Reach Total Rewards Platinum, Diamond And Seven Stars Quicker

Total Rewards Cards
Old School Total Rewards Cards – Pulse of Vegas Blog

Caesars Entertainment is a mess with this whole bankruptcy thing. They claim everything will “be business as usual”. We’ll see about that. Caesars’ players club, Total Rewards, will likely change at some point but in theory it should remain in tact through bankruptcy.

In an effort keep customers flowing into its casinos Caesars is offering a pretty sweet Tier Credit promotion. Most players club promotions offer Reward Credits only. Those are the credit which that you use on goods like meals. Extra tier credits are a little more difficult to come by.

Tier credits are the credits that allow you to ascend to higher players club tiers like Platinum, Diamond And Seven Stars. The higher your tier status, the better the benefits you’ll receive from Total Rewards. Here’s an overview of those benefits. Note, if you’re Diamond or Seven Stars your resort fees will be waived.

Here are details on the promotion:

Through March 31st, 2015, we are giving you a 50% bonus on the first 50,000 Tier Credits you earn! So, you could walk away with up to 25,000 EXTRA Tier Credits to count towards your Tier Status, and we even started counting on January 1st.*

*Member must earn at least 1,000 Tier Credits by March 31, 2015 to be eligible for the promotion. 50% Tier Credit Bonus will be awarded on up to the first 50,000 Tier Credits earned from January 1, 2015 through March 31, 2015, for a maximum total bonus of 25,000 Tier Credits. Daily Tier Credit Bonuses will count toward the 50,000 Tier Credits maximum. Loyalty bonuses are not earned Tier Credits and thus, are not eligible for this promotion. Tier Credit Bonuses, including this promotion, do not count toward Reward Credit balance, promotional Tier Credit earnings, or qualifying for another daily bonus. Total Tier Credit Bonus amount awarded through this promotion will be calculated after March 31st, 2015 and will be posted to the Total Rewards account on April 15, 2015.

I wouldn’t gamble or spend more than normal to get the bump in tier status. VIP check-in, Diamond Lounges and waived resort fees are nice benefits but I don’t think they’re worth spending extra for.

That said, this is a useful promotion if you’re closing in on one of the upper tiers.

Seven Stars Insider – September Edition

Maroon 5 Total Rewards Concert
Maroon 5 at Total Rewards Concert

Here are highlights from the latest edition of Seven Stars Insider. As always it has 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 still long but full of information. Head over to Seven Stars Insider to sign up for the newsletter.

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.

LAS VEGAS

‘Book Me On The Next Flight To LAS!’
Once again Caesars marketing folks have outdone themselves in the “dumb offers” department. Why would they offer complimentary accommodations and show tickets as a special incentive to travel to Las Vegas when, as a Seven Stars cardholder, I’m entitled to these benefits anyway?

LAUGHLIN

‘Toys’ Aren’t Us
Justifying the request by citing the increasing popularity of bachelor and bachelorette parties, inspired perhaps by such films as “The Hangover”, Caesars has petitioned Clark County to allow casino gift shops to sell a limited inventory of sex toys and other “marital aids”. However, members of the Laughlin Town Advisory sent a strong message to county commissioners by voting to deny the request. The issue will go before the Board of County Commissioners on September 18.

ATLANTIC CITY

Dream On
The fourth – and final – planned installment of the popular nightly light show at Boardwalk Hall is now on display. Titled “AC Dreamin’”, it features two people who, after taking a train ride to Atlantic City, discover a variety of things the city has to offer. It features the same assortment of animation, music, video and 3-D lighting as the three other shows that have been produced over the past year, but this time there is a story with people and narration. In the eight-minute video the two people stay in a luxurious hotel, enjoy rides and games on the Boardwalk, and observe an underwater beach.

Go East, Young Man
The “mystery man” I chose not to identify last month is Rick Mazer, a top Las Vegas gambling executive, who started his career 30 years ago as a craps dealer. According to several published reports, in a filing last month with the New Jersey Casino Control Commission, Mazer applied for licensing as a key employee, senior vice president and general manager of Harrah’s Resort.

In addition, Caesars spokesman Gary Thompson said Mazer will oversee the $125.8 million convention center expansion at Harrah’s and the company’s proposed $1 billion hotel-casino development Suffolk Downs Race Track in East Boston, Mass. He comes to Atlantic City after serving as president of Harrah’s, Flamingo and The Quad in Las Vegas, as well as overseeing the $550 million Linq project that will include retail shops, restaurants and a 550-foot “High Roller” observation wheel. Prior to his Las Vegas tenure, Mazer was general manager of the Horseshoe Hammond in Indiana.

No word on what role, if any, Mazer will have in the management of Bally’s, Caesars and Showboat, as well as Harrah’s Philadelphia in Chester, Pa.

Was It Something I Said?
The Boardwalk Buffet at Caesars will close September 16 for much needed improvements. In the meantime, those who crave a breakfast buffet will have to settle for the tasteless, rubbery pre-made omelets, greasy bacon and other abominations at Café Roma.

PHILADELPHIA

Get Into The Kitchen
If you’re in the Philadelphia area – or plan to travel there, Harrah’s has a unique venue to hold your annual Seven Stars celebration dinner. Its Chef’s Table in the kitchen at The Cove will dazzle you and your guests, and make the evening a truly special occasion.

The Chef’s Table can accommodate up to 10 people, and the menu can be tailored just about any way you want. Do you prefer an Asian or Italian-themed meal? No problem. Have a certain budget in mind? They’ll work with you. Have a particular entrée in mind? Chef Erick will prepare it to your specifications. Want to just order off the regular menu, but watch how your meal is prepared? Done!

If you’ve never witnessed a professional restaurant kitchen in action – short of “Top Chef” or one of those television reality shows – this is your opportunity.

You just need to give them advance notice so they can work out the menu and other details with you. Contact your host to get things started.

Special Seven Stars Benefits
Harrah’s knows how to treat its Seven Stars
cardholders:

  •  Look for the special Seven Stars-only cashier at the main cage. You can’t miss the sign over the entrance to two dedicated windows. You may have to ring the bell to get some service because they’re not always staffed, but, while you’re waiting, you can always enjoy a delicious piece of wrapped chocolate with the Seven Stars logo. You might even want to slip a couple pieces of the delicious morsels in your pocket – just don’t forget or you’ll find a gooey mess once you return home. Yep, I’ll admit it, I did just that! What a mess!
  • To check into the Diamond Lounge, look for the dedicated path leading to the desk where you’ll be the next person called if there’s a line. (I’ve heard staff members warning of up to 45-minute – or longer – waits to get in on a busy weekend night.) Someone also comes to greet and escort you to special reserved tables by the windows overlooking the racetrack.
  • The Seven Stars Happy Hour is still held on Fridays, but the time has changed. It’s now from 5 to 7 p.m. in the lounge at the Cove. In addition to complimentary cocktails for the Seven Stars cardholder and a guest, passed hors d’ouevre are served.

AND IN OTHER INSIDER NEWS. . . .

Love Boat
With few exceptions, nearly everyone I heard from raved about their Signature Experience cruise to Bermuda last month. There was some minor quibbling about an overly crowded cocktail reception at the hotel in New York the night before the cruise, but, overall, it sounds like Caesars earned its “A+” on this one. A second and third cruise have been scheduled for this month and next, respectively.

Getting To Know You – Part One
If there is one question I get most often, it’s: “Why can’t casinos better tailor their offers to my schedule?”

Players frequently complain that their mailboxes are filled with offers of free food and bonus slot play, but they’re valid on days when they never travel to their favorite casinos. “I get offers for $50 in food and $150 in free play all the time, but they’re good only Monday through Thursday,” one person told me. “Can’t they tell by my play that I only travel here on weekends? It’s like they know I can’t use these offers, but they think I’ll be impressed just by receiving them. Guess what? It just angers me and makes me
want to play someplace else.”

Getting To Know You – Part Two
Speaking of tailoring offers to customers, one Seven Stars cardholder sent me his offer of a comp room in Atlantic City, as well as the chance to convert Reward Credits into free slot play. “Considering that, with 48 hours’ notice, I’m supposed to be able to get comp rooms anywhere – OK, I know there are some exceptions – why can’t my mailer from Harrah’s Resort recognize my Seven Stars status and include some other sort of promotion or ad?” he writes. “Also, as a Seven Stars cardholder I’m supposed to be able to convert my Reward Credits for slot play at a discount – $5 for 675 Reward Credits (a ‘retail value’ of $6.75), yet my mailer is telling me it’s $5 for 1,000 credits (a ‘retail value’ of $10’).”

Door Stop
Companion cardholders who have access to a Diamond Lounge based on their own play should show their Diamond cards when they check-in. I’ve heard several reports of players being embarrassed when they were told they couldn’t bring a guest into the lounge. The person at the door just didn’t pay attention and assumed that these Companion cardholders weren’t eligible for entry based on their own play.

Gifts That Keep On Giving
How many more sets of luggage, pots and pans, or manufacturers’ close-outs do we really need? Last month, for example, Bally’s and Harrah’s Resort in Atlantic City gave out pancake makers and breakfast sandwich makers. Do any of us really need these? I don’t know about you, but I’m trying to reduce clutter in my kitchen. If the casinos are going to continue to dole out gifts, how about something useful like the ubiquitous gas cards or Visa gift cards?

At least these don’t have to be shipped across country, warehoused and delivered to ballrooms for distribution – and then schlepped home by us. Code Green, anyone?

Hold On
Apparently no one from Total Rewards has been subjected to the monotonous – and out-of-date – “on hold” message you get while you’re waiting to make a reservation or calling with a question. For approximately three minutes – and then it repeats – you hear blurbs about Lake Tahoe, Atlantic City, Tunica, etc., as well as the newest addition to Total Rewards, Horseshoe Casino in Cincinnati “which will open this spring”

Survey Says. . .
Last month I asked you whether you preferred attending city- or casino-specific events open to all Seven Stars cardholders, e.g., the events in 2012 held in Atlantic City and Las Vegas, or having your choice of several different types of events. The responses fell into two categories: those who were able to reserve space on the August cruise to Bermuda and those who didn’t. Those who went on the cruise hope another one is scheduled next year, not only because they really enjoyed themselves, but because they also felt the entire package had a much greater monetary value than any of the other choices. The rest preferred the types of weekend events which were held in the past.

This Month’s Survey
My guess is that the staff at Total Rewards is already working on the details of next year’s Seven Stars (and Diamond and Platinum) program, hopefully tweaking some rules and considering suggestions from its many surveys. Here is a portion of my “wish list”:

  • For the annual retreat and Level I Signature Experience, allow the $500 folio credit to be used for food and beverage, as well as other charges such as spa treatments, in-house show tickets, etc. Many of us travel alone and cannot possibly use that amount of money on meals. Plus, if you’re staying at a casino that does not allow Reward Credits to be used for alcoholic beverages, or you don’t drink alcoholic beverages, that makes it all the more difficult to spend the $500.
  • Offer an option or some sort of alternative for those who don’t like to travel or travel by air. The annual retreat and the Level I Signature Experience each currently includes up to a $1,200 airfare reimbursement. While I know that concessions have been made “privately” for some customers, why not codify this “officially” with some alternatives that might include a mileage reimbursement for those who prefer to drive or offer some variation of the popular “stay-cation” where someone can choose a retreat at his/her “home” casino and get the transportation credit in the form of free play or a gift card?
  • For those who are comfortable making their own travel arrangements, let us skip the “middleman” [a casino host] and make our own travel arrangements with Passport? And, while you’re at it, waive that $10 per ticket charge that Passport imposes. After all, you’re forcing us to use Caesars own travel agency, then you take $10 per ticket off whatever amount you’re giving us as a reward for our play.
  • Don’t force us to have that one-time $500 celebration dinner. Many of us have a difficult time organizing a group for dinner, or don’t live near a local casino where we can invite our friends and family to dine. Just add extra Reward Credits to our account, and let us spend them as we choose.
  • We all have different “needs” and tastes, so offer free play or a gift card as one of the options for the annual gift. I know you’re trying to give Seven Stars cardholders a variety of benefits, e.g., a trip, a dinner, a gift, etc., but, at this stage in our lives, most of have just about everything we want or have the ability to purchase it.

I could go on and on, but I’d like to hear from you. What changes would you make to the 2014-2015 Seven Stars program? Send me an email and I’ll share your thoughts – anonymously, of course.

 

Seven Stars Insider – August Edition

Penn jillette Total Rewards
Penn jillette

Here are highlights from the latest edition of Seven Stars Insider. As always it has 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.

ATLANTIC CITY

‘Do I Hear $30?’
Video poker messages boards are buzzing about some machines in Las Vegas that require $25 “coin in” to earn one tier credit. VP players have always needed to play twice as much as us slot machine players ($10 coinin for one tier credit), and the fear is that this policy will start finding its way into other markets where Caesars has casinos.

Eat Your Pickles – or No Dessert!
Bally’s held a pickle-eating contest on the Boardwalk last month to promote the re-opening of Pickles Deli and its new self-service ordering system.

Belt and Suspenders
Why is Caesars sending an email to alert customers they will be getting offers in the mail? Also, what’s with that first sentence? Who writes this stuff? What does “Iconic as Caesars is” have to do with the rest of the sentence – or, for that matter, the entire paragraph?

Bored-walk Buffet
Customers at Caesars Boardwalk Buffet were a little taken by surprise last month when the venue changed its schedule to offer only brunch for $25 (beginning at 9 a.m.) and dinner for $32 (from 2 p.m. to closing). I was there for lunch one weekday around 1:30, and heard lots of grousing over the price – plus the fact that there were no longer breakfast and lunch options at a price point less than $25, and that dinner prices kicked in as early as 2.

Even worse was the fact that half the buffet contained heaping piles of dried up pancakes, waffles and French toast, along with overcooked bacon and sausage that hardly anyone was eating at that hour. An egg/omelet station attendant was basically standing around waiting for the changeover to “dinner” service when it would become a pasta station.

The other additions to the menu – pizza, grilled “steaks” and more vegetable choices – didn’t seem to justify the $7 premium, especially when compared to the more creative and upscale fare across town at the Borgata where the dinner buffet is $31.95 (but only $10 each for a Borgata Black Label cardholder and a guest).

A week or so later I returned for breakfast when the buffet opened at 9 and found the opposite situation. Lots of unappealing “lunch” items (mussels, clams, turkey breast, sliced carrots, broccoli and several Chinese specialties) that already looked “tired” even though the buffet had just opened – and which hardly anyone was eating.

Notably missing from the brunch menu, though, were bananas, fresh strawberries, bagels and smoked salmon, though there were plenty of canned pears, peaches and stewed prunes.

Looking for toast? It’s back by the desserts, along with an assortment of pastries and made-to-order waffles.

Apparently, the $25 brunch price includes a mimosa or bloody mary, yet during neither visit did my server offer these. Why not delegate this to the hostess who takes your order for other beverages?

Food and Whine
I attended the Kick Off Party for the Atlantic City Food and Wine Festival last month at The Pool at Harrah’s Resort. I got there about 10 o’clock – three hours after it started and an hour before it ended. There was one long line that extended from halfway on one side of the pool to halfway around the other.

While I think the line was actually for the free Absolut vodka cocktails being served, anyone interested in trying some of the food on that side of the pool couldn’t get to it without standing in line for 30 minutes. Figuring I’d just get a drink and skip the food, I ordered my favorite alcoholic beverage at the bar, only to be handed a bill: “Cash or credit card, no room charges.” Huh? This event doesn’t have an open bar?

When have you been invited to a party hosted by a casino and then asked to pay for a cocktail? [Retail price on the ticket was $55, but I had been comped by my host.] I took my drink and left.

Ever since I attended the opening night pool party at last year’s Seven Stars Signature Event, I’m convinced this is not the venue to hold one of these “Taste of. . .” parties. There’s just not enough room to arrange the various food booths to avoid the inevitable traffic jams. People instinctively form one big line rather than visit each restaurant’s booth individually. Plus, I’m amazed no one fell into the water!

Oh, by the way, I never got to rub elbows with Rocco DiSpirito.

Food and ‘Wow!’
Imagine receiving this invitation: Join us in the Paladium Ballroom at Caesars for a wonderful low-calorie, low-fat, low-sodium, low-sugar dinner. “Uh, thank you, but I’ll pass,” you say. “I’ll just take another slice of pizza with extra cheese.”

Fortunately, the folks at Caesars didn’t show their cards in advance, and everyone sitting in the elegantly decorated ballroom had no clue that the delicious meal they were about to enjoy was just that – a typical casino dinner of salad, surf and turf, and dessert, but with a fraction of the fat, calories, sodium and sugar usually associated with these affairs.

Sitting on each table was a beautiful “relish tray” – when was the last time you saw one of those? – with a variety of heirloom cherry tomatoes, small raw beet quarters, baby carrots, and an assortment of colorful orange, green and purple cauliflower florets. (Did you even know cauliflower came in colors?)

The meal began with a lightly dressed salad of assorted greens, fennel, orange sections and lima beans included several slices
of beautifully seared rare tuna.

The combination entrée featured a perfectly grilled filet – pizzzaiola-style – and a crab and cod cake, along with thin spears of crisp-tender asparagus.

Dessert was a silky smooth panna cotta with sugar-free chocolate and caramel sauces, garnished with fresh blueberries, blackberries and raspberries.

The menu was devised by celebrity chef Rocco DiSpirito and his team, and prepared by Caesars Banquet Chef Tim Davis and his crew.

Just before dessert was served, DiSpirito made a brief appearance to explain how he cut the calories and reduced the fat, plus demonstrated how to make the dessert and its accompanying sauces.

I understand that the following night’s Beach Soirée at Caesars attracted 1,100 guests and was equally successful.

Congratulations!

Under Construction
Construction is underway at Harrah’s Resort on a conference center, billed as the largest of its type in the Northeast. Cost to build the facility is estimated to be $126 million. The project, designed to host corporate meetings complementing the conventions and trade shows at the Atlantic City Convention Center, will include 250,000 square feet of space. In addition, there also will be two ballrooms, each featuring 50,000 square feet of space.

HARRAH’S PHILADELPHIA

Construction Zone
Work is underway to construct new high limit slots and table games areas on the casino floor. There are temporary areas set-up, so you won’t be stuck playing pennies, nickels and quarters while you wait for work to be completed.

Color Blind
Remember this joke when you were a kid: “What’s black and white and ‘red’ all over?” The monthly mailers that Harrah’s Philadelphia sends to its Seven Stars cardholders are black, white, red and grey, and generally look pretty nice. However, when it comes to readability, any Graphics 101 student will tell you not to print red ink on a black background – it’s nearly impossible to read. Add to that the advancing age of many of us Seven Stars cardholders, and it makes it even more difficult to decipher the special code Harrah’s prints for collecting bonus free play on certain days.

No More Temptations
Temptations Buffet is history, but no one is disclosing what will replace it. Several options, some of which include entertainment along with food, are under consideration. Watch this space.

AND IN OTHER INSIDER NEWS…

Companion-ship Does Not Have Its Privileges
Many Seven Stars cardholders became extremely upset last month when “new” rules regarding entry to the Seven Stars and Diamond Lounges, as well as use of the Companion card, became effective – supposedly with no notice – at Harrah’s Resort in Atlantic City. Among these rules:

-Seven Stars cardholders may bring up to only three guests into the lounges. If the Seven Stars cardholder has to leave the lounge for any reason, his/her guests must also leave. And, unless the Companion cardholder checks in first as an individual, if one of the three guests holds the cardholder’s Companion
card, he/she is considered one of the three guests.

– The Companion cardholder may use the lounges only if the primary cardholder is “in the market” – but may not bring any guests. In other words, say you’re in Atlantic City or Las Vegas. The primary cardholder must be a registered hotel guest and/or be showing play in any of the Total Rewards casinos in that
city.

Actually, it turns out that these are not new rules at all. They always have been in place. It’s just that no one ever told anybody, and not every casino was enforcing them. Frankly, with two exceptions, I agree with these rules.

For example, what’s to stop someone from bringing his/her three guests to the Seven Stars Lounge, leaving for 30 minutes, then returning with three more guests? Why should someone be allowed to bring in six guests when I play by the rules and bring no more than three?

And, yes, the Companion cardholder should be counted among the primary cardholder’s three guests. None of the Seven Stars lounges in the country are that large, so there is good reason for these limitations. To put things in perspective, at The Borgata in Atlantic City, the Society Club – Borgata’s equivalent to a Seven Stars lounge – allows Titanium cardholders only three guests. The cardholder and one guest are admitted free of charge. For the other two cardholders, the Titanium cardholder’s comp account is charged $20 each. The Society Club is more than twice the size of either of Atlantic City’s Seven Stars lounges, it is much more elegant (think high ceilings, crystal chandeliers, grand piano), and the food makes what’s served at the Seven Stars lounges seem like high school cafeteria fare. [I’m not being critical of the
lounges or what they serve – particularly at Caesars – but, in comparison to The Borgata, well, there is no comparison.]

What I don’t agree with is the rule that says the primary cardholder must be “in the market” in order for the Companion cardholder to use the Seven Stars or Diamond Lounge. I also think a Companion cardholder visiting the lounge solo should be allowed one guest. (Then if the primary cardholder shows up, he/she should be able to bring just one guest.)

Plus, it turns out, Caesars has a totally different definition of a Companion cardholder than a lot of us do – but never bothered to define it clearly. Here’s the difference between how Caesars and I interpret this benefit:

Basically, Caesars is saying that the “companion” part of Companion card means that this person is accompanying – being a companion to – the primary cardholder, and only benefits when they are traveling together, or are in the same city.

To me and many others, the “companion” part of Companion card referred to the primary cardholder’s relationship – legal or otherwise – to the individual with whom he/she shared this card. I know any number of people who have assigned their Companion cards not necessarily to spouses or “significant others” with whom they live (or don’t live), but to relatives and friends across the country. The reason? They rarely travel together, but wanted to extend some special privileges to these individuals when they’re not together. For example, I know a father who lives in Phoenix and is not a huge gambler, but enjoys occasional excursions to Ak-Chin, Laughlin and Las Vegas. His single son, a Seven Stars cardholder who lives in Ohio, assigned his Companion card to dear old dad. Other than possibly receiving some expedited attention at check-in, preferred seating at dinner or use of a special line at the buffet, he now will receive little benefit from the card. Another person I know lives in Boston, travels frequently and plays all over the country. Not knowing “the rules” he assigned his Companion card to a friend in California who’s not a big player, but travels frequently to Las Vegas and San Diego. Under this new strict enforcement policy, his friend no longer will be able to drop by the Diamond Lounge when he’s playing out there.

Or, what about a situation where a Seven Stars cardholder travels to Tunica, but stays and plays exclusively at the Gold Strike? Not being a gambler, her husband – the Companion cardholder – decides to visit theDiamond Lounge next door at the Horseshoe. Technically, unless she accompanied him, he would be denied admission.

So, what’s the point of having a Companion card if the primary cardholder has to be there? Let’s say a Seven Stars cardholder is traveling with his buddies to Las Vegas for a long weekend. His wife, the Companion cardholder, decides to go to Atlantic City over that same weekend. Following a strict interpretation of these rules, she wouldn’t be allowed in either of the Seven Stars Lounges. This dilutes the value of the Companion card by requiring both parties to be “in the same market”.

Regarding guest privileges, even if the Companion cardholder is traveling with the primary cardholder, perhaps that companion is not a gambler and would just like to enjoy a snack or beverage in the Seven Stars Lounge.

Why not extend the courtesy of allowing those persons someone to enjoy their company so they don’t have to be by themselves? Like the American Express card, membership has its privileges, but not companionship.

Cruise Control
Since I’ve never used my Seven Stars NCL cruise, a reader (who wishes to remain anonymous) wrote an excellent guide to getting the most out of this benefit. I’ve posted it on the Seven Stars Insider Website.

Giving Credit Where Credit Is Due
If you’re playing in a city with two or more Total Rewards casinos – and you play at more than one, good luck finding out how many tier credits you’ve earned that day. I’ve personally experienced this in Atlantic City and Lake Tahoe, and I know others who’ve experienced it in Las Vegas. In Atlantic City, play some at Caesars, then at Showboat, and no one can tell you your total daily tier credits. Check your daily play through Total Touch at Bally’s or Harrah’s, and neither that Caesars nor Showboat play will show up in your Total Daily Tier Credits. Same thing happened to me at Harveys and Harrah’s in Lake Tahoe.

The only way around this is to carry a pad and pen, write down the number of credits earned as you leave each casino, then total them manually. Very frustrating.

Balancing Act
Just as you – hopefully! – balance your checkbook each month, be sure to review your monthly eStatement from Total Rewards. Both my May and June statements had duplicate charges. Kind of makes me wonder how many mistakes I never knew about before these electronic statements. It’s gotten to the point where I now keep copies of my charges – just as I do with American Express.

Now You See It, Now You Don’t
If the Total Rewards app on your smartphone isn’t working, don’t complain to the manufacturer. The app is being revamped and should be back online by the end of the year.

Darryl D. McEwen, Publisher

Photo: Aceshowbiz

Seven Stars Insider – July 2013 Edition

Maria Menounos Total Rewards
Maria Menounos

Here’s the latest edition of Seven Stars Insider. It’s another 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.

HORSESHOE SOUTHERN INDIANA
Mail Fraud
Last month several players received coupons for other customers (along with their names and Total Rewards number). In some cases, all the coupons were for table games, while the cardholders who received them play only video poker. One player who was affected asked if corrected mailings would be sent, but was told to come to Total Rewards for the information.

LAS VEGAS
A Real Las Vegas Linq, er, Link
MGM Resorts International and Hyatt Hotels Corp. now allow customers to earn points and redeem credits at properties owned by both companies. The agreement links M life tier credits and Hyatt Gold Passport. The relationship connects Hyatt’s more than 450 hotels and resorts worldwide, and MGM Resorts 12 properties in Las Vegas. Starting next month, M life and Gold Passport members will be eligible to opt-in to a reciprocal tier status program. This is one collaboration that finally makes sense. Hopefully, Total
Rewards will catch up and offer a similar partnership with one of the airline or hotel loyalty programs.

Dealers Unionize
Casino dealers at Paris and Bally’s have voted to join the Transport Workers Union. Dealers at Paris voted 105 to 26, while Bally’s dealers voted 183 to 13. The Transport Workers Union, which arrived in Las Vegas in 2000, also represents dealers at Wynn Las Vegas and Caesars Palace.

ATLANTIC CITY
Home. . .Cooking
Those of you who miss Chef Joe Muldoon’s cooking at The Reserve in Bally’s can now satisfy your cravings at Roberta’s By Joe Muldoon in Northfield, N.J. Roberta’s (named after Joe’s mother) is open for lunch Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., and for dinner Friday and Saturday from 5 to 10 p.m. The address is 1205 Tilton Rd.,Tilton Plaza (by Esthetica). Call (609) 677-0470.

Turning A Worst Buy Into A Best Buy
Kudos to Caesars marketing department for admitting their “miscalculation” and offering Best Buy gift cards to players expecting a similar card last month at Bally’s and Harrah’s. Many players were disappointed when the cards ran out and they were given free play instead. For the players who were inconvenienced – especially those who waited in long lines that Sunday afternoon – getting $30 in free slot play was not exactly the same as a $30 Best Buy gift card.

‘Losers Wanted’
Am I the only person who thinks Revel – excuse me, Revel Casino Hotel – is missing the mark with its new promotional campaign? Yes, the name change makes sense, but that’s purely cosmetic, in my opinion. And, yes, allowing players to smoke is great if you’re a smoker – I’m not, so that’s not going to get me into the casino. Less expensive restaurants? Maybe, but I don’t choose a casino based on its restaurants. It’s the “You Can’t Lose” campaign that’s misleading – and inaccurate. Does Revel really want to promote itself as the casino where you go to lose? (“Hey, don’t worry, we’ll reimburse you – sort of, but just this one time.”) Yes, you can lose – and probably will! Your loss during the month of July must be at least $100, and those “refunds” are in the form offree slot play over a 20-week period. In other words, if you lose $1,000 between July 1 and 31, you’ll get $50 in free slot play every week for 20 weeks starting August 5. If you don’t set foot in Revel on one of those weeks, that period’s $50 in slot play is forfeited.
And do you really think your play with that $50 is actually going to return $50 in cash? A related promotion promises to match free slot play offers from all other Atlantic City casinos, but, again, there are some important caveats you need to be aware of:

  • You must have the complete mail piece that includes your name and address.
  • The mail piece will not be returned, unless there are multiple offers on it. In that case the offer you claim will be marked “void”. (Note to those who turn over certain offers from Bally’s and Harrah’s: Write down your three-digit code, alon with the date and amount of the offer.)
  • You can claim only one offer per gaming day.
  • There is a $500 maximum match per offer.
  • Whatever is downloaded must be played that same day.

Since many free slot play offers, specifically those from the four Total Rewards casinos, come in mailings that also contain coupons good for free meals and slot play, once the mailer is verified, those coupons will be returned to you. Also, if the mailer has several offers, such as $50 on July 4, $50 July 16 and $50 on July 25, you can choose just one of them, and that free play will be matched only on the same day it’s valid at the initiating casino. In other words, while another casino mailer may have a total of $150 in free play offers on three different days, you’ll only be able to get $50 from Revel – and have to return to Revel on each of the two subsequent days it’s valid at that competing casino – assuming you have no other greater offers that same day from another casino.

(Remember, it’s just one offer per day.) Also, using free slot play at Revel does not count toward earning Resort Dollars or Resort Play (free play), nor will it count toward your win-loss calculation. In addition, any “bounce back slot play” (approximately $1 per one Resort Dollar earned) will not be offered during July.

BALLY’S
Pickles Goes Self-Serve
Check out Pickles and its new Express Service. It’s basically the same food, but without the servers. Order at the counter, pay and then wait for your food. Both inside and outdoor seating is still available.

Tangled Web
Somebody needs to check Bally’s page on the AtlanticCityNJ.com Web site. Despite the fact that it says, “All information, photographs and links have been checked or received by Bally’s Atlantic City, Atlantic City, NJ” there are several errors and a lot of out-ofdate information. There are references to Don Marrandino, “matzoth” ball soup at Pickles, the Bellezza Salon (which is closed) and Sammy’s Beach Bar (now Bally’s Bikini Beach Bar). Caesars page on the Web site is also out-of-date.

CAESARS
Special Seven Stars Lounge Hours
The Seven Stars Lounge will be open July 3 and 4 from 5 to 10:30 p.m.

Tip On Tipping
I don’t know about the other Atlantic City hotels – or ones elsewhere, but Caesars is now adding an
automatic gratuity to its Room Service orders. Unless you’re feeling extra generous, or you get some really terrific service, there’s no need to add more, even though you’re given the opportunity to. To Caesars credit, the bill does state, “Gratuity Included”, but when you’re so used to adding a little extra, it’s easy to overlook this.

Morton’s Still 1:1
At least through the end of July, you can still use your comp dollars on a 1:1 basis at Morton’s.

‘Do You Like Movies About Gladiators?’
See the real thing as “gladiators” fight in the lobby of Caesars starting July 4 through September 2 across from Mia.

HARRAH’S RESORT
Lounge To Open Thursdays
Starting July 4, the Seven Stars Lounge will open Thursdays from 4 to 10 p.m.

Pretzel Bites Bite Back
As I’ve written in the past, I rarely eat anything in the Seven Stars Lounge other than some cocktail nibbles – cheese and crackers, nuts, a shrimp cocktail – before going to dinner. However, I ordered the new pretzel bites to try something different, and they tasted like rubber. This is a commercial product, available in most grocery store freezers, and the cooking instructions clearly recommend heating them in an oven, not a microwave. That said, the accompanying cheese sauce was delicious.

Cash Of The Titan
It’s hard to miss and you can play it only at Harrah’s. Standing nearly 12 feet tall, Titan 360 is a cylindrical tower surrounded by eight standard slot machines, all programmed to deliver a spectacular bonus when a key and a lock symbol appear in the first and fifth reels on any of the four popular slot machine titles to which it’s connected – China Shores, Heavenly World, Legion Warrior and Fortunes of the Orient. The twist is that players can enjoy their favorite games, but for a modest extra bet – 20 cents added to a minimum 30-cent bet (50 cents total), they get the opportunity to win thousands of extra
dollars in an ever-increasing series of bonuses called Rise To Wealth. Titan 360 is located across from Bill’s Bar & Burger, near the Brigantine entrance.

SHOWBOAT
‘With Furniture, That Will Be $200 Extra’
I guess I wasn’t so far off in my April Fool’s edition. Check out the detailed description on the Total Rewards Web site of a “Premium” room at Showboat:
Really? There’s no furniture in these rooms? And the first thing they tell you about the room is that it has sheets and a mattress? How much extra for the bed to put these on?

HARRAH’S CHEROKEE CASINO RESORT
Credit Card Fraud Alert
You may have seen this on television where it was happening in Florida. Apparently, the
scam is moving north.

HARRAH’S PHILADELPHIA
Seven Stars Happy Hour At The Cove
While complimentary cocktails are still being offered to Seven Stars cardholders and a guest from 10 p.m. to midnight on Fridays, starting July 20 the event will move to Saturdays starting at 7 p.m.

Missing In Action – Sort Of
Searching for Harrah’s Philadelphia using the Casino Locator on the Total Rewards Web site is a bit confusing. While every other casino is listed in alphabetical order, no one thought to change the
order when Harrah’s Chester became Harrah’s Philadelphia, so you’ll find it between Harrah’s Cherokee and Harrah’s Council Bluffs.

GENERAL

Card Sharks
Just because you think someone will ask for identification before you cash in comp dollars through Caesars Quick Rewards system, don’t be so sure. In Atlantic City a reader left his player’s card in a machine and someone took it to a casino gift shop, wiping out more than $500 in comps on various purchases. Security is investigating. Something similar happened to a player in Las Vegas – even though his photo was
printed on the back of his Seven Stars Companion card. The lesson here is to treat your player’s card like any credit card you may have in your wallet.

Off The Deen’s List
In the wake of last month’s controversy about Paul Deen, a news release from Caesars Entertainment said it intends to rebrand its current Paula Deen-themed restaurants in the coming months. Food outlets bearing her name have already been eliminated from the four affected casinos’ Web sites, but Googling “Horseshoe Southern Indiana + Paula Deen” or “Harrah’s Cherokee + Paula Deen” displays old Web sites that are still
accessible online. On their current Web sites, there no longer is any mention of the Paula Deen Buffet at
Harrah’s Tunica or Horseshoe Southern Indiana. Paul Deen’s Kitchen at Harrah’s Joliet has a temporary name – The Restaurant At Harrah’s. Leeann Bridges, a spokeswoman for Harrah’s Cherokee, said the 400-seat restaurant remains open but is offering a new menu immediately. “We are working to rebrand with a new name in the upcoming weeks and anticipate it having a coffee shop style of offerings for our guests,” Bridges said.

Total Rewards Visa Buffet Coupon
I never applied for the card, but I’ve heard from several players who got their new Total Rewards Signature Visa card and inadvertently threw away the enclosed coupon that entitled them to two Buffet of Buffets in Las Vegas. If this happened to you, keep reading. According to Kristine Johnson, a Total Service Representative for Caesars Entertainment, Western Region: “[A]s long as you are the primary cardholder, and have your photo identification, Total Rewards can help you redeem this offer when you are on property.”

Caesars Circle Confidential
If you’ve wondered what it’s like to be part of the Caesars Circle, here’s insight from someone who’s been part of the group for about a year: “It’s not what I imagined it would be,” he wrote. “[It’s] basically all about surveys.” These surveys, he adds, just get a small view of what participants think. “Most questions are multiple choice and I can’t tell you how often that none of the choices fits my answer.” Recently, he said, they gave some write-in space in the last survey. “But, all in all, it’s useless as a venue to learn or voice things on a regular basis.”

Featured Fee Of The Month
First it was Resort Fees, then Early Check-In Fees, now we have “Experience Fees”. Those of you who received letters inviting you on “junkets” – such as upcoming trips to Tunica and Laughlin which include airfare, taxes, ground transportation at the destination and accommodations – have probably noticed you must pay a per person Experience Fee upon booking. (This was probably coined by the same person who renamed the annual Seven Stars trip a “Retreat”.) I don’t think any of us has a problem with some sort of fee for a trip like this, just call it what it is – a booking or handling fee. . .not something that’s
going to make us jab a spouse, partner or friend with our elbow and chuckle, “Look what they’ve come up with now?”

Survey Says. . .
Last month I asked you to recommend the best place for players to take their annual Seven Stars retreat and why. Here’s a sampling of the responses:

“My choice would be Caesars Palace. Las Vegas just has more variety than any other place. I don’t think anywhere else can match the package with food, shows and things to do.”

“Instead of jumping at a recommendation, I would ask, ‘What are your interests?’ Lake Tahoe has skiing in the winter and a fantastic lake in the summer; Cherokee has great hiking, fishing and golf; Atlantic City has the shore; and Las Vegas has more nightlife, dining, and shows than anywhere. Without knowing interests, I’d say, ‘Try someplace new.’”

“Having taken our trips to almost all the major locations – Las Vegas, New Orleans, Joliet, Phoenix, Reno, Lake Tahoe, San Diego, Cherokee, Tunica and Biloxi (we get two trips per year, since we are both Seven Stars cardholders), I would say Tahoe has been my favorite. The view is great. The staff is dedicated
to making sure you have a great time. Jeff Bryan, the lead host, is a pleasure to work with, and either he or his assistant Rick checks with you multiple times a day. Second choice would be Cherokee. . .beautiful place, great people, but a once-in-a-while location.”

“We have found that the best trip we have taken was to Caesars in Atlantic City. When we went to Atlantic City, they treated us wonderfully and the attraction of the beach is great. We have used Las Vegas as our destination many times, but primarily as a means to entertain friends or family. We are both Seven Stars so it is easy to get two rooms at Caesars (our preference). We only go there to entertain; the crowds and hustle and bustle are too much. Been there and done that. Shows are OK, but too much effort to go see a show. The restaurants are good to very good and, of course, highly varied, but how much can one eat?”

Darryl D. McEwen, Publisher
Neither Seven Stars Insider nor http://www.sevenstarsinsider.com is affiliated in any way with Caesars Entertainment or Total
Rewards®

Photo: Hawt Celebrities

Seven Stars Insider – June Edition

Alyssa Campanella at Escape Total Rewards Concert
Alyssa Campanella

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.

HARRAH’S PHOENIX AK-CHIN

Another Viewpoint: Compliments All Around!
“We’re just back, and cannot compliment the staff enough on their hospitality. Every person we talked to, without exception, went above and beyond to be helpful and gracious. They didn’t just answer a question, or provide a basic response. Every person provided additional helpful suggestions, and went out of his or her way to make sure that
we were made welcome. We got one of the patio suites in the new tower. These were quite lovely and comparable to any high-end property we’ve visited. It appeared that there are only five of these, as we did not see any other balconies in this new section. The room was well appointed, and we did find amenities waiting, in the form of small
snacks and an assortment of beverages in the fridge. We didn’t realize at first that the Diamond Lounge is now in the Agave restaurant. (It had been separate before.) So when we arrived the first evening, we headed to the restaurant, and discovered it was on ‘lounge’ hours. We were given coupons for four drinks and three appetizers. Since we weren’t drinking alcohol, we traded those in and sampled five appetizers. We had no clue that most of them were large enough to be dinner for a fully grown man! We also learned that Seven Stars cardholders get two free buffets daily. Turned out to be good food, and the largest selection of sugar-free desserts we had ever seen. Overall, I can only compliment this property on the upgrades, and commend the staff on outstanding service
all around. Everyone, from the driver who met us at the airport to the folks at the Total Rewards desk acted as though it was their mission in life to get us to return. . .so we most probably will!”

LAS VEGAS

Curtain Down
The All-Stage Pass, which offered unlimited admission to several shows in Las Vegas over a 48-hour period, will no longer be available after June 30.

Let The Sun Shine
An East Coast reader forwarded this email invitation with the following comment, “This just screams. . .go buy an expensive plane ticket and run to Vegas.”

FLAMINGO

Free Slot Tournaments
Visit the Margaritaville Casino from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays to play a free three-minute session and possibly win free slot play. You must have a current Total Rewards card. Tournament results are posted at 3:30 p.m. Top prize is $500, second prize is $400, third prize is $300, fourth prize is $200 and fifth prize is $100.

RIO
Whee-ee-ee-ee!
Opening in late summer, the VooDoo Skyline will launch passengers 400 feet in the air from the VooDoo Lounge to the Ipanema Tower at speeds up to 33 miles-per-hour. Unlike most ziplines, the VooDoo Skyline will accommodate two riders at a time and, on the attraction’s return trip, guests will ride an additional 800 feet to the starting point,
facing backwards, for a total distance of nearly one-third of a mile. VooDoo Skyline is slated to operate seven days a week from noon to midnight. Pricing and other details have not been announced.

ATLANTIC CITY

‘Separate Checks, Please’
Couponing has become so popular, it even has its own shows on television, as well as frequent segments on the morning network news shows. It’s a lot easier to redeem a coupon at the grocery store, though, than it is at a Caesars casino in Atlantic City. In its latest effort to alienate players, depending on where you eat, Caesars is no longer allowing customers to combine their food credit coupons or those coupons from the Platinum and Diamond coupon books. Here’s the scoop:

>At Sammy D’s a friend and I were told that – in the future – we would have to get separate checks if we wanted to each use our weekly discount coupons. (The cashier made a “one time exception” but told us “they” were cracking down on this practice.)

>At 6ix a Bistro the day before two of us had no trouble paying one check with two coupons. The policy there – and at all Bally’s restaurants which accept these coupons – is one coupon per player; no separate checks required.

>At Luke Paladino another reader and his party were told that their $25 Diamond dining credit coupons were limited to one per table. Since there were three guests, they later relented and allowed the use of three coupons. [I subsequently confirmed that they would accept one per person.]

>At Scarduzio’s six of us each had a coupon – five Diamond coupons and a $100 Aspiration certificate – and there was no problem using these to pay one check.

>When I called the Atlantic Grill and Café Roma directly, I was told a party of two could use an unlimited number of coupons, but I got different information from another source at Caesars – one coupon per person per table.

>And, unless things have changed in less than a week, two of us each used a weekly dining credit coupon for one bill at Café Roma.

Confused? Me too. I’ve tried to get a definitive policy for Atlantic City, but this all came about too late in the month and I’ve already held up publication trying to get answers. More to the point, if these restrictions are going to be put into effect, why is this not printed on the coupons or why isn’t there some sort of notification either by the cashier or on the menu? (OK, the coupons have the generic disclaimer: “Restrictions may apply” but in previous years there never was a problem with combining coupons.

When the coupon books first came out several years ago I specifically recall asking if we could combine coupons or if we needed to request separate checks, and the response was a resounding “no”. It’s also not been the case on several occasions since the 2013 books were issued.) And why wait until a month before the current Diamond/Platinum coupons expire? Change the policy next year – assuming those coupons books don’t go the way of so many other perks. Changing policies without notifying your customers is not exactly A+ service – especially when you have email addresses for most of us. I generally have no problem agreeing that most front line employees at Caesars casinos in

Atlantic City give me A+ service, but I can’t say as much for management and these ridiculous policies. Also does the extra time and cost of asking servers to prepare separate checks, and the extra time and cost of processing these checks really do anything for the bottom-line? What is to be gained by this policy? Whether there are separate checks or not, two (or more) coupons are still going to be redeemed, so what is the logic behind this stupid policy? Maybe if all of us start asking for single tables and separate checks, management will see the folly in this – especially when they start losing money by wasting valuable dining “real estate” with singles occupying tables that could accommodate parties of two or four.

Film Flam
It all started with a text from a friend whose husband was being charged by Harrah’s for viewing seven movies during his stay. As a Seven Stars cardholder he was used to viewing unlimited complimentary in-room films during his visits to Atlantic City. No longer, he was advised at check-out – information that was confirmed by his host. It’s now four films per visit, not just per night. An investigative reporter at heart, I happened to be at Harrah’s the next day and asked about this at check-in. No, I was told, it’s unlimited. “I just checked out a guest who had more than seven movies on his bill and there was no charge.” Confused, I asked my own host. She told me there was a limit of $45 per day. Now, even more befuddled, I called VIP Check-In. No, it’s unlimited, the voice on the phone said. This prompted calls and emails to the other three casinos. Here’s what I was told:

  • Bally’s – By a host, $45 per day credit; by VIP Check-In, unlimited.
  • Caesars – By VIP Check-In, unlimited. (A text to a host was not answered.)
  • Showboat – By VIP Check-In, unlimited. (An email to a host was not answered.)

So, what’s the policy? Apparently, no one can agree. My advice, if this Seven Stars benefit is important to you, ask at check-in and get the employee’s name. (By the way, I’m not publishing them, but I have names to back-up all the information I’ve just documented.)

Squeeze Play
Caesars continues to squeeze every last cent out of its customers. In addition to early check-in fees – from which Seven Stars, Diamond and Platinum cardholders are exempt, Harrah’s and Showboat are now charging some players extra to choose in which tower they reside – even if they’re staying in a comp room. (Again, Seven Stars and Diamond cardholders are exempt.) At Showboat one Sunday, a Bourbon Tower room was an additional $60. The desk clerk told the customer, “The orders came from Las Vegas to charge these fees.”

Management Shake-Up
While there’s good news below about employees who are leaving their positions in Atlantic City to start new businesses, and others are getting promotions, I and many others were saddened to hear that Caesars and Harrah’s Vice President of Marketing Jim Byrnes is no longer with the company. Jim is a great guy, was very visible to customers, returned calls and responded to emails in a timely manner, and always managed to greet you by name when he saw you. He will be missed.

PNC ATM MIA
I haven’t been there to confirm it, but I’ve been told that the convenient PNC ATM at the Pier Shops is gone.

Let There Be Light. . .Show!
Boardwalk Hall has once again been transformed into the canvas for a new 3D musical light show which opened last month. This is the third such show to dazzle audiences in Atlantic City. Be sure to go see it.

Let There Be Flight. . .Show!
Don’t forget, the Atlantic City Airshow is June 26 – a Wednesday this year. Be prepared for crowds and traffic. Missing this year due to the Federal government sequester will be the centerpieces of previous years’ shows – the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds and the U.S. Army Golden Knights. This means, too, that the show will be considerably shorter – about 3-1/2 hours, down from last year’s six. Civilian performers apparently cost more than those from the military so budget restraints mean fewer “acts”.

Questioning The Wisdom Of Pearls
The new Pearl Lounge at Revel opened last month. I attended the opening May 10 as a member of the media – I do not have a Pearl card to gain access on my own. Unfortunately, the Lounge looks like the after-thought it was. Stuck in a rear corner of Revel’s new high-limit slot area, the two rooms are cramped and a bit claustrophobic. There’s a small bar in the room where you enter, and an even smaller room that looks like it was carved out of a utility closet, fabric draping some of the walls, looking suspiciously like it’s covering something unsightly. [Revel’s decorating philosophy seems to be, when in doubt drape; its Revel player’s card “office” has yards of black fabric on the walls, giving the impression that this might be a temporary location, but it’s not.] Opening night, the “buffet” had two hot offerings: some sort of pasta and sliced flatiron steak served out of silver chafing dishes. Clearly Revel doesn’t intend for guests to consume a full meal – which is fine. [I’m in the minority, but I think that’s the mistake that Caesars and Harrah’s Seven Stars Lounges made; these were never meant to be full service restaurants, but players don’t seem to have embraced that.] If the meager food offerings don’t discourage you, the tightly spaced collection of small tables provides no incentive to linger. It has all the ambience of a 1960s basement rec room. The lounge is open exclusively to Pearl cardholders (similar to Seven Stars) Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays; and to Beach members (similar to Diamond cardholders) Mondays through Thursdays – if they have host approval or earn 20 Resort Dollars! There is no charge for admittance. It is open from noon to 8 p.m. Mondays to Thursdays, noon to 4 a.m. Fridays, 10 a.m. to 4 a.m. Saturdays, and 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sundays. After 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays the buffet features only pastries and fruit; and Saturdays and Sundays, a continental breakfast is served.

BALLY’S

A Tip Of The Toque
Chef Joseph Muldoon has left The Reserve to open his own restaurant in Northfield, N.J. [More on this next month.]

CAESARS

Promotions Supervisor

Gets A Promotion Special Events & Promotions Supervisor Donata Caloiero has left Caesars to become the new Special Events manager at Harrah’s Phoenix Ak-Chin.

HARRAH’S RESORT

Developing Executive

She was always a pro at developing great customer relations, but former Seven Stars Lounge Supervisor and casino host Alisa Hammill is now officially a Customer Development Executive. Congratulations! SHOWBOAT

Spaaahh Offer
Through the end of June, use your $100 quarterly Seven Stars spa credit at Vive and get a facial or a massage for $99. Call (609) 343-4118 for details and any restrictions.

Earl Of Sand-Bitch

Since I was staying in the Bourbon Tower one night last month I decided to try the Earl of Sandwich for breakfast rather than making the trek to Crossroads or Johnny Rockets. Big mistake! My “Breakfast BLT” was more “L” [lettuce] than anything else. The bread overwhelmed the taste of the tiny scraps of bacon and two slices of Roma tomato that were about the size of a quarter. To make matters worse, it took three different customers to point out that the self-serve coffee was depleted, and nearly 10 minutes to brew another dispenser. A friend had the ham, cheese and egg sandwich, and the egg was about as thin as a coin, and the “cheese” appeared to have been painted on. And, once again, the bread overwhelmed the taste of everything else. It looked nothing like the Egg McMuffin-ish poster above the counter. In full disclosure, I responded to an online survey I saw on the receipt and the general manager called me within 24 hours. He didn’t exactly disagree with my assessment, but said the sandwiches were made to “corporate standards” and that I probably would like the sandwiches at lunch better.

HARRAH’S PHILADELPHIA

Booting Them Out
Congratulations to Harrah’s for starting to enforce illegal parking in its self-park garage! Last month I saw a piece of paper on the window of an illegally parked car telling the owner that his license plate had been recorded, and any further violation would result in towing or booting. Let’s hope they actually enforce this.

Changes At The Cove
The Cove will be closed from June 2 to 6, reopening June 7 – only for Seven Stars and Diamond cardholders – with a new menu and a better-trained staff. (Are they really going to turn down paying customers just because they don’t have a Seven Stars or Diamond card?) The restaurant will reopen to the general public June 8. Frankly, in my opinion, the Cove has not been very good since manager Michael DiTomassi left and some new chefs took over the kitchen. Apparently, several regular customers were invited to some tastings and asked for their suggestions in improving the menu. Let’s hope for the best.

Telephone Tag
I’m not sure how many people Harrah’s Philadelphia and The Cove are irritating (and how much business they might possibly be losing), but at 5:45 p.m. June 1 I called the casino’s toll-free number (866-554-5590). After listening to my voicemail options I pressed the one for restaurant reservations. This took me to some centralized Caesars Entertainment reservation line which I didn’t want because I needed some specific information about the restaurant and wanted to speak with someone who actually works in The Cove. I called back, waited until I heard the last option (speak to an operator) and asked for The Cove. The operator put me through to that same centralized reservation number. I asked my question, but the individual didn’t know – which I suspected would happen; however, he came back on the line and gave me a “direct number” to the restaurant (484-490-1816). I got another recording giving me the restaurant hours, and the option of leaving my name and number to make a reservation, plus the option to make a reservation during restaurant hours by calling 484-482-3615. Calling that number I got yet another recording – a Sprint mailbox that went directly to voicemail. Sorry, folks, this is totally unacceptable.

CAESARS WINDSOR

Workin’ At The Car Wash, Girl
“I got this offer and thought it was a joke. This is what Caesars Windsor has resorted to in lieu of their constant weekly $15 gift give-away. They are now offering an $8 to $10 car wash/tire detail and vacuum to their Seven Stars cardholders. In other words, they finally ran out of cheap merchandise to give away. For U.S. residents, in order to take advantage of this you would have to pay the $9.50 Canadian/U.S. toll to come across the border, not to mention the drive time, crossing time and border guards.”

GENERAL

Game Peace
While all the craziness is now over with the Wheel Of Fortune Millionaire Maker Sweepstakes, if you were one of the 20 $50,000 winners, you still have until June 7 to claim your prize. If you missed any of the shows, winning phrases may be found at http://www.wheeloffortune.com/minisites/millionairemaker/. I guess I really didn’t pay much attention until the first “Wheel Of Fortune” television show when I saw that only two $50,000 prizes would be given out each night. How much better it would have been to give 10 $1,000 prizes each night, and forget about the trip to Las Vegas and the extra $1 million – or better yet, add the million dollars to the prize pool and give even more during each broadcast. With so few chances to win, it’s not much incentive to collect game pieces. I’ll read the rules and regulations more carefully next time.

Seems Like It Was Just Summer 2012
What happened to the fall and winter issues of Total Rewards magazine? If you access the publication online (http://www.totalrewards.com/emagazine/), there’s a gap between the Summer 2012 edition and the Spring 2013 issue.

Total Rewards Phone App
I and many others are waiting for the powers-that-be to update the Total Rewards mobile phone app so we can enter our username to access our records – just like we do on the Web site. Both of these should be seamless and identical. I have a horrible memory for numbers and couldn’t tell you my account number for $1 million, but I do know my username.

Research Tanked
I know I’m not the only one who received this email from Total Rewards: Please Take Our Quick Survey About Special Casino Events You’ve Participated In. Problem was, I couldn’t access it because I needed a password – which I never received. More curious about the contents of the survey than actually wanting to complete it, I emailed a contact at Total Rewards and got this response: “The person needs to allow for pop-ups in order for the ID to populate” (which I had). An alternative was to put my TR account number in the space where it asked for my password. (If my TR number was the same as my password, why not just ask me to type in my account number in the first place?)

Anyway, once I started responding, I came to a series of questions about the Great Gift Wrap Up. However, it was a little difficult to answer because the dates and locations for the 2012 event were incorrect:

The 2012 events were held November 8-12 at Flamingo and November 29-December 3 at Caesars Palace. How many people must have approved this, yet no one bothered to double-check the dates and locations? Once I pointed this out, my reply was: “We will be re-deploying the survey to those that took the survey.” I keep wondering how many people responded to the original survey, not bothering to check the dates. How accurate can a survey like this be?

Follow-Up: The survey was revised, but once I got to the Great Gift Wrap Up questions again, my only option was to give my opinions on the event held at Caesars Palace. Problem was. . .I went to the one at Flamingo, so once again, I was stonewalled and could go no further. I wrote back to the person I was corresponding with at Total Rewards, but, to date, I’ve yet to receive a re-revised survey.

Moving Violations
From a reader: “I couldn’t agree more about having to work extra hard to earn points for the Millionaire game, bonus tiers, etc. If they’re going to give you something, then just give it. I go to Harrah’s Philadelphia and you have to run all over the place. I feel bad for the elderly and physically challenged individuals. Especially if your name is called for a drawing and you have like seven minutes to get through the crowds. At other casinos, once your card is in it’s activated for a drawing. I missed out on a lot of entries for the Millionaire promotion because I didn’t get there until after 8 p.m.”

Circle Of Life
In early May I got the invitation to participate in the Caesars Circle I wrote about last month. To see what it was looking for, I took the survey, but never submitted it. Among the questions asked were about my bar/club-going habits, how I feel about casinos/gaming, my sexual orientation, my annual income, my race and gender, my age, my feelings on paying to upgrade to a higher tier level, whether I belong to any hotel, airline or dining loyalty programs, would I like to convert my Total Rewards credits into airline miles, and have I ever posted to a blog or written a restaurant, hotel or product review. Those of you who signed up, if you’re willing, please share your experiences – oh, I forgot, you can’t because of the rules and regulations you agreed to.

Host Chat
Last month I gained a much greater appreciation for the life of a casino host – er, excuse me, player development executive. While visiting my host in his office at a competing Atlantic City casino, in less than 10 minutes his phones (office and cell) rang no less than 10 times. He apologized and took a couple of the calls, but most went to voicemail. (And, who knows how many emails and texts he may have received in that same time frame?) After watching him in action, it’s amazing more doesn’t fall through the cracks. It’s an incredible balancing act, so I hope you’ll keep that in mind next time you contact your host with some special request.

Tier Ducked
Total Rewards is missing a real educational and promotional opportunity by not recognizing players as they pass through the various tier levels. So many people are confused by the benefits at each level – check out this video as a prime example that a simple email or letter needs to come from Joshua Kanter, Gary Loveman or someone of that status not only recognizing each achievement (Platinum, Diamond, etc.), explaining the benefits and how to collect them, and then encouraging players to advance to the next level. [“You only need only ‘X-number’ of additional tier credits to attain ‘X-status’ where you then will receive. . . .”]

Maybe if Total Rewards would focus more on its base program instead of trying to partner with floral delivery services, energy providers and other non-gaming activities, it could provide some real service to its loyal players rather than inundating and confusing them with so many offers and opportunities that have nothing to do with Caesars Entertainment’s primary reason for being.

Value-Subtracted Benefits
Is it just me, but, in terms of dollar value, doesn’t the Level I Experience seem to be worth more than some of the later ones?

Churning Earnings
The more I thought about Caesars new policy of not awarding cashback and tier credits on free play – still to be implemented in Atlantic City and other locations, the more I realized that, indeed, a certain group of people are going to be more affected than others. Frequently, I hear from individuals who wait for multiplier days, then cash in their Reward Credits for free play rather than using them for food, spa treatments, etc. (The new conversion benefit – especially for Seven Stars – makes this even more appealing.) They then use this free play to earn more comps and tier credits, achieving status levels with a smaller outlay of cash than others. Pretty tricky. . .and pretty smart!

Seven Brides For One Brother
Someone on one of the many Internet message boards out there posed the question, “Why is it called Seven Stars?” According to Wikipedia – and we all know how much we can trust that information, “[William] Harrah had seven wives in his lifetime. The highest Total Rewards card tier ‘Seven Stars’ was named after his seven wives.” My guess is that it goes back to the Harrah’s logo with its seven stars, but, perhaps, it’s those stars that represent Harrah’s wives. In any event, last month I contacted Total Rewards for an explanation, but, so far, no one has bothered to respond.

Question Of The Month
You’ve referred to it, and I’ve heard others: What’s RFB? Good question. Originally, I was going to define it, but figured everyone knew. Lesson learned. Don’t assume. RFB is room, food and beverage. Others sometimes are coded LFB – “limited food and beverage”. As a convenience to players of a certain level staying in the hotel, Total Rewards casinos will just automatically deduct directly from your Reward Credits any eligible room charges. With LFB, that limitation refers just to “casual restaurants” (like Café Roma at Caesars in Atlantic City), as opposed to the “fine dining” or “gourmet” restaurants (like The Reserve at Bally’s Atlantic City). A lot of people think this means that the casino will comp these charges, but, actually, they’re just taking comp dollars you’ve already earned and applying them to your bill. It’s no different than if you give your player’s card directly to your server (or a cashier). They first use what you’ve already earned, then when that’s gone, it’s up to a host to decide if they will further comp your charges. Also, where applicable, the RFB designation means you may not be charged taxes and other fees, or the taxes and fees will be picked up with your Reward Credits. (Note, comp dollars cannot be used for gratuities or, where applicable, taxes – which in most jurisdictions are waived when you use comp dollars.) Check your monthly eStatements to see what’s been taken out of your account. I also make a note of my Total Rewards balance when I begin a trip, retain all my receipts, then check my new balance at the conclusion of a trip – just to see how much I’ve earned (both tier credits and comp dollars).

Survey Says. . .
I was lucky enough to attend two Seven Stars Renewal events last month, so I asked you to tell us about your experiences. Apparently, the only events took place in Atlantic City, Philadelphia and Laughlin, because I heard from no one outside those areas.

“The party [at Harrah’s] was awful! I was able to bring two guests because of all the empty seats. Food – ugh! Band – ugh! Prizes – ugh! I was sorry I wasted a weekend this way.”

“We thought the dinner [at Bally’s] was very good, but we also had many no shows. Our table had only two other people. The table next to us had two people total. We had Robin Leach, not Mario Lopez.”

“I attended the Seven Stars Renewal at Showboat. It was OK, but nothing that special, though I think they made an effort. The band was fine and the food was OK for me too. They had filet mignon and shrimp for an entree. All steaks were cooked the same – it was actually the way I like it. Baked Alaska was good. Robin Leach gave out 10 $1,000 cash prizes. Soon after the drawing pretty much people started to leave, as did I. I was, however, surprised at how some people dress, while I did wear jeans and a nice shirt, I was surprised that I saw only one man wearing a jacket, other than the Caesars staff. I guess I should get used to everyone dressing down. One would think that people who can spend at least $1 million could up their attire for a couple hours.”

“The Showboat Seven Stars dinner was actually one of their best events. The food was very good. Robin Leach was the surprise guest.”

“I attended both [Harrah’s Resort in Atlantic City and Harrah’s Philadelphia].and the Philadelphia event was much better. Also, those Diamond coupon books are much better than what we got.”

“Harrah’s Laughlin gave you a choice of two bags by Cutter and Buck. My wife loved hers. At dinner, the appetizer was some type of salmon that I found a little spicy. Next was spinach salad with hot bacon dressing. The main course was a nice sized filet with a very large lobster tail – this was great. The dessert was bananas foster (very, very good). For me everything was great with the exception of the salmon. My wife loved the whole dinner. It was a very nice weekend!”

This Month’s Survey
If someone asked you to recommend the best place to take their annual Seven Stars retreat, what would you recommend? Why? Send me an e-mail (sevenstarsinsider@gmail.com) and I’ll share your thoughts – anonymously, of course.

Darryl D. McEwen, Publisher
Seven Stars Insider

Neither Seven Stars Insider nor http://www.sevenstarsinsider.com is affiliated in any way with Caesars Entertainment or Total Rewards®

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

Tweet me @eastcoastgamblr

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 – May 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.

Las Vegas

Show Ticket Update
In response to his inquiry about why free show tickets no longer were being distributed to eligible players in Las Vegas, one reader received a response from Total Rewards claiming that ticket offers now would be based on play, and sent directly to individual players. Other than the tickets offered under the former system, this always has been the case. Problem is that many times the show ticket offers are for dates when you aren’t in town. In March I had an offer for Jersey Boys tickets, but it didn’t go into effect until three days after my already previously scheduled departure. I asked my host for an exception, but he wouldn’t budge – despite the fact that it was opening night and there were plenty of available seats when I went to the box office. I just refused to pay the ridiculously inflated ticket prices when I can see the same show on Broadway for one fourth the cost.

Atlantic City

Mea Culpa: I’ve Seen The Light
I’ve been en-light-ened. Last month I erroneously reported that the lights remained on at Caesars and Bally’s after a news release touted that the casinos would participate in Earth Hour. Turns out the lights I saw were necessary for safety and security reasons, and all four of Caesars casinos in Atlantic City participated to the best of their ability. I thought my observation had been confirmed by a front page story in the Press of Atlantic City, but that article was incorrect, as well. I guess you can’t always believe everything you read in the papers! My apologies to Caesars executives – and especially the hard-working Facilities Engineers who made it happen.

June Signature Event
Considering this event is scheduled to begin June 14, it’s not yet been “officially” announced. What is everyone waiting for? [There is still nothing on the Total Rewards Web site other than June 2012 and the fact that it will be held in Atlantic City.] West Coast players already are complaining that airfare prices continue to climb, but they’re uncomfortable making firm plans until they see something in writing. In terms of specific events, there will be an opening night party June 14 at The Pool over at Harrah’s, Bally’s will host parties on its deck Friday and Saturday, and Diana Ross will be the featured entertainment for your choice of concerts Friday or Saturday. You’ll have the opportunity to multiply your Rewards Credits by seven on June 14 and 18, as well as play throughout the weekend to earn Caesars gift cards.

Food and Wine Festival
The Atlantic City Food and Wine Festival has been scheduled for July 26-29. Among the celebrity chefs already confirmed are Robert Irvine, Tom Colicchio and Anne Burrell. Foodies who can’t wait should consider The Taste of Revel May 18-20, presented by Food & Wine and Travel + Leisure.

Wires
If you wire money to any of the four Atlantic City casinos, note that some of the routing numbers have changed. Check with a Credit Executive for details. I don’t know if other regions or casinos are also affected.

A New Gold Standard
I was fortunate enough to attend the VIP opening reception at the Golden Nugget last month – the same night as the Seven Stars Celebrations around town. What an outstanding job the crew there did! Taking advantage of the fourth floor space surrounding the atrium, planners had all of the Golden Nugget’s restaurants develop a tasting station of menu samplings. Each was better than the next! Even if you never plan to play or stay at Golden Nugget, do yourself a favor and take a look at the place – especially if you knew it as Trump Marina. You won’t recognize it. In particular, don’t miss the H2O pool deck with its fire pits, cabanas and outdoor bar. Once word gets out, I think this will become the place to hang out this summer. Back at Caesars, I couldn’t contain my enthusiasm over the Golden Nugget, telling everyone from managers to servers about my experience. Kudos to each and every Caesars and Bally’s employee who had nothing but praise for the Golden Nugget, noting it will only be a positive influence on the entire city. Thanks for “taking the high road” and not knocking the competition! This says a lot about Caesars employee training.

Bally’s

‘Dealertainers’ Coming To AC
Taking a cue from what I must assume is successful in Las Vegas, Bally’s is hiring entertainers who look – and sound like – celebrities to do double duty as dealers on the casino floor. I witnessed a couple of these “dealertainers” at the Imperial Palace, and I hope their dealing skills were better than their singing voices.

Caesars

Celebration Exasperation
“Disappointing.” “What were they thinking?” “This is how they treat their ‘best’ customers?” Within hours – and in one case, minutes – after the last Cadillac lease was announced, my inbox started filling up with comments about the Seven Stars Celebration April 28. I walked in around 8 p.m. and – loud (make that, very loud!) music notwithstanding – I thought I was attending a funeral, not a celebration. People were sitting around looking pretty bored, just cooling their heels until the door prizes were announced at 8:30. No one I spoke with liked the food. [I hardly touched the food because I had just come from the reception at Golden Nugget (see above), but what I did try was not very good and not very appetizing. Plus, I had a 9 o’clock reservation at Arturo’s.] Part of the problem, too, was that no one really knew what to expect. “What’s a ‘cocktail soiree’?” Turns out it was a fancy name used as an excuse for not serving a decent sit-down dinner. And what was the point of having a dance band if you’re not going to have a dance floor? There was plenty of space. . .and at least it might have brought some much needed energy to the room. Related to the celebration was an extra large bottle of Belvedere vodka left in our rooms. What if you don’t drink vodka, or what if you don’t drink at all? Since it was stamped with the Seven Stars logo, you can’t even give it as a gift. Most people I talked to would have preferred a Macy’s or Best Buy gift card, or even some free play coupons. All in all, this was not one of the best efforts from a team that usually produces some of the highest quality events in town.

Showboat

Boatload Of Changes
Canal Street Bread & Sandwich Co. – After closing May 5, I’ve been told the space will reopen with an outside vendor. My guess is that means another venue which will accept Total Rewards comp dollars, but probably at a 2:1 ratio. I hope I’m wrong; that would leave no place for players to grab a quick sandwich, salad, dessert or other snack without paying double – or being forced into a sit-down situation.

Mansion Cafe – After the Mansion closes May 13, the House of Blues will become a 24-hour operation. Space currently occupied by the Mansion is expected to be turned into meeting space for groups.

Vive Day Spa & Salon Offers Seven Stars Special
During the month of May 2012, show your Seven Stars card and mention “Seven Stars Insider” to get these special savings:

Seasonal Cocktail Facial
This unique limited edition facial treatment incorporates the purest ingredients from each season’s harvest. Packed with antioxidants to help restore and brighten skin ravaged by the season. Enjoy a new melody of ingredients every six months. Previous seasonal treatments include Melon & Mint, Ginger & Tangerine and Green Tea & Honey. $99 (regular $135)

Women’s Haircut, Blow Dry & Finish

$50 (regular $85)

Harrah’s Philadelphia

What’s In A Name?
As reported last month, Harrah’s Chester has rebranded itself as Harrah’s Philadelphia. According to a message on the inside cover of this month’s coupon book, “We’re proud to announce that Harrah’s Chester is now the all-new Harrah’s Philadelphia,” writes Senior Vice President and General Manager Ron Baumann. [Now, someone should tell the folks who maintain the Total Rewards Web site and iPhone app. Harrah’s Chester, not Harrah’s Philadelphia, is still listed.]

Seven Stars Celebration Dinner
Perhaps the staff at Harrah’s can give some pointers to the folks in Atlantic City when it comes to recognizing Seven Stars cardholders. Earlier last month, Harrah’s Philadelphia hosted a lovely cocktail reception with a raw bar and other hors d’ouevres, followed by a sit-down dinner that featured a delicious salad, a “surf-and-turf” entrée [shrimp and perfectly cooked filet] and a lavish dessert. While there were no Cadillac leases, there was a drawing for a trip and some free play, and everyone left with a $25 Macy’s gift card, $100 in free play and a collapsible insulated picnic hamper. Very nice. Too bad the next event there wasn’t quite as successful. . . .

Thursday Becomes Fry-day
Apparently there’s no shortage of oil in Philadelphia. At last month’s TR Insider “Cocktails and Conversation” nearly all the “food” accompanying the cocktails was breaded and fried: fried shrimp, fried chicken, fried chicken stuffed with cheese, fried cheese – even fried green beans! The one exception was something baked in a pastry that was totally indistinguishable and tasteless. Perhaps, more accurately, it should have been called “Cocktails and Cholesterol” or “Cocktails and Calories”. Did I miss something, or is Paula Deen the new executive chef there? Come on, folks, how about something a little more tasty, healthful – and creative?

Tip On Tipping
Comp dollars may no longer be used for gratuities at Harrah’s. For a long time – to the best of my knowledge – [then] Harrah’s Chester was the only Total Rewards casino that allowed you to use comp dollars for server gratuities.

General

September Signature Event
While the official dates have yet to be announced, let’s hope planners don’t select the weekend that ends on September 16. Rosh Hashanah begins at sunset that Sunday and it might be difficult for some East Coast attendees to get home from Las Vegas in time. Two years ago, the fall Signature Event began on the last day of Rosh Hashanah, one of the holiest days on the Jewish calendar, and many players were not happy about the scheduling. And, speaking of scheduling. . .again, what’s the big secret, folks? September is only four months away and there are people who like to plan their schedules in advance.

Call ’em What They Are: Comp Dollars
It’s nice to see that Caesars is using the term “Tier Credits” (instead of “Base Rewards Credits”) to more accurately reflect those points players earn each year to qualify for the various card levels, e.g., Platinum, Diamond, etc. Now, I wish they would consider dumping “Rewards Credits” (or “Reward Credits” – it shows up both ways depending on where you look). It’s like traveling to a foreign country and having to calculate U.S. dollars into some other currency. Just give us the total amount of comp dollars we have in our accounts. In Atlantic City (and I think Las Vegas), this number pops up when you swipe your card at a kiosk. You get your tier score and the amount of comp dollars available. However, sign on to the TR Web site and you get your tier score, plus that “inflated” Rewards Credits number. What also gets confusing is when you see a sign that says: “Guests will be charged 1,000 Rewards Credits for admission to the Diamond Lounge”. How many players know that this is $10 (in comp dollars)? Or that ridiculous birthday promotion – “Get up to 50,000 Rewards Credits by earning up to 5,000 Base Rewards Credits [now Tier Credits] in a gaming day”. Though 50,000 Rewards Credits sounds like a lot, it’s actually $50. Considering that, to earn one Tier Credit, it takes $5 “coin-in” ($10 with video poker), you’d have to put $25,000 through the slots ($50,000 for video poker). That’s not much of a gift, or a bonus. Borgata in Atlantic City has one of the easiest systems to understand. Every comp dollar you earn equals one tier point.

Still Not App-licable
There’s finally a new Total Rewards app for the iPhone, but it’s not very user-friendly or helpful. Since it’s actually a new app, if you have the old My TR app you won’t get any notification to update it; just delete My TR and go to the App Store and search for Total Rewards. You’ll need your Total Rewards account number to sign-in. Though it sometimes offers the option of using the new username you had to create to access the Web site, that log-in page will not accept upper and lower case letters, so you have to use your account number. Once you’re online about the only useful information available is your current tier score and Total Rewards credits. Clicking on various links sends you to pages that – in most cases – are not yet available, are inaccurate, incomplete or useless. A couple examples: On the Caesars Atlantic City page, clicking on “Senator Suite” tells you, “Experience the Empire as it was meant to be. Appreciate true indulgence when you retire to a Caesars Senator Suite.” [Huh?] Click on “Standard Room/Classic” and you learn, “Our classic rooms offer 1 King or 2 Double beds. At Caesars we plan to make your stay a friendly one.” [Gee, most hotels I stay in offer a choice of a king or two double beds. How about some of the amenities? How large are these rooms?] Interested in the “Dinner & Giada Show”? Click and learn, “Giada DeLaurentis show and dinner.” [How about a date, a time, the cost and some details?] On the Bally’s Atlantic City site there is a reference to a restaurant that’s no longer open; and clicking on the rooms tab gives you a mixture of sleeping rooms and meeting rooms. Unless Bally’s is planning overnights in its ballrooms, keep the meeting space and accommodations separate.

Rumor Control
Don’t always believe everything you read on some of the message boards and blogs. Last month someone wrote that she was told by employees at Paris and Flamingo that her play at Harrah’s Philadelphia, nee Chester, and in Atlantic City wouldn’t count toward getting offers from Las Vegas. Suspicious – because I don’t play in Vegas as much as I used to, but the offers continue to pour in, I contacted a senior executive at Caesars who said this was absolutely false. Granted, part of this may be Caesars fault for perhaps not educating their employees, but, on the other hand, these could be employees who misunderstood something they heard or read, or maybe they were disgruntled employees who decided to take it out on a customer.

New At The Top
According to paperwork filed in late March, M. Tariq Shaukat has been named Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer of Caesars Entertainment. Mr. Shaukat comes to Caesars from McKinsey & Co., a global management consulting firm.

From The In-Box
Some Caesars executives seem to think I make up comments from my fellow players because they rarely hear from anyone directly. Want to know why? I can’t tell you how many people are scared of “retaliation” – they actually believe that, if they complain about something, somehow Caesars will withdraw offers, hotel stays, free play, etc., or, worse, code their player’s cards so they don’t win as much. I hope everyone knows this is not true – and would be illegal (or, in the case of suppressing wins, not even possible). However, starting this month, I’m going to reprint some of the e-mails I receive which I think might reflect not only opinions expressed by the writer, but also of many others I talk to on a regular basis:

“Both Harrah’s [Resort in Atlantic City] and Caesars [in Atlantic City] seem to be replacing many of their slot machines with the new digitized versions. I really do not like them, as they’re just big piggy banks. By the way, I stopped at the new Golden Nugget and played for a few hours. Surprisingly, after four hours I had accumulated almost $70 in comps! (That would take me days at Caesars or Harrah’s.) And, their cashback is immediate so you can download it right into the slot machine you are playing. How’s that for convenient? I’ve always hated those damn coupons with specific days on them. And, I notice that they aren’t sending as many as they did in the past.”

“I had three coupons valid yesterday. However, I’m curious. One went right in the machine; one had to be taken to the cage to get Reel Rewards to put in the machine; and one was for cash, which found its way into the machines. Why not make them all work the same way?”

Survey Results: ‘How would you have changed Total Rewards?’
If you’d been in charge of changing/updating the Total Rewards program, what – if anything – would you have done? Here are a few of the responses I received (several people sent in similar suggestions):

I would have asked for feedback from players before announcing any changes to the program. It would have been amazing the valuable suggestions and feedback they might have received.
I would increase the tier points needed to become a Diamond cardholder from 11,000 points to 40,000 or 50,000 points. There is too much of a gap between Diamond and Seven Stars. Make getting Diamond status worth something.
For Seven Stars cardholders, I would waive fees, such as that room assessment fee and comp fee in Atlantic City.
For all Total Rewards members who may travel to different casinos and not be particularly loyal to one property, why not reward them a small Rewards Credit bonus annually once they visit five different properties or a greater number of RCs if they visit 10 different properties. Because of my business travel, sometimes I visit a variety of properties, and I’m penalized for not being loyal 90 percent of the time to one particular property. (This is reflected in the offers I receive, compared to what some of my friends receive.)

Survey: ‘Did you attend a Seven Stars renewal event? Your thoughts?’
I’ve already received lots of unsolicited feedback on last month’s Seven Stars Celebrations in Atlantic City. Here are some examples:

“Thought I’d offer some comments on the Seven Stars Cocktail Party this weekend. . .the one at Bally’s was interesting. The food preparation was led by The Reserve Executive Chef Joseph Muldoon and was consistently good throughout. The party theme of Mission: Escape was odd given that car leases, not trips, were given away. The bottle of Belvedere vodka was over the top, too large to fit in my liquor cabinet, and the labeling of it as ‘Seven Stars’ renders it nonregiftable. I offered it to my housekeeper in lieu of a tip. Some people apparently offered their bottles to Boardwalk vagrants as I saw a homeless guy outside of Caesars drinking from one of those huge bottles. I hope he’s not found under the Boardwalk today suffering from alcohol overdose.”

“Just got back from the renewal weekend in Atlantic City. Some thoughts. . .the 7X comps on Friday was nice, the party on Saturday was underwhelming. The food was not very good – four stations with lots of odd selections: assorted hummus, terrible potato latkes, not enough places for people to sit and eat. The seven Cadillac leases and 10 $1,000 cash prizes awarded seemed a little cheap for the number of 7 Star guests. I would have liked to see more prizes spread around. Also, I realized at about 10 p.m. on Saturday night that I had not received the promised signature bottle of Belvedere vodka. It wasn’t handed out at registration, nor was it given out at the party. I called VIP Services to enquire and was told, ‘Oh, room service was supposed to deliver it to you.’ Well, they hadn’t, although the woman at VIP Services promised to have it sent up. Made me wonder what would have happened if I had not thought to call and try to track it down. Perhaps the people in room service would have ended up with a lot of extra mega-bottles of vodka. Seemed like a very poor method of distribution. Hopefully the lackluster weekend is not an indication of things to come in Caesars new Total Rewards program.”

“I attended the event last night at Harrah’s Resort in AC. Can these guys at Caesars Entertainment possibly get more cheap? Are you kidding me? What casino has ever given away vehicle leases – and for a lousy two years at that? Add to that poor gas mileage at a time when fuel prices are outrageous, hefty tax and insurance costs, and the fact that you are receiving something that has no lasting value at all. This has to go down as one of the most ill-conceived casino ‘gifts’ ever. I’m serious when I say that given a choice between $20 in free slot play and this lease, I’d choose the slot play. Talking with others last night, I found many others similarly unimpressed. I hold out hope that next year Caesars management will opt to step up their top prize by offering seven high mileage, used econoboxes with some front-end damage. At least you get to keep these cars, and the fuel, tax and insurance costs won’t kill you. Thanks for showing us once again how much you appreciate your best customers!”

I know there must have been similar events around the country. Did you attend one? What did you think? 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: Pulse of Las Vegas Blog

Seven Stars Insider – April 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.

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 and celebration dinner. While you’re at it, go ahead and select your annual gift – you’ll notice that the selection is much greater this year. However, who decided to arbitrarily categorize the gifts as “For Her” and “For Him”? Aren’t we well past the days when kitchen appliances are considered “feminine” and sports equipment and electronics are dubbed “masculine”?

Harrah’s New Orleans

Diamond LoungeChanges
A reader who just returned from New Orleans reports that there have been changes – for the better! – at the Diamond Lounge. The buffet has been replaced with a long couch, chair and coffee table, and there is now a printed menu. Choices included shrimp and prosciutto bruschetta, a red bean onion dip, alligator, crawfish and andouille sausage, international cheeses and prosciutto, mini muffaletta sandwiches, and fresh fruit with berries. In addition there are a few desserts. She also tried the new restaurant, Manning’s, across the street from the Grand Isle. Two standouts on the menu, she said, were the Gris Gris Duck Wings and the chicken and andouille sausage gumbo. Service was excellent, she added. Manning’s accepts Quick Rewards on a 1:1 basis, or you can charge meals to your room and settle the bill with your Total Rewards credits upon check-out.

Harrah’s St. Louis

Level II Experience Report
I thought you might enjoy this report from Seven Stars cardholder Tom Valledolmo. Overall, he and his wife had a very positive experience which he details in this report downloadable from his Web site: http://www.tomthebombpicks.com/uploads/St._Louis_Harrah_s_Trip_Report_3-27-12.pdf.

Lake Tahoe

Updates At Harrah’s and Harvey’s
Seven Stars cardholders who frequent Lake Tahoe were kind enough to send me these updates:
Harrah’s no longer has the Summit Restaurant on the 16th floor. There is now “The President’s Lounge at the Summit” – open to Diamond and Seven Stars cardholders from 4 to 7:30 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. There are two levels of seating with beautiful views of the lake. Between 4 and 6, there is a carving station (usually roast beef and ham), with breads, chips, soup, etc.; the Diamond Lounge off the casino floor serves only finger foods from 4 to 6. Also, unlike the Diamond Lounge, which is self-service, there are several servers to take drink orders.
Harvey’s Diamond Lounge is more seasonal. Open on Thursday or Friday through Sunday from 4 to 9 p.m., the Lounge serves food from 4 to 6 p.m. There is a little better selection than Harrah’s Diamond Lounge – usually hot dogs and sandwich type food.
There are a couple new food outlets at Harvey’s: Straw Hat Pizza (with free WiFi) has pizza, burgers and salads, and opens at 11 a.m. Sierra Deli also opens at 11. Both accept Total Rewards credits, but at a 2:1 ratio.
Free lift tickets for Seven Stars cardholders are no longer monthly, but are now limited to four per season.

Las Vegas

No More ‘Two For The Show’
Those free and discounted show tickets for Diamond, Platinum and Seven Stars cardholders are no longer available. Apparently this is just another “enhancement” to the “new” Total Rewards.

Caesars Palace

Seven Stars Registration ‘Down-Sized’
Like the lounge it shares with Diamond cardholders, the formerly exclusive Seven Stars Registration is now a Seven Stars/Diamond Registration. Inside there is a small office with two desks and a sign that says, “Seven Stars”. When it’s not busy, and there’s no need for a dedicated check-in area, that office is empty. The former Diamond Registration is now registration for guests booked in the Augustus or Octavius Towers. Hopefully, guests who don’t have Seven Stars or Diamond cards are alerted to this in advance – both to avoid frequent long lines at the main registration area and also to take advantage of the close-by valet parking (see below).

Octavius Tower Now Open
Though I was originally booked in the Augustus Tower for my annual Seven Stars trip last month, I asked for a room in the new Octavius Tower that opened in January. [According to promotional copy provided by Caesars (which I didn’t see until my return), the Tower is a “668-room exhibition in excess. Let us apologize in advance for ruining other hotels for you. Each and every room brings new definitions to the words extravagance and comfort. It is modern beauty, timeless luxury and boastful amenity all rolled into one. Rooms also feature. . .your very own iPad® or iPod Touch® application which allows you to communicate with hotel services.”] In hindsight, I should have stuck with my original reservation. Probably because it faced the Garden of the Gods pool complex, the room was very dark and seemed smaller than rooms I’ve had in the Augustus which looked out over the Bellagio fountains and Paris’ Eiffel Tower. Also, it would have been nice if someone had told me about those apps. And, while staying in any of Caesars’ towers requires a considerable bit of walking from check-in – even using the dedicated Seven Stars/Diamond registration in the Augustus Tower, it’s a hike to get back to the Octavius Tower. If you’re driving, and know in advance you’ll be staying in the Octavius (or Augustus) Tower, be sure to take advantage of the special VIP Valet on Flamingo Road. Those who need an early morning cup of coffee to get them started will have to pre-order the night before from Room Service. Unlike the Augustus Tower, there are no coffeemakers in the rooms and, while there is complimentary coffee at the Seven Stars/Diamond Registration (along with free newspapers), I’m not sure it’s worth the walk. The other alternative is to take the interior walkway that skirts the pool area and grab a light breakfast at Rao’s or Payard Patisserie & Bistro. Finally (as always seems to be my “luck”), I had a room with a broken toilet seat which was never repaired during my entire four-night stay, despite a call to Guest Services shortly after I checked in; in addition, the stopper was broken in one of the bathroom sinks. Also, I don’t think anyone has ever dusted the tops of the wall-mounted room number blocks or cleaned the vents in the bathrooms. Both were covered with dust. High marks, though, go to the bright lighting in the bathroom. As to all those other “luxuries” in the promos, it all seemed pretty standard to me. If you find yourself booked into the Octavius Tower I would ask for a low floor overlooking the pool area, or a high floor overlooking the Bellagio. Better yet, stick with the Augustus Tower, and leave the Octavius for those conventioneers who will have closer access to the meeting space.

Lost: Lost and Found
It took nearly three weeks and four phone calls, but I finally got back the electric toothbrush I inadvertently left behind in my room. I realized my goof about halfway back to the airport, and called Seven Stars registration once I cleared Security – about an hour after I had checked out. Within a few minutes, the clerk confirmed with Housekeeping that the toothbrush was there, and he transferred me to Lost and Found to make arrangements for its return – at no charge, he said, because I was a Seven Stars cardholder. No one answered the call, so I left the detailed message a recording requested. More calls, and more voicemails, and still no returned messages (or my toothbrush). Reluctant to get him involved – after all, it was my own stupidity that created this situation, I e-mailed my host with all the details and asked him to forward it to the appropriate department head. Less than 24 hours later, an administrative assistant to the Vice President of Security called me, apologizing for the lack of response and promising me the toothbrush would be shipped overnight. When I sent a thank you note to my host confirming that all was in order, he replied that – while not making excuses – Lost and Found is “swamped” with inquiries. Isn’t this a sign that some additional staffing might be necessary? I know every company is trying to save money by operating as lean and efficiently as possible, but when customer service suffers, it might be time to reassess those cutbacks.

O’Shea’s

Slán leat, O’Shea’s [Good Bye, O’Shea’s]
O’Shea’s will close next month and be demolished as part of the $550 million Project Linq development. Space currently occupied by O’Shea’s will become part of the reconfigured Imperial Palace, which will be given a new name and theme. As previously announced, Project Linq is an outdoor retail, dining and entertainment district to be built along a private street that separates the Flamingo and Imperial Palace, starting at the Strip and heading back to Audrie Street and Ida Avenue. The two streets will be converted from public to private streets. The centerpiece of Project Linq is a 550-foot-tall observation wheel. It’s expected to open next year.

Atlantic City

Insider Outsider
Even though I qualified as a TR Insider for the first quarter of 2012, I seemed to be the only one among a group of friends who wasn’t invited to a number of monthly Friday evening cocktail parties at Bally’s, Caesars and Harrah’s. Last month, since I was staying at Bally’s the evening of one of the parties – billed as “Cocktails and Conversation” – even though I wasn’t invited, I walked up to the registration table, gave the clerk my Seven Stars card and waited to see what would happen. After all, there was a big sign out front of the Blue Martini Bar indicating there was a TR Insider Party, I was an “Insider”, so how could they turn me away? Well, their computer was down so she just handed me a wristband and told me to come in and enjoy myself. I had only about 15 minutes before I was meeting friends at the Caesars Seven Stars Lounge, but I counted approximately 50 people at the party, and there was an open bar, some lovely passed hors d’ouevres, a carving station and some pasta on a small buffet. A week later I knew there was a similar party at Harrah’s. Again, since I was staying there (and, at the base of the escalator leading up to the ballroom, there was a similar sign about a TR Insider Party), I tried the same trick. No dice. “You’re not invited,” I was politely informed, and none of the three women was going to let me in. I explained that I had friends inside who were expecting me and that I had not been invited to any of these Friday night parties in January, February or March. The woman in charge of the event checked my record, verified that I was, indeed, an Insider, but couldn’t explain why I wasn’t getting the invitations. She agreed to do some research into why I wasn’t receiving them, finally (and reluctantly), giving me a wristband. Was it worth all the trouble? Not really. Sure, there were open bars, pasta and garlic bread, General Tso’s Chicken and fried rice, and a dessert station, but I could get all the free food and drink I wanted in the Seven Stars Lounge downstairs. What I did get was – I think – an explanation of what this whole TR Insiders thing is (at least in Atlantic City). If you qualify, you should be invited to a monthly cocktail reception at your “dominant casino” (the one you play at most frequently); in addition, there is a quarterly party at each of the four Caesars-owned casinos. During the first quarter of 2012, Caesars and Bally’s hosted slot and blackjack tournaments, there was a Carnival-themed party (as in those pre-Lenten festivals held in Rio and New Orleans) at Showboat, and an Olympics-themed party at Harrah’s. No word yet on what’s in store for April, May and June.

Light [No] Show
A news release touting its participation in Earth Hour – a “symbolic act [that] represents Caesars Entertainment’s commitment to reducing its carbon footprint on a global scale” – promised that all of its casinos would turn off exterior lighting Saturday evening. Showboat shut off its giant red marquees, but lights remained on at Caesars and Bally’s. I was inside Harrah’s so I don’t know whether its lights were on or off.

Don’t Expect A Revel-ution
Despite lots of threats from players – many who are dissatisfied Seven Stars cardholders, unless Revel makes changes to its player’s card program, I don’t expect much in the way of defection. Already, folks are grumbling over the fact that – like Wynn in Las Vegas – there will be only one level of player’s card. In other words, nothing like Caesars Gold, Platinum, Diamond and Seven Stars cards or Borgata’s Red Label, Black Label and Titanium cards. [“Everyone will be treated like a VIP,” said one Revel executive.] Also, Revel will have no dedicated player’s lounge like Caesars Diamond and Seven Stars Lounges, Trump’s and Golden Nugget’s Chairman’s Clubs, or Borgata’s Amphora Lounge and Society Club. Revel’s officials claim a lounge is unnecessary because of the casino’s generous comp policy, and the fact that all food and beverage outlets, the spa, etc., will be on a 1:1 basis, i.e., one comp dollar equals US$1. However, unless players are treated to some upfront “signing bonuses” or hosts divvy out lots of “discretionary comps”, I don’t see many players bellying up to the bar for premium cocktails and paying cash for them, let alone using their comp dollars. However, time will tell. After all, MGM’s casinos in Las Vegas don’t have anything like Caesars Diamond Lounges and it doesn’t seem to be hurting their business.

So, What’s It Like?
I had a tour of the Revel March 30, and it’s spectacular. The views alone from the large expanses of glass overlooking the ocean are worth the trip, as is the “sky garden” and just about every aspect of the hotel, casino, spa, restaurants and night club. Your Seven Stars (or Borgata Titanium) card will get you a host immediately and expedited service when it comes to signing up for a Revel player’s card, but that’s about it. There isn’t even a brochure detailing any benefits from the player’s card – which has no name, just “Revel” printed in black on a plain white card. I put more than $1,000 through a variety of slots at levels ranging from a penny to $1. After an hour of play, I walked away with $7 in “Resort Credits” [comp dollars] – not even enough to buy a decent drink at one of the bars.

‘Welcome Celebration’
The annual Seven Stars “Welcome Celebration” has been scheduled for April 27 and 28 – ironically, the same weekend as the Golden Nugget’s Grand Opening. Friday night each of the four Caesars casinos will give its Seven Stars cardholders a seven times Tier Credit multiplier, but the big event of the weekend is a 90-minute cocktail “soiree” Saturday. Invited guests also will receive a “commemorative bottle” of Belvedere® vodka. (A competing casino down the street gave out bottles of Belvedere a couple months ago as one of their standard weekly gifts – no major play required.) At each soiree, seven two-year leases on a 2012 Cadillac® CTS – along with additional cash prizes – will be given away. Aside from the tax implications – and, if I won, not even factoring in how much more I would spend on gas (I drive a Kia), my insurance would increase, and I’d be scared to death I’d cause some damage or exceed the maximum annual mileage. If Caesars is so committed to the environment (see above), why not give leases on a Prius or a Volt?

Diamond (and Platinum) Books Are A Player’s Best Friend
One of the more popular benefits for players in Atlantic City, these valuable coupon books will be distributed to Diamond cardholders on April 14 and 15 between noon and 6 p.m. Platinum cardholders can pick up their books from April 2 to 6; however, many of my Jewish friends – especially those who work fulltime and are unable to travel to Atlantic City during the week – feel that Caesars has been a bit insensitive to the fact that Passover begins at sunset on April 6, so they are unable to take advantage of a benefit they’ve earned. Since most Platinum cardholders probably don’t have a host, I would hope that Caesars makes some sort of special accommodation for those unable to pick up their books during the designated distribution dates.

ACES Not So Wild
The non-stop train service between Manhattan and Atlantic City – ACES (Atlantic City Express Service) – is no longer. Several factors led to the decision.

Marketing Test
I didn’t hear it personally – because I wasn’t invited, but at least three readers who attended a reception at One Atlantic told me that someone from Marketing said Caesars was purposely reducing offers to a “test group” of players to see if they would still come to Atlantic City and play. I think I must be part of the group because my “offers” have been reduced to practically nothing. And, yes, it’s affecting my play at Caesars casinos. But does it take a fancy marketing study to prove that?

Resorting To Additional Fees
How can Caesars casino hotels continue to say on their Web sites that they don’t have Resort Fees (see below) when – other than the Tropicana – they are the only hotels to charge more than the mandatory $5 per room night New Jersey State Occupancy Fee?

Call it what you will, but Caesars, Bally’s, Showboat and Harrah’s all are charging guests an additional $8 per room night (a $5 “Room Assessment Fee” and a $3 “Comp Room Fee”) — see below.

At least in Las Vegas when a hotel charges a Resort Fee it generally includes free Internet service, a free daily newspaper and even admission to the hotel’s fitness center. (And those staying in comped rooms generally have the resort fee waived, so it’s not an issue.) In Atlantic City Caesars is giving its guests nothing in return for this $8 additional charge – whether it’s paid in cash or taken out of comp dollars.

Bally’s

Clue®-less
Originally scheduled to promote the new Clue® slot machine (which still isn’t in operation yet at Bally’s or Caesars), the Murder Mystery Dinner Theater last month probably sounded like a good idea on paper. The Traymore Ballroom was cleverly decorated to evoke the interior of an English manor house; however, after about 20 minutes, the “theater” part just didn’t seem like it was going anywhere. Guests at our table were starting to talk among themselves, as were others in the room, so it was difficult to hear. Though we ate the salad (which was very good!), my friends and I left after about 20 minutes and ended up at The Reserve for an excellent dinner. “All’s Well That Ends Well!” Also, if Bally’s is going to use tickets under saucers to distribute a giveaway, make sure everyone understands that coffee cups are placed to the right of a diner. The man next to me grabbed the ticket under my coffee cup and claimed a Clue® board game for himself. It wasn’t worth arguing over, but had there been a more substantial prize, I might have become more contentious. In the future, Bally’s should consider a better system.

Wild Wild Guess
Just based on what I – and others – have been told by several Bally’s employees, look for a Dave & Buster’s, some retail shops, and maybe some additional food and beverage outlets to replace the slot machines currently “quarantined” behind temporary walls in the Wild Wild West.

Legends – Worth A Look
Though I’m not generally a fan of “tribute” shows, I must admit I was pleasantly surprised at the quality of both the performances and the production at Legends last month. The line-up of acts may change this month and next, but the cast I saw did an outstanding job, and the back-up dancers/singers deserve special credit for their enormous contribution. When they weren’t onstage dancing and singing their hearts out, they were backstage changing into yet another costume. Considering – other than comedy clubs at Tropicana and Borgata – there are so few shows during the week in Atlantic City, this is definitely one to check out.

Caesars

Friday Afternoon Meltdown
Be glad if you weren’t playing at Caesars the last Friday in March. Around 2 p.m. a “system” went down. Video poker and slot machines would not accept Fast Cash Tickets or Express Pay Coupons, and anyone cashing out from a machine had to wait for a hand pay – whether they were owed $500 or 15 cents. The lines at the main cashier were so long, I thought they were selling Mega Millions lottery tickets.

Harrah’s Resort

Difficult High Heels To Fill
While we’re happy about her promotion, we’ll miss Seven Stars Lounge Supervisor Alisa Hammill. During her years working in the lounge, she made it a point to get to know her customers, and treated everyone with dignity and respect. When the lounge was particularly busy, it was never beneath her to clean a table, take a cocktail order or deliver a plate of food. She also inspired great teamwork among her staff. Fortunately, she’ll remain at Harrah’s in another capacity, so let’s hope she won’t be a stranger.

Tipping Point
Unbelievable! That’s the only way I can describe my shock when a fellow Seven Stars cardholder grabbed a $5 tip from the bar at the lounge on a recent Friday night. The couple next to her had left and, when she thought I wasn’t looking, she took the bill and threw it in her purse. I told her what I saw, but she denied it. In an attempt to give her a chance to redeem herself, when Lou, the bartender, came to take my drink order, I said, “This nice lady was kind enough to take your tip so no one would steal it.” She just stared blankly ahead. A few minutes later she walked out, leaving her uneaten lobster roll and bowl of soup.

Sign Of The Times
Have you seen the sign on the casino floor promoting the American Idol slot machine? “The Vote’s Are In. This game is a winner!” Obviously, whoever designed – and approved – this never won any awards for punctuation. (The plural of the word “vote” does not require an apostrophe.)

Harrah’s Chester (Pennsylvania)

Name That Town
Could there be a name change in Harrah’s future? Will it be renamed Harrah’s Philadelphia? Makes a lot of sense. Harrah’s is practically ”a stone’s throw” from Philadelphia International Airport, and the Philly city limits are only about 15 minutes away. Most people don’t have a clue where Chester is, or, worse, think that Chester is the name of the man who owns the casino.

Declaring Bank-ruptcy
The “Bank” feature which is part of Total Touch® is nice, but downloaded free play expires with no warning. I had $155 in free play which I forfeited by forgetting to play it. I wouldn’t even have known, except for the fact that Pennsylvania requires its casinos to send reports to players detailing the amount of “slot cash” they offered, how much was played and how much expired. Even worse happened to a friend of mine. Saving up free play for an afternoon in the High Limits Slots, he hit the wrong button and mistakenly downloaded $500 while playing a penny slot in the C-Bar. Related to this is the fact that you can download only one of two smaller amounts or the entire balance of your bank. The system needs more options, or the ability to allow the player to choose a specific amount by punching numbers into a keyboard.

Caffe Napoli To Open This Month
Located on the former site of Café Cappuccio, the new Caffe Napoli is expected to open April 6. One employee described it as something similar to Sbarro’s, i.e., there will be seating to enjoy your food, but no servers.

The End Of End Zone
End Zone is closing to reinvent itself as a microbrew/barbeque pub. Renovations are expected to be completed – and a grand reopening is scheduled – next month. In the meantime, The Cove will be open extended hours Tuesday through Saturday and is introducing a new spring menu. (Don’t forget to update your Web site, Harrah’s It still has outdated information, not only about the Cove, but other details.)

General

The ‘New’ Total Rewards
While it’s evident a lot of time and money went into the new look of Total Rewards, the focus seems more on obtaining new cardholders than rewarding and retaining current cardholders. Sure, there a few new “benefits” – advance ticket sales for some events, discounted pricing at participating casino restaurants and buffets, the ability to transfer Reward Credits to another account-holder, and exchanging Rewards Credits for slot play (at a 2:1 ratio); however, I haven’t spoken to anyone who finds these that valuable. Many long-time Caesars players felt “blind-sided” when they heard about the four concerts that kicked off the brand re-launch March 1, wondering why more players weren’t invited to attend, why there wasn’t more advance notice, and the most vocal wondered what in the world P. Diddy, Cee Lo Green, Lil Wayne and others had to do with their favorite casino’s player loyalty program. Those who were aware of the concerts and tried to watch them online were frequently greeted by the equivalent of those “stand-by” signs reminiscent of the early days of television. At other times, portions of a concert were repeated, perhaps while “technical difficulties” were being corrected. “Commercials” for Total Rewards were greeted by cyber-boos in the form of negative tweets and Facebook postings (“This is the [sic] wurst!”) running continuously on the right side of the screen. As a matter of fact, about the only things positive being broadcast were obviously “planted” tweets from Caesars employees (“Heard about the new Escape To Total Rewards game? Can’t wait to play!”), or fan shout-outs to Mariah Carey and some of the other performers (“We luv u Mimi!”).

Atlantic City Signature Event
Add June 15-17 to your calendar if you plan to attend the first 2012 Signature Event in Atlantic City. There’s been no official announcement, but, assuming he wasn’t trying to throw me off, a Caesars executive let the dates slip during an informal conversation in the Seven Stars Lounge at Harrah’s Resort. Why keep the dates a secret? People like to make plans, and June 15 is only 2½ months away.

Signature Experiences: Deadline Extended (continued)
When someone tried to book her Level II experience for a date after March 31, she learned that some of the contracts with outside vendors expired March 31, and no replacement options were offered. In other words, it wasn’t going to be the experience she expected, so she opted for something else. If you’re going to take advantage of this extension, be sure to check in advance that you’ll get everything promised – or at least the equivalent.

Movie Mania
If you’re a fan of the free in-room movie benefit, when you check-in be sure to ask at the front desk what the policy is. Some casino hotels now limit the movies to one or two per day, and, in some cases, the limitation is per stay.

Play To Stay
When one player questioned why the Level I Tunica Basketball Experience no longer included a $1,500 airfare credit, and was reduced from four to two tickets, four to two rooms and one dinner for two (from four), he was told that too many players were coming to Tunica and not playing, or not playing enough. Excuse me, but aren’t these trips supposed to be a reward for past play? Plus, from my experience in Tunica too many machines wouldn’t accept my Total Rewards card, were out of order or were being reserved for other players. Also, unless you’re going to return to one of these casinos, what’s the point in playing a lot? As a result of that trip to Tunica I’m now getting invited to slot tournaments and other events, plus I am receiving free slot play offers, as well as food and beverage credits that I’ll never use – offers, I might add, that are more generous than the ones I receive from my “local” casinos in Atlantic City. Why would I travel 1,000 miles for $50 off my meal at Binion’s and $100 in free slot play? Similarly, why would I drive 90 miles [to Atlantic City] for $10 in free slot play and a $20 food credit (that’s good only Monday through Thursday)? I’m not even going to drive 15 minutes to Chester for a lousy $5 in slot play. I’d rather receive nothing than be insulted by these piddly “incentives” to play. It’s costing Caesars more to print and mail these silly offers than they’re worth.

Pick One: $500 Hotel Credit or 50,000 Reward Credits
When scheduling your annual trip, check to be sure if your $500 is in the form of a credit against your hotel room folio or whether 50,000 Reward Credits are going to be added to your Total Rewards account. If it’s a $500 credit on your hotel folio, you’ll need to use it before you check-out or you lose any remaining balance. Those who get the 50,000 RCs can use them anytime and anywhere – even after they return home. How about a little consistency, folks?

Mirror, Mirror
If you’ve already received one of the new Seven Stars cards, keep it somewhere safe. It may become a collector’s item. While replacement cards are on the way, the current cards are hard to read, the type (your name and TR number) scratches off easily, and – if you’re in the sun or under a bright light – you’re liable to temporarily blind someone. I actually saw a woman in Las Vegas using the card to check her make-up.

English Grammar 101
Apparently the copywriters at Total Rewards don’t have access to a basic grammar-checking program. I see this same type of error time after time in correspondence, promotional mailings and e-mails. “Total Rewards” is not the “valued Total Rewards Member”. Try this instead: “Total Rewards is pleased to provide you – our valued member – with this E-Statement. . . .” Also, in one 21-word sentence, “Total Rewards” is repeated three times. We get it. . .we get it!

A similar example arrived in the mail about a week later [emphasis added]: “As someone who knows about all the great luxury, amenities and beauty of our Las Vegas Total Rewards resorts, we don’t have to tell you that this is the perfect time of year to start planning your next Las Vegas getaway.” Huh? Try this instead: “For someone who knows about all the great luxury, amenities and beauty of our Las Vegas Total Rewards resorts, this is the perfect time of year to start planning your next Las Vegas getaway.”

Seven Stars-Specific Benefits
Notice anything missing from the Seven Stars benefits section of the Total Rewards Web site? Casino-specific benefits like the “Day at the Races” at Harrah’s Chester are currently being “vetted” by the TR execs in Las Vegas. Once the process is complete, the list will be posted again. Already dropped, according to the VIP Desk at Harrah’s New Orleans, are the Mardi Gras World tour, the carriage ride through the French Quarter and the paddleboat ride. Once each year cardholders visiting New Orleans were able to choose one of these as a special Seven Stars benefit. Between the loss of free show tickets in Las Vegas (see above) and this, it’s not looking good for the other benefits.

My TR: Not App-licable
With the additional layers of security required to log-on to the Total Rewards site, signing on to the My TR mobile app on my iPhone® is still not possible. The program needs a different “keyboard” that allows for upper case letters, as well as separate keys for letters and numbers. Supposedly, this was fixed a couple weeks ago, but it still doesn’t work.

A Not-So-Happy Birthday Offer
I was hoping it would change, but some with birthdays in the first quarter of 2012 are still getting the “earn up to 5,000 tier points in one day and we’ll match it” offer. At least in Atlantic City, every other non-Total Rewards casino offers free play, comp dollars or an actual gift. If you’ve already singled us out for some sort of birthday recognition, then don’t expect us to invest more money in slot machines or table games in order to get something in return.

Survey Results: The ‘New’ Total Rewards
So, what are players saying about the “rebranding” and new look of the Total Rewards program, as well as some of the enhancements, e.g., reduced prices at some food outlets, first choice to purchase tickets for concerts and shows? Unfortunately, complimentary responses are rare (it’s always more fun to trash something). I’d like to assume that someone has positive things to say about the new program, but I can’t prove it by the e-mails I received:
“Why spend all this money on new [player’s] cards? Diamond cards no longer look like Diamond cards and the Seven Stars cards are horrible. The cards all look alike, and they’re downright ugly!”
“They need to do more to reward their top players. They took away 12 trips from Level I last year. We did not even try to reach it. What’s the use?”
“Do they really think I am going to fly across country for $65 of free play in Lake Tahoe? Why do they send these ridiculous offers? It’s an insult. Surely, with Caesars sophisticated computer system, it should be able to better target players and offer more meaningful incentives.”
“If Caesars wants their continued support, Caesars needs to be talking to its players to see what they want. I don’t know anyone who wants to transfer their Reward Credits to someone else, or buy concert tickets in advance.”

Speaking of the new cards, I actually know people who are retaining their 2011-12 Seven Stars cards because they’re more distinctive and better differentiate them from Diamond and other lower-level cardholders.

Photo: Pulse of Las Vegas Blog

Seven Stars Insider – January 2012 Edition

Here’s the latest edition of Seven Stars Insider.  This is an easy read and an excellent resource for Caesars Total Rewards players.  Head over to Seven Stars Insider to sign up for the newsletter.  As always there is a lot of information in this edition. Read on for all the goods.

Harrah’s New Orleans

Heading Santa’s Naughty List
I’m a big fan of Harrah’s New Orleans, and have never experienced anything but first class service and a good time.  I always describe the hotel as being more like a Ritz Carlton or Four Seasons – though I wish they had included a spa in their initial plans.  However, based on the volume of e-mails I received during 2011, New Orleans got the most complaints about everything from missing comp dollars, screwed up hotel and dinner reservations, and uncaring and inefficient hosts.  Admittedly, it’s been awhile since I’ve been down there, but I hope they can get their act together.  It may just be a vocal minority that’s having these bad experiences, but word is spreading throughout lots of message boards on the Internet, as well.  There’s often a fine line between perception and reality and, like a woman scorned, an unhappy gambler – especially if he/she is losing – can be your worst nightmare.

Las Vegas

Caesars Palace

See Celine For A Good Cause
If you haven’t seen Celine Dion’s new show in the Colosseum, you can help raise money to fund research for and increase awareness of sickle cell anemia by attending a special performance at 8:30 p.m. on Sunday, January 15.  Ticketholders also get to attend an exclusive reception at PURE Nightclub, sponsored by Southern Wine & Spirits.

Merry Excess-mas
In case you missed it, Christmas Eve/Christmas dinner at Guy Savoy last year was a mere $358 per person (not including beverages, taxes and gratuity).  The menu included:

Oysters in Ice Gelée
Langoustine and Fennel
“Colors of Caviar”
Roasted John Dory in Sage and Tarragon Crust
Artichoke and Black Truffle Soup, Toasted Mushroom Brioche, and Black Truffle Butter
Poussin “en Cocotte” and Albufera Jus
Brie Black Truffle
Champagne Dessert
Chocolate

For further decadence at Caesars – available year-round, go to Casa Fuente and try the “Forbidden Collection” of cigars costing up to $150 each, along with some rare scotch at $1,100 a shot.

Atlantic City

Eyes Wide Shut
I’m not sure whether Caesars employees have a vision problem or just don’t like confrontation.  Why is it, then, that even the most casual visitor to Atlantic City spots vagrants sitting at slot machines sound asleep?  One Saturday evening last month, a man with a large thick beard, wearing several layers of clothing – identity protected by a thick hooded parka, tucked a huge backpack between his legs, and napped for nearly an hour right outside the Diamond Lounge at Caesars.  The same man was spotted in a different section of the second floor casino the day before.  Many players – particularly women – simply refuse to play at the Boardwalk casinos just because they don’t feel safe.  “Sleepers” aren’t exclusive to the Boardwalk, though.  Over at Harrah’s, a woman was sleeping at a table in front of Club Cappuccino as two security guards chatted away in front of her, seemingly oblivious to the situation.  While there’s no reason to believe these nappers are doing anything but catching 40 winks in the warmth of the casino, nevertheless, no other business would be as tolerant.

Easy Revenue Source For AC
If the city police better patrolled Arkansas Avenue between Wild Wild West and Caesars they could write a bunch of tickets for illegally parked cars.  On several occasions during the New Year’s weekend, friends picked me up from the first floor exit of the Centurion Tower at Caesars; I was amazed at the number of cars that were parked there – most of them minus the driver and/or any passengers.  While, theoretically, the three sets of doors to Caesars on Arkansas only can be opened from the inside, folks seem to have no problem prying them open from the outside.  It’s not such a big deal with the two sets of doors leading into the casino, but the fact that individuals are entering the door leading into the first floor of the Centurion Tower makes me a little nervous.

Controversial Decision Paying Off
It didn’t sit well with a lot of Diamond cardholders, but Caesars decision to require a minimum of 25,000 tier points to enter the four Atlantic City Diamond Lounges at no charge is apparently paying off.  While I’ve seen no official statistics, based on conversations with certain casino executives, as well as talking with a number of players, a lot of people went out of their way to reach that 25,000 point threshold by the end of 2011.

Home For The Holidays
Many “regular” players skipped their trips to Atlantic City last month when they learned that the Diamond (and the Seven Stars Lounge at Harrah’s), as well as several buffets, restaurants and other venues were closing for several days – and, in some cases, weeks – at a time.  Others were downright angry – some, just perplexed – when they got to one of the lounges, only to find it was closed.  At least Harrah’s offered the option of a Waterfront Buffet to eligible cardholders.  This year, Caesars management, please decide further in advance if – and when – you are going to close lounges, buffets, restaurants, The Pool at Harrah’s and other venues.  Then, let everyone know!  (I’ll even help you spread the word – plus, I’ll be reminding you in November to start thinking about this.)

Airshow Moves To Friday
The 10th Annual Atlantic City Airshow will be held August 17 – a Friday, rather than the traditional midweek timeframe.  Headlining the show once again will be the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds and the U.S. Army Golden Knights.

Bally’s

Seven Stars 101
The VIP Registration staff and Total Rewards crew need a crash course in Seven Stars cardholder benefits – specifically, the Companion card.  My “companion” tried to check in at Bally’s VIP last month, and was condescendingly told to check-in at the “regular” registration desk.  When I stopped in later to find out why, I was told that, “of course, we would extend that courtesy to a Seven Stars Companion cardholder.”  Apparently, Chris who was working there that afternoon didn’t know this.  Furthermore, when I inquired at Total Rewards, the gentleman at the Seven Stars section said he didn’t know and, when he checked with his manager, told me that his manager didn’t know either.  Shouldn’t there be a list of basic benefits handy at each Total Rewards desk and each VIP Registration?

Send Me No Flowers
Apparently, the New Year’s Eve dinner at Bally’s was another outstanding example of the fine work done by the hotel’s food and beverage department.  I heard many wonderful compliments about the food, service, music and ambience – both at dinner and the Sunday brunch.  However, some miscommunication – later apologized for – caused a bit of a scene at the conclusion of the dinner.  When some guests tried to leave with flowers from the centerpieces, many were chased by security guards who told them the flowers couldn’t leave the ballroom because they were needed for the brunch.  Frankly, I always find it appalling how some people walk off with table decorations – many times before the event even concludes.  Sometimes guests even “fight” for the flowers!  [The worst I’ve seen was at Caesars New Year’s Eve when a woman pulled out a pair of manicure scissors and began cutting off the strands of “crystals” from the decorations suspended over some of the tables.]

Caesars

Welcoming 2012 In High Style
Caesars hosted an absolutely flawless New Year’s celebration this year:  simple, but elegant and understated invitations. . .tasteful and creative hors d’oeuvres (steak tartare in mini-parmesan tuille cups, slices of rare ahi tuna on tiny pancakes, grilled baby lamb chops, etc.). . .stunning décor in the Palladium Ballroom that elicited audible gasps as the doors were dramatically opened.  All this was complemented by an imaginative dinner menu featuring a salad with the largest shrimp I’ve ever seen, followed by a dual entrée of roasted mero (a delicious white fish that was so moist it literally cut like butter) and lobster-crusted filet.  Dessert, below, was an edible miniature “snowman” encased in half a “snow globe” (made of sugar), perched atop vanilla sponge cake filled with Meyer lemon mousse and covered in vanilla butter cream, sitting in a pool of light blue “ice”.  It looked beautiful, and tasted even better.  The versatile musicians backing up four equally versatile singers provided continuous entertainment and dance music, breaking only for two professional dance exhibitions right out of those opening numbers on Dancing With The Stars.  Brunch the next day was just as outstanding.  Congratulations – and thank you! – to all involved.

Morton’s Steakhouse Chain Sold
After Landry’s Inc. bought Trump Marina, it had one of its chain restaurants – the Rainforest Café – already ensconced in Trump Plaza, as well as McCormick & Schmick’s at Harrah’s Resort.  Now Morton’s Steakhouse in Caesars is in the same situation.  Last month, Houston billionaire Tilman Fertitta bought Morton’s Restaurant Group Inc. in a $117 million deal.

Harrah’s Resort

Breakfast Of Champions
Kudos to the staff at the Diamond Lounge for their excellent breakfast buffets late last month.  Anticipating larger crowds due to the holidays – and with the closing of Reflections to make way for Sammy D’s (see below) – management opened the Diamond Lounge for breakfast on a temporary basis.

Room Maintenance
Hopefully, it was an isolated case, but one of the electrical outlets in my room last month had a cracked coverplate, above, exposing potentially dangerous wiring to a curious child or even a careless adult.  A similar cracked plate partially covered another outlet in the hallway near the elevator.  When I reported this at check-out, the clerk said the room should not even have been assigned.  But, how would anyone know?  Housekeepers don’t seem to report these maintenance issues, and, apparently, housekeeping supervisors don’t notice them either.  It’s up to us, as guests, to notify the front desk when we spot these problems, but no one seems to take the initiative.  Next time there’s a burned out light bulb, a frayed lamp plug, etc., please call it to someone’s attention.

No Parking
The special reserved parking section for Seven Stars cardholders is currently open to anyone.  It appears that perhaps a frustrated driver just plowed through the second card-controlled gate.  I’m not sure why that warranted that the first gate should remain permanently open.

Sammy D’s
Scheduled to open last month, Sammy D’s – located in the area formerly housing Reflections – is now supposed to open this month.  Bill’s Bar & Burger, which has been serving breakfast during the transition, will discontinue that service once Sammy’s opens.  Ironically, breakfast at Bill’s was the best meal of the day.

Red Door: Improvement Still Needed
Not long after it opened, I visited the Red Door and wrote, “This fabled Elizabeth Arden institution is a disappointing experience for men.  The facilities need much stronger supervision, and the front desk personnel need more training.”  I’m happy to report that my experience last month found these problems corrected.  However, several things have not changed:  the men’s “grooming area” still has only two sinks, and the lighting is so bad, it’s like shaving in the dark.  (“Assuming it was a man,” I wrote earlier, “whoever designed the lighting should be forced to shave there for a month.”)  The spa also has the “wimpiest” Jacuzzis (in terms of jet strength), so it’s not the most satisfying way to relax.

Bet $20, Win $1 Million
An unidentified woman won $1 million on a $20 bet last month while playing poker.  The jackpot is the second of its kind for “Three Card Poker 6 Card Bonus” which began play at Caesars Entertainment casinos in September.  The woman said she had played the game only twice before and was at the table for about two hours. The winning hand was a royal flush in diamonds.  In October, an unidentified man won $1 million on a $19 bet in the game and last month a Virginia man won $100,000.

Harrah’s Chester (Pennsylvania)

Happy Fifth Anniversary!
Hard to believe, but January 22 marks the fifth anniversary of the opening of Harrah’s Chester.

There Has To Be An Easier Way. . .
Maybe it’s just me, but Chester’s “Beat the Freeze” is second only in confusion and complication to Bally’s “Beat the Heat” promotion in Atlantic City this past summer.  Here are the official rules – misspellings and missing words included:  “Guests can win free slot play on days in December in which the temperature is forecasted to be below 28 degrees Fahrenheit.  The weekly forecast will be displayed in the casino atrium (the forecast used will be NBC Channel 10) and will update each day at 10am.  When a day is forecasted to be below the 28 degrees threshold we will communicate that day as a ‘Beat the Freeze’ day.  The day prior we will promote the ‘Beat The Freeze Day’ through Facebook, Twitter, e-blasts and outdoor signage (Billboard).  Guests are then invited [to] come to the casino, swipe there [sic] card at the promotional kiosks on the 2nd floor starting at 10am to have a chance to receive 5 dollars slot play for every degree below 28 degrees.  500 guests will randomly receive the slot cash prize!”  December’s unseasonably warm weather probably saved the casino a lot of free slot play, but you have until January 15 to get in on the fun.  Checking the official NBC 10 forecast through January 8, though, only January 2, 3 and 4 are forecast to have temperatures less than 28 degrees.

General

Skating With The Stars
I hope you got to see Caesars Tribute II on NBC January 1.  It was an excellent show and gave Caesars some very positive publicity.  Taped at Boardwalk Hall in early December, the show was a tribute to Peggy Fleming, and featured some of the top female skaters from the United States, Canada, France and Japan.

Regrets, He’s Had A Few
In August 2010 Caesars Chairman Gary Loveman called his decision to reject an opportunity to acquire the Macao gaming subconcession controlled by Wynn Resorts Ltd. a “big mistake”.  “I was wrong.  I was really wrong,” Loveman told Bloomberg Businessweek.  Determined not to be left behind again, Caesars is focusing on U.S. expansion, according to Howard Stutz’s “Inside Gaming” column in the December 4 Las Vegas Review-Journal.  “Through a joint venture, the company will operate two of the four casinos opening [this] year in Ohio.  Caesars is the leading bidder for a downtown Baltimore casino project and is expected to earn the license for a casino in the Boston area.”  Further, Stutz writes, “The company is looking at Miami, the next potential casino expansion market.”

Reminders
Seven Stars cardholders, don’t forget you have only until March 31 to complete your annual celebration dinner and trip, order your gift, and, if applicable, complete your Signature Experience.  Trips require a 30-day advance notice, so make your plans by the end of February.

Tier Levels: It’s Not Just Gold, Platinum, Diamond and Seven Stars Anymore
My guess is that, similar to direct mail promotions and even certain products, Caesars is testing several ways to bridge the gap between Diamond and Seven Stars.  As I’ve written before, several Midwest casinos, as well as the Grand in Biloxi, have General Managers Clubs (some actually have separate physical locations for the clubs; others are just “virtual” and offer special quarterly or monthly benefits); about 15 months ago Rincon (and perhaps others) introduced Diamond Select and Diamond Signature cards, below; and the Atlantic City casinos have their “TR Insider” program which begins its second quarter this month.

Survey Says: New Year’s Resolutions
Among the additions to my list, suggested by readers:
Allow Companion cardholders (who do not qualify through their play) to bring one guest into Diamond and Seven Stars Lounges.

Offer free slot play as an alternative to the annual gift.
Be more sensitive to singles, as well as those widowed or divorced; too many events are so couple-oriented that those traveling by themselves feel uncomfortable or less welcome.
Allow Total Rewards credits (comp dollars) to be used toward airfare, rental cars and other travel – similar to Mohegan Sun’s player’s card program.

Survey: New Year’s Eve
I attended the parties at Caesars in Atlantic City, and I heard lots of nice comments about Bally’s parties in Atlantic City, but what about the rest of the country (and Caesars Windsor in Canada)?  How were those celebrations?  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: Pulse of Las Vegas Blog