Air Curtains to Protect Dealers at Aria

Aria and CityCenter haven’t opened yet, but the casino is taking measures to protects it’s dealers against smokers.  Aria blackjack tables will be equipped with an “air curtain.”  An air curtain is, essentially, air shooting straight up from the table and will block most second hand smoke from the dealer.

That’s the next-to-best thing Aria could do to protect dealers’ health, aside from not allowing smoking in the casino, said Cindy Ortega, senior vice president of energy and environmental services for MGM Mirage, an owner of CityCenter.

“I can take three matches, light up the matches, blow them out, and I put the match right there and the smoke goes right straight up,” she said. “The air curtain is there to protect the dealer from the smoke. Now, it’s not 100 percent (as good) as a nonsmoker, but I think we’ve taken such giant leaps. I think it’s really great.”

Second hand smoke has long been an issue for dealers, so it’s nice to see MGM-Mirage being proactive.  I only wish that I could have an air wall around me so I didn’t stink of smoke after every night I’m in Las Vegas.  I hate the smell and now travel with fabreeze.

Frank Caliendo – 10 Years of Impersonations In Las Vegas

Frank Caliendo signed a 10 year contract to perform at the Monte Carlo in Las Vegas beginning October 12.

Known by millions for his dead-on impressions of such celebrities as Al Pacino, Robert DeNiro, John Madden, former Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, Dr. Phil, Jay Leno and dozens more, as well as myriad of television appearances and live stage performances, Caliendo’s new show will be a dynamic mix of high-energy comedy and fast-paced impressions enhanced by live music, video sketches and much more.

I don’t find Caliendo incredibly funny, but in short burst he and his John Madden impression can be very funny.

Cruise the Strip for the hottest shows in Vegas

ESPN To Broadcast World Series of Poker until 2017

ESPN extended their deal to broadcast the World Series of Poker (WSOP) through 2017.

ESPN has aired the WSOP since 2003. The current contract runs through next year. The new deal begins in 2011. ESPN will pay a rights fee. Terms were not disclosed.

Taped coverage of the World Series airs on ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN Classic, ESPN International and more.

With ratings down slightly this year some may see this extension as a surprise, but poker still has plenty of 18-24 male viewers which is a key demographic for advertisers.  This essentially gives ESPN a stranglehold on the largest poker event on TV until popularity wanes.

I’ve mentioned here that I’ve moved on from watching poker on TV, but I’m not the average person.  I usually adopt before the average person and move on before that same person.  2017 seems like the right time for the guy in Iowa to be tired of poker on TV.

Seven Stars Insider

Here is the latest Seven Stars Insider newsletter.  This is good information if you are a Harrah’s player and a Total Rewards card holder and has now been tailored for all levels of card holders.

The newsletter doesn’t teach you how to “game” the system, but rather how to maximize your comps.  Sign up for the newsletter here.

NOTE: While this newsletter was originally designed exclusively for Seven Stars Club members, there is useful for anyone who has a Total Rewards® player’s card and/or plays/stays at a Harrah’s property. Please feel free to pass this on to your friends.]


Free Showboat Sunday Seven Stars Brunch

Probably the best kept secret in Atlantic City is the Seven Stars Sunday Brunch at the Showboat. From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., the room adjacent to the main buffet at Showboat is home to a private – and complimentary – brunch for Seven Stars Club members and one guest. There is a private chef preparing foods to order and/or you can also partake from the regular Showboat buffet. Call ahead before showing up, though, since this may disappear as quickly as it appeared in June.


McCormick & Schmick’s Comps

Sometime in July, Harrah’s management in Atlantic City told McCormick and Schmick’s they no longer could accept comps on a 1:1 basis. Consequently, that $36 entrée now costs you $72 in comp dollars – assuming you don’t choose to pay cash rather than use Reward Credits. This arrangement is similar to Morton’s at Caesars and the restaurants at The Pier.


Harrah’s Cherokee Now Serves Alcohol

The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians has voted to allow the sale of alcohol at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino in Cherokee, N.C. The referendum passed, 1,847-1,301. Nearly 50 percent of the tribe’s 6,489 voters went to the polls. The tribe voted on the question after supporters got 25 percent of registered voters to sign a petition calling for a referendum. The referendum was the second time in 29 years the tribe has taken up alcohol sales. In addition, a similar referendum in 1980 failed by a 2-1 margin. A $633 million expansion, doubling the size of the casino’s floor space, is currently under construction.


Las Vegas Diamond Clubs – Again!

The most reaction I have received to any newsletter item recently was regarding my comments about the “quality” of the crowds in the Las Vegas Diamond Clubs. Descriptions like “bottom feeders” and “low lifes” were among the “kindest” (and printable!). Many, like me, advocated that Harrah’s increase the tier score for Diamond status and/or impose a per person comp charge for admission – Seven Stars Club members exempted, of course. The other comment/question was why the hours in Las Vegas are so short. Currently, clubs are open Sunday through Thursday from 4 to 9 p.m., and Fridays and Saturdays from noon to 9 p.m. The 9 p.m. closings on weekends were particularly annoying, especially to those players from Atlantic City who are used to later hours, i.e., midnight.


Credit Card? Check! ID? Check!

Registration clerks (who can’t express their irritation to guests) and others checking in (who can) wish that players would have the courtesy of having their Total Rewards card, a valid credit card and a valid ID ready to present when they check in. Even if the clerk knows you personally, and even if you think you have a credit card on file with the property, regulations require that employees verify these documents each time you stay. Please do everyone a favor and have these ready so you don’t waste everyone’s time fumbling through your personal belongings to dig them out. (And don’t be offended when someone asks for an ID at a restaurant or a shop when you are using Total Rewards points or charging something to your room; this is for your own protection.)


Question Of The Month

I’ve spoken to a couple people who earned less than 100,000 tier points last year, but still got Seven Stars Club status. Did Harrah’s reduce the number of points required? According to a highly placed corporate executive, who wishes to remain anonymous, the 100,000-point threshold still exists, but some long-time Seven Stars Club members were granted an exception this year “due to the economy.” “This was done on a casino-by-casino basis and very few exceptions were granted,” my source told me. “This will be a one-time-only exception,” my source said, “and the players will need to requalify in 2009 for status in 2010.


All Aboard. . .First!

Another benefit of Seven Stars is priority boarding on the Harrah’s shuttles operating among their casinos in Las Vegas and Atlantic City. Since the shuttles often can become crowded quickly, don’t forget to take advantage of this.


Atlantic City Taxes

While room and tourism taxes often are “forgiven,” Harrah’s sometimes takes your comp dollars to pay this $13 nightly fee. It’s always a good idea to find out in advance how the tax portion of your final bill is being settled. I’m still trying to find out why Harrah’s charges $13, yet Borgata and Trump charge $5.98 and $5, respectively, per night.


Total Rewards Points Accepted At Atlantic City Country Club

For a change of pace from casino dining, don’t forget you can use your comp dollars – on a 1:1 basis – at the Atlantic City Country Club (ACCC). The Tap Room Bar & Grille serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, as well as an elaborate Sunday brunch. All you need is your player’s card and a valid ID. The club is located about 20 minutes from the Boardwalk. Check out their Web site at: http://www.harrahs.com/golf/atlantic-city-country-club/dining.html. Since its founding in 1897, ACCC has been at the forefront of the sport, both nationally and internationally. The prestigious and historic ACCC proudly carries the distinctions of “The Birthplace of the Birdie,” as well as being the site where the term “Eagle” was coined. Many legendary names have played the course, including Sam Snead and Howard Everitt. Bob Hope was an ACCC “regular,” first becoming acquainted with the club when he worked on the vaudeville circuit.


Keeping Score

While it doesn’t happen often, mistakes do occur when it comes to your comp dollars. Before any trip to a Harrah’s casino I always check the Web site and write down my current tier score and comp dollars. I also keep all my receipts to know how my comp dollars have been used. After I get home, I again check the site, write down my then current points and calculate how much I’ve earned, plus what I’ve spent. If nothing else, it gives you a sense of how much you played and earned.


Do You Do Anything To Recognize Your Host and His/Her Services?

According to our May/June informal survey, most players who actively use the services of a host give an end-of-year gift valued at approximately $150 (average). This recognition may take the form of a gift card, a gift basket or some other gift which the player knows his/her host might appreciate. In addition or in lieu of a holiday gift, some players send flowers or give a gift to their hosts on their birthdays – assuming they can find out the date. (It might take a little effort, but usually a colleague in VIP Services can get this information for you.) Only a couple players admitted they didn’t see the need to give a gift since they felt their hosts already were “profiting” from their play.


What Incentives Will Get You To Play More Frequently?

If you live on the East Coast, as I do, a $75 Pottery Barn gift card is not enough incentive to get me on a plane to Las Vegas. Two tickets to a Bette Midler show, maybe. Recently, though, Harrah’s has been sending some pretty piddling offers valued at around $100 (gift cards, cash, designer T-shirts, etc.). Its competitors, on the other hand, are sending offers valued at three, four or five times that amount. (All of these offers are over and above the standard complimentary rooms.) Assuming you had the time and other necessary resources, what sorts of incentives would get you to make an extra long-distance – or even short-distance – trip? And, if applicable, in your opinion, how do Harrah’s offers compare with its competitors’? Drop me an email (sevenstarsinsider@gmail.com) and I’ll share your thoughts – anonymously – with everyone in a future newsletter.


I Can’t Be The Only One This Is Happening To!

Caesars Atlantic City – On a recent Monday night in July, the second floor casino seemed to be running on auto-pilot. Two kids were stealing coins out of the fountain, and there was not a security guard in sight. Shortly after I spotted the little thieves, my machine jammed as I was cashing out. After 20 minutes, I started hitting the “Service” lights on 50+ machines surrounding mine. Still no response. Finally, I asked a friend to watch my machine, and I went searching for a Harrah’s employee. I literally walked half the upstairs casino, and no one! Ultimately, I saw a gentleman in a suit who had a Caesars’ nametag. He called a slot attendant, but when all was said and done, it took an hour to collect my $300. (See below for more on this.)

Harrah’s Resort Atlantic City – On a recent Saturday night in August, the casino – just like Caesars – seemed to be running on auto-pilot. Twice I asked a [homeless?] person – who was sound asleep at a slot machine I wanted to play – to please move. She moved, but continued her reverie at another machine. Once again, no security guards or other Harrah’s employees – other than cocktail servers who were too busy to even stop. Finally, I went to the front desk and one of the managers helped me find a guard. He talked to the woman, but made no attempt to escort her out of the casino, or ensure that she moved. Consequently, once again she fell asleep. Another guest wanted to play the machine where she slumbered, but told me he was “afraid” to disturb her.


Waterfront Tower – Going The Way Of Showboat’s New Orleans Tower?

It had been awhile since I stayed in the “new” Harrah’s Waterfront Tower in Atlantic City. How disappointing it was to find large chunks of my dresser missing, seriously scratched end tables on either side of the bed, a make-up mirror dangling from the wall in the bathroom, pillowcases inside out, no bath mat, and a missing ice bucket. And while a call to Housekeeping promised me a replacement bucket, none showed up; however, an accommodating housekeeper gave me one from a vacant room – so now that guest will find his bucket missing. Even a little touch-up paint or stain would help the unsightly appearance of the damaged dresser and end tables – at least until they can be repaired properly. And the reason I compare this situation to Showboat is the horrible condition of the New Orleans Tower. Ironically, I was in the same room in July as I was a little more than a year ago. The furniture was so scratched and damaged, it literally had less stained wood than bare wood (or, probably, more accurately, particle board). Plus, there were only four hangers in the closet and the shelves in the bathroom looked like they hadn’t been dusted in months.


Which Brings Me To Employee Morale. . .

Maybe it’s because I come across as a concerned guest (which I am) who is supportive of Harrah’s (which I am) and concerned about what I see happening (which I am), but in the last 45 days, more employees than I can count – bartenders, slot attendants, slot managers, security guards, front desk employees, etc. – have confided in me how overworked they are due to understaffing. And more than a few feel the cutbacks are a direct result of huge salary and benefit packages going to Harrah’s senior management. [Perception is reality for some people, a wise man once told me.] Compare this to Trump’s employees who proudly wear promotional “campaign-style” buttons touting their commitment to customer service – unlike that ill-conceived and insensitive DIANA campaign that went on far too long at Showboat. Trump’s employees are upbeat, almost anticipate guests’ needs, and seem proud to be working for “The Donald.”

~Darryl

P.S. Back issues of the Seven Stars Insider newsletter are available online at http://sevenstarsinsider.googlepages.com. You will need Adobe Acrobat to view them, but this is a free program available at www.adobe.com.

Darryl D. McEwen, Publisher

Seven Stars Insider

Hotel 32 at Monte Carlo

Hotel 32 is the newly remodeled top floor at the Monte Carlo Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.  You may remember the top floor caught on fire just over a year ago.  It took a while to remodel and instead of just going with typical rooms Mointe Carlo decided to go upscale.

The rooms look great, but I’m not sure this would get me to stay at the Monte Carlo.  Thanks to Vegas Tripping for the heads up on this.

World Series of Poker Ratings Fall 8%

ESPN’s ratings for the World Series of Poker (WSOP) are down 8% for the first two broadcasts this year compared to 2008 according to Poker News Daily.

Poker News Daily has learned that ESPN’s coverage of the 2009 World Series of Poker (WSOP) has experienced an 8% dip in television ratings through two weeks to 0.72. Last year, the mark was 0.78.

In addition to ratings seeing an 8% slide, household impressions also fell, albeit a modest 5%. The total number of household impressions through two weeks of the 2009 WSOP was 714,904, compared with last year’s tally of 750,315. Four one-hour episodes have aired so far, with 26 more comprising coverage of the Ante Up for Africa charity tournament and the prestigious $10,000 buy-in Main Event.

Things look bad, but the news isn’t “fall off the table” bad.

Figures released after the July 28th kickoff telecast revealed that viewers were up 2% among men age 18 to 34. The number of viewers age 25 to 54 was up a commanding 16% after the first episode of the 2009 WSOP debuted on ESPN and the number of viewers age 18 to 49 was on par with the 2008 broadcast. The first telecast of the 2009 WSOP on ESPN featured the $40,000 buy-in No Limit Hold’em tournament commemorating the 40th running of the WSOP. In the end, Vitaly Lunkin dominated the 201 player field en route to a $1.9 million first place prize. He defeated Isaac Haxton heads-up in a star-studded final table that also included Greg Raymer, Ted Forrest, Justin “ZeeJustin” Bonomo, and Alec “traheho” Torelli.

I’ve been watching poker on television for about 6-7 years now.  This is the first year in that time that I haven’t watched the WSOP.  There’s a lot of competition for my attention on TV, internet and real life.  Additionally, poker is on a wide array of TV channels, which dilutes the marketplace and lowers desire for many to watch.

I’m not very different then the rest of America in that my attention span is short.  I’m not watching many TV shows that I watched 5 years ago – if any.  ESPN noticed this was coming and changed the format of the WSOP last year and added a celebrity event this year.  They’re doing what they can to hold on to their viewers.  I’m just not one of them.

Ballys Sports Book to Open Soon

Bally’s sports book is set to open on August after being closed earlier this year.  The opening coincides with football season.

The Bally’s Race and Sports Book will reopen with an all-new roster of offerings just in time for football season. Beginning Aug. 26, the full-service sports book will celebrate the re-opening with an exclusive VIP viewing area, celebrity appearances by well-known sports figures, “text-to-win” promotions and drink specials galore.

The recently added VIP Lounge offers sports enthusiasts the ultimate opportunity to enjoy their favorite game in High Definition. Complete with comfy couches and sports memorabilia, the VIP area can accommodate up to 100 guests for an exclusive game day experience

The sports book opens on schedule after being closed for the slow sports betting period of the summer.  Now that football is back there will be demand for greater sports book capacity.

It’s nice to see that Bally’s was able to re-open the sports book.  It shows that there is a little stability in the economy.  I would be concerned if the sports book didn’t open again.  Alas, we can breath easier.  This is another sign that football season is getting closer!

Aubrey O’Day Likes To Party All The Time

Aubrey O’Day likes to party all the time and I have proof for you.  In between appearances in “Peep Show” at Planet Hollywood O’Day decided to cover Eddie Murphy’s “Party All The Time.”

The song is catching on fast, and there are reports that Aubrey is in talks with Lil Wayne’s label Young Money.

“I’m such a fan of 80’s music, and this song has always been in my head,” Aubrey exclusively told us, “and with my reputation in the media, I figured everyone would get it when I say that I just wanna party all the time!”

I thought this was a joke, but it’s true.  I also thought the original was a joke, but it was serious.  I love Eddie Murphy and I think I now love Aubrey O’Day.  Thank you.  It will be interesting to see if O’Day can turn this into a new record deal.

Here’s the Eddie Murphy original.  Which is better?  I vote for the girl, even if I can’t see here. 🙂