Sports Betting To The Rescue In Vegas!

The NFL season is under way and always brings dollars into the casinos in Las Vegas.  This year is no different.  As expected sportsbooks were packed on Sunday, but it seems as if people were betting a little more than in recent history.

“We might have found the only thing that is recession proof and that’s the NFL,” said Jay Kornegay. Hilton Sports Book Executive Director Jay Kornegay admits he was surprised to see a packed house.

“I was very surprised this morning when I got in here at 9 o’ clock there was a line 10-15 deep at the minimum $1000 bets,” said Frank Nein.  Nein, a diehard football fan just like the others who showed up Sunday morning, say they wouldn’t miss the start of the season for anything. And betting makes it all that more interesting to watch.

“Las Vegas benefits from the football season including taxi cab drivers, bartenders, restaurants everyone benefits from the NFL,” said Kornegay.  This is the second busiest weekend for sports book following Super bowl Sunday.

No surprises here.  Every guy I know is pumped up with the beginning for the NFL season.  Follow me on twitter to keep up on my NFL and college football picks.

Look At Penny Slots

As I’ve detailed before, I’m a sucker for penny slots.  I like the noise and bright lights.  Call me a simple person.  I know these machines pay out less than higher denomination slot machines, but I can’t help but drop a bill in if I hear a fun sound.  Recently, I swore off these games…kinda.

On a trip earlier this summer I went with a friend that will play just about any penny slot.  I don’t like all penny slots, but it’s easy to get caught up in the fun.  After all, gambling can be an addiction.  After that trip I decided to cut back how much I’ll put into penny (or nickle) slots because I was losing my shirt because they pay out about 90% as opposed to 95-97% for higher denomination slots.

Instead, I’ve put in one smaller bill to explore new games.  On my last trip I found a new fun and loud game at Bally’s called X-Treme Reels.


It’s a 3 reel slot machine that plays every line imaginable.  If you win the basic game you activate the bonus reels and the X-Treme lights and sounds.


Reels 4 and 5 are multiplier reels that don’t hit big very often, but they are what make this game fun for me because of the noise and lights.

Much like most low limit slots the excitement wears off after a little while.  My new tactic of playing less games with smaller bills allows me to get bored and move from game to game, which was my original tactic with these games.  I’m going to stick with this “strategy” because I had a really good time playing this way on my last couple of trips.  Penny slots are fun for the relaxing time and the mindless gamble.

Writing up my low limit slot strategy was inspired by “Penny Machines Have Growing Appeal, but also a Price” in the Las Vegas Sun.

Harrah’s To Buy Planet Hollywood?

I was sitting on my couch enjoying the Patriots ruin my Monday night parlay when I read a tweet from Tim at Five Hundy By Midnight saying that he doesn’t want to see Harrah’s buy Planet Hollywood.  I immediately jumped up and checked my news feeds to see that the rumor may be true as Harrah’s purchased some of Planet Hollywood’s existing debt.

Sources confirmed this weekend that Harrah’s has purchased a portion of the $860 million debt load that is leveraged against the property…

…Brian Gordon, a principal at Applied Analysis, however, suggested Harrah’s could be following the recent trend of acquiring casino properties through debt purchases rather than through an outright buyout.

“With covenant and debt defaults looming around for some of these properties, it’s a potential way to gain eventual ownership of a property,” Gordon said.

The practice has been used successfully in the past locally, most recently when the Tropicana on the Strip was acquired in bankruptcy court.

The article in the Las Vegas Review Journal cites a few recent examples of investors buying casinos on the cheap through debt purchases.  I’ve loved Planet Hollywood since the Aladdin was sold and the theme changed.  Heck, I even liked gambling at the Aladdin.  Planet Hollywood has become one of my favorite casinos on the strip.

I have nothing against Harrah’s and think that this would be a great acquisition for them.  It would add a property with a cool, young vibe to their list of properties.  It would also allow them more ownership of the middle of the strip.  Independent ownership has allowed Planet Hollywood to carve out a niche and my fear would be that the monster that is Harrah’s will homogenize what makes Planet Hollywood unique in it’s own right.

Time will tell whether or not this happens, but unless Harrah’s own debt doesn’t allow this I don’t see how this deal doesn’t get done.

Holly Madison Signs PeepShow Extension

Earlier today Holly Madison signed an extension to remain with “Peep Show” at Planet Hollywood for another year.

While looking for a little more information I could only find stories on how plastic surgery changed her life.  Here’s a before and after for you.


Buy tickets to “Peep Show” here

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: 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 ( 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.”


P.S. Back issues of the Seven Stars Insider newsletter are available online at You will need Adobe Acrobat to view them, but this is a free program available at

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.