Seven Stars Insider – April 2011
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 here.
Second Seven Stars Club Set For Atlantic City
The site of the former Bacchanal dining experience at Caesars will become Atlantic City’s second Seven Stars Club. Management hopes to have it open in time for the June Signature Event (see below).
June Signature Event
The next Signature Event will take place in Atlantic City June 23-26. Lionel Richie will be the featured entertainment and “Straight, No Chaser” – last summer’s resident entertainment at Harrah’s Resort – also will appear. [“Straight, No Chaser” will officially open its summer 2011 season on June 27 at Harrah’s Resort.] Additional Signature Events are scheduled for August 26-29 at Lake Tahoe, and October 6-9 and 13-16 in New Orleans. The second weekend in New Orleans coincides with the annual Crescent City Blues and Barbecue Weekend.
Surveying Useless Surveys
When is Caesars going to stop sending those ridiculous surveys to its customers? I was in Caesars Atlantic City briefly one Monday morning to use some expiring free play, and three days later a survey “about my visit” popped into my e-mail. For one thing, much of the information asked in the survey – and previous similar surveys – is already known to Caesars, e.g., what I play (slots or table games), slot machine denomination, etc. But what was really crazy were the questions regarding my overnight stay. While I clearly stated that I stayed at another property (and even identified it!), subsequent questions asked about how I made my reservation, the cleanliness of the room, etc. – as if I had stayed at Caesars! I don’t mind surveys, but these are truly meaningless and I refuse to bother with them in the future until someone takes a good hard look at their content. [At least they dropped the question I used to hate most: “Is this a casino you feel ‘lucky’ in?” What was the point?]
Reservations About Caesars Reservation System
Message boards were buzzing last month when someone posted her [not so great] experience with Caesars telephone reservation system. Lots of people agreed with her, but, oddly, no one suggested the simplest way to make a reservation – the Caesars Web site. You get an immediate response and you can print your confirmation details in the event of an error once you go to check-in.
Use Hosts As Ambassadors, Not Secretaries
Speaking of making reservations, last month I was approached by a host at a non-Caesars casino, but one where I have played since it opened. [I have what is basically equivalent to a Caesars Diamond card.] This casino has an excellent Web site and it’s very easy to make hotel reservations – and, if it’s available, even request a suite (knowing that this can’t actually be confirmed until check-in, but, 75 percent of the time, I’ve gotten the upgrade I requested). The host cited all sorts of “advantages” to using his services, e.g., comp rooms, late check-outs, restaurant reservations, etc. Frankly, I’ve never had a problem getting a comp – and usually upgraded – room (and, if I did, I just went elsewhere), nor have I ever been denied a late check-out just by calling the front desk, and I’ve never had a problem getting a restaurant reservation. When are casinos going to wise-up and stop wasting hosts’ time by making them nothing more than glorified secretaries? Rather than making hotel and restaurant reservations, these ladies and gentlemen should be spending their time checking up on their guests, getting to know them better, and finding out how their customers can help get more of their friends into the casinos, etc. Oh, and report back to management all the “negatives” they’re hearing! I can’t tell you how many “front line” employees – especially bartenders, restaurant servers and player’s club staffers – have told me that management seems to totally ignore their reports of customer dissatisfaction.
Just When You Thought It Was Safe To Use The Men’s Room
A second robbery in as many months has occurred in the men’s room at Bally’s Atlantic City. New Jersey State Police are investigating the robbery and assault of an 86-year-old man on the morning of March 6. The victim – a World War II veteran of Gen. George S. Patton’s Third Army and the Battle of the Bulge – suffered bruises, but refused medical attention. Maybe there’s a reason it’s called Wild Wild West?
The mother of a former employee at Harrah’s New Orleans has filed a lawsuit seeking class-action status and accuses the casino of failing to protect its employees from generous levels of secondhand smoke. Her son died of cancer last year, according to published reports.
Caesars To Open Hotels Without Casinos
Look for Caesars hotels in “underserved” Asian markets – India, China and southeastern parts of the continent, but don’t expect to gamble there. You might even see a Flamingo in Europe. It’s a plan similar to one already instituted by MGM Resorts International.
Caesars Palace Plans Hotel-Within-A-Hotel
Caesars Palace has turned to Nobu Hospitality to create a boutique hotel within the hotel. The year-long transformation will turn the 180-room Centurion Tower into the Nobu Hotel Las Vegas. The renovation will also include development of a Nobu-themed restaurant and lounge facility at the base of the hotel tower, encompassing 9,500 square feet near Caesars Appian Way retail area. Caesars Palace will operate the hotel and employ the staff for Nobu Tower, which will include a separate check-in area and small lobby.
First I get a mailing from Caesars Palace which touts: “Reel Rewards is the most convenient free slot play around. There’s no PIN to remember, or complicated download sequence – simply insert your Total Rewards card and Reel Rewards Express Play Coupon, and play away!”
Then a week later, I get another mailing from Caesars: “At some locations, and coming to many more, Total Rewards members can download Free Slot Play right at the slot machine! No more coupons to keep track of – just start playing your favorite machine and offers will be delivered by our Total Touch technology.”
So, which is it? Coupons or downloading play at the machine? I’ll opt for the download any day. I don’t know anyone who is thrilled with Caesars system of issuing Express Play Coupons, both for some of its promotions and “Gaming Offers” [what used to be called Cashback, and actually was money returned to you in the form of real cash]. Unless you’re redeeming a coupon you received in the mail and, depending on whether it’s promotional free play or gaming offers earned from prior play, you need to go to a Promotional Kiosk (if it’s some sort of “promotion” – but not always) or to a regular “Rewards Kiosk” if you want to check your gaming offers – except that not all promotional offers are limited to the Promotional Kiosk, e.g., the Lucky Clover game at Caesars Atlantic City last month. [Are you following me?] With some promotions, first you have to swipe your card at the second floor Promotional Kiosk, make a selection, print your coupon, and then take your coupon to the Main Cashier – which at Caesars in Atlantic City is on the first floor (unless it’s a weekend when the second floor cashier might be open). The cashier then will issue you Express Play Coupons in the denominations of your choice. (However, be very careful and check the expiration dates – sometimes they’ll be good for five or six days, sometimes, they expire that same day.) At Bally’s next door you don’t even have a choice when it comes to downloading your free play, i.e., “Gaming Offers”. As soon as you swipe your card, you get a screen which tells you how much free play you’ve earned, and you can’t go any further into the system without hitting the icon and printing a coupon – which, again, you have to take to the Main Cashier (and, if you print your coupon at a kiosk in the section of Wild Wild West closest to Caesars, it’s a bit of a walk to the Main Cashier). What if you have $100 in free play, but don’t have time to play it, or don’t want to play all of it that day? Or what if you got coupons in the mail and left them home? At least on this issue, Trump and Borgata have it right. No coupons are needed; everything is downloadable at any machine.
Las Vegas Bar and Restaurant News
– Chef Michel Richard will bring Central 24/7 to Caesars Palace in late summer.
– An enhanced version Burger King’s famous brand, a Whopper Bar will soon be open for 24-hours-day at the Rio. Offering customers 30 different hamburger toppings and Whopper concepts not found at traditional Burger Kings, the Whopper Bar also allows customers to order various beers with their meal. Among the 30 toppings include A1 steak sauce, pepper bacon, guacamole and crispy onions. The restaurant also will offer several specialty hamburgers, including The Angry Whopper, which includes spicy jalapeños and pepper jack cheese; the California Whopper, with guacamole, bacon and Swiss cheese; and the BK Black & Bleu Steakhouse, with bleu cheese and blackened Cajun sauce. In addition to hamburgers, the Whopper Bar will serve breakfast from 2 to 11 a.m.
Atlantic City Restaurant News
– Caffe Tazza (not Tozza, as reported in the Press of Atlantic City) has opened in the lobby at Caesars. Offerings include pastries, breakfast fare, gelato, wraps, sandwiches and salads. Similar to the Gelato Bar in the Metropolitan over at the Borgata, Caffe Tazza, though, is strictly “take-out” since there is no seating available.
– Primavera in Caesars has closed to make way for the new Atlantic Grill Seafood. I always enjoyed Primavera, but, as I wrote more than a year ago, the days of tuxedoed waiters, white glove service, crystal chandeliers, hand-painted murals, etc., are gone – especially in casinos. Arrivederci, Primavera!
– Nero’s Sunday brunch has been relocated to Mia in Caesars lobby.
– First it was the Harbor Club/Diamond Club, then last summer it was transformed into D’Zio and now this mezzanine-level space at Harrah’s Resort will become Dos Caminos, featuring “modern Mexican cuisine”. Look for an opening Memorial Day weekend.
– The Deli at Harrah’s Resort has closed and will become Bill’s Bar & Burger by the end of June. Hopefully, it will be better organized than the Deli and keep more consistent hours.
Loveman’s Compensation Tops $18 Million
Caesars Entertainment Corp. Chief Executive Officer Gary Loveman earned more than $18.2 million in total compensation in 2010, of which almost $12.4 million was listed as option awards. According to the company’s annual report filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Loveman earned a salary of $1.9 million in 2010, nonequity incentive plan compensation of $2.7 million and other compensation of more than $1.268 million. Loveman earned total compensation of more than $5.9 million in 2009 and more than $39.6 million in 2008, much of which was tied to $36.4 million in option awards following the formerly public company’s buyout by two private equity firms. According to the filing, Loveman is required to use Caesars aircraft for personal and business travel due to security reasons.
I ran across this on one of the message boards I subscribe to. Makes a lot of sense: Harrah’s AC held a sweepstakes on March 18 and again on March 25. It was called “Diamond Cove Hot Seat Sweepstakes”. To be eligible, you had to be a Diamond cardholder and be playing in the Diamond Cove room between 6 p.m. and midnight using your player’s card. Every 15 minutes one active player in the Diamond Cove would win $500. Since the Diamond Cove is a smoking-permitted room, and due to the drawing, the room was even more smoky than normal. Non-smokers who do not want to be exposed to the high levels of secondhand smoke could not participate in these sweepstakes. It may not have been intentional, but Harrah’s AC is discriminating against non-smokers. I am sure that smokers would be unhappy if a casino ran a promotion that prohibited them from participating.
$1,000 Hand Pays
As reported last month, many Caesars casinos are hand-paying jackpots at $1,000, rather than $1,200. No W2-Gs are issued, but, as many have complained, it’s annoying and inconvenient to have to sit and wait for your cash. Two other points I hadn’t considered have surfaced over the last month: tipping and security. Though by no means an obligation, most people are probably going to give the slot attendant some sort of gratuity, basically leaving it up customers to help compensate Caesars employees. Far more serious is the tip-off to potential muggers who now know someone has a wad of cash in his pocket (or her purse).
Security Concerns At Boardwalk Casinos
I’ve written before about folks sleeping at slot machines – particularly at Caesars, Bally’s and Showboat (and, to be fair, the other Boardwalk casinos). The number of “questionable types” roaming these casinos –even during the day – actually discourages business and drives some people to play exclusively at the Marina District casinos. Trip Advisor, though, has had some particularly harsh comments about lack of security at Caesars and Showboat. You can read them for yourself here and here. [For that second link, you’ll have to scroll down a bit to get to the security portion.]
Kansas City Harrah’s
Lest you think it’s only Atlantic City that has security problems, check this out: According to a Web posting, a man had a seizure and fell off his chair in Harrah’s Kansas City. According to the report (see link below), there were no employees around so a customer went running to the bar yelling, “Help, help, we need a medic. A man is having a seizure.” The report claims that the bartender didn’t even look up. After another round of yelling (and no response), the customer called 911. Fortunately, the man having the seizure is OK. Here’s the complete story.
Gain An Extra Hour: Stay At Caesars In Atlantic City
Stepping back in time has new meaning at Caesars in Atlantic City. Apparently, no one bothered to change all the room clocks when we went to Daylight Saving Time last month. I’m sure guests would be happy to advance their room clocks if it didn’t take a degree from MIT to accomplish this. For now, maybe a Housekeeping supervisor should add this to his/her list of things to check when inspecting rooms. [Start with Room 4303 in the Centurion Tower.]
6ix: A ‘Garbage Dump’?
I’ve never been a fan of the “casual dining” outlets in Bally’s Atlantic City (6ix: A Bistro, Pickles and especially the Virginia City Buffet). However, after receiving several coupons for free food and beverage, I decided to have lunch at 6ix one day last month. I was seated at a booth with a view of at least six or more uncleaned tables with dirty plates and leftover food piled up. (See photo above.) There were discarded – and presumably used – paper napkins on the floor under my table, and the whole place seemed woefully understaffed. Considering there was an entire section in the rear of the restaurant that appeared relatively neat and clean (and only partially occupied by other diners), I don’t know why I was seated in the midst of all this filth. Rather than request another table, the reporter in me decided to stick around to see how long it would take to get things back in shape. By the time I finished my tuna sandwich, but not my tepid and greasy french fries, the area was once again ready for customers. The only bright spot was my charming and accommodating server Abu. When Bally’s closed its previously sad coffee shop, Animations, I had high hopes for this new venture. However, the whole place is poorly designed. Customers and employees are constantly dodging tray stands – usually topped with trays, which are topped with dirty dishes, and back-ups at the cashier are legendary. Plus, why locate the cashier where paying customers are forced to line up directly in the path of servers bringing food from the kitchen? And then there is that great sign at the entrance: “Please Wait For Hostess To Be Seated”. [I’ve waited and waited, but she never sits down.J]
New Orleans Partners
There seems to be lots of buzz lately about which restaurants in New Orleans are 1:1 and which are 2:1 – also, which ones are even included in the program. Here is the link that shows you the partner restaurants. Since these policies change frequently, I would call Harrah’s New Orleans (1-800-Harrahs) and ask for the VIP Guest Desk which is where you would go to get your comp vouchers for the off-site restaurants. (Even Ruth’s Chris in the hotel lobby is 2:1.)
Atlantic City GM Recognized By Magazine
Senior Vice President and General Manager of Caesars Atlantic City and Harrah’s Resort Jay Snowden has been named by Atlantic City Weekly as one its “Top 40 Under 40”. His bio pointed out that he has 13 years of industry experience, including six in the Atlantic City market. “Looking at 2011 as a pivotal year for the A.C. market, Jay plans to continue to stay involved in the city’s revitalization efforts and build upon the current success and momentum in the areas of entertainment, citywide events and nightlife,” according to the article. “In addition, Jay plans to introduce some new, well-known restaurant names/brands, provide innovative gaming experiences, and enhance hotel accommodations at both properties.”
Great Gift Wrap Up Bonus
Head to Las Vegas April 15-17 if you want to rack up some bonus points for the 2011 year-end Great Gift Wrap Up.
Comments, Complaints and Other Observations
Asking an open-ended question last month really unleashed the floodgates. In descending order, the biggest complaints were perceptions that Caesars has downgraded the Seven Stars program by reducing the number of annual gift choices and Signature Experiences, understaffing (from housekeepers and restaurant servers to security guards, slot attendants and cashiers), and poor housekeeping. More specifically, players would like longer and later hours at the Las Vegas casinos’ Diamond Lounges, as well as the reopening of the Seven Stars Club at Caesars Palace (or the opening of a Seven Stars Club somewhere in Las Vegas). Two players wished Caesars would just add $500 in comps to their account each year rather than force them to “blow” 500 bucks on a one-time dinner.
[A Not So] Happy Birthday To You!
One Seven Stars cardholder, used to getting a generous [cash] birthday gift each year, received a mere $50 in free play this year. Upon questioning this change in policy, according to the e-mail she received, the amount was based on her play during the previous three months. This “what have you done for me lately” philosophy doesn’t seem fair. Once they’ve achieved Seven Stars (100,000 tier points), many folks scale back their play toward the end of the year. If you’re unlucky enough to have a birthday toward the end of the calendar year or the beginning of the calendar year, you’re going to get less than you probably deserve if your overall annual play was accounted for. Has anyone else found their birthday “gift” to have been cutback? Send me an e-mail to email@example.com and I’ll share your thoughts – anonymously, of course.
Darryl D. McEwen, Publisher
Seven Stars Insider