Total Rewards: Where $100 Meals Cost $200

Searsucker is now 2:1 With Total Rewards
Searsucker is now 2:1 With Total Rewards
For the past 5 or 6 years Caesars Entertainment has used a 2:1 Total Rewards dollar exchange ratio in many restaurants at their Atlantic City properties.

After about 2 years of rumors this 2:1 Total Rewards comp policy has just entered Las Vegas. Here are details from the Seven Star Insider newsletter (which you should sign up for):

Searsucker Sucks Twice The Comps

If you’re planning to try the newest restaurant at Caesars Palace, note that, while Searsucker accepts Reward Credits, it will be at the rate of 2:1, e.g., your $150 tab will consume 30,000 Reward Credits ($300).

So, this 2:1 Total Rewards point policy essentially cuts the value of your Total Rewards points in half when you dine at Searsucker. It’s possibly the most obnoxious players club policy I’ve come across since visiting casinos.

  • Good News: This policy hasn’t been unleashed across all Caesars Entertainment restaurants in Las Vegas.
  • Bad News: It’s probably only a matter of time before the majority of restaurants at Caesars Entertainment charge $2 Total Rewards for $1 in cash.

I don’t know how quickly this 2:1 Total Rewards point policy will roll out in Las Vegas but it seems like a good time to use them while the exchange rate is still 1:1 at most restaurants at Caesars Entertainment hotels.

Early reviews on Searsucker have been mostly positive. You can learn more about the restaurant here.

If you see 2:1 comps elsewhere in Las Vegas leave a comment and I’ll update this post.

Photo: Searsucker

New MyVegas Room Reward Terms

MyVegas Logo
MyVegas

MyVegas rewards work differently for me than most people since I live in Las Vegas. Locals receive different rewards so the change in room reward terms for MGM Resorts hotels don’t affect me. I’ll take my one night at a Station Casino and be happy. However…

<Sad Trombone>

…the MyVegas group on Facebook was flipping out because they can no longer redeem 10 days of free hotel room rewards for an almost free 2 week vacation. See below for more information on the new MyVegas room reward terms.

Effective April 1st, all comp room rewards from all MGM properties will be limited to one redemption per trip. This change was necessary  to ensure an appropriate balance of value between our players and our partners. Rewards offered through myVEGAS are provided by our rewards partners who may at their discretion attach certain restrictions based on their business needs.

For players who purchased a comp room reward from MGM prior to the change of terms: you will be allowed to redeem under the previous terms on the reward. Just read your confirmation email for the exact terms and conditions of your reward.  

Special Rate and Percentage Off Room Rewards can still be combined with our room comp rewards for multi-night stays.

Please know that we value you as a player and hope that you agree that even with restrictions, our program provides benefits of a substantial value. We truly regret if the limitations are problematic and you have been unable to take advantage of some rewards that you had planned to purchase. As always, we appreciate your feedback and always take it into account when planning our future rewards offerings.

Best Video Poker At Green Valley Ranch

Royal Flush Video Poker at Red Rock Resort
Royal Flush!

Before I stay at a casino for the first time I always check the video poker pay tables. I usually take trips like this by myself so I end up playing a lot of video poker.

This weeks new adventure has me staying at Green Valley Ranch for the first time thanks to a MyVegas comp. According to vpFREE there is a great selection of good video poker at Green Valley Ranch. Check it out:

Best Green Valley Ranch Las Vegas Video Poker Games
Best Green Valley Ranch Video Poker Games

I’m usually happy playing 9/6 Jacks or Better or 8/5 Bonus Poker but I think I’ll change it up a little for this trip. I think I’ll take a stab at the 100%+ returns for a change. There are 4 different games on 15 machines so they should be somewhat easy to get on.

I’ll probably dabble in the 10/7 Double Bonus Poker game since the strategy isn’t too difficult. The worst case scenario (and it’s not bad at all) is that I sit at the sportsbook bar playing 8/5 Bonus Poker. Oh, the horror.

Uh Oh, “The Whiskey Apocalypse Is Coming”

Whiskey And Dice
Whiskey And Dice

I’d been looking for a sipping drink for when I gamble for a couple of years. In December I took a week to experiment with the different brown boozes. I was on the Vegas Strip and sampled a variety of bourbon, whiskey and scotch. I did a lot of taste testing on casino comps while I gambled (see Vegas Chatter post) but paid for some top shelf liquor that was recommended and only available at bars and restaurants.

The combination of drinking on casino comps and cash was an economically efficient way to try something I wasn’t sure I’d like. Over the week-long experiment I found that I really like Macallan. Macallan has become my go to brown booze to sip on when I’m gambling. I’ve been sucked into the brown booze world and now keep a bottle at home at all times.

With that in mind, I had a little freak out when I saw the headline “The U.S. is on the Brink of a Whiskey Crisis“. Say whaaaaa?! It’s kind of my fault. With so many people trying whiskey and brown booze for the first time the demand is high and supply can’t even come close to matching it.

Despite the increase in distillation over the past few years, bourbon demand still outpaces supply. The overall bourbon category is experiencing 5% growth, but premium brands are up nearly 20% from last year… The increase in sales, coupled with the aging process and evaporation loss, leads to a shortage with no end in sight.

Furthermore, as distilleries increase output the quality of the whiskey goes down. This happens with most industries but as it pertains to whiskey this may lead to shortages and hefty price increases.  This is a serious problem and it seems as though it won’t be corrected any time soon.

As it relates to Vegas casinos you can expect quality of whiskey offered as comps to decrease. I won’t be surprised if Planet Hollywood no longer comps Macallan (12) by the time I visit again. I’ll have to look for some less expensive alternatives to sip on when I’m in the casino.

Feel free to shoot over any recommendations. I’m always keeping an eye on alternatives. 

Photo:  hd2wallpapers.com

Crazy Players Club Point Multipliers At Boyd Casinos This Month

Boyd Gaming Bonuses And Players Club Multipliers
Boyd Gaming Bonuses

Last week Howard Stutz at the Las Vegas Review Journal wrote an article called “New Life Being Breathed Into Local Gaming Market“. The article was more about how gaming revenue isn’t driving business on the Vegas Strip or the Vegas Locals market more than anything else. It’s an interesting read but then it jogged something in my head…

Over the past few months I’ve noticed that the casinos that market mostly to locals (Station and Boyd) have been very aggressive in gaining casino customers. While non-gaming revenue may be the future for the local casino operators they’re actively and aggressively pursuing gamblers today.

In the past month Boyd Casinos has been offering gamblers a few multipliers and special promotions. In June they’ve gone off the rails trying to attract gamblers.

The picture above is from 4 different bonuses and B-Connected players club point multipliers that Boyd Gaming casinos are offering for the month of June.

  • Every Day – 10% cash bonus on a Royal Flush in video poker. This is $100 on quarters.
  • Tuesday – 11x B-Connected points on reel slot machines, 7x points on video poker.
  • Wednesday – Up to 50x points. You have to swipe players club card to find out.
  • Thursday, Friday, Saturday – 4 of a kind bonus (5-9) at casino bars. Bonus depends on denomination. I think it’s $20 in free play for quarters.
  • Friday & Saturday – 15x points on Penny Reel slot machines, 11x points on Penny slot machines, 7x points on video poker.

These multipliers and bonuses are significant. They Royal Flush bonus is sweet cash. The 4 Of A Kind bonus gives you more money to gamble with on a future trip (the next day) and the multipliers make getting a comp bottle of wine much quicker.

I don’t gamble for comps but I’ll take them. Red Rock is still my local bar and the casino where I hang out most in the burbs but these multipliers and bonuses will make me think twice if I’m in the mood just to play some video poker.

Whether you’re a local or visiting will slot machine multipliers and video poker bonuses sway where you gamble? 

Big Fish In Small Casino Pond Or Small Fish In Big Casino Pond

7:30am Showboat Atlantic City Balcony Suite
7:30am Showboat Balcony Suite

Photo above from a comped Showboat balcony suite with an ocean view 

I talk about gaming often and the subject of players clubs and comps almost always comes up. I shy away from talking about comps because you shouldn’t play for comps. Comps are great to receive but retail price for whatever the freebie is usually comes in at a lower price than you’re risking.

That said, I’m not afraid of taking or asking for comps. I’ve gotten some great comps from my spending in a casino. Not all comps, like this sick suite at Showboat in Atlantic City, were because of my players club activity. I happened to be visiting Showboat on a warmish winter weekday and this was available to me since it wasn’t busy. I’m sure I played enough to get this suite again…but only on a slow midweek winter’s night.

I didn’t get this ocean view balcony suite because I’m a high roller but I’m a medium roller and it was available when I asked if there were any upgrades. For what it’s worth my friend upgraded to a normal suite at Showboat that same day. This isn’t meant as a humble brag but more of a personal lesson. If I’d gone to Caesars or Borgata I probably wouldn’t have received such a nice upgrade. Why? Because that’s where the to big dawgs roll.

I used to stay at Showboat because it was the Caesars Entertainment hotel on the bottom of the totem pole. Showboat isn’t the best hotel and casino in Atlantic City but they had a very nice staff, recently renovated Bourbon Tower and I was able to get more mileage with my comps.

I was lucky to get free rooms at the other casinos so I focused my spending where I got the best bang for my buck. Besides getting suites I used to be able to get meals and drinks comped. It was a good deal even if their dining options were limited.

I like being the big fish in the little casino pond

This topic came to mind a few weeks ago when I listened to, independent Las Vegas casino host Steve Cyr, on the Gambling With An Edge podcast and discussing what he can offer his clients.

One specific item that stood out was that he couldn’t get a client in the door at Cosmopolitan with $10,000 guaranteed in play. Meanwhile, that person could go elsewhere and be treated like a king. That client may have to stay and play in a Downtown Vegas casino but they’d get all the great amenities you’d want when staying at a casino.

This is nothing new but something not everyone thinks of when they spend their money at a casino. I love the luxury hotels and casinos but I also like being treated as if I have some value so I enjoy the best of both world when I can.

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

Tweet me @eastcoastgamblr

Rocking The Vegas Strip With Clutch & MyVegas

I have pretty strange taste when it comes to music. If you follow me on twitter you get a sample of those tastes every now and again but my love of Britney Spears and Queens of the Stoneage should give you a pretty good idea of where my tastes lie. A few weeks ago I received a press release that one of my favorite bands of all time, Clutch, would be playing the Hard Rock Cafe (on the strip, not the casino) March 23rd  and I nearly lost my mind (in a good way). I was told that they wouldn’t be playing Las Vegas any time soon. Thankfully, that changed.

Seeing Clutch live isn’t complete without a few beers so I’ll probably stay somewhere on the strip that night because even buzzed driving is drunk driving. Unfortunately, I’m losing my Total Rewards Diamond Status this year and my room offers show it. There’s not a comp to be found at any Caesars Entertainment property. I don’t mind paying for a crash pad but I like when they’re free. 🙂

A few people recently mentioned that they’re playing the MyVegas game on Facebook to get a variety of freebies to use at MGM properties. I decided that since I can’t get a freebie from Caesars, I’ll see what the MGM Resorts properties can offer.

MyVegas is a (very addictive) game on Facebook where you earn points playing casino games that can be redeemed for a wide array of prizes from MGM Resorts. After a few days playing MyVegas I have it to the point where I can leave slot machine games on autospin and do something else on my computer while the game plays and earns points in the background. Sweet!

If I end up staying at a new hotel you’ll see a link to a review on one of the various social media sites I have. In the meantime enjoy the new song from Clutch. “Earth Rocker” is the title track from Clutch’s new album.

You can buy all Clutch music on iTunes (They have a large catalogue. Feel free tweet me for recommendations). If you plan on being in Vegas March 23rd you can buy tickets to see Clutch at the Hard Rock Cafe on the Strip on TicketWeb.

Seven Stars Insider – January Edition

Here’s the latest edition of Seven Stars Insider. This is an easy read and an excellent resource for Caesars Total Rewards players. It’s long, but chock full of information with a major heads up on the new Total Rewards tier requirements. Head over to Seven Stars Insider to sign up for the newsletter.

Blood, Sweat and Tiers

It was probably the worst-kept secret since Katie Couric announced on the Today Show that she was leaving to anchor the CBS Evening News.  By now, it’s no surprise to anyone that the number of Tier Credits required to attain Platinum, Diamond and Seven Stars status starting April 1, 2014, will increase, effective January 1, 2013. In November word about this began circulating through the Internet (on message boards such asharrahscasinos@yahoogroups.com and on the Web site, www.vegastripping.com).  In December the discussion intensified, and I began to get daily emails – sometimes as many as 10 per day – questioning rumors or passing on “inside knowledge” about changes to the Total Rewards program.  Most of the information that was published – or questioned – was incorrect or incomplete.

The following (sloppy writing, syntax errors and all!) is from an internal memo distributed to certain Caesars employees:

In 2013, guests are able to earn Tier Credits at a faster than ever before.  For the first time ever, we are offering Tier Credit bonuses.  All day, every day.

  • Bonus Levels – There are three bonus levels a guest can reach.  The more Tier Credits they earn in one day, the more Tier Credits they will receive.

Earn this many Tier Credits in a day. . .               . . .Get this many more Tier Credits

500 Tier Credits                                                    +125 Tier Credit Bonus

1,000 Tier Credits                                                 +1,000 Tier Credit Bonus

2,500 Tier Credits                                                 +5,000 Tier Credit Bonus

  • Things to know

o   Guests can only earn one bonus level per day.

o   Tier Credit bonuses are based on play within a single day.

o   Tier Credit bonuses are awarded based on Tier Credits earned in a promotional day (not a calendar day).

o   Tier Credit bonuses will post to the guest’s account the following day.

o   Bonuses will be added to the guest’s Tier Score only (RCs will not be added).

o   Tier Credit bonuses do not count toward Reward Credit Multipliers and other Earn & Get Promotions.

o   Tier Credit bonuses do not apply to daily criteria.

Since guests will earn Tier Credit bonuses based on their daily play, allowing guests to earn Tier Credits faster, we have increased the number of Tier Credits required to achieve each Tier.

  • Gold (0-4,999 Tier Credits)

o   Gold status is still free for all guests.

  • Platinum (5,000-14,999 Tier Credits)
  • Diamond (15,000-149,999 Tier Credits)
  • Seven Stars (150,000+ Tier Credits to qualify)

o   Membership in Seven Stars will remain by invitation only.  Once a guest has earned 150,000 Tier Credits, their account will be reviewed for approval for Seven Stars.

§  Any guest who is Seven Stars in 2013 (based on their 2012 Tier Score) will be able to maintain their Seven Stars status if they earn 100,000 Tier Credits in 2013.

§  Tier Credit bonuses do not apply.

§  Only valid in 2013.

Daily Criteria

  • Diamond (5,000)
    • Guests who earn 5,000 Tier Credits at one property, in one day, will qualify for “Diamond in a Day.”
    • “Diamond in a Day” is only valid for the current year.
    • Tier Credit bonuses do not count toward “Diamond in a Day.”
  • Platinum – there will no longer be Daily Criteria for Platinum status.
    • Guests who earn 2,500 Tier Credits in a day will be awarded an additional 5,000 Tier Credits. This will give them a total of 7,500 Tier Credits, which qualifies them for Platinum.

 

Las Vegas

Fans of Human Nature and Legends in Concert will still find them performing on the Strip this year, but at different venues – one of which is not owned by Caesars Entertainment.  After touring a bit since the act left the former Imperial Palace (now The Quad), Human Nature puts down its roots at The Venetian January 19. Meanwhile, Legends not only moves to the Flamingo next month, but the long-running celebrity tribute show will now perform six weekly shows at 4 p.m., with the optional ability to add evening shows should the Flamingo’s showroom need a filler for Donny and Marie Osmond or George Wallace.

Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall & Saloon

Bye, Bye, Bill’s

Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall will close February 4 for a $185 million renovation.  Bill’s will reopen in early 2014 under a new name and theme.

Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino

‘The Price Is Not Right’

A “local” who plays at Rio shared an email she wrote to Caesars.  Apparently, she was offered two free tickets to “The Price Is Right, Live!” at Bally’s December 1-30.  Problem was, the show was dark the month of December.

Atlantic City

Tax Dodging

With the advent of the My TR eStatements, many players are just now seeing that Caesars casinos in Atlantic City have been taking 1,300 Reward Credits ($13 in comps) to cover the mandatory $5 tax and Caesars own $8 in “convenience fees” for every night of their “complimentary stays”.  (Check your My TR eStatement and you will see it broken down into four separate items listed as “Hotel Room Charge” at 200, 500, 300 and 300 Reward Credits, respectively.)  Nearly every other casino in Atlantic City charges only the required $5 tax; Borgata lets players use comp dollars to pay it, and Trump Plaza pays the tax for its Signature cardholders.)  The problem is that not everyone wants to use their comp dollars for these taxes and fees, and some would prefer to pay by cash or credit card; however, they’re never given that option, and many assume the tax and fees are being absorbed by the casino.  (On the other hand, some would love to use their comp dollars to pay this, but are not allowed.) Taking comp dollars without a guest’s knowledge is particularly troublesome to those who are visiting Atlantic City for the first time, perhaps on a Seven Stars-related trip.  Caesars needs to be upfront and more transparent with its customers on this issue.

BYOC

First it was a “nominal fee” to check-in to your room before 4 p.m.  Now we’re being told to enjoy the complimentary coffee in our rooms, but if we want additional cups – and how’s this for a poorly worded sentence? – “. . .they are conveniently located at the vending machine located on your floor for a nominal charge.”  (The “nominal charge” is $2 per coffee packet.)  Once again, this just seems a little cheap.  Of course, I have no idea of knowing, but I can’t imagine so many people are drinking that much in-room coffee.  If you’ve ever used those packets, you learn quickly to pour only about half a cup of water in order to get something that tastes even remotely like decent coffee. 

What The Doctor Didn’t Order

Was I the only person a bit taken aback by Caesars promoting a 10X Reward Credit multiplier on Martin Luther King Jr. Day?  What does one have to do with the other?  Sure, it’s a national holiday and lots of people have the day off (and the opportunity to hit the casinos), but why not just offer the promotion on January 21 without reference to Dr. King’s birthday?  It seems a bit disrespectful.

Good News For PNC Customers

A sharp-eyed reader found a PNC ATM on the first floor of the Pier Shops near the entrance to the restrooms. For PNC customers, short of hitting the nearest branch at Atlantic and Boston Avenues, this is one way to avoid the $5.99 fee at the ATMs in Bally’s and Caesars.

Harrah’s Resort

Exclusive: They’re Not Exclusive

Those ugly full-building “ads” on Harrah’s Waterfront Tower are currently displaying the message that Atlantic City’s four Total Rewards casinos have the “exclusive” when it comes to such slot machines as Gone With The Wind, Michael Jackson, Elvis and Grease.  Not only is this incorrect, but Gone With The Wind and Michael Jackson actually debuted at the Borgata.

Harrah’s Philadelphia

Buffetmania

Harrah’s disappointed a number of players in early December by refusing to give them a free buffet after playing 30 minutes (and earning 10 Tier Credits).  Granted, the promotion ended November 30 (and there was a small sign at the two entrances to the casino), but there were still billboards up advertising the giveaway as late as December 2.  Who can read the fine print when driving 55 mph?

General

Caesars Bathrooms: Did They Blow It?

Before Caesars rushes to replace all its bathroom paper towel dispensers with blowers, they might want to check out an article last month in the Wall Street Journal.  “The trouble with blowers is that they take so long,” says Dr. Rodney Lee Thompson, a hospital epidemiologist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.  “Most people dry their hands for a bit, then wipe them on their dirty jeans, or open the door with their still-wet hands.”  [Maybe they even decide not to wash altogether to save time.]  Meanwhile, time-consuming, loud “blowers turn people off,” he says.  “But there is no downside to the paper towel, psychologically.”  Even environmental concerns, Thompson says, are eradicated by the paper towel.  “The electric blower uses more energy than making a paper towel,” he says.  Last June, the Mayo Clinic published a comprehensive study of every known hand-washing study done since 1970.  The authors concluded that drying skin is essential to staving off bacteria, and that paper towels are superior to driers: They’re more efficient, they don’t spatter germs, they won’t dry out hands and most people prefer them.

Survey Says. . .

In the November newsletter I wrote :  “The Total Rewards Web site has gone through more ‘facelifts’ than Joan Rivers.  In my opinion, I think they finally got it right, but what do you think?”  While some people claim they have trouble determining their offers, most everyone who responded said they liked the new look and the functionality.

This Month’s Survey

So, what do you think about the increases in Tier Credits to achieve or maintain Platinum, Diamond and Seven Stars?  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 – DJVice

Seven Stars Insider – December Edition

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

Seven Stars Insider – December 2012

NOTE: While this newsletter was originally designed exclusively for Seven Stars cardholders, 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 at http://www.sevenstarsinsider.com.

 

It’s now easier to find the Seven Stars Insider Web site.

Simply go to: 

>> www.sevenstarsinsider.com <<

 

Hollywood Casino St. Louis

Answers To Your Questions

There are a lot of questions regarding the transition from Harrah’s St. Louis to Hollywood Casino St. Louis. Answers can be found at this link.  Several readers have expressed surprise that their Total Rewards tier status was not matched by Hollywood’s Marquee Rewards program; however, if you read carefully – at least the way I interpret it, your tier status with Hollywood will be matched based solely on your play in St. Louis.  In other words, you might have a Total Rewards Diamond card, but if you earned only 5,000 of the required 11,000 annual points at Harrah’s St. Louis, your tier status with Hollywood would be based on 5,000 tier points, not 11,000.  Same with comp dollars.  You might have $1,000 worth of comps under Total Rewards, but Hollywood will match only the amount you earned at Harrah’s St. Louis.

Las Vegas

SlotZilla

Perhaps in an attempt to compete with the two new observation wheels under construction on the Strip, Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman has announced plans to construct a five-block zip line where riders are spit out the “mouth” of an 11-story slot machine.  Construction begins next month, with a projected opening in June. 

Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall & Saloon

Bye, Bye, Bill’s

Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall will close February 4 for a $185 million renovation.  Bill’s will reopen in early 2014 under a new name and theme, transforming the hotel and casino into a “boutique lifestyle hotel and club” – to use the words from a statement issued by Caesars Entertainment.  The conversion includes the complete remodeling of the guest rooms, the casino floor and common areas, the addition of a new second-floor restaurant, and construction of a rooftop pool and dayclub/nightclub.  The rooftop club will open later in 2014. 

Flamingo

Great Great Gift Wrap Up!

I attended the Great Gift Wrap Up last month at Flamingo and it couldn’t have been run more smoothly.  I was there on Sunday, the day before it ended, and there were no lines, as well as plenty of signage to direct people – not only to the event itself, but also within the ballroom, showing where different types of gifts were located. There also were lots of employees to help you find things, answer questions, etc.  The second leg of this popular annual event takes place at Caesars Palace and ends December 3. 

Paris

Evening In Paris

Not that it needs my endorsement or recommendation, but I can’t think of a more perfect evening than dinner at Gordon Ramsay Steak followed by a performance of Jersey Boys. For those of you who don’t mind eating early (6 or 6:30 p.m.) and seeing a show late (9:30 p.m.), check out this great combination on Tuesday nights.  [You also could see a 5 p.m. show on Saturdays, followed by dinner.]

The Quad

It’s Official!

The Total Rewards Web site has dropped Imperial Palace and replaced it with the new name and logo.  Plus, I just got my first promotion – a $100,000 bingo tournament – with the new Quad name and logo.

[Human] Nature Calls For Last Time

If you planned to see Human Nature at the Imperial Palace – oops, The Quad – you’ll have to travel to Florida or Australia.  The group performed its final shows last month.  Las Vegas entertainment columnist John Katsilometes claims that Recycled Percussion will take the singing group’s place starting next month.

Atlantic City

Advertising Hope and Appreciation

Caesars is using some valuable real estate to welcome back customers and employees after Hurricane Sandy devastated parts of the area in late October.  Rather than advertising upcoming entertainment, celebrity chefs or other promotions, the billboards lining the causeway at the end of the Atlantic City Expressway, as well as other locations, offered messages of hope, as well as appreciation to those who risked their lives for others in need. Caesars also donated thousands of dollars to the Red Cross and other local charities.  Nice!

Cool Treat

Winter Sweet, a new 3D light and sound show that is projected onto Boardwalk Hall, has replaced Duality, the show that’s been featured on the outside of the hall since July.  Shows will play every half hour from 6 to 9 p.m.

The Early Bird. . .Gets Charged Extra

Perhaps taking a cue from the airlines and all their extra fees, but for those arriving before 4 p.m., Caesars Atlantic City hotels are now offering early check-in for a “nominal fee”.  (I wonder if Caesars will rebate a portion of the room rate when guests check-out earlier than noon.)  I know companies are looking for all sorts of ways to increase revenues, but this just seems a little cheap.  If a room is ready for occupancy, why not let a guest check-in and avoid a 4 p.m. rush at registration?

More Name Changes?

Several readers received a survey from Caesars asking “Which is your main casino for the New Jersey market?” Among the choices:

Borgota Hotel Casino

Harrah’s Restort Atlantic City

Buffets On Holiday Schedules

Caesars Boardwalk Buffet will open during regular hours this month, but Showboat’s Mardi Gras Buffet will be closed December 10-13 and 16-24, and Harrah’s Waterfront Buffet is scheduled to close Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays through December 24.  It’s always wise to reconfirm these dates before you show up, though.

Climb and Dine

Popular Harrah’s Resort chef Luke Palladino is partnering with the Absecon Lighthouse.  Through December 17, climb the lighthouse, show your “I Climbed” card at Luke’s Kitchen & Marketplace at Revel, and get a bowl of soup for $4, or a soup and sandwich combo for $8.  Details at www.abseconlighthouse.org or call (609) 449-1360. 

Bally’s

Diamond Lounge December Hours

The Diamond Lounge at Bally’s will be closed on the following days this month: December 3-4, 10-14 and 17-24.

Holiday Cheer

Be sure to stop by the Bally’s Diamond Lounge December 8 to sample its “mean” egg nog station.

Gift Shop Sells $1M Powerball Ticket

One of the eight $1 million Powerball tickets sold in New Jersey came from Picks and Wicks at Bally’s 

Caesars

December Seven Stars Lounge Hours

Unlike the lounge at Harrah’s (see below), the Seven Stars Lounge will be open Thursdays during regular hours – at least for the next two weeks; then the schedule will be re-evaluated.  Fridays the lounge will be open from 5 p.m. to midnight through December 21.  The Seven Stars lounge will be open on New Year’s Eve from 1 p.m. to midnight and New Year’s Day from 1 to 8 p.m.

December Diamond Lounge Hours

Unlike the other Diamond Lounges in town, Caesars will be open every day during regular hours.  On New Year’s Eve the lounge will be open from 2 p.m. to midnight, and New Year’s Day from noon to 7:30 p.m.

Chef Shuffle

Former Seven Stars Lounge chef Tim Davis is now in the kitchen at Nero’s.

Harrah’s Resort

Seven Stars Hours To Change

Starting this month and continuing through January, the Seven Stars Lounge will no longer be open on Thursdays.  In addition, the lounge will close the weekend before Christmas, December 21-23, but be open on New Year’s Eve.

Diamond Lounge December Hours

The Diamond Lounge at Harrah’s will be closed on the following days this month: December 10-13 and 17-20.

Up All Night – Not

Despite what it says on the Harrah’s Resort and Sammy D’s Web sites – “An all-day, all-night, all-you-could-ask-for eatery. . . .” – Sammy D’s is no longer the 24-hour outpost originally envisioned.  Currently, it’s open until 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, but closes at 10 every other night.  (There is a disclaimer on the site which says, “Hours subject to change, please call to verify.”)  The Sammy D’s Web site, though, publishes totally different hours (Monday & Tuesday: 7 a.m. – 10 a.m., Wednesday: 7 a.m. – 12 a.m., Thursday: 7 a.m. – 10 p.m., Friday: 7 a.m. – 3 a.m., Saturday: 24 hours, Sunday: 7 a.m. – 10 p.m.).

You Need To Get Out More, Mr. Reservationist

I’m not sure where I was calling, but when I spoke with a reservationist – supposedly working at Harrah’s Resort – he told me things were “pretty bad down there” (meaning Atlantic City) and that “the Boardwalk around the casinos was destroyed.”  I proceeded to update him on conditions, but this is certainly no way to bring back business if Harrah’s reservationists are painting such a glum picture of conditions at the Jersey Shore.

You Also Need To Get Out More, Mr. Smith

I pointed this out more than a year ago, but in “A Few Words From The General Manager” John D. Smith writes, “You’ll enjoy a dining experience where the delicious cuisine and attentive service are only surpassed by breathtaking ocean views.”  Which restaurants offer these “breathtaking ocean views”?

From Dust To More Dust

Apparently I’m not the only person to experience poor housekeeping and maintenance at Harrah’s.  A reader sent me photos, along with some commentary on his experience there:

I stayed in the Waterfront Tower last month.  There was no clock radio, only one ashtray in this “smoking room”, no pen/paper, horrible Wi-Fi service, and no do-not-disturb sign.  I was not spending much time in the room but I had mentioned to housekeeping a need for more ashtrays, paper/pen, clock radio and do-not-disturb sign.  I returned to the room at 4 a.m. and everything was the same.  Needless to say, I was awakened by housekeeping later in the morning at which time I then demanded a do-not-disturb sign.  I mentioned all this to the front desk when I checked out, but it didn’t seem like they were going to do anything, even making jokes about it.  I would hope they’d get someone to at least clean that filthy air filter before the next guest checks in.

Ironically, less than a week after I received these photos I experienced the same problem.  When I checked into my room the thermostat was set for 50º, but the temperature was showing 73º.  I called the front desk and when the maintenance person showed up he found a similarly clogged filter.  Shouldn’t someone put these things on an ongoing maintenance program?  Harrah’s promotes these Waterfront Tower rooms as “premium”, but even basic rooms at most national hotel chains have clean filters, plastic laundry bags, sinks that drain properly, soap dishes, pads and pens, more than four hangers in the closet, and other basics – none of which did I have in my room. Also, once again, my room had a missing towel ring.  (Why not just remove these or replace them with something else?)  Admittedly, these are little things, but just reflect poorly on a hotel where rooms retail (plus tax) – on average from December 1-28 – nearly $105 (some nights as high as $183.20, and that’s not including December 29-31 where the lowest average rate is nearly $365 – $567.20 on New Year’s Eve).  Now let’s talk about all the dust on top of the Diamond Express sign at check-in.  I’m tall, so my eye level focuses right on top of that sign.  It was covered with dust. . .plus an earlier guest must have spotted the same thing and ran his finger across the top of the sign, even further emphasizing the lack of basic housekeeping.  This is not a good way to begin a visit.

False Sense Of Security

It’s bad enough that no one seems to care about all the drunk young ladies walking around without shoes outside The Pool.  Let’s talk about “security” going to rooms in the Waterfront Tower.  Unintentionally, to get into the elevator bank I showed the “guard” a key from a recent stay at the Water Club.  He waved me through, only for me to discover that I didn’t even need to insert my room key in order to ascend to my floor.  Why bother? 

Showboat

Diamond Lounge December Hours

The Diamond Lounge at Showboat will be closed on the following days this month: December 10-14 and 17-24.

Harrah’s Philadelphia

BarleyQue Finally Gets It Right

While I don’t know if it’s going to attract more business, the still unfortunately-named BarleyQue – clever and cute, but meaningless to a lot of people – has modified its menu again, bringing back items from its former End Zone days, and adding some variety to what was once all too dependent on smoked and barbecued foods. Opening the wall behind the host station also should help, as will moving the host desk out onto the casino floor.

General

Tier Jerker

Starting late last month word began circulating through the Internet (on message boards such asharrahscasinos@yahoogroups.com and on the Web site, www.vegastripping.com) that tier levels were being increased. The information is incorrect and, at best, incomplete. The lesson here is, “Don’t believe everything you read on the Internet” and its corollary, “Don’t further distribute information you read on the Internet without being sure of the source and its accuracy.”

Insider Out?

Frankly, it verges on false advertising. . .or bait and switch.  Anyone earning the requisite 10,000 tier points between July 1 and September 30 to qualify for TR Insider status in the fourth quarter of 2012 has been sorely disappointed by the lack of events and benefits.  [In Atlantic City, there was one cocktail party on November 10; there were no events at Harrah’s Philadelphia; and one event in Tunica.  (Those are the only lists I’m on, so if the situation was different in other parts of the country, please let me know.)]  After much hoopla last year – at least in Atlantic City where they had to add a second dinner to announce this supposedly great new program – it seems as though the TR Insider program is just going to quietly disappear.  Don’t such loyal customers – as we keep being told we are – deserve some sort of announcement on the status of the program or, at the very least, some closure?  And what about the people who qualified for fourth quarter 2012 “benefits”?  I know several, and they are not very happy.  Caesars owes these players something, in my opinion.

 Great Race Point Discrepancies

A number of people wrote to say they didn’t feel they got all the credits they deserve for this year’s Great Race. Check “Promotions” on your December My TR eStatement to see how many Reward Credits you received.  If that number is inaccurate, then use the “Contact Us” form on the Total Rewards Web site to send an inquiry.  If Caesars does this promotion a third year, perhaps they could add a line on our eStatements indicating how many checkpoints we hit during that month.  That way, if there is an error, the problem can be solved within a 30-day framework, rather than waiting until the program ends.  [A running total of how many Great Gift Wrap Up points we’ve earned would be a nice feature, as well.  MGM’s M life Web site shows a player’s current tier score, available comp dollars, Holiday Gift Shoppe points and free play right at the top of the Home page after log-on.]

Some Seven Stars Benefits Are Not The Same Everywhere

I’ve heard from several Seven Stars cardholders who were angry about being charged for local and toll-free calls, as well as in-room movies, and even angrier that they were not upgraded to suites on their annual Seven Stars trip (or any stay) – or never received any sort of in-room amenity.  None of these are corporately-mandated “benefits”; however, some casinos do extend these courtesies to Seven Stars cardholders.  Always check first to find out what the casino policy is regarding benefits you “think” you are entitled to.

Total Rewards Rewarded

Congratulations to Caesars Entertainment and Total Rewards!  The casino loyalty program won the 2012 Master of Enterprise Loyalty, an award which “recognizes one company that stands apart for having an enterprise-wide, holistic approach to using data to transform the consumer experience and improve both financial and customer performance.”  The award is presented annually by Colloquy, a collection of resources devoted to the global loyalty marketing industry.  Read details here.

Question Of The Month

I want to take five guests (six total) for my annual celebration dinner, but I’ve been reading that there is a limit of four people.  Is this correct?  No!  Once again, don’t believe what you read on the Internet – unless it’s in this newsletter.  (I know someone who took 11 guests to the Bacchanal Buffet at Caesars Palace.)  The only limit is the amount of the bill.  Caesars will pick up $500; if it’s more than $500, the rest you can pay with cash, credit card or Reward Credits.  (Some restrictions may apply regarding the purchase of alcoholic beverages at certain casinos.)  You’re also responsible for the gratuity, but you cannot use Reward Credits or anything left over from the $500 Seven Stars dinner credit.  My memory is a little fuzzy, but there might have been a four-person limit in the early years of the program, but it’s always been a $500 credit, which, considering how prices have gone up, is due for an increase.

Dress Code

Guys, if you’re lucky enough to receive an invitation to one of the Caesars-sponsored New Year Eve parties, please dress appropriately.  At last year’s party at Caesars in Atlantic City, I saw several men wearing baseball caps, shorts, T-shirts and flip flops, or some combination thereof.  A friend received an invitation to a New Year’s Eve party at Wynn in Las Vegas.  At the bottom of the invitation was this caveat:

“Cocktail party attire is required. Dress code strictly enforced.”

I wish Caesars would do something like this – and enforce it.

Holiday Hours

Don’t assume that your favorite restaurants and lounges will be open during regular hours this month.  Many will observe reduced hours due to the holidays.  Call ahead before making plans.

Leaving Macau

Caesars has given up on efforts to open a casino in Macao.  Five years ago Caesars paid $578 million for a golf course in Macau, hoping to use the land for a casino, but the company still hasn’t received permission to build the casino.  Consequently, Caesars is now trying to unload the money-losing golf course and leave Macau. 

Caesars Financial Report

Here’s a link to a transcript of a conference call with Caesars executives regarding third quarter earnings.

Survey Says. . .

I may unintentionally have skewed the results of last month’s survey because Total Touch was by far the number one biggest irritant that Caesars puts in front of its customers.   “I’ve had to go to as many as six machines before the system recognized my card, sometimes getting to the point where I thought I could download my free play, only to be ‘told’ my request couldn’t be completed.”  Beverage orders were another sore spot.  “Have you tried to find coffee with Bailey’s?” one person wrote.  Another said she ordered a cocktail, but, after winning a big jackpot, wanted to move to a different machine.  “There went my drink order!  At least if I’d ordered from a ‘real person’ I’d know who to tell that I was moving.”  Diamond and Platinum members chimed in with the second biggest complaint – not enough cashiers.  Third was from Seven Stars cardholders who wanted exclusive lines at events and restaurants.  “Why should I share with Diamond and Platinum cardholders?” was a common complaint.

 This Month’s Survey

The Total Rewards Web site has gone through more “facelifts” than Joan Rivers.  In my opinion, I think they finally got it right, but what do you think?  Do you use the site to check your tier points and comp dollars, plan future trips, get answers to your questions?  Or, do you even use the site?  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 – Got Celeb