JACKSON — For more than two decades, people have been able to play bingo and casino games at Jackson Rancheria.
This summer, the rancheria is turning the tables and making a big-time wager on the region's fans of classic rock 'n' roll, packing four major acts into their 1,500-capacity outdoor venue.
"Last year was the first time was had a series like this," said Jose Cortez, media and marketing director. "We have a 800-seat ballroom and were looking for ways to beef-up the summer entertainment schedule."
The series has plenty of beef, and is highlighted by visits from classic rock acts such as Yes, Foreigner and Ted Nugent bands that filled arenas and even stadiums in the 1970s and '80s.
The casino is bringing major outdoor concerts to the Mother Lode at the same time Ironstone Vineyards in Murphys with a capacity of 6,000 has scaled back on its summer music offerings, but Cortez said the timing is coincidental.
"I don't think Ironstone's decisions had anything to do with what we're doing," Cortez said. "We're bringing-in bands that fit our demographic and bring in people who frequent our gaming floor. That wasthe main thought behind this."
The concert set-up at Jackson will be as Spartan as it will be intimate, with chairs and bleachers placed in front of a portable stage erected in the parking lot of the resort's hotel.
On the other hand, if you saw these acts with 60,000 of your closest high school friends at a stadium show 30 years ago, the chance to revisit that experience in a 1,500-seat outdoor setting has to be enticing.
Could the popularity of a summer series in Jackson prompt the casino to build a permanent outdoor venue?
"A bigger outdoor setting is an idea that has been tossed about, but right now there are no plans to build a bigger venue," Cortez said. "We just completed a pretty big renovation and aren't looking to any new construction anytime soon."
Last October, the rancheria unveiled its $80 million renovation that modernized its hotel, updated its 35,000 square-foot gaming area and added five new restaurants.
And now, it's finding new ways to lure patrons, followed by what they hope will be an extended gaming session.
Tickets for the shows range from $40-$80, with significant discounts for members of the casino's frequent players' program, the Dreamcatcher's Club. All shows start at 8 p.m.
"We're always looking to broaden our entertainment package," Cortez said. "And I'm very confident the crowds we pull in for these shows will be gamers, and we're sure they'll get to the floor.
"We do have to come up with ideas to get them to the floor after the shows. Yes, it's a challenge, but we know what the players want and we have it."
JULY 12 70S SOUL MUSIC JAM
An all-night journey on the Soul Train, with performances by the Stylistics, The Intruders, Cuba Gooding & The Main Ingredient, Barbara Lewis and Peaches & Herb. Gooding was the lead singer of Motown vocal group The Main Ingredient, whose biggest hit was "Everybody Plays the Fool." He also is the father of actor Cuba Gooding, Jr.
JULY 13 YES
The seminal prog rockers are on an ambitious world tour, during which the band will performing three of its most popular early-catalog albums in their entirety: "The Yes Album," "Close to the Edge" and "Going for the One." The current lineup includes Steve Howe (guitar), Chris Squire (bass), Alan White (drums), Geoff Downes (keys) and Jon Davison (vocals.)
JULY 21 TED NUGENT
The National Rifle Association board member is a full-on conservative everywhere but in his music, where he still shoots from the hip with a hard-driving guitar-based sound that remains a staple on classic rock stations. Nugent recently completed a series of shows in the Midwest in which he co-headlined with REO Speedwagon and Styx.
AUG. 15 FOREIGNER
Few bands ever have enjoyed the success of Foreigner, which raged through the mid-'70s and early '80s, putting out 10 multi-platinum albums and 16 Top 30 hits and selling nearly 80 million albums. The lone remaining original member is guitarist Mick Jones, who formed and produced the band while writing or co-writing the majority of its hits.
Brian VanderBeek can be reached at (209) 578-2150 or follow him on Twitter, @modestobeek