Planet Hollywood Starts Total Rewards April 1

Maybe it’s an April fools joke.  Maybe it’s not.  According to @PHVegas on twitter Planet Hollywood will begin using the Total Rewards system on April 1.

We’re rolling out Total Rewards on April 1, so there are plenty of new perks and privileges coming to make our guests feel like celebrities!

Harrahs.com shows Planet Hollywood, but redirects you to the old reservation system and website for Planet Hollywood.  Unfortunately, this may take Planet Hollywood out of my plans for my next Vegas trip.  Oh well.

Rumors: Penn National To Buy Rio?

I haven’t noticed this before, but there’s been a rumor that Harrah’s would be selling the Rio to Penn National, who has been looking to get into Las Vegas for a while now.  Last time I read (and wrote) about Penn National was their failed bid for Fontainebleau.

Penn National has been working it’s way towards Las Vegas for years and the Rio would be a healthy start for the company. Although the Rio is not located on the Las Vegas Strip it is considered a Las Vegas Strip property. Penn National has an extensive data base and it is unclear it they will be able to tap into the Harrahs Entertainment’s enormous database as part of the deal.

I think the Rio is a good entry point into Las Vegas for Penn National.  The purchase price should be less expensive then being on the strip, but its location is close enough to be part of the action.  There are also quite a bit to update at the Rio, but it’s not as though the place has to be destroyed.

This gives Harrah’s some extra cash so that it can pay down some of it’s debt when it’s due.  Or they can buy more casinos.

I’m looking forward to seeing some fresh blood in Las Vegas.  Maybe this will give me an excuse to wander on over later this trip.

Resort Fees Tracker

Resort Fees aren’t cool, but they aren’t always bad.  Hotels will charge whatever they want for a room.  They can charge $75 and make you pay for certain amenities or that can just charge you $95 and include the fees.  If you plan on using the amenities, maybe the resort fees save you a few bucks, maybe you pay a little more.  The effect is different for every traveler.

Well, Vegas.com has compiled a list of what you pay and receive from each hotel.  This is a great reference if you care where you’re money is going.  Resort Fees are on top of the per night rate.  Do a little math and find out what you pay and what you receive.

Thanks Vegas.com for the info!

Planet Harrahswood Commence!

Harrah’s officially begins their takeover of Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas today.  Some things about the takeover are starting to trickle out.

  • …the property should be integrated into Harrah’s Total Rewards database by the end of March.
  • Harrah’s also plans some physical changes to the property, such as moving the high-limit room away from the front entrance and removing some of the slot machines.
  • Harrah’s acquisition of Planet Hollywood does not include some restaurants, Privé nightclub, the Miracle Mile Shops or the new 1,201-room PH Tower By Westgate.
  • A licensing agreement also allows Harrah’s to brand other casinos with the Planet Hollywood name internationally.

So effective immediately will be the movement of some slots and Total Rewards will get going by the end of next month. With a trip in early April, I’d like to see Total Rewards to kick in a little quicker.  I’d still like to stay here if possible.  A friend called reservations last night and they weren’t sure when the players club switchover would take place.  Now we have an idea.

I’m sure pay tables for video poker will be switched out over the weekend.  Can’t wait to play 7/5 Jacks or Better.  At the same time, maybe they’ll add the $5 9/6 Jacks or Better which they have in every other casino on the strip.

MGM Looking To Improve Players Club

MGM has decided to hire two companies to help in improving their comp club, Players Club.

The move may improve MGM Mirage’s competitive position against industry leader Harrah’s Entertainment Inc., which is known for mining its own databases with scientific formulas to produced personalized offers to customers through its Total Rewards Program, which launched in 2000 and now has some 40 million members.

MGM’s Players Club is an improvement of the non-system that they used to have.  I like the direction Players Club is going and found the website easy to navigate and find offers.  Their offers seems to be in line with the amount I play at MGM casinos.  Not great, but something.

Harrah’s Total Rewards get’s a lot of praise in the media, but I don’t think there’s many customers that understand how it works.  I don’t completely understand how Total Rewards works, but I’ve changed how I gamble to get better comps.  I play much more video poker and slots than I used to because that gets recorded more accurately than playing at the tables.

MGM’s Players Club seems to be on the right path with a simple web design and easy to find offers.  I’m looking forward to seeing how this improves their marketing.

“Tyson” Review

I’ve read quite a few good reviews about “Tyson“; the documentary about Mike Tyson’s life.  Everything I read was about how this was a very “real” look at his life.  As I watched the movie I realized that this was indeed very real and a raw look at Tyson’s life.

Listening to Mike Tyson talk about growing up as a kid that was picked on and watching him grow into a bully himself and a petty thug was a little uncomfortable, but interesting.  Even more uncomfortable to watch was Tyson talking about sex, violence and his marriage to Robin Givens.

As a boxing fan I was more interested in his relationship to Cus D’Amato.  D’Amato was Tyson’s trainer and seems to be the person that saved Tyson from life in the hood.  Tyson seemed to look up to D’Amato as his savior and a father figure.  As he said “Cus broke me down and rebuilt me as a new person.”

Sure Tyson won the heavyweight championship after D’Amato died, but it seems as if Tyson began his downward spiral on D’Amato passed away.

In the latter part of the movie Tyson goes into graphic detail about getting whooped by Evander Holyfield, then biting Holyfield’s ear and the bad people he surrounded himself with.  As the movie went on, it got more and more brutal.

The movie had a lot of quick cuts, which made it easy to watch and digest.  This is definitely a well done movie that is easy to watch.  This probably isn’t a movie I’d watch too often, but I don’t watch many movies more than once.  I was happy to see the end of the movie because it started to get a little depressing.  I’ve lived through most of this movie and it was great to see everything I’ve seen on the news in 90 minutes.

Total Rewards Could Be Coming To Planet Hollywood In 2 Weeks

Yesterday Harrah’s moved one step closer to acquiring Planet Hollywood.  The Nevada Gaming Commission will meet on February 18 to give final approval.  If (once) approved Harrah’s would assume control of Planet Hollywood on February 19 at noon.

This will create some consolidation with Harrah’s cutting about 5% of the Planet Hollywood workforce.  Harrah’s will also induce the property with $30 million in cash.  However, one of the most important things Harrah’s brings to Planet Hollywood is their customer database from all of their properties in Las Vegas and across the US.

It will use direct mail, group sales and try to attract leisure visitors.

Sure this seems unexciting if you’re a marketing geek, but direct mail seems to be what helps Harrah’s and Total Rewards stand out.  Total Rewards is the hub of all Harrah’s marketing.  I have a stack of postcards for upcoming trips to Atlantic City and Las Vegas.

As I plan my next trip to Las Vegas this will influence where I stay.  Say what you will about Harrah’s and Total Rewards, but they’re fairly consistent sending offers to stay at their properties.  The same can’t be said for all casinos.  I’m still waiting on an acknowledgement of existance from Wynn & Encore from my December stay.  I’m told I should see my offers soon.

I haven’t stayed at Planet Hollywood in a couple years and am considering it for my next trip with or without comps.  However, comp or discounted rooms could absolutely turn my attention away from some of the newer, shinier casinos.  We’ll revisit this in 2 weeks.

Thoughts on CityCenter

CityCenter are the huge hunks of steel in the middle of the Las Vegas strip and owned by MGM-Mirage that has been under construction for the past few years.  There are multiple buildings as part of the city and there were multiple grand openings for these properties.  The final building to open was Aria, the casino and hotel, which opened while I was in Vegas.

I waited for everything to have their grand openings before exploring CityCenter.  I walked over from the Bellagio where I had a wonderful cigar and Grey Goose and soda at the Petrossian Lounge.  I was treated to some Christmas songs on piano while enjoying a Sunday night.  This is one of my favorite spots at Bellagio.

I hate crowds and I didn’t need to worry about that when I headed over to CityCenter.  After walking through the construction I finally landed in Crystals mall.  This is a beautiful building, but the lack of opened stores was kind of depressing.  If it wasn’t brand new it would have felt like a mall on its last legs and about to close.

I hope this isn’t an omen for Crystals.  It could just be the bad economy.  Right now, I don’t think the market needs more high end shopping.  Of course, this wasn’t the case when CityCenter was being planned.  Similarly, The Shoppes at Palazzo had a similar feeling but at least there are restaurants to bring people in.

From Crystals I headed into Aria.  One of the cool things about both Crystals and Aria was the modern style and clean lines with interesting shapes and certainly not boring.  Modern style only remains modern for so long and it will be interesting to see how Aria develops in the future.  From the monorail station I felt as if I was looking at a building from the movie Tron.  Below is a sweet water wall outside the main entrance.

The interior of the casino was very dark and the ceilings felt low, even though they weren’t.  My iPhone couldn’t grab any interesting pictures due to the darkness.  This is in contrast to how bright everything was on the outside.

Everything inside the casino was new.  All new versions of my favorite slot machines – including a version of Top Dollar which I’ve never seen before that paid me $200.  All of the slot machines were very bright and showed well in the dark setting.

There was one odd finding at Aria.  There was a lack of ticket cashing machines.  I walked around for a few minutes before I could find one.  I only saw one in the entire casino.  I’m sure there were more, but there was poor signage throughout CityCenter and this was just another example.

There were not many people playing table games.  If I recall correctly all blackjack games under $25 use a Continuous Shuffle Machine (CMS).  I don’t like CMS, but it’s better than 6/5.

After my tour I searched around and around for the monorail to go back to Bellagio.  Since signage was poor it took a few minutes, but I found my way.  The monorail let me off in an area of Bellagio that I’ve never seen.  If I didn’t know what I was looking for there was no way I’d ever wander from Bellagio to CityCenter.

Overall, I have mixed first impressions on CityCenter.  Everything looked very cool and very clean with some innovation that we’ll see in future casinos.  I like the modern feel to everything, but that feeling was subdued by how cold and empty Crystals and Aria felt.  I have the feeling that would have been even deeper if I’d gone into the other buildings.

CityCenter is still so new that I have to reserve judgement.  After all, I hated Wynn after one trip and my December trip changed my mind.  I’m curious to see how the property develops this year.  I’m looking forward to seeing the difference when I visit later this year.

Wynn and Encore Win Me Over

Until my last trip to Las Vegas I only visited Wynn once and didn’t really enjoy it.  It felt like old money.  Cold and stuffy.  That feeling changed on my last trip.  My first night was spent enjoying a nice dinner at SW steakhouse.  The next night I gambled at both Wynn and Encore and had a visit to XS.

XS
Generally, I’m not a club guy but it’s always fun to check out a new spot.  I grabbed a drink and took a walk through XS and had a great time.  I can’t believe that people wait in lines half the night to get into clubs.  Thankfully, I know people and didn’t have to deal with the incredibly long lines.  We walked in and up the stairs into the club.  It was early (around 11pm) and they club was already packed with people drinking and dancing.

I took a walk around the perimeter of the club stopping at the bar for a moment before heading outside to have a waitress get a drink.  $14 for a Grey Goose & Soda feels like club prices to me.  One of the nice parts of XS is that the club is both inside and outside.  Being from the east coast, I didn’t feel cold outside like the locals.

After watching girls dancing on stages (some went commando) I looped around the club and headed out to gamble.  It was a nice quick trip through XS and I’m glad I took a spin.

After walking out of XS into the Encore casino my friends and I sat down at an empty $10 blackjack table.  It was a great spot – we were close to the drink station, close to a rest room and had a great view of clubbers leaving XS.

We played blackjack for about 4 or 5 hours and closed down the pit.  Everyone at the table had plenty of drinks and everyone at the table walked away with more money than they started with.  It was an impossible run.  Entire tables rarely win.  I think I finished up either $300.  The end of the night was fuzzy.  I was in the middle of the winners and I was happy for it.

This was a special night filled with tears of joy and vodka fueled laughter.  I had so much fun.  The dealers, pit bosses and cocktail waitresses were all fantastic.  I knew I had to start drinking water when I stopped at the urinal and took a picture of the antisplash above.  It’s the one photo I took that night and it’s the sole reminder of the laughs that night.

At Encore I learned that my earlier loss at switch blackjack (at Wynn the night before) was rare.  Evidently most people win at switch blackjack.  I’ll try switch again before I drink.  Unfortunately my gambling at Wynn was filled with losses and a small video poker victory.

My two nights at Wynn and Encore changed how I felt about Wynn.  I think the addition of Encore has added a little youth and energy to the complex that wasn’t there when Wynn first opened.

This is a good reason not to hold one visit against a casino/hotel forever – especially when hearing opposite impressions from others.  That’s something to keep in mind as CityCenter and Aria develop.

Fontainebleau To Icahn

Carl Icahn is the winner for the bankrupt Fontainbleau in Las Vegas.

Carl Icahn is expected to take over ownership of the bankrupt Fontainebleau Las Vegas resort after two potential competitors vying to buy the property failed to submit qualifying bids as of a 5 p.m. deadline Friday.

First things first.  I hope Carl Icahn unbrands the Fontainebleau name.  Second, I’ve mused about Icahn moving the Tropicana name over to the Fontainebleau project.  With the Tropicana going with a south beach theme it may make sense to switch brands with hotels as Fontainbleau was originally a Miami hotel icon.

Photo: Las Vegas Sun