Seven Stars Insider – May Edition

Tyson Chandler Total Rewards Concert
Tyson Chandler at Total Rewards Concert

Here’s the latest edition of Seven Stars Insider. It’s a big one with lots of information, especially for the Atlantic City players. This is an easy read and an excellent resource for Caesars Total Rewards players. It’s long, but full of information. Head over to Seven Stars Insider to sign up for the newsletter.

My Mistake. . .

Apparently only one person (other than me) noticed, but I erred when I wrote that the Diamond Celebration Dinner required 40,000 tier credits. . .it’s only 15,000.  Once you qualify, go to a designated kiosk to print your credit – or if your casino doesn’t have one, to the Total Rewards Desk.  You have until March 31, 2014 to use it, but I wouldn’t print the coupon until you’re ready.  Also, remember that you have to use it all at one time, and only at Caesars-owned restaurants.  If there’s a question, always ask first if the coupon will be accepted.

No Fooling!

Thanks, everyone, for your kind responses to the special April Fools’ edition.  I was overwhelmed by the nearly 150 emails I received – including some from top Caesars Entertainment executives (and even a phone call from a reader in Kansas!).  It was all meant in good fun and I’m glad you enjoyed it.

Harrah’s Phoenix Ak-Chin

Stocking Down

According to a reader, Ak-Chin has stopped the practice of decking out rooms for Seven Stars with a gift basket, soft drinks, water, juices and extra personal toiletry items.  “Too bad,” he writes.  “That was one of the nicest things about Ak-Chin, and they don’t have that much going for them.  They do have a nice pool area, but nice pool areas aren’t all that hard to find out here in Arizona.”

Las Vegas

Tickets To Nowhere

Once again, Caesars marketing folks are sending out senseless offers.  Why offer two free tickets to Jubilee! or Penn & Teller, and two complimentary nights at my choice of Bally’s Flamingo, Harrah’s, The Quad or Rio when, as part of my Seven Stars benefits, I can generally get these tickets (along with up to four nights in my choice of property)  any time I am in Las Vegas?  Do they really think I’m going to book a trip to Las Vegas to take advantage of this?  Another East Coast reader got an offer for two free nights and a $50 gas card.  Are they serious?  What a waste of paper and postage.

Atlantic City

‘If A Tree Falls In The Forest. . .’

Why offer special perks for Seven Stars cardholders if you’re not going to tell anyone?  It was only after I finished my breakfast at Caesars Café Roma that someone told me I could have gotten a complimentary mimosa. In honor of the Seven Stars Renewal Weekend, all Seven Stars cardholders were eligible for the free drinks that Friday, Saturday and Sunday.  Meanwhile, over at Bally’s Diamond Lounge, there was a special section reserved for Seven Stars cardholders.  Friday night a chef was carving prime rib to order, Saturday there was chef preparing omelets to order, and that evening the menu featured roasted salmon with Israeli couscous.  Who knows what else may have been available that weekend?  How nice it would have been to receive an email a few days before the event with the message: “Looking forward to seeing you this weekend.  In honor of our Seven Stars guests, the following special perks will be available to you. . . .”  Or, perhaps at check-in, we could have received a small card with a list of special benefits available over that weekend.

Open and Shut Case

It’s no wonder Caesars restaurants so often are empty and under-utilized.  No one knows when they’re going to be open.  On the Friday of the Seven Stars Renewal Weekend my first choice for dinner was Arturo’s at Bally’s. According to its Web site, though, Arturo’s is open only on Saturdays and Sundays (but “Closed on May 7, 21 and 21” – huh?), so I made a reservation at Morton’s (my second choice).  Figuring the Seven Stars Lounge at Caesars would be mobbed – it wasn’t, apparently – a friend and I walked over to the Diamond Lounge to see one of our favorite bartenders, John, and have a couple of pre-dinner cocktails.  Turns out Arturo’s was open (and practically empty!), so I canceled Morton’s, and we had an outstanding meal there.  Other friends went to Nero’s and Atlantic Grill that night, and said they were pretty empty as well.  There’s got to be a better system of letting customers know what’s open and what’s not.  When you checked-in, Caesars and Harrah’s used to give you a two-sided sheet which listed operating hours for the lounges, bars and restaurants, as well as any entertainment scheduled.  It might be time to resurrect this idea.

Read The Fine Print – I

Once again Caesars is running two confusing promotions.  Maybe instead of just having attorneys review the rules, some actual customers should get in on the act.  In other words, be sure to read the fine print.

Wheel of Fortune Millionaire Maker Sweepstakes – Everybody gets one free entry daily and can earn up to 10 additional entries for every 25 Tier Credits earned from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.  However, be sure you claim those extra daily entries before 8 p.m. or they’re lost.  (Yes, the rules are pretty clear on this, but, if you’re busy playing and haven’t studied the rules carefully, the time can get away from you – as it did for me the first time I played while the promotion was running.  I lost my 10 additional entries because I tried to claim them after 8 p.m.)  Between trying to remember to bring my 3-digit codes for free slot play, swiping to opt in on a daily Reward Credit multiplier (which I also forgot one night last month and lost a bunch of Reward Credits), keeping track of my daily Tier Credits to get Bonus Tier Credits (and make sure they’re being accurately credited!), and now this, it’s just too much work.  With all its complicated promotions, Caesars has taken the fun out of playing.

$1 Million Giveaway – Similarly, with the drawings May 25 and 26, you receive entries for each 10 Tier Credits earned between May 12 and 26.  However, the rules state, “Activate your entries each day [emphasis added] by swiping your Total Rewards card at a designated Promotional Kiosk. . .between 11 a.m. and 7:30 p.m.”  Does this mean you have to activate your earned entries each day between May 12 and 26, or only on the drawing days?  The first time I read it, I thought it meant each day I earned entries – similar to the Wheel of Fortune Sweepstakes.  What I think the rule means is only on the two days of drawings, May 25 and 26.

Swipe Out

Related to the above, here’s a perfect example of the antics players have to go through to participate in multiple promotions, all running on the same day this month, May 19:

  • ·         To activate a progressive multiplier on my play that day, I have to swipe at the appropriate Promotional Kiosk between 9 a.m. and 11 p.m., but this will multiply my play from 6 a.m. that day through 5:59 a.m. May 20.
  • ·         To participate in the Wheel of Fortune Millionaire Maker Sweepstakes, I have to swipe somewhere else between noon and 8 p.m.
  • ·         To participate in “Super Spin Sunday” I have to swipe somewhere else between noon and 8 p.m.

To complicate matters further. . .

  • ·         I can swipe at all four Total Rewards casinos – Bally’s Caesars, Harrah’s and Showboat – to get entries in the Wheel of Fortune Millionaire Maker Sweepstakes and “Super Spin Sunday”.
  • ·         I have to swipe only at one casino in order for my play at all four to count for the multiplier.

If I do all that, I won’t have time to play enough to make my multiplier worth anything, earn entries (up to 10 before 8 p.m. for the Wheel of Fortune sweepstakes; unlimited for the $1 Million Giveaway) or qualify for Bonus Tier Credits.  In case you’re not keeping track, that’s four separate promotions going on in one day, not even counting those daily Bonus Tier Credits, or any coupons you might have for free slot play and food.

Free Play Offers Reduced

Whenever slot players get together, one of the topics of conversation is generally, “I’m just not getting the free play offers I used to.”  Statistics released by the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement would seem to confirm this.  Comparing March 2012 with March 2013, while the Atlantic Club increased its “promotional gaming credits” by 51 percent, Bally’s reduced them by 37 percent, Caesars by 32 percent, Harrah’s by 40 percent and Showboat by 45 percent.  However, there’s an interesting explanation behind all this, detailed in an excellent article published last month in the Press of Atlantic City.

Going Online

Caesars Interactive Entertainment, operator of the World Series of Poker and online gambling sites overseas, has applied for a casino license in New Jersey, signaling its intention to enter the state’s Internet gambling market. Majority owner Caesars Entertainment already operates four Atlantic City properties, so the casino license petition would allow Caesars Interactive to operate Internet gambling on behalf of Bally’s, Caesars, Harrah’s and Showboat.  Meanwhile, the Borgata also has announced its intentions to enter the Internet gambling business, as well.

Ride ’Em, Cowboy!

Tickets go on sale May 20 for the third annual City Boardwalk Rodeo, October 5 and 6 at Boardwalk Hall.  The past two years, the rodeo was held in late March/early April, but organizers were up against Easter this year, and fall always had been their first choice.

Bally’s

Read The Fine Print – II

I’m not a video poker player, but I’ve heard from several who are not happy that some of the single line machines at Bally’s have a small plaque underneath the bill acceptor stating “This machine awards one point for every $20 played.”  Other single line machines are all still one point for $10.  If this is happening at Bally’s, is it happening elsewhere?

Caesars

Empty Chairs At Empty Tables

That popular song from the musical Les Misérables pretty much describes the ballroom at Caesars for the Seven Stars Renewal Weekend dinner April 27.  With the room set for 600, I’d guess at least 15-20 percent of the seats were vacant, maybe more.  After the salad course, I ate my shrimp and some asparagus spears, leaving what others at my table described as an inedible filet.  While it looked nice on the plate, the entrée was bland, boring and pretty tasteless – kind of like the event itself.  I gave up waiting for dessert (Baked Alaska) – which some later described as the best part of the meal.  To make matters worse, the volume on the post-dinner music was turned up as high as the heat.  “Celebrity” Mario Lopez made a brief appearance, but, like so much else that Caesars does, it set us up for disappointment.  A lucky few actually met Lopez and got a photograph, but, after some silly remarks standing next to Caesars-Bally’s-Showboat General Manager Kevin Ortzman, Lopez was whisked away, presumably to make the same stupid presentation elsewhere in town.  (I found out later that he was at Harrah’s, but the folks at Bally’s got Robin Leach.)  Plus, either no one coached him well enough, or he just couldn’t remember his lines.  He forgot Ortzman’s name, and when he put in a plug for Caesars latest promotion, he mistakenly called it “Millionaire Matchmaker”.  Why even bother to have Lopez there if he’s going stay less than 10 minutes?  People were expecting him to walk from table to table, others hoped for a dance later.  (And, OK, some just wanted him to take off his shirt.)  When is Caesars going to learn?  The attendance at these weekends has been dwindling for years.  (I remember when it was so popular, they actually had to schedule two weekends.)  There’s little incentive to attend when the only “activities” are a 7X Reward Credit multiplier on Friday, and a dinner-dance (where hardly anyone danced) on Saturday.  Even with the chance to win one of 10 $1,000 cash prizes, the $100 in free play, match play or comps we were given at registration, and the post-dinner “hot seat” from 9 to 11, it’s not worth all the time, effort and expense Caesars puts into this.  If they want to feed us, give us a $200 gift card good at any Caesars-owned restaurant.  That way we can eat when we want – and what we want.  (With the exception of Mia, most of the restaurants at Caesars and Bally’s were pretty empty Friday, so they could use the business.)  Even the Seven Stars Lounge was quiet most of the weekend, and Bally’s Diamond Lounge Friday night was like a ghost town.  Instead of last month’s dinner, I’ll take one of those Diamond coupons books any day.  When you add up the value of those coupons, it’s a much better deal than what Seven Stars cardholders got.

Morton’s Continues 1:1 Policy

Morton’s Steakhouse continues to accept Total Rewards credits on a 1:1 basis – at least through June 30.  This is negotiated quarterly, so I’ll check back near the end of June to see if the policy will continue throughout the summer.

Speed Traps

I’m glad to see that Caesars has installed some speed strips in the self-park garage.  They still don’t seem to be enough to slow down the excessive speed at which drivers maneuver the facility, especially when turning corners to get to the next floor.  Better signage (“Two-Way Traffic”, “Yield” signs, etc.) and lighting are still necessary.

To The Egress

When Diamond cardholders going to pick-up their coupon booklets last month followed signage at the base of the second floor casino stairs/escalator, they were directed to the top, and then were greeted by a security guard and another sign directing them to an entrance around to the left. . .despite the fact there was a door into that room at the top of the stairs/escalator.  Wouldn’t it have made more sense to make that “exit” the “entrance” rather than wasting an employee’s time directing players to a door 100 or so feet away?

Harrah’s Resort

Bathroom Humor

It’s not just the men’s rooms at Harrah’s that have problems.  Here’s a first-hand report:

On April 5 about noon the Diamond Cove ladies room faucet would not turn off.  There was a constant flow of water for at least 15 minutes.  Maintenance stopped the running water – I mean they stopped the water to never run.  In fact, the soap dispenser was removed and on the counter was a box of 80 wet wipes, which didn’t last through the evening.  They hung this sign on the faucet:

I am out of commission but my neighbors here are happy to be of assistance.  Maintenance has been notified.  This unit will be back in service shortly.

This sign was in the fashion of a Do Not Disturb door knob sign that was professionally printed with purple background, white lettering with some words in dark purple as noted above.  How many calls for this message is required that it was actually an official printing project?  I think if someone hand-wrote OUT OF ORDER the women would catch on to the lack of water.  The neighbors wording must have referred to the wet wipes, which were gone before Saturday morning, and women were asking the cashiers if they had any.  By the way, I left April 9 about noon and there wasn’t any running water then when I went to check the status.  Four days!

Bad Wrap

Those ugly building wraps at Harrah’s have finally been removed.  Lady Bird Johnson can now rest in peace. [Only someone as old as I will understand that last reference.]

Showboat

Leaving The Dock Without Caesar?

Penn National’s Tim Wilmott and Jay Snowden, both former Caesars Entertainment employees, were in Atlantic City last month.  According to “Pinky’s Corner”, a column in the Press of Atlantic City, they are looking to possibly purchase Showboat.  (Caesars CEO Gary Loveman was in town for a couple of days, as well, Pinky reported.)  Several bartenders, other employees and even some players say they’re “in the know”.  They claim the deal is done and will be announced this month.  Don’t believe anything until you see the official announcement. A deal this big can’t fly under the radar without public documents being filed.

Smoke Gets In Your Eyes

A small fire in room 544 at Showboat forced customers staying on the fourth, fifth and sixth floors to evacuate for about an hour April 24.  No one was injured, but the floor sustained some smoke and water damage, according to the Atlantic City fire chief.

Harrah’s Philadelphia

Four Stars For Seven Stars Event

While Atlantic City may have blown it (see above), Harrah’s Philadelphia stepped up to the dinner plate two weeks earlier with a classy cocktail reception, a delicious three-course dinner featuring filet mignon Oscar, and an 11-piece orchestra (with a sound technician who knew how to keep the volume at just the right level). Throughout the evening, guests could get their photos taken for new player cards (and, note this, Caesars Atlantic City, they actually work in the machines, kiosks and at restaurants!).  The event was capped by a drawing for several thousands of dollars in free play and a private fireworks show.  In addition, all Seven Stars cardholders got $100 in free play and a polo shirt.  [Kudos, too, for including a dress code on the invitation.  Most guests actually dressed up for the occasion, though there were a handful of jerks who refused to remove their baseball caps during dinner.]

Was It Real Tar?  I Thought They Cleaned Up The Gulf

One of the appetizers on the menu for the Seven Stars Renewal Dinner last month was “Tuna Tar Tar” but I think they meant Tuna Tartare.  Whoever wrote that is probably responsible for the new Philly Tap & Tavern menu with its “Corn Beef”.  Unless this is some new veggie version of a hamburger made out of corn, I think they mean Corned Beef.

Suspect Sought

Police are looking for a suspect wanted in connection with the assault and robbery of a 69-year-old woman at Harrah’s April 24.  The victim was walking to her car just after midnight.  According to police, the suspect tackled her and knocked her on the ground, rendering her unconscious.  The suspect fled with her purse and other personal belongings.  The victim was later treated at a local hospital for minor injuries.

General

Not-So-Secret Circle

Several readers got a “top secret” survey and invitation to join the Caesars’ Circle Community (or Caesars without the apostrophe, depending on the source).  They were asked not to forward it to friends.  (Sure, as ifthat’s going to happen!  People couldn’t wait to send this to me; I must have received 10 copies.)  One woman stopped after 13 pages when the survey asked for her birthdate.  The Circle is not exactly top secret and it’s not new.  Here’s a link to the site, but you can’t access it unless you are a member, and you can’t join unless you’re invited.  Not that I was invited, but, frankly, after reading the rules and regulations, I don’t think I want to have anything to do with it.  Anybody read Doctor Faustus?

Here’s a portion of the email:

Help us create a better casino experiences [sic] for you.  Your opinion is valued!  Caesars Entertainment is inviting select Total Rewards members to form the Caesars’ Circle Community, which will serve as a team of special advisors to us as we seek to improve the services and experiences that we provide our guests.  We have limited spots available, so if you’d like to join the Caesars’ Circle Community, please share some information about yourself in a brief survey; it should only take about 10 minutes.  We’re trying to get a good representation of people who love entertainment, including but not limited to gaming.

So what will you be doing if you are selected?

  • Participating in surveys and discussion forums (when you can)
  • Helping us solve specific challenges
  • Teaching us more about customers like yourself!

What you’ll get:

  • Exclusive sneak peeks behind the scenes at Caesars Entertainment
  • Opportunity to influence direction of Caesars Entertainment and Total Rewards
  • Opportunity to participate in contests

Our promise to you

  • We will listen to what you have to say
  • We will share back with you what we’ve learned
  • We will never sell your information to a third party

We’d also appreciate it if you don’t forward this invitation to your friends – this is a personalized invitation that will work only for you.

Food Fight

Up until last month, players with those $100 Diamond Celebration Dinner certificates (or any other coupon) could not take advantage of special Total Rewards pricing in any of the restaurants either at Harrah’s or Horseshoe in Council Bluffs, Iowa, at the Horseshoe in Hammond, Ind. (and, possibly, others).  The restaurants called it “double-dipping” – citing the “cannot be combined with other offers” disclaimer.  Sorry, but this didn’t make sense, and I wasn’t aware of any other casino restaurants that operated this way.  It’s like shopping at a grocery store where you have a loyalty card and being told you can’t use a manufacturer’s coupon off anything but the full price of the item.  In Atlantic City and Philadelphia, I use coupons all the time and the amount is taken off the Total Rewards pricing, not the “regular” prices.  (Talk about double-dipping, at Harrah’s Philadelphia I not only got a 30 percent “senior discount” – on the Total Rewards price, but also used a $30 coupon.  My $47 order ended up costing me $2.20 in comps.)  Since I felt Caesars needed to have a consistent policy across the country, and the restaurants in Council Bluffs and Hammond were not abiding by the spirit or intent of Total Rewards and its benefits, I contacted officials in Las Vegas.  Long story short, all Caesars-owned casino restaurants have been directed to charge special Total Rewards pricing to eligible customers – coupons/certificates or not.  Thanks, Caesars and Total Rewards!

End Of The Race

According to a posting on the Total Rewards by Caesars Facebook page last month, there will be no “Great Race To Rewards” this year.  More shocking to me – someone who does not “do” Facebook – were all the negative comments from customers.  As I’ve written many times in the past, customers are more likely to focus on the negatives rather than the positives, but if I were a corporation I think I’d rather pass on some of this social media rather than air such “dirty laundry” in public.
No More Comps Or Free Play On Free Play
It’s being phased in slowly company-wide, but you’ll no longer earn Reward Credits and cashback on free slot play.  To be honest, most casino companies’ systems preclude you from this, so it was just a matter of time before Casears execs figured this out.  Frankly, it’s not that big of a deal when you do the math, but,, again, it would have been nice if someone had told us.

Phone Home

Contrary to popular belief, local and toll-free phone calls are not always complimentary for Seven Stars cardholders.  If this is a concern, check with the front desk first – though you might not always get the correct answer.  That’s why it’s a good idea to review your bill before you check-out.  If you find errors, or you have a question, settle this before you leave.  In the event you are charged for something you had been told was complimentary, e.g., local phone calls, all you have to do is request a credit.

On The Level

Isn’t the Level I Experience worth more than any of the Level II Experiences?
Tea For To
The description of the Level II Memphis Basketball Experience on the Total Rewards Web site says it includes: “…dinner for to at Jack Binion’s Steak House of ’37.”  [Oddly, it’s correct in the printed booklet we received.]
Desperately Seeking Cruisin’
I knew Carnival was having problems, but what’s with Norwegian Cruise Line?  This past month alone I received 15 emails (practically one every other day) plus several offers to pick up free cruise certificates at Atlantic City, Philadelphia and Las Vegas casinos.

Question Of The Month

I’m totally confused!  Just when I thought I understood the “new” Total Rewards program, I see another email from a player and I get even more exasperated.  What’s the story?  There has been so much “back-and-forth” regarding the annual retreat (formerly “annual getaway”), the Diamond Aspiration $750 airfare credit (available at 80,000 tier credits), and the Level I Experience (available at 150,000 tier credits), I’ve tried to summarize the benefits using two different examples.  I hope I have this correct (and don’t confuse things even more!), but here goes. . .

  • I achieve Seven Stars status with 150,000 tier credits on June 1, 2013. I must take my annual retreat by March 31, 2014, and I must take my Level I Signature Experience by June 30, 2014.  That gives me 13 months to take two trips.  I then get another annual retreat which I must take between April 1, 2014, and March 31, 2015.  I also get a $100 Celebration Dinner which I can use at any Caesars-owned restaurant before March 31, 2014.  To obtain this certificate, I go either to the Total Rewards desk or, if available, the specially-marked kiosk in the casino.  In addition, I get a $750 airfare credit which I can use to fly to any Total Rewards casino-hotel in the United States or Canada.  This benefit is available through March 31, 2014, and restrictions apply.
  • I achieved Seven Stars status with 102,000 tier credits on November 15, 2012.  If I didn’t take it, I lost an annual retreat because I had to take it before March 31, 2013.  Now I have an annual retreat I must take before March 31, 2014, so I have about 11 months (from May 1, 2013) to complete this trip.  If I earn 150,000 tier credits at any point during 2013, I then get a Level I Signature Experience which I have to use by June 30, 2014, but only after I take the annual retreat I earned from my play in 2012.  The earlier I earn 150,000 tier credits in 2013, the more time I will have to use the two trips.  Even if I earn 150,000 tier credits as late as December 31, 2013, I’ll still have six months to use the Level I Experience I will have earned.  Worst case scenario is that I have not taken my annual retreat by December 31, 2013, and I must complete my annual retreat by March 31, 2014, but still have three more months to complete my Level I trip.  I also get a $100 Celebration Dinner which I can use at any Caesars-owned restaurant before March 31, 2014.  To obtain this certificate, I go either to the Total Rewards desk or, if available, the specially-marked kiosk in the casino.  In addition, I get a $750 airfare credit which I can use to fly to any Total Rewards casino-hotel in the United States or Canada.  This benefit is available through March 31, 2014, and restrictions apply.

Survey Says. . .

I got lots of great tips from readers, but few wanted me to share them because they were afraid they’d get their host in trouble, or worse, the little glitch in the system they discovered might be corrected.  However, here are tips some readers swear are true.  No promises if they’ll work for you.

  • If you are RFB and use all your Reward Credits, you can still get comped at least $100 per night automatically.  It appears to vary by property, but in Atlantic City it is $160.  (Above and beyond how many Reward Credits you may have earned on your trip, more may be considered.)
  • You have to ask, but the Atlantic City properties will offer rebates based on cumulative loss over a calendar quarter for all the properties, not just per trip or per casino: 10 percent of losses over $100,000, 15 or 20 percent over $250,000.
  • If you receive DirectBet, Bally’s Atlantic City allows you to hedge it in some games.  For example, in roulette bet half a $100 DirectBet on red, bet the remaining $50 on black.  If either color hits, you walk with $50.  If 0 or 00 hits, you get half the bets back on red and black, yet still walk away with a net gain of $25.  This is useful when cashing a coupon just before hitting the road.

This Month’s Survey

I was lucky enough to attend two Seven Stars Renewal events, a dinner at Harrah’s Philadelphia and another at Caesars in Atlantic City.  How about you?  Did you attend an event?  How was it?  Send me an e-mail (sevenstarsinsider@gmail.com) and I’ll share your thoughts – anonymously, of course.

Darryl D. McEwen, Publisher

Seven Stars Insider

Photo: Zimbio

Seven Stars Insider April Edition

Cat Deeley at Escape to Total Rewards
Cat Deeley

Here’s the latest edition of Seven Stars Insider. It’s a big one with lots of information, especially for the Atlantic City players. This is an easy read and an excellent resource for Caesars Total Rewards players. It’s long, but full of information. Head over to Seven Stars Insider to sign up for the newsletter.

Happy New Year!

I know this is April, but for Total Rewards it’s a brand new year of benefits.  The next 12 months will go fast, so consider making your plans early for the annual trip, oh, excuse me, “Retreat” (see more on this below) and celebration dinner (or dinners – yes, you’ll get a second valued at $100 once you earn 40,000 tier credits this year).  While you’re at it, go ahead and select your annual gift.

Benefits?

Spending 125 comp dollars for $1 of free play is great if you use your Reward Credits that way, but some of the other benefits being touted are a little pathetic:

  • In order to offer complimentary early check-in (which was never a problem as long as a room was clean), Caesars instituted a charge for everyone but its best players.  That’s like adding an extra charge for daily housekeeping, but telling Seven Stars and Diamond cardholders they get it for free.
  • Advance notice and the ability to purchase tickets for certain concerts and shows?  Just about any casino, stadium, theater, arena or similar venue offers that – all you have to do is give them your email.

Signature Events

While it’s a nice change from the past, the first word that came to mind as I was reading the list of options was “leftovers”.  Jazz Fest, the 4th of July Celebration and a Forum Shops shopping spree were – and still are – among the Signature Experiences Caesars offers.  Plus, a lot of Seven Stars cardholders can probably get their hands on complimentary tickets to the Vegas Uncork’d event or Shania Twain without “wasting” their Signature Event.  And getting complimentary rooms shouldn’t be a problem.  In addition. . .

  •  Anyone who wants to go to Jazz Fest will hopefully be within driving distance.  With such short notice, airfares – which already are inflated during this time – are through the roof.
  • The Fashion Weekend is over Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year and the first of the High Holy Days.  Rosh Hashanah begins at sunset Wednesday, September 4, and ends at nightfall Friday, September 6.
  • I can’t blame Caesars for this, but it seems a little insensitive of the Miss America Organization to schedule this year’s pageant over Yom Kippur, considered by many as the holiest day of the year.  Yom Kippur begins at sunset Friday, September 13, and ends at nightfall Saturday, September 14.  Friday is the first of two rehearsal days and Saturday is the “Show Us Your Shoes Parade” (not “Parade of Shoes” as Caesars calls it) on the Atlantic City Boardwalk.

By the way, you won’t find the Signature Events on the Total Rewards Web site yet, but you can access them by clicking here. 

Retreating From A ‘Getaway’

One change from last year’s Seven Stars program is that the “Annual Getaway To Any TR Resort or Casino” has been renamed “Annual Retreat To Any TR Resort or Casino”.  Did anyone bother to look up the definition of the word “retreat”?  Among them are “a movement away from danger or a confrontation, back along the original route”, “a withdrawal from a position or point of view to one intended to lessen conflict”, “a period of quiet rest and contemplation in a secluded place”, and “a quiet secluded place where people go for rest and privacy”.  Not sure any of those accurately describes a trip to a casino.  Or is Caesars suggesting we retreat from its casinos and play/stay elsewhere?  In any event, it’s an unfortunate choice of words.

The Fine Print

Among the “Rules & Regulations” – printed in a typeface about half the size of the rest of the book, is “Movie benefit is available at participating Total Rewards casinos only.  Please check with your host or Total Rewards for more details.”  This is the first and only reference I could find to movies.  Seasoned Seven Stars cardholders will be familiar with this, but those new to the program may be scratching their heads.  Related to this, there is no mention of complimentary Internet access or boarding pass printing – benefits which Seven Stars cardholders have come to expect.  Some properties, but not all, also provide complimentary local and toll-free calls.  Word to the wise: If any of these benefits/services is important to you, ask at the front desk when you check-in.

A Little More Notice, Please

In addition to learning about the Jazz Fest Signature Event about a month before it begins, my invitation to a Seven Stars Renewal Event at Harrah’s Philadelphia arrived a little more than two weeks prior to the dinner. (The return address was Total Rewards in Las Vegas, but it’s not unusual to get invitations from Harrah’s Philadelphia as little as two or three days before an event.  Kind of makes you feel like not enough people responded and you were an after-thought to help fill the room.)  In Atlantic City, many Platinum cardholders got a similar two-week notice for a coupon book giveaway.  We all know that these events are planned far in advance.  At a minimum, Caesars should consider a “Save The Date” email.  Contrary to what it may appear, some of us do have “a life” that includes weekend activities other than gambling.

Left Hand, Meet Right Hand – Part I

I probably received more than 30 emails from readers who called last month to book one of the 2013 Signature Events, only to get what was essentially a verbal “deer in the headlights” reaction at the other end of the telephone.  Here’s a good example:

“I called the toll-free number and the operator didn’t seem to know anything about these.  She asked me for an offer code (I assume she means on an invitation she thought I received in the mail) which I do not have.”

When I called to inquire about the cruise, I was put on hold for about seven minutes, only to be told that no one knew anything about it, that “it hasn’t been loaded into our system yet”, and “a host or someone from Marketing will get in touch with you.”  (Someone did call me back four days later.)

Left Hand, Meet Right Hand – Part II

In addition to the emails from players, I received several more from Caesars employees – especially those who work at properties where the Seven Stars Signature Events are being held.  None of them was aware of any of these and added that, more often or not, they learn about what’s going on in the company from my newsletters and emails.  What was it I wrote about last month?  Communication, communication, communication.

In Memoriam

Since it’s the beginning of a new year for Total Rewards, like the Oscars, the Grammys and other awards programs, it’s time to look back on some of the things we’ve lost over the past 12 or so months.  (I’m sure you can think of more!)

  •          The Range at Harrah’s Las Vegas (now a Ruth’s Chris Steak House)
  •          BarleyQue at Harrah’s Philadelphia (now Philly Tap and Tavern)
  •          Don Marrandino (formerly Eastern Division president of Caesars Entertainment)
  •          Canal Street Bread & Sandwich Co. (now Earl of Sandwich) and the Mansion Café (now banquet and meeting space) at Showboat Atlantic City
  •          Food and beverage outlets that accept comps on a 1:1 basis (too many to mention)
  •          Show in the Sky and Lucky Strike Bowling Lanes at Rio
  •          Café Cappuccino (now Café Tazza – where comps are accepted, but at 2:1) and Temptations at Harrah’s Resort Atlantic City
  •          The Imperial Palace (now The Quad)
  •          Human Nature at the Imperial Palace (now at the Venetian)
  •          Being able to purchase the Press of Atlantic City at any Atlantic City casino gift shop
  •          The Virginia City Buffet at Wild Wild West in Atlantic City
  •          PNC ATMs in all Atlantic City casinos
  •          Bradley Ogden’s (now Gordon Ramsay Pub & Grill) and Nero’s Steakhouse (now The Old Homestead) at Caesars Palace
  •          The President’s Lounge at the Summit at Harrah’s Lake Tahoe
  •          Complimentary early check-in (all Caesars casino hotels)
  •          An extra hour (from 11 p.m. to midnight on Fridays and Saturdays) at the four Diamond Lounges in Atlantic City
  •          Shrimp served Sundays through Thursdays in Atlantic City Diamond Lounges
  •          Monday and Tuesday opening of Bally’s Atlantic City’s Diamond Lounge
  •          Thursday opening of Harrah’s Resorts Atlantic City Seven Stars Lounge
  •          The TR Insider program
  •          Complimentary soft drink refills at 6ix a Bistro (Bally’s Atlantic City)
  •          “No Resort Fees” at select Caesars Nevada casino hotels.
  •          Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall & Saloon (to become next year the Gansevoort Las Vegas)
  •          The Bank of America Total Rewards Visa credit card (now issued by Comenity Bank)
  •          Most of the Wild Wild West at Bally’s in Atlantic City

Ak Chin

Drinks On The House

A reader reports that Seven Stars cardholders may now get coupons for free drinks to be used while actively playing in the casino.

 

Harrah’s New Orleans

Diamond Lounge Returns To Original Location

It was nice while it lasted.  The way-too-small Diamond Lounge at Harrah’s has returned to its original location in the High Limits area.  The move to what was formerly Bambu restaurant was only temporary due to the anticipated larger crowds in town for Super Bowl and Mardi Gras.  During Jazz Fest, which begins later this month and continues through the first weekend in May, a special Seven Stars Hospitality Lounge will be set-up.

Las Vegas

Gansevoort Las Vegas (formerly Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall & Saloon)

Movin’ On Up

The Las Vegas Strip will join the Caribbean resort islands of the Turks and Caicos, as well as Park Avenue in New York and that city’s Meatpacking District when a $185 million redevelopment will transform Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall & Saloon into the Gandesvoort Las Vegas.  Expected to open in early 2014, the hotel will have 188 “Parisian apartment-style rooms” – including 19 suites.  The building is being remodeled to include a new lobby area, a redesigned lobby bar, ultra-lounge, retail outlets and a 40,000 square-foot casino.  A restaurant overlooking the Strip also will be developed, as well as Drai’s Beach Club and Nightclub, a 65,000 square-foot indoor-outdoor nightclub and rooftop pool area overlooking the Strip.

Atlantic City

No Sale

The Pier Shops at Caesars thought they found a buyer in Michael Kohan, a New York real estate investor who specializes in taking over distressed shopping centers.  However, the deal fell through, according to an internal memo from mall General Manager Harry Geety.  Kohan said he wanted to keep the mall’s upscale appearance, but would add more lower-priced stores to make shopping more affordable for Atlantic City tourists.  According to an article in the Press of Atlantic City, Kohan said he remains “ready, willing and able” to close a deal.  But Geety’s memo indicates that the mall has ended negotiations.

The Unfairness Doctrine

It seems a little unfair considering it happened in Las Vegas – and in 2007, but New Jersey has fined Caesars Entertainment $225,000 for a drugs, sex and gambling scandal at Caesars Palace and Rio.  The New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement claims that the company’s alleged misconduct in Las Vegas had the potential to harm the reputation of the casino industry across the country.  The case involved a Nebraska businessman who gambled away millions of dollars and was indicted by a grand jury for failing to pay $14.7 million in gambling debts.  The charges were later dropped in a settlement with Caesars.  The high-roller then filed a civil lawsuit alleging that Caesars allowed him to gamble even though it knew he was incapacitated by drugs and alcohol, further alleging that Caesars Entertainment personnel plied him with alcohol and repeatedly gave him pain killers without a doctor’s diagnosis or a prescription.

Throwing The Book At Them. . .If They Can Be There To Catch It

Those annual coupon booklets, so popular with new and renewing Diamond cardholders, are being given out this year April 19 and 20 (April 12 and 13 for Platinum cardholders).  Several Diamond and Platinum cardholders have contacted me to express their disappointment because they’ve already made plans and can’t change them – one couple has booked a cruise through an offer from Caesars.  I agree. . .it doesn’t seem fair.  You spend all year earning this benefit, then Caesars gives you a few weeks’ notice and eight hours over two days to claim it.  (Also, the Friday giveaway times are 2 to 6 p.m. – difficult for most “working people” who have a 9-5 job Monday through Friday.)  In my opinion, it’s one of the best Diamond and Platinum card benefits.  I wish there was something similar for Seven Stars cardholders.

R.I.P. TR Insiders

The final Insiders event took place March 15 to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.  Aside from the deafening music – when is Caesars going to wise-up and turn down the volume at its events? – the staff at Showboat got it right. The promised cocktails and hors d’ouevres turned out to be a complete dinner buffet that was frequently refreshed and looked extremely appetizing.  (Because I expected only cocktails, I made other dinner plans, so I didn’t get to sample anything.)  And there was plenty of seating.  I was a little put-off by the “little person” dressed as a leprechaun who greeted guests at the door, but if he didn’t object, why should I?

Is Anyone Out There Listening?

A reader got a “Host Survey” from Caesars Atlantic City casinos only to be surprised when the questions centered on a host he never knew he had.  He made it clear he was pretty unhappy that this person had never contacted him, and expected someone from the casino would have responded to his concerns.  He’s still waiting. Another reader sent me an email describing a similar experience.  Kind of makes you wonder if anyone ever reads these surveys.

Ban The Scan

Depending on the day of the week and where you park, Seven Stars and Diamond cardholders may no longer be able to scan their valet parking tickets to retrieve their vehicles.  The scanner was working at Harrah’s on a Monday morning, but the cashiers at Caesars and Showboat told me that so many players were giving their Total Rewards cards to friends that cashiers were told to check IDs and manually process the tickets.  While it really doesn’t delay things that much, it was a nice convenience.  Be prepared to show ID at the self-parking garages too – again, these generally are spot checks, but it’s happening more and more often.

Diamond Lounge Hours

Don’t count on the Total Rewards Web site for accurate information on the hours for the Diamond Lounges in Atlantic City.  The actual hours are

Sunday: Noon to 8 p.m.

Monday – Thursday: 2 to 8 p.m. (Bally’s is closed Mondays and Tuesdays)

Friday: 2 to 11 p.m.

Saturday: Noon to 11 p.m.

Last admittance is a half hour before posted closing; last call is approximately 20 minutes before posted closing. Food service on Fridays and Saturdays ends at 10 p.m.

Disappearing Act

Magician Steve Wyrick may be making things disappear over at the Golden Nugget, but I’m pretty sure he had nothing to do with the fact that the local Press of Atlantic City newspaper has disappeared from the shelves of Caesars four casino gift shops, and you no longer can pick up a complimentary copy of the weekly At The Shore– also published by the Press.  [Full disclosure: I write a biweekly column for At The Shore.]  According to one employee who wished to remain anonymous, this is “retaliation” for the unflattering article the Press published last month about Bally’s (see below).  How childish and unprofessional!  Didn’t anyone consider how this might inconvenience hotel guests who would enjoy reading the morning paper over breakfast?  Caesars also has cancelled its advertising in the daily newspaper.  Caesars pulled a similar stunt at its Las Vegas hotels a few years ago when the Review-Journal published something it didn’t like.  The ban lasted about a year, as I recall.

Bally’s

‘Casual Dining’

While the list of “casual dining” outlets on the back of a promotional mailing from Bally’s lists Nanking, Primo Pizza, Harry’s Oyster Bar, Noodle Village, Wild Wings, Johnny Rockets, Corner Café and Sack O’ Subs, don’t try to use the coupons in that same mailing at any of those places.

 The coupons say “Select Caesars, Harrah’s Resort, Showboat or Bally’s casual dining outlets”.  For the record, the coupons are good at the following places:

Bally’s – Preview and 6ix a Bistro

Caesars – Café Roma and Kwi

Harrah’s – Sammy D’s, Bill’s Bar and Burger, and Waterfront Buffet

Showboat – Crossroads and French Quarter Buffet 

According to Mary at Harrah’s Room Service, the coupons also are good for Room Service at any of the four properties.  As always, check to be sure the listed outlets or Room Service will accept the coupons before placing your order.

Not Much Ballyhoo Over Bally’s

Bally’s doesn’t fare so well in an article published last month in the Press of Atlantic City.  “It’s an eyesore.  It’s a shame,” the article quotes a Maryland tourist.  The article relates how Caesars Entertainment began sealing off parts of the Wild Wild West last year to replace some of the casino space with new retail and entertainment attractions.  To date nothing has been built, and Caesars says it has no updates to announce on any redevelopment.  I receive several emails every month about conditions at Bally’s, and I experienced the less-than-standard accommodations myself earlier this year.  Though The Reserve and Arturo’s still are among my favorite Atlantic City casino restaurants, I won’t be back for any more overnight stays.

Just Change SAMM To BALL

This summer it will just be Bally’s Beach Bar, not Sammy’s – as in Sammy Hagar.  Hagar and Caesars could not reach an agreement over the Hurricane Sandy-damaged bar.

Crummy Deal At Sammy D’s

At breakfast, Seven Stars cardholders get a complimentary half of one of those wonderful “Extra Crummy Coffee Cakes” Sammy D’s serves – a whole one if you have a party of four.  If your server doesn’t offer it, be sure to ask.  Another tip, if you order the Complete Continental, select the muffin or bagel, since the coffee cake comes free.

Bill’s Bar, Burger. . .& Breakfast

Bill’s Bar & Burger is now serving breakfast on Saturdays from 8:30 to 11 a.m.  For those staying in the Atrium Suites and the Harbour Tower, it’s a long walk to Sammy D’s.  Plus, during construction of Sammy D’s, Bill’s proved it could serve a mean breakfast.  (By the way, maybe it was “new restaurant” jitters, but the hamburgers at Bill’s have improved immensely since the place opened.)

Going, Going, Gone

For the third time now, my host has left and no one bothered to alert her customers.  Because I was suspicious that two emails were returned with the message, “Your message can’t be delivered because delivery to this address is restricted”, I picked up the phone and Harrah’s operator gave me the news.  In the past, emails went through as if the person were still working there, so at least there’s some improvement in the system.  But, how difficult is it to send a quick email advising customers their host has left, that someone new will be assigned shortly, and here is an interim contact until that happens?  This happened at Caesars a few years ago, as well, and probably at Bally’s and Showboat too.

Showboat 

Welcome Back, Carl!

Popular Diamond Lounge bartender Carl is back after an extended medical leave.

Rocket Fuel

Johnny Rockets has the best deal in town for casino breakfasts: $6.59 three-ingredient omelets (including bagel, English muffin or toast and potatoes), three pancakes and breakfast meat for $5.99, four strips of bacon for $2.49, and $5.99 for two eggs any style, bagel, English muffin or toast, and potatoes and breakfast meat.  Compare that to prices across the way at Crossroads where you’ll pay $13 for that same omelet, $6 for a side of bacon, and $10 for three pancakes (with no breakfast meat).  Plus, if you’re lucky you might snare one of the tables up front that looks out over the beach and the ocean.  Johnny Rockets accepts comps on a 1:1 basis, but unlike other casino outlets, the sales tax will not be waived.  It’s still a bargain.  [NOTE: Johnny Rockets at Bally’s accepts comps, but at a 2:1 ratio, but the basic pricing is the same.]

Horseshoe Casino Cincinnati

Pitching Horseshoe

Horseshoe Casino Cincinnati has opened.  The $450 million casino features 2,000 slot machines, 87 gambling tables and a 31-table World Series of Poker Room.  The complex has six sit-down restaurants with a seventh on the way.  Click this link for a variety of local articles relating to the casino.  In addition, here’s the link to a video about the casino.

Thistledown Racino 

Racino To Open

Located in the Cleveland suburb of North Randall, Thistledown – which originally opened in 1925 – is one of seven horse-racing tracks in Ohio, and the second to open as a “racino”.  It’s expected to open this month as a new Total Rewards casino – minus any name (Caesars, Harrah’s, Horseshoe) that would indicate so.  Rock Ohio Gaming, a joint venture between Rock Gaming and Caesars Entertainment (which also operates the Horseshoe Cleveland) spent $88 million on renovations and additions.  The racino is limited to video lottery terminals (1,145 of them), which to the average gambler look and play like slots.

Harrah’s Philadelphia

General 

Wheel Of Misfortune

If you’re a “Wheel of Fortune” fan, wouldn’t it be fun to attend a live taping in New York City?  Certain Total Rewards players got that opportunity last month, but, according to one person who accepted the offer, it wasn’t exactly what she expected.   “We stood on the ‘VIP’ line for over an hour with our heavy coats, not being able to leave to get food because there were no concessions open, and no ‘re-entry’ allowed anyway.  Our seats were so bad, we couldn’t even see the board. . .we were too far to the left.  We walked out before the second show taped (forfeiting the ‘gift’ which we heard was a sparkly Wheel pen) and just felt foolish for believing (or hoping) that Caesars might actually offer something special!  All in all, between transportation to and from Madison Square Garden, and two drinks and two mini-sliders at a nearby pub, I spent $90 to take advantage of this silly free offer.  I don’t know why Caesars runs such dumb promotions that only aggravate me more than make me feel appreciated being a ‘valued customer’.”

Total Rewards Web Site 6.2

I’ve lost track of the number of times the Total Rewards Web site has been revamped.  While there’s much to like about the latest version – particularly the consistent look of each casino’s individual Web page, isn’t it time to retire that lame Jimmy Kimmel video?  For one thing, it’s out of date – at the end it says to play the “Escape To Total Rewards Game” which ended last year.  For another, it’s just a stupid premise, having Kimmel inside a prison talking about Total Rewards benefits to a bunch of inmates – not to mention the unsafe driving practices at the beginning where Kimmel takes his hands off the wheel to thumb through cards in his wallet.

Question Of The Month

If a player new to Total Rewards (or even a current Seven Stars cardholder) reaches 150,000 tier points any time before December 31, 2013, will he/she get all the benefits of Diamond Aspiration Level 1 ($100 celebration dinner), as well as 2 and 3 (trip with $750 airfare and four nights’ accommodations, a Diamond companion card, etc.), AND the two retreats, the Seven Stars companion card, etc., etc., that he/she gets as a Seven Stars cardholder?  Excellent question. . .I didn’t know, so I went right to the “top” at Total Rewards for an answer: All players will achieve a Diamond Aspiration and/or Seven Stars Signature Experience as they pass each tier threshold.  In the example below, players will receive all Diamond Aspirations and the Level I Seven Stars Signature Experience, in addition to the Diamond and Seven Stars benefits that come along with tier status. Privileges associated with Aspirations and Experiences are made available to players as they achieve the tier threshold, as outlined below:

  • At 15,000 tier credits, players receive the $100 celebration dinner.
  • At 40,000 tier credits, players receive the complimentary stay.
  • At 80,000 tier credits, players receive a trip with $750 in airfare credit, a Diamond companion card, early check-in/late-check out, etc.
  • At 150,000 tier credits, players have reached Seven Stars Signature Experience Level I, which provides access to a trip, including a $1,200 airfare credit.  Since these players have also achieved Seven Stars status, they also get the “retreat” benefit.  That gives Seven Stars players two trips.
  • If players are already Seven Stars cardholders, but did not achieve the 150,000 tier credits this year, they would still receive the retreat benefit, but would not receive the additional trip.
  • Once players achieve 150,000 tier credits, they would also receive a Seven Stars Companion card, but this companion would be the same companion they’ve selected as their Diamond Companion.

Survey Says. . .

Last month I asked a question regarding the contents of this newsletter: “Should I stick to the facts, and stop editorializing?”  Thanks for the vote of confidence.  Everyone who wrote me – and there were many more than usually respond to these mini-surveys – said to keep calling it as I see it.  Typical of the emails I received: “Don’t question what you are doing or saying, and continue as always!  You are our voice and doing a terrific job of speaking!”

This Month’s Survey

I realize this particular example applies only to those of us whose “dominant casino” is in Atlantic City, but I just learned from another player that I could use my quarterly $100 spa credit to purchase items like shampoo, hand creams, or anything sold in the retail section of the four casino spas.  You just ask your host for a “shopping certificate” instead of a regular spa credit.  How about you?  Do you have an “inside tip” like this that you’d be willing to share with others?  Send me an e-mail (sevenstarsinsider@gmail.com) and I’ll share your thoughts – anonymously, of course. 

Darryl D. McEwen, Publisher

Seven Stars Insider

 

Photo: Hawt Celebs

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