Seven Stars Insider – June 2011
[Also featuring information/commentary on Golden Nugget’s Elite and Trump’s Signature Cards]
NOTE: While this newsletter was originally designed exclusively for Seven Stars members, there is useful information for anyone who has a Total Rewards® player’s card and/or plays/stays at a Caesars property. Please feel free to pass this on to your friends. Back issues of the Seven Stars Insider newsletter are available online .
Think ‘Twice’ Before Using Comp Dollars – Part II
Add Taste of the Shore at Harrah’s Resort and Bally’s in Atlantic City to those outlets that accept Total Rewards credits – but on a 2:1 basis. That means your $8 sandwich at Sack O’ Subs will cost you 16 comp dollars. Ditto for the stand-alone Ben & Jerry’s and Pretzel Factory at Bally’s, as well as the new Harry’s (see below). Meanwhile, down in New Orleans, according to an e-mail, “. . .[P]artner restaurants (Ruth’s Chris, Gordon Biersch, Grand Isle) require $2 comps for each $1 served. If you plan on having lunch and/or dinner at Fuddruckers, Lucky Dog, Macalister’s, Starbuck’s, Bambu and/or Besh Steak, please feel free to show your card – Cost for meal(s) will be deducted from your Reward Credit Comp Value. Note: Paper vouchers will have to be picked up from VIP Services [located in the high limit area/next to cashier cage] prior to lunch and/or dinner for ALL other partner restaurants.”
More On ‘Singles Discrimination’
One reader says she has no problem getting two single tickets from Total Rewards at Harrah’s in Las Vegas, so maybe that’s the secret – get your voucher there instead of Caesars Palace. [She also pointed out that, since these ticket offers are based on a calendar month, if you’re traveling at the end of a month, you could get up to four free tickets.] And, related to this issue, another “solo” player/traveler pointed out that those “two free buffets” offers should be split so single diners can get two free meals. Definitely something to chew on.
Caesars Global Life
With its main focus on overseas expansion, Caesars Entertainment Corp. has formed Caesars Global Life to develop non-gaming hotels and restaurants. In a statement May 9 the company said it will develop hotels via licensing, franchising and management agreements.
Discretionary Comps vs. Total Rewards Credits
The creativity some players exhibit in exhausting their Reward Credits so hosts can authorize discretionary comps is amazing. Apparently, casinos in the Midwest allow players to exchange their RCs for cash and/or free play. Somehow this just doesn’t seem fair for the rest of us, but, heck, these folks are just taking advantage of a loophole in the rules.
North Kansas City
Seven Stars Renewal Dinner
Think things were bad in Atlantic City? One reader reported that her dinner consisted of a pasta bar with either red or white sauce, a potato bar and a taco bar. A pre-Oscar dinner was even worse, but there were nice giveaways.
Web Site Woes
Someone needs to go through Chester’s Web site. It’s in desperate need of updating. Under “Temptations Buffet” special hours are posted for “Feb. 14th, Feb. 20 and Feb. 12st (sic).” There are references to the Cove’s Prix Fixe dinner, but clicking on the link produces an “Oops. . .” page noting that the page is no longer available. [The same dinner special is referenced under “Special Packages & Offers” where there also is a “Retail Package” that touts, “Buy 3 Items at Bijoux Terner and get a FREE Gifft (sic) with purchase!”] The dinner is still available – and it’s a real bargain! – but you are unable to access the menu on the site.
Today’s Lesson: How and When To Use An Apostrophe
I hope whoever is running the Cove knows more about food than punctuation. [Happily, I can report they do; a recent dinner there was outstanding.] The plural of crab cake is crab cakes, not crab cake’s as printed on the menu. In addition, there was a sign outside the entrance promoting a special tapas menu on Wednesday’s (sic); again, the plural of Wednesday is Wednesdays (and it appears twice on the sign!). Another sign outside the Temptations Buffet promotes its Italian-themed section featuring “Pizza’s and Pasta’s”. And when there should be an apostrophe, there isn’t, evidenced by a sign to the right of the casino exit leading to Level 4 of the parking garage. The sign says, “Its sure to please. . .”; make that “It’s sure to please. . . .” And, finally, there is another sign flashing on the video screens throughout the casino that reads, “At Harrah’s Chester Its [sic] Easy To Check Your Reward Credits”. Add an apostrophe between the “t” and “s” in “Its” – “It’s”.
A Little More Notice, Please
I received an invitation to a very nice brunch with $100 in free play on the Sunday prior to Memorial Day; unfortunately, the mailing arrived on Thursday, and I already had scheduled a long weekend in Atlantic City. I’m not sure the brunch and $100 would have kept me in town, but, had I not made plans I definitely would have attended.
Harrah’s Chester Hotel?
Not sure where it’s located, but the cover of my Memorial Day Weekend mailer touted, “Call To Book Your Harrah’s Chester Hotel Stay Today”; however, there were no other references inside the mailer as to where the hotel is located or what number to call.
Winning Streaks Becomes Derby Burger Bar
What is Caesars Entertainment’s (and other casinos’) obsession with “burger bars”? Add Chester to the list of casinos. The Derby Burger Bar is basically a “reincarn-ivore-ation” (sorry, couldn’t help that!) of Winning Streaks on the simulcast level, one floor beneath the casino. As a matter of fact, the original Winning Streaks sign is still there; it’s just covered up by the new sign.
Signature Weekend vs. Dave Matthews Band Festival
Those driving or otherwise arriving by car to Atlantic City for the Signature Weekend should do their homework to avoid road closures, possible traffic jams and the anticipated 50,000 additional visitors expected each day June 24-26 attending the Dave Matthews Band Festival. Not sure which event was planned first, but lots of “locals” already are crying “foul” over what could be a real mess. Let’s hope for the best.
Food/Beverage Credits vs. RFB
If you’re staying at a Caesars property in Atlantic City and your room offer includes a food and beverage credit, make sure your room account is set-up properly. I had a $100 credit, courtesy of Harrah’s Chester, and I was RFB at Caesars; however my first two room charges went against my Rewards Credits and not the $100 credit from Chester. To correct this, my RFB was disabled, and I had to settle my bill personally at the conclusion of my stay. [No big deal. . .those employees at Caesars VIP Check-In (Valerie, Carol, Jennifer, Gene, Joyce, et al) are so nice, I wouldn’t do anything to make their jobs any more stressful. I continue to be amazed at the arrogance exhibited by some of the guests checking in there. Please, your Seven Stars or Diamond card is a way to recognize your level of play, not a license to be rude and unnecessarily demanding.] RFB is a nice convenience, but, unless you keep all your receipts, you have no way of knowing how many of your comp dollars you “spent” (or earned) during your stay.
Donny Osmond To Perform In August
Remember that rumor about Donny and Marie coming to Atlantic City this summer? We’ll it’s partially true, but you won’t see Marie, and you won’t see Donny at a Caesars property. He’ll be performing at the Borgata in August.
$1,000 Hand Pays
According to a slot manager at Harrah’s, the reason the $1,000 hand pay was instituted was so more people would qualify for the once-a-month $15,000 jackpot promotion open only to those who hit a jackpot $1,000 or more – even though they didn’t have one last month.
$8 ‘Resort Fee’?
Considering that casinos in Atlantic City are required to collect only $5 in New Jersey State and Atlantic City taxes, it appears that the additional $8 Caesars casino hotels collect is tantamount to a Resort Fee without any of the benefits usually associated with such an additional charge, e.g., free newspapers, local calls and Internet access. Considering its Las Vegas properties tout “No Resort Fees” (something their MGM competitors collect from paying customers), I’m surprised competitors in Atlantic City don’t launch a similar campaign against Caesars. Only Tropicana charges more than $5, and the Borgata allows guests to use comp dollars to pay these taxes. Trump Signature cardholders have the taxes waived entirely at the Plaza, but not, ironically, at the Taj Mahal.
Kudos to Donata Caloiero from Caesars and her other Caesars Entertainment team members who volunteered last month during the United Way of Atlantic County’s eighth annual Day of Caring.
‘Wizard Of Odds’ Needs A Fact-Checker
He (or, maybe, she?) sounds more like a disgruntled player than a legitimate source of information about Atlantic City casinos. The column in the May 27 edition of TV Atlantic magazine is full of inaccuracies and unsubstantiated claims. “Best Casino Deals” include “Best Steakhouse – Ruth’s Chris” (Ruth’s Chris is not a casino steakhouse), “Best Italian Restaurant – Primavera’s [sic]” (Primavera closed several months ago to make way for the new Atlantic Seafood Grill), “Best Deli – The Deli [at Harrah’s]” (The Deli has been closed to make way for the new Bill’s Bar & Burger), “Best Buffet Food (tie) – Harrah’s” (and ?). In addition, the Wizard claims that Prime Place (“Best Steakhouse”) and Magnums (“Best Player’s Club”) are gone (yes, but are now The Reserve and the Diamond Club, respectively), and that Pickles (“Best Jewish Deli’) is gone – last time I checked, it was still open and, over Memorial Day weekend, thriving, especially its outdoor seating. Also, I’m not sure how the Wizard can blame “poor management” – his words – for employees who choose to retire or move to another position at a different casino. He also blames management for “diminished” cocktail service, even though the new Total Touch system is one of the most advanced and high-tech ordering systems available – surely more efficient than trying to flag down a busy server. And, “Best Birthday Gift” (two dozen long-stemmed roses)? I’ll take free play or comp dollars any day.
What’s Next? No More Shampoo?
What’s happened to the notepads and pens in the rooms? It’s a little thing, but we “old folks” sometimes need to write things down or we forget them.
Mr. Met’s Sleepover
Whoever produced and signed off on the Mr. Met video playing throughout Caesars apparently never stayed in the Centurion Tower. A final scene shows Mr. Met putting a “Do Not Disturb” sign on his doorknob. When the Centurion Tower was renovated, those signs were replaced by an electronic system that’s activated by pushing a button just inside the door. A small red light on the room number panel in the hallway comes on to indicate the guest doesn’t want to be disturbed. [Also, Mr. Met is probably the only guy allowed in Dusk with a baseball cap – I guess team mascots get special treatment.]
And, Speaking Of Those Room Numbers. . .
Would someone please dust the tops of those plexiglass squares with the room numbers mounted on them? I noted this several months ago and the dust just keeps building up. [I realize I’m overly harsh with Caesars, but I stay there almost exclusively, and they bill themselves as Caesars Entertainment’s “luxury” property in Atlantic City. When a couple without a reservation checked in next to me on a recent Saturday night, they didn’t even blink at the quoted $249 rate. At that price, they deserve better. (But, doesn’t that rate make you appreciate those comp or discounted rooms you get?)]
Enough With The Menus Under The Doors!
Those marble floors in the entryways are slippery enough, but I almost fell tripping over the menus shoved under my door last month. Perhaps it’s time for a certified letter – or, better yet, a personal visit – from Caesars management to AC Pizza Palace, Chelsea Pizza & Italian Grill, Pizza King and Tommy’s Seaside Grill & Pizza. Whoever is distributing these menus is probably not a guest – or a guest of a guest – so isn’t that trespassing?
Please, Be Careful. . .
. . .if you choose to use the first floor Boardwalk exit from the Centurion Tower. While, as far as I know, there have been no reported “incidents” there, I find it disconcerting to walk out the door and navigate my way between drunken vagrants sprawled out over the steps drinking from brown paper bag-covered beer cans. It happened again Memorial Day evening around 6:45. If you see some “unsavory characters” outside the door, simply turn around, get back on the elevator and exit through the casino. Even more importantly, do not let anyone in through that door as you walk out. That door is an exit, not an entrance, and it’s locked from the outside for a reason.
What’s More Central?
Bally’s is now using the tagline: “Be In The Center Of The Action”. Sounds awfully similar to Trump Plaza’s longtime taglines: “The Center Of It All” and “The center of the Boardwalk. The heart of the action.”
Cheapskates Of The Month Award
Business – Bally’s fast food outlets (Gold Tooth Gertie’s, Lone Star, Wild Wings) have the skimpiest paper napkins I have ever seen. They’re about the same thickness (thinness?) as a piece of one-ply toilet tissue, only as “long” as two sheets of toilet tissue and 1½ times as wide. [I took one to my room and measured it.] If management thinks it’s saving money, keep in mind that the average customer is probably using 10 of these, as opposed to one larger and heavier one.
Individual – A customer at Gold Tooth Gertie’s in the Wild Wild West asked for a small paper cup and proceeded to fill it to the brim with milk from the dispenser meant for coffee. Cheaper than buying a pint of milk at the local Wawa or 7-11, I guess.
Asleep At The Switch
Despite a slew of “No Sleeping” and “No Loitering” signs, the bus terminal at Bally’s was full of sleeping passengers and others who may – or may not – have been waiting for their transportation home. I was meeting a friend at Bally’s the Sunday morning of Memorial Day weekend, and no one seemed to be enforcing the rules. I couldn’t help but pull out my cellphone to snap the – admittedly blurry — photo below:
Total Touch Not Working?
OK, I guess one try isn’t a sufficient test, but a drink request using the new Total Touch system produced nothing but a long wait. I tested the system about 7:40 a.m. on Mother’s Day and, after 15 minutes, no one ever showed up with my bloody mary. I never even saw a server, and the Wild Wild West casino was practically empty. If you can’t get a drink during a slow period, what’s it like on a busy Saturday night? What’s your experience been?
Taste Of The Shore Opens
Smaller, but similar to the Taste of the Shore at Harrah’s Resort, Primo Pizza and Sack O’ Subs is open in the “gateway” corridor between Bally’s and the Claridge. You can use comp dollars, but at a 2:1 ratio.
Sore Sight For Eyes
I don’t know anyone whose eyesight is so good that he or she can read the tiny type on those billboards Bally’s is using on the Atlantic City Expressway to promote its
Play 60 Minutes*
Get A Free Buffet
Who’s approving this ridiculous signage? (And if the copy the asterisk refers to is so important, why not make it larger so everyone can read it?
And, Speaking Of Approving Copy. . .
Didn’t anyone review the full-page ads in the May 26 editions of At The Shore and Atlantic City Weekly? The section promoting “Let’s Make A Deal” has Joey Fatone as the host – it’s now Alan Thicke – plus some really confusing copy
Wild Wild West Breakfast Buffet
I thought it seemed too good to be true, a weekend breakfast buffet for $10.99. And, as many of you know, I’m not a fan of buffets, but, in the interest of this newsletter, I decided to try it. Mistake! It took me longer to stand in line for my omelet (20 minutes) than it did for me to eat it. Plus, the buffet is set-up in such a manner that, after you get your eggs cooked to order, you then have to cut through the line in order to get at potatoes, biscuits and other accompaniments. [A lot of people got the rest of their food first and then stood in line. Hello! Your food just gets cold while you wait for your eggs.] The buffet also comes with a “steak”; mine was a small triangular piece of meat that looked like anything but a steak, but, ordered rare, I must admit, it was rather tasty. If you go, though, don’t make the mistake that a lot of people did: Don’t get into the “egg line” thinking it’s the “steak line”. There is no line for the steaks, even though you might have a couple of people ahead of you. And, Bally’s management, please fix the refrigerator door behind and to the right of the cook preparing the eggs. Someone went to get a new bag of grated cheese, and the door practically fell off in her hands.
Another New Restaurant To Open
Harry’s Oyster Bar & Seafood will open this month in what was formerly the Sidewalk Buffet. It will be operated by the owners of what many call “Atlantic City institutions” – Dock’s Oyster House and the Knife & Fork. According to an interview published in the Press of Atlantic City, “The whole concept is that it’s a throwback to old seafood houses that were once predominant in the East Coast. The idea that very fresh food prepared simply is outstanding. The idea of people getting together eating oysters, clams and good fish should be a perfect fit.” In addition to a 45-seat bar and seating for 140 more people inside, the restaurant also will extend into the Dennis Hotel courtyard, where an additional 25-seat bar and 60 more seats will offer outdoor dining. Again, you can use comp dollars, but at a 2:1 ratio.
Loosen Up Slot Tournament Rules
A slot tournament from 7 to 11 p.m. June 10 requires winners to be present at 11:30 p.m. in order to collect. Seems a little unfair – even if the grand prize is $10,000. (And, what’s with all these huge first, second and third prizes? I’m not talking just Bally’s, but everywhere. Wouldn’t it be nicer if the prizes were a little less and more players won? Just a thought.)
About Other ‘Premium’ Player’s Cards
Since many of you also have “premium” cards from other casinos’ player’s clubs, if news warrants, periodically, I’ll publish information (and my thoughts!) about programs such as MGM’s M life, Trump Entertainment’s Signature Card and the Golden Nugget’s 24 Karat Club Elite card.
Golden Nugget Elite – While the Golden Nugget is a welcome new addition to the Atlantic City gaming scene, its players club program is a major disappointment. Basically, it’s a carbon copy of the Trump One Card program – meaning their Elite card (comparable to Trump’s Signature card) has very few benefits. The benefits for the Elite card don’t even get a mention in the 24 Karat Club brochure; “Ask a host for details,” the brochure advises. Problem is, when you ask someone, all you’re told is that benefits are basically the same as the Chairman card. [Turns out, though, that you earn comps and cashback at an even higher accelerated rate than Chairman, and you get complimentary admission for two to the Chairman Club (normally 10 comp dollars per person).] Why is Golden Nugget so afraid to put these “benefits” for its highest level player’s card in writing? [Trump finally did this in its latest players club literature.]
Trump Signature – Trump Entertainment Resorts’ “management by accountant” policy is not only irritating its customers, but alienating them. No one can quibble with sound business decisions, but just communicate them to your customers. Last month, Trump closed down its shopping catalog (a new catalog has been promised), and drastically cut the hours of its flagship restaurants at Trump Plaza, as well as its popular Plaza Bar – all with little or no advance warning to its players. The Plaza Bar was closed all of Mother’s Day weekend and is now closed on Sundays, leaving just Friday and Saturday hours. The biggest punch in the gut last month was the purge of all comp dollars earned during the past six months at Trump Marina (now, the Golden Nugget). [In an extremely generous move, Golden Nugget gave all its eligible players comp dollars equal to the amount they had banked in their Trump One account.] However, none of this was communicated to its best players – most of whom receive at least one monthly mailing, along with weekly “weekend updates”. Also gone are weekly e-mails from each of the Trump properties reminding customers of their offers and encouraging them to stay and play. Sunday, May 15 (which may have been the first Sunday the closures of the Plaza Bar, Roberto’s and Max’s took place), Evo was packed to the gills, with customers spilling out into the crowded Boardwalk entryway, blocking escalators and causing “traffic jams” as customers tried to enter the casino. Evo was obviously not prepared to handle the crowds, which further angered “regulars” and newcomers alike. [Trump finally disclosed the Marina comp dollar situation in its June promotional mailer.]
Darryl D. McEwen, Publisher
Seven Stars Insider