008), Black Oak Casino and the Tuolumne Band of Me-Wuk Indians, CA (2009), Osage Million Dollar Elm Casinos, OK (2011), Seminole Casino Coconut Creek, FL (2012), and Cache Creek Casino Resort, CA (2013), in receiving the award.
According to Dennis Conrad, Chief Relationship Officer, Raving Consulting, and creator of the award, “Lucky 7’s nomination was filled with ‘ soul.’ The Barona/VCAT Award was created not to honor technology for technology sake’s or just for EBITDA, though it is important. Rather it’s a recognition of how a casino marketing department can affect people’s lives – their guests, their employees, their communities. How do they do that? By being super sharp, by maximizing their resources. By sincerely caring, as Candace and her entire team do. In Lucky 7’s case, as in most Tribal Casinos, every single cent they earn can affect the social well-being of their Tribe and their community. Sloppy and nonstrategic marketing can impact health care and education for those who so need it. Excellence in marketing can mean all the difference in the world.”
Although Conrad speaks about the ‘soul’ of this year’s winner, don’t be fooled: the competition is a tough one. Judges look for excellence in an organization’s total body of work, not a singular year of performance or marketing campaign. The competition is open to all Class II and Class III Tribal casinos in the U.S. and Canada. Participants are asked to provide a compelling essay addressing how their casino links superior marketing efforts to superior financial performance; builds marketing excellence around key constituencies of customers, employees and communities; and integrates marketing effectively throughout their entire casino operation. 2014 judges included Greg Shay, CEO of VCAT; Troy Simpson, Assistant General Manager, Barona Resort and Casino; Mike Leonard, VP of Marketing, Cache Creek Casino Resort (2013 winner), and Conrad.
The country’s finest Tribal gaming properties submitted entries this year:
Angel of the Winds Casino, Arlington, WA
FireKeepers Casino Hotel, Battle Creek, MI
Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort, Cherokee, NC
Lake of the Torches Resort Casino, Lac du Flambeau, WI
Pechanga Resort & Casino, Temecula, CA
River Rock Casino, Geyserville, CA
Rosebud Casino, Valentine, NE
Soboba Casino, San Jacinto, CA
St. Croix Casinos, Turtle Lake, WI
Lake of the Torches Resort Casino and River Rock Casino were each acknowledged with a “Contender for their highly competitive submissions. Attending from Lucky 7 Casino were Candace Penney, Director of Marketing, Shondra Hull, Marketing Specialist, and Steve Anderson, Event Coordinator. Representing the Tribe was Kara Miller, Tribal Council Chair, Smith River Rancheria.
Penney, who also announced her May retirement at the award ceremony, stated, “I am very humbled and honored to receive the prestigious Barona/VCAT Award. Never in a million years did I think we could win this, but after some encouragement from a dear friend, seeing all that we do at Lucky 7 Casino, I decided to give it a try. Upon reflection of my seventeen years with the casino, I realized that it is not just what we do for the customers, but the relationships we have built with them, our local communities and employees.
Fondly known as a tireless cheerleader within her organization , Penney added, “It takes an entire team to be successful, and I am very grateful for our employees who do the work that makes Lucky 7 Casino successful. It is due to their caring and hard work that we have achieved accolades as number one in Excellence in Indian Gaming Marketing.”
A first time guest of the conference, Kara Miller said , “Thank you for honoring our marketing staff at your annual award banquet. I was very proud to share in the celebration of our marketing success on a national level. To see our staff step up and win the Award was very rewarding, as they have been part of the success of the Tribe from day one of our gaming operation… Being from a small gaming operation, it was exciting to compete against such large gaming operations and win! It proves how lucky Smith River Rancheria is to have such talented employees be part of our team.
The uniqueness of the physical award
Each year a Tribal artisan is selected to create a custom award, which has included a hand painted canoe paddle, feast bowl, and other wood carvings. This year‟s award was created by returning artist, Raymond Bacon, Table Games Director, Cher-Ae Heights Casino, CA , who just happens to be a “neighbor” of Lucky 7 Casino, 75 miles south, on that same scarcely populated stretch of ocean highway. Bacon carved an exquisite eagle, over two feet tall. In Native American culture, the Eagle represents the highest of honors.For more information about Raving’s 17th Indian Gaming National Marketing Conference to be held in 2015, or the Barona/VCAT Award for Excellence in Indian Gaming Marketing, please contact Christine Faria, VP of Marketing, Raving Consulting Company, 775-329-7864, firstname.lastname@example.org.