Seven Stars Insider – December Edition

Here’s the latest edition of Seven Stars Insider.  This is an easy read and an excellent resource for Caesars Total Rewards players.  Head over to Seven Stars Insider to sign up for the newsletter.  There is a lot of information in this edition and I will pull out some nuggets to look at closer later next week. In fact, I’ve already pulled one major nugget. Can you find it?. Read on for all the goods.

Seven Stars Insider – December 2011

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 www.sevenstarsinsider.com.

Harrah’s Joliet (Illinois)

Updates and Renovations
Thanks to a reader who plays at Harrah’s Joliet, here are some updates:
The existing Diamond Lounge has closed, but a temporary location has been set-up.  Mosaic will soon close to become the site of the new lounge.
The buffet and Stage 151 also have closed, and with the addition of the former Diamond Lounge, this area will become a new Paula Deen buffet and restaurant.  Target date for opening is March 2012.
Utilizing space formerly occupied by high-limit slots, a poker room was added earlier this year, and in October a new high-limit slots room opened in space on the main casino floor.
The former general manager of the Chicago Chop House has joined Harrah’s Joliet as food and beverage manager.

Baltimore,  Maryland

Decision Expected Next Month
Caesars Entertainment Corp. last month applied for the license to run a casino proposed for Baltimore.  Caesars submitted a bid for a 3,750-machine casino on Russell Street. The location drew another bidder, Baltimore City Casino LLC, but the company did not submit the required $22.5 million initial license fee and is likely to be disqualified, State Slots Commission Chairman Donald C. Fry said.

Las Vegas

Making the Great Gift Wrap Up Even Greater
It’s time again for “phase 2” of the annual Las Vegas Great Gift Wrap Up, December 1 – 5 at Caesars Palace.  The most frequent question I get is, “Do I have to be staying at a Caesars property to participate?”  The answer is, “no”.  If you’ve earned the points, all you have to do is be there physically to cash them in.  However, a little homework is in order before you get to Vegas.  First, check your point balance at www.greatgiftwrapup.com .  Then, decide if you want to use your points for free play ($100 for 30,000 points), gift cards or specific products.  In some cases, it may be more convenient to “purchase” gift cards, and buy the products locally or online (taking advantage of sales and other discounts), rather than waiting for the items to be delivered.  (Don’t forget to factor in state and local taxes, and delivery charges.)  Whatever you do, take the time to compare items with their retail prices (check out the manufacturer’s Web site or go to a price comparison site like www.pricegrabber.com ).  Then, divide the number of required points by the purchase price to see which offer the best values.  For example, a $100 gift card “costs” 35,000 points, or 350 points per dollar.  A 12-cup Cuisinart food processor retails (on the Cuisinart Web site) for $249 and requires 62,700 points or 252 points per dollar; however, by doing a little online pricing, I found it as low as $151.95 (or 413 points per dollar).  Also, as with everything, “prices” have gone up.  That $10 Shell card you got last year for 3,100 points is this year 3,500.

Flamingo

Carlos’n Charlie’s
The newest outpost of this Mexican cantina opens this month.  Founded in Acapulco in 1970, the restaurant chain has seven restaurants in Mexico and two others in the United States (Austin, Tex., and West Palm Beach, Fla.).

Atlantic City

Caesars Giveth and Taketh Away
Next time you gloat over the fact that you didn’t pay that $13 in “fees” on your comp room at Bally’s, Caesars, Harrah’s or Showboat, know that your comp dollar account has been depleted by said $13 per night.  I always assumed the $13 was “forgiven” – much like the taxes on comped food and beverage in casino restaurants; however, after a recent two-night stay at Harrah’s I noticed my comp dollars had been reduced, even though I had no food and beverage or other charges.  When I requested a “transaction” report – which you only can see briefly while standing at the Total Rewards desk, but not keep to study – the manager, Linda, pointed out several $5 and $3 charges against my account (adding up to $13 per night).  Considering that every other casino in town only charges guests the required $5 in fees (see below), Caesars takes an additional $8 and then charges it against your comps.  To me, it’s like a “resort fee” that many Las Vegas casinos charge.  Ironically, the fact that Caesars properties in Las Vegas don’t charge a resort fee is a major theme of its advertising campaign out there.  As I’ve written before, I’m surprised that the Borgata, Trump, Golden Nugget, Resorts and others in Atlantic City don’t use this $8 per night fee as an element of their promotional campaigns – especially since, if you try to book a room in Atlantic City using the My TR app on your iPhone, the rate even states, “No Resort Fees!”

According to Publication ANJ-17 from the New Jersey Division of Taxation, casino hotels are required to collect a $2 per night “tourism promotion fee” which they remit back to the state.  In addition, the state imposes a $3 per night fee on complimentary rooms in casino hotels.  At Bally’s/Wild Wild West/Claridge, Caesars, Harrah’s and Showboat, though, the nightly fees total $13 – the highest in Atlantic City.

Other than the Tropicana – which charges $10 per night, all other Atlantic City casino hotels charge guests just the $5 per night required by law.  Trump Plaza waives the fee for its Signature cardholders (and doesn’t charge their comp accounts), but not Taj Mahal.  And, unless your play is at a certain level, Caesars won’t allow just anyone to pay those fees with their comp dollars. 

 So, why the difference in fees charged at Caesars properties?  When I inquired last year, [then Harrah’s Entertainment] spokesperson Ed Tagliaferri responded, “The other $8 are specific Harrah’s Entertainment fees and are charged to cover the cost of doing business and transacting.”  Maybe Caesars should check with the other casinos in town to see what efficiencies they’ve put into place to avoid having to charge their customers this extra $8.

Copycat Promotions
With Borgata giving three times comp dollars every Thursday in December, and the Golden Nugget giving same-day triple cashback – real cash! – look for the Caesars casinos to offer similar promotions this month.

Caesars, Union Avoid Strike
Union workers at Caesars four casinos approved a new three-year contract November 1.  The pact covers about 5,000 employees.

Pier Restaurants Accepting Comps 1:1
Through December 24, Buddakan, The Continental, Souzai, Phillips Seafood Express and Phillips Seafood are joining Morton’s The Steakhouse by accepting comps on a 1:1 basis.

Cut That Out!
Resorts is having a little fun at the expense of Caesars and its Express Play Coupons.  A billboard on the way into town asks, “Tired of clipping coupons?” – a direct hit at the four Caesars properties in town  that don’t upload free play to player’s cards, but require coupons you get in the mail and bring from home, or exchange from vouchers dispensed at the casinos’ kiosks.  For a company so highly computerized it just doesn’t make sense that Caesars puts players through all the machinations of this outdated system – plus it has to be expensive to print all those special bar codes, perforate them, and drop them in the mail.  And, if you mistakenly leave your coupons at home, as they say in New Jersey, “Forgetaboutit!”

Bally’s

Fired Up
An Atlantic City man was charged with arson after he allegedly set two small fires inside Bally’s two days before Thanksgiving.  Fire crews responded about 7:15 p.m. to a small fire in a second floor mop closet at the hotel. That fire was put out prior to their arrival, but crews were directed to a second fire on an upper level of the building.  The casino’s surveillance department spotted the suspect on camera and security found the man inside the bus waiting area.

Legends Holiday Show
Atlantic City just can’t seem to get enough of Legends In Concert.  After returning to Harrah’s Resort following a successful summer engagement, the show is back to its original location, Bally’s Palace Theater, through January 1.

Caesars

A Very Special Diamond ‘Club’
Congratulations to Caesars for joining the Borgata’s Water Club in earning AAA’s Four Diamond rating.  It’s the first Four Diamond rating in the history of Atlantic City for a center Boardwalk casino resort, according to Caesars.  Less than four percent of AAA-approved facilities in the United States, Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean received this rating.

A Little Discretion, Please
We all know that “high rollers” get special treatment, but the Caesars employee picking up Pier Shopping Vouchers for customers at last month’s event in the Mars Room could have been a little more discrete.  While there were only a few of us in line, everyone noticed the transactions going on between her and one of the event staffers, and wondered who was getting the special treatment.  It’s all well and good to treat your best customers with a little extra service, but, next time, don’t do it in front of others who play by the rules.

Make More Tables For Room
I was lucky enough to snare the last table in the Seven Stars Lounge shortly after it opened on “Black Friday”.  Perhaps if someone from Caesars management team had sat there he/she could have heard all the dissatisfaction with the lack of tables in the lounge.  Most who arrived after I did headed to the bar until it filled up, but, in some cases, age or disability prevented them from hopping up on a bar stool.  One trio stood transfixed, staring into the room for about five minutes, as if some magical spell was going to create more tables and chairs.  Another couple kept watching my guests and me, waiting for us to finish lunch so they could grab our table as soon as we stood up.  When is someone going to admit he/she made a mistake, and add more tables?  Just get rid of those oversized sofas and put in some small tables for two or four.  You’ll make a lot of people very happy.

Boardwalk Brrrr Garden
Colder weather has forced the Boardwalk Beer Garden to close for the season.  It will reopen in May.

21 To Open
As one venue closes, another opens.  On New Year’s Eve, look for the debut of 21 Bar @ Dusk.  The new bar will offer something for everyone, according to go Dusk Management Group, which also operates Disk and the aforementioned Boardwalk Beer Garden.

Harrah’s Resort

From Eye Candy To Eyesore
The colorful leaves of fall, as well as the snowflakes and holiday decorations of winter seem to have taken a backseat to gaudy advertisements for Harrah’s restaurants, The Pool, celebrity entertainers and special events.  I’m talking about the “light show” on the exterior of the Waterfront Tower.  What used to be a visually striking addition to the skyline has deteriorated into nothing but an ugly high-tech billboard.  The worst is when there is a “photo” of someone.  The quality is terrible, and many times, it’s difficult to figure out who’s being illustrated.

Crumb-y Waterfront Buffet
I don’t think anyone would mind waiting a few extra minutes to be seated at a clean table – not just the tabletop, but also the area beneath the table.  I ate twice at the Waterfront Buffet last month and, both times, as I pulled out my chair, I couldn’t help but notice that the carpeting underneath my table was littered with soiled paper napkins, empty sugar packets, and bread crumbs and other partially eaten food that the previous diners had dropped.  Considering that, in my opinion, as well as several others who’ve written, the quality of the food there has deteriorated since it first opened, this is not a good way to start off a meal.

Feeding Frenzy
It can’t be easy feeding 1,000 people all at once – but it’s done all the time.  I’ve had wonderful meals at large banquets from the Waldorf in New York to the Holiday Inn in Toledo.  So why can’t Harrah’s get it right?  After at least three years of avoiding these group dinners, I attended a 60th birthday celebration for Dominic Tedeschi (more on that later), but walked out shortly after the entrée was served.  Seated at a crowded table of 12 (that more comfortably would have seated 10), I could forgive the underdressed salad (and the fact that our server was so busy delivering cocktails I couldn’t get his attention to bring more dressing), but I wish I could have filmed the looks on everyone’s faces at my table when our server delivered the main course.  First, people stared, trying to figure out what it was.  Then, like little kids, they pushed around the food on their plates, hoping, I guess, that it would magically turn appetizing.  The dinner plate (a mass of dark brown, purple and green – brightened only by two perfectly cooked bright pink shrimp sprinkled with lump crabmeat) was the most unappetizing presentation I’ve ever seen.  The steamed cauliflower was tasteless and appeared to have no seasoning, the filet had been cooked to within an inch of its life, and was covered with a tasteless brown mushroom sauce, and the fingerling potatoes were OK, but they just added another “brown element” to an already depressing looking plate.  Hopefully, the dessert was better.  Don’t the banquet chefs at Harrah’s know there’s a Viking Cooking School downstairs?  Maybe they should sign up for some lessons, or ask the chefs over at Bally’s for some pointers.
But, back to Dominic.  I’m sure he’s a nice guy, but no one at my table even knew who he was.  They freely admitted they were there for the free food and drinks, and a chance to win some cash.  Earlier in the week I tried to cancel once I received the written invitation and realized it was a dinner for someone I didn’t know, but my host insisted I would have a good time.  “Open bar, gourmet dinner, cash prizes!  What’s not to like?” she said, pleading with me to attend.  Turns out she resigned the day before the dinner, so I didn’t feel so guilty walking out.  (Maybe she knew in advance how bad the food would be.)  It’s a shame, too, because the room looked lovely; there were beautiful overlays on the tables, matching chair covers, exquisite floral arrangements, and even a decent musical group that – for once – wasn’t too loud.  Maybe things will improve before Dominic’s 65th.

Super Fresh
If you liked your meal at Luke Palladino a couple months ago, don’t look to reorder some of your favorites.  Because Palladino uses only the freshest seasonal ingredients, the appetizers and entrées I enjoyed in June were missing last month to make way for new ones.  Before it’s too late, try the autumn salad, the agnolotti stuffed with ricotta and foie gras, or the ravioli stuffed with ground veal.

Showboat

Knocking The Foundation [Room] Out From Under Another Benefit
Used to be if you wanted to have a drink or dinner at the Foundation Room, you had to be a member – or flash your Seven Stars card.  Now it’s open to the public.

Calendar Girls
The Borgata’s been doing it for years with its “Babes” calendar, so it’s no surprise that a Caesars property has jumped on the bandwagon with a sexy calendar of its own featuring the “Bombshells” party-pit girls from its popular Backstage.

General

Feedback On Feedback
While it’s commendable that Caesars wants feedback on many of our dining experiences, it needs to provide customers with more than a short survey.  How about a pencil or pen?  Too many times I’ve had a great meal or a great server, but no way to complete the survey at my table because I didn’t have a pen or pencil, and couldn’t track anyone down to borrow one.  Same holds true when a server brings the check.  Please bring a pen along so I can sign and leave, and you can get back to your other guests.

MGM-Caesars Merger?
My e-mail receipt from a late-October stay at Caesars Palace came from “MGM Caesars”:
Could this be a hint of what’s to come?

Personal Birthday Wishes
We all know how many customers our hosts have and how busy they are.  While he’s not employed by Caesars, I just want to recognize the fact that Alan Korman, Executive Director of National Marketing at the Golden Nugget in Atlantic City, actually took time to pick up the phone to call and wish me a Happy Birthday last month.  I know Alan reads this newsletter, so I wanted to publicly acknowledge this.  I’m certainly not a big player at GN, but I got to know Alan when the GN was the Trump Marina.  He’s always been the consummate professional, and extremely responsive whenever I’ve had the need to contact him.  Other than a generic e-mail from Total Rewards and a hand-signed card from my host at Chester (who I’ve never even met), that was the only “personal” contact I had from anyone at Caesars.  Perhaps front desk clerks also should be a little more mindful of their guests’ birthdates.  Since they’re already checking IDs, you’d think they might notice when a guest is checking in on his/her birthday.  It’s these little touches that can make the difference in customer service.

Survey: Signature Experiences
Those readers who made it to Level I were disappointed in the offerings both this year and last.  Some ideas they suggest for next year: deep sea fishing in Atlantic City, day at the Biltmore or white water rafting (Cherokee), meet and greet with performers (Las Vegas).

New Year’s Resolutions

My suggestions for Caesars Entertainment:
Keep the Diamond Lounges in Las Vegas open later than 9 p.m. – especially on Fridays and Saturdays.  (Lounges in cities much smaller – and less “24-hours” than Vegas – stay open until midnight or later.)
Vary the food offerings in the Vegas Diamond Lounges.  (The hummus and pita wedges, chicken wings and egg rolls are getting a little “tired”.  I’m not saying you have to serve a complete meal – as in Atlantic City – just offer some different options.)

Remove the televisions from Seven Stars and Diamond Lounges – or at least turn them off with the exception of the Super Bowl, World Series, Stanley Cup, and, maybe for the sports-impaired, awards shows like the CMAs or Oscars.  Alternatively, switch the channels to CNN Headline News, or something similar – this is what the airlines do.  [Many of us are tired of the “sports bar” atmosphere that pervades too many of these lounges, as well as the loud and obnoxious “arm chair coaches” who insist on shouting at the screen as though they were actually a) at the game and b) know better than professional coaches.]
“Formally” allow Seven Stars cardholders to bring three guests to the Vegas Diamond Lounges.  (Nearly every other Caesars casino allows this. . .and why shouldn’t Seven Stars cardholders get a benefit greater than every Diamond cardholder?)

Instead of forcing players to host an annual $500 “celebration dinner”, just add to all Seven Stars cardholders’ accounts the equivalent in comp dollars that can be used anytime and in any combination.
Allow all players to see their Total Rewards accounts in “real time” – just like banks and airline frequent flier programs allow them to see “deposits” and “withdrawals”, give players online access so they can verify points they earned, as well as spent, following every trip.

Adjust the value of Great Gift Wrap Up points and, similar to MGM’s Holiday Gift Shoppe points, make each earned Base Reward Credit equal one Great Gift Wrap Up point.

Let players – who wish to – make their own reservations and arrangements, whether it’s for a trip from Atlantic City to Las Vegas or their annual Seven Stars trip.  (If you have more than one host, each of them wants to get credit for scheduling these trips.  This makes it uncomfortable for players who want to maintain a good working relationship with these hosts, but find it awkward to ask one host over another when it comes to these trips.  Don’t make those of us with multiple hosts “play favorites”.  Plus, for players used to making their own travel arrangements, it’s much quicker and easier, eliminates possible errors when working through a third-party, and you get an answer immediately.  I recently booked a stay at an MGM property in Las Vegas by phone.  It took less than five minutes and I had an e-mail confirmation before I hung up.)

Give Seven Stars cardholders (and a guest) complimentary admission to Qua at Caesars in Atlantic City.  (The much larger original Qua at Caesars Palace has offered this perk since it opened.)
To those eligible, offer an alternative to the quarterly golf game at the Atlantic City Country Club.  (Not everyone plays golf, so perhaps the powers-that-be could come up with something of equal value for non-golfers.  If the idea is to get folks out to the club to check it out, how about a lunch or dinner – with transportation, so no one has to drive after a couple cocktails?)
Offer more alternatives for the annual gift – even bonus free play or comp dollars.  (For 2011-2012 the paucity of “choices”, as well as the selections themselves, were the talk of many Seven Stars cardholders.)
Reopen a Seven Stars Lounge somewhere in Las Vegas.  (If Hammond, Ind., and Cherokee, N.C., can have Seven Stars Lounges, why not Las Vegas?)
Either require participating casinos to keep their “pages” up-to-date or drop them from the My TR app.  Other than getting your up-to-the-minute tier score or comp dollars, or directions to a casino (which you can get through other means), the app is pretty useless.  You can’t even get accurate rate information.  For example, I requested a reservation at Bally’s Atlantic City for arrival January 12, 2012, departing the next day.  I got rates starting at $55 up through $155 per night.  However, going through totalrewards.com , that same room was complimentary.

What other “resolutions” would you suggest Caesars make?  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 – November 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.  There is a lot of information in this edition and I will pull out some nuggets to look at closer later this week or next. Read on for all the goods.

Seven Stars Insider – November 2011

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 at www.sevenstarsinsider.com.

Horseshoe Indiana

Bridge Falling, So Are Revenues
Revenue dropped 11 percent and admissions dropped 20 percent in September due to the closure of the Sherman Minton Bridge.  The bridge, closed September 9 after cracks in the steel supports were discovered, carries Kentucky patrons across the Ohio River to the casino 10 miles away.

Harrah’s New Orleans

Signature Event Gets Raves
From a couple who both are Seven Stars cardholders:  “We’ve been to several of these in the past – in New Orleans, Atlantic City and Las Vegas – but the folks in the Big Easy continue to do it right and make it a fun-filled weekend for everyone concerned.  In a word, this one was spectacular.  It began with a gathering at the valet area where the hurricane cocktails flowed freely and Harrah’s representatives handed out white handkerchiefs/bibs to everyone in preparation for that evening’s dinner.  At 7, a jazz band led the parade of guests to the Crazy Lobster restaurant on the shores of the Mississippi for a twilight dinner consisting mainly of freshly cooked lobsters.  As a local band played, guests were invited to have a caricature done, have their palms read or pose with a small alligator while a photographer recorded the big moment for them.  The next day, former NFL quarterback Archie Manning, father of Super Bowl champions Peyton and Eli, made an appearance in the Masquerade area on the casino floor, chatting with guests, signing autographs and taking pictures with them.  The former Saints QB was very accommodating and gracious and made sure he greeted every guest personally even though he ran over the time he was supposed to be there.  Like at the Crazy Lobster the night before, photos were printed immediately and given to guests in a binder.  That night, chef John Besh, whose Steakhouse is the main restaurant in the casino, put on a cooking demonstration in the theater while members of the audience ate the dishes he was preparing.  The crab-filled shells appetizer, short ribs and dessert were delicious.  Those events were a lot of fun and efficiently run, but the icing on the cake came the next night.  Just as the sun was setting, guests were loaded onto a parade of Mardi Gras floats, given light-up beads to wear around their necks and handed Mardi Gras masks to wear.  On the floats were bags of beads to throw to revelers on the street as the floats made their way down Canal Street en route to Bourbon Street.   The people on the street had no idea what all the fuss was about, and why this celebration was taking place in the middle of October, but they certainly got into it.  Once at our destination, Harrah’s reps led us to two restaurants that had been closed down especially for our private parties.  There was a buffet-style dinner provided that featured local food choices such as catfish and jambalaya, but the coup de grace was more bead-throwing from the balconies atop the restaurants to the sometimes rowdy and raucous crowds below.  After all the revelry had come to an end, shuttle buses brought us back to the casino or the hotel for a much-deserved rest.  Sunday at 9 a.m., coffee and beignets were served in the theater.  In summary, I can’t say enough about how smoothly this whole weekend was handled and how much fun we and our guests had taking part in all the activities.  It was the second time we’ve attended a Seven Stars Signature Event in New Orleans, but it won’t be the last.  The main thing New Orleans has going for it is that the events it schedules are unique and reflect the character of the city.  Other venues like Las Vegas and Atlantic City put on parties and shows, but we can go to a party or see a show any time, at any Caesars property.  But how many times do we get an opportunity to ride on a Mardi Gras float?  Or meet an NFL quarterback?  Or have our palm read?  Or pose with an alligator?  Different and unique.  So, kudos to the staff at Harrah’s New Orleans.  You got it right.”

And from another guest:  “The beignets and coffee session was done just as well as the other sessions. There was a four-piece band plus singer.  At one point, the singer led a dozen people around the room in a conga line.  Servers were dressed in outfits similar to Cafe Du Monde uniforms, including white aprons and caps. There were plenty of servers and also a cocktail server who brought out bloody marys or anything else we wanted, very quickly.  The beignets were excellent and fruit salad was also available.”

Suffolk Downs (Massachusetts)

Gambling Law In Conference Committee
The Massachusetts Senate, 24-14, approved casino gambling October 13.  The plan would authorize three “resort” casinos and one slots-only gambling parlor.  The House passed a similar version of the bill in September.  Now the measure is before a joint House-Senate conference committee where lawmakers will reconcile the differences that now exist in the two versions.  Once a final proposal has been ironed out, the legislation will head to Governor Deval Patrick’s desk for his signature.  Patrick has indicated initial support for the plan.

Las Vegas

Great Gift Wrap Up Mix-Ups
This year’s Great Gift Wrap Up will be held from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. November 10-14 at the Flamingo and December 1-5 at Caesars Palace.  If you feel there’s been some sort of mistake in your points, ask to have someone review your account.  Apparently, for at least the last two years, there have been dedicated representatives who will work with you.  Be sure to bring any documentation, if you have it.

Bill’s  Gamblin’ Hall & Saloon

Get A Free Diamond – Card, That Is
Though owned by Caesars Entertainment, Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall & Saloon, next to the Flamingo and across from Caesars Palace, has its own player’s club.  Normally it would take 11,000 tier credits – earned in a calendar year just like Total Rewards – to get a Bill’s Diamond card; however, Bill’s will automatically upgrade any Seven Stars (or Diamond) cardholder.  The card will be good through March 31, 2012.  Comp dollars, though, can be used interchangeably among all the Caesars Total Rewards properties in Las Vegas.  The catch is that you must exchange your Bill’s comp dollars for a voucher which is good for 24 hours.  Don’t take more than you can use because any unused credits will not be returned to your account.  Conversely, you can use your Total Rewards comp dollars at Bill’s much like Quick Rewards.  No voucher required.

Signing Bonuses
Currently, when you sign up for a player’s card there is a promotion that also gives you five free comp dollars and, after you earn two more, you get a free T-shirt.  You also get a book of coupons good at the 10 Caesars-owned properties in Las Vegas, as well as for some other tours and attractions.  Most of the coupons require some sort of purchase – buy one/get one or “X” percent off your purchase – but one coupon gives you four free balcony tickets to Nathan Burton’s show at the Flamingo.  My favorite is the “free coffee table book” at Michael Godard Art Gallery & Store.  The only requirement is that you must make a $995 or greater purchase of “fine art” at the store.

Free Show Tickets
Another benefit to having the Bill’s Diamond card is that you can get two additional free show tickets every month.  (Check with the player’s card desk to see which shows are available.  Last month they were offering comedians George Wallace and Vinnie Favorito, magician Nathan Burton, Legends in Concert, Human Nature and Frank Marino’s Divas.)  In other words, with a Seven Stars/Diamond card and a Bill’s Diamond card you can double the number of tickets you’re eligible for each month.

Great Gift Wrap Up
Play at Bill’s qualifies for Great Gift Wrap Up points.

Caesars Palace

And The Walls Came Tumbling Down
In an inspired architectural touch, the former Augustus Café has been transformed into Central – full name Central by Michel Richard (shortened to Central Michel Richard at the entrance, and on the menu and cocktail napkins).  [And it’s pronounced “sen-tral”, not “sen-tral”.]  Central’s bar spills into the lobby, and the open floor plan allows lots of natural light to stream in from windows hardly noticeable in the room’s previous incarnation.  See photo below:

[Note the whimsical “stacked plates” artwork as you walk in, as well as the hanging “plates” suspended throughout the room.]  A James Beard Award winner, Richard was one of my favorite chefs during the years I lived in Washington, D.C., when I often dined at Citronelle at the Latham Hotel.  At Central, Richard has created a menu that’s accessible, but filled with French bistro flourishes.  A perfectly cooked pan seared salmon filet came with succotash – but not your grandmother’s corn-and-lima bean concoction.  Freshly sautéed corn kernels and baby limas rub elbows with tiny diced red pepper, onions and fresh herbs.  If fish isn’t your thing, try the crusty filet, moist and medium rare, served with haricots verts.  For dessert try Michel’s Napoleon (big enough to share) or the crème brulee.  At dinner, if you’re lucky enough, ask for one of the best servers I’ve encountered, Laurent.  His French accent will only add to the ambience.  And, unlike the Washington, D.C., branch, Central in Las Vegas is open 24 hours.  However, service at breakfast can be maddening slow – the kitchen seems to be overwhelmed by the crowds, but it’s worth the wait.  My spinach, wild mushroom and Swiss cheese omelet was wonderful, but the menu needs to spell out what’s included with the breakfast entrees.  A gentleman sitting next to me at the bar sent back a practically uneaten order of breakfast potatoes, perhaps not realizing that hash browns (and an English muffin) came with all omelets.  Bargain hunters should try the $17 breakfast that includes three eggs, pancakes, sausage, bacon, ham and potatoes.  Similar to what was served at the Augustus Café, it’s easily enough to share.  Add two $3 cups of coffee, and maybe a glass of OJ, and two people can eat for around $25 – a real deal at high-end casino restaurants these days.

Size Does Matter
Now I know why it’s called Serendipity 3. . .the entrées are large enough for three to share.  I had brunch there last month and was shocked to see how large the portions were.  I saw one $20 sandwich that looked to be almost two feet long.  I barely made it through half of my quiche and salad.  The place is popular, though.  Thanks to my Seven Stars card I was seated in less than five minutes, but others – depending on the size of their parties – were being told of waits as “short” as 45 minutes to as long as 80 minutes.

Information Worth Recycling
Caesars Palace recycles 640,000 gallons of waste vegetable cooking oil a year.

Out With The Old, In With The Old [Homestead]
Opening next month on the site of Neros will be a second branch of the venerable New York steakhouse, Old Homestead.  The other is in Atlantic City, not at a Caesars property, but at the Borgata.

Flamingo

The Show Must Go On
To her credit, Marie Osmond finished her brother’s and her show October 26, then went straight to the emergency room at a local hospital.  “So the allergies went into a bronchitis,” she tweeted early the next morning, adding that it affected her high notes.  Always the trouper, she was back on stage that night.

The Cheapest Free Ticket In Town
Does anyone actually pay to see Nathan Burton at the Flamingo?  A ticket to Divas includes up to four free balcony tickets, and there is a coupon in the Total Vegas booklet given to all new Total Rewards members which also gives four free balcony tickets.

Harrah’s

Who’s, I Mean Whose, Line Is It Anyway?
I never have to worry about finding a misspelling or punctuation error for this newsletter’s monthly feature when it comes to the crack proofreaders who work for Caesars.  A New Year’s Eve invitation from Harrah’s in Las Vegas features this boo-boo:

Jumping The Line
Perhaps taking a cue from the airlines with their à la carte pricing, Harrah’s is now offering “express seating” at its Flavors Buffet.  Those without a Platinum, Diamond or Seven Stars card can pay $5 per person per entry to bypass the line.  Earlier this year Harrah’s experimented with – and subsequently abandoned – an optional additional charge for “premium” liquors and wines served on the casino floor.  [Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall & Saloon (see above) is now pitching the same drink offer.]

Imperial Palace

Divas Las Vegas
For a different sort of “peepshow” (see below), check out Frank Marino’s Divas in the Imperial Theater.  Marino was out – no pun intended – the night I saw the show.  Despite what you might think of the genre, the cast of the show works harder than practically any other show on the Strip – especially the six “boys” who serve as back-up dancers to many of the divas’ solo numbers.  Kudos, too, to the costume and wig designers (and “manufacturers”).  Some of the divas are more iconic than others, but it depends on your generation.  I found it easier to relate to a Dolly Parton, a Liza Minnelli, a Cher or a Bette Midler, but, then, I’ve never seen Rihanna in concert.  The music – all soundtracks of the original singers – is overamplified and I could do without all the prerecorded applause, but the show is very entertaining and something you probably won’t see in Topeka – though Atlantic City has its own impersonator show over at Resorts.  And there’s definitely more skin showing than Peepshow – all of the male variety, with much of it masquerading as “female”.  The biggest question is how the Cher impersonator slips into that skin-tight costume and where does he. . .oh, never mind!

The Most Expensive ‘Free’ Ticket In Town
A ticket to Divas also includes up to four “free” tickets to Name That Tune which plays during some afternoons (and one evening) in the same theater.  However, read the fine print, and there is an additional $15.71 “box office fee”.  It’s not clear if that’s per ticket, or for the entire order.

Planet Hollywood

A Peak At Peepshow
Hey, it’s been running for more than two years, so who am I to judge, but I just don’t understand the success of Peepshow.  [It’s certainly a step-up from the old burlesque show in Toledo, Ohio, that my fraternity brothers and I sneaked into back in the 60s – not that we were underage, we just didn’t want anyone to know we were that desperate for cheesy entertainment.]  Peepshow currently features former Hugh Hefner girlfriend Holly Madison; she’s certainly attractive enough, but her acting, dancing and singing talents leave much to be desired.  In fairness, I don’t think those were the “talents” that got her the job.  Much of the singing – mostly by others – was unintelligible, the “choreography” pretty pedestrian and the music too loud; again, I don’t think that’s what audiences are going for – at least the guys.  But, hey, the tickets were free and I felt a certain obligation to check it out.  Has anybody else seen the show?  Comments?

Atlantic City

Caesars, Union Hope To Avoid Strike
Local 54 of UNITE-HERE union has reached a tentative contract agreement with the four casinos owned by Caesars Entertainment Corp.  Terms of the three-year agreement with will not be publicly released until after the union members vote on it November 1.  If approved, the agreement ensures there will be no strike at Bally’s, Caesars, Harrah’s Resort or Showboat.

Pier Shops Purchased At Auction
Lenders paid $25 million – plus $1 – to purchase the Pier Shops.  Look for more mid-price stores to replace – or at least co-exist – with the mall’s current high-end tenants such as Louis Vuitton.

Now You See Them, Now You Don’t
Following a carjacking in September that left a man dead and a woman injured, but only nine days after law officials introduced the plan, Atlantic City’s Mayor prohibited police from patrolling casino parking garages.  He said that the city government’s responsibility is to its residents “first and foremost.”  To maintain their confidence, public-safety agencies must stay visible and respond quickly, he added.  Shortly, thereafter, police went back on patrol in casino parking garages, against the wishes of some members of local law enforcement and against the orders of the mayor, but based on a decision by the
Atlantic County Prosecutor, and with the support of New Jersey’s Governor Chris Christie.

Match Game
Caesars Entertainment matched a $5,000 donation to the Community FoodBank of New Jersey.  The original contribution was from employees – called the HERO team – who conducted various fund-raising activities.  HERO stands for Helpful Employees Reaching Out.

Comps Declining or Increasing In Atlantic City?  It’s All In The Numbers
If you think your comps are declining, the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement has the statistics to prove it – though the “real story” is that they’re not.  Confused?  Read on.  Figures show that the 11 Atlantic City casino hotels spent about $1.3 billion for comps in 2010, down from $1.4 billion in 2009 and $1.5 billion in 2008.  Now comes word that Atlantic City’s casinos are becoming more generous with their giveaways as gaming competition has grown in Pennsylvania and other surrounding states.  But back to that “’real story”: Comp spending as a percentage of gross gaming revenue has increased, meaning that the casinos are actually giving more.  Measured as a percentage of total casino revenue (gaming and nongaming sources), the rate of comps in Atlantic City rose from almost 26 percent in 2006 to 27 percent in the first six months of 2011.  Gaming analysts, though, argue that, while the upward trend in comps may be good for customers, it’s bad for the casinos and their bottom line.

Caesars

CSI: Atlantic City
Police and emergency medical personnel responded early last month to reports that a person had jumped from Caesars.  Police closed part of the street with yellow police tape by 10 p.m.  In the enclosed area there was what appeared to be a body covered with white sheets.  It was wrapped in blue tarp and removed from the scene on a gurney at about 10:30 p.m.  Atlantic City firefighters arrived five minutes later and cleaned the area with bleach and water.  In order to pass through the area, pedestrians walking along South Arkansas Avenue were instructed either to turn around or walk through the Caesars parking garage.

Homeless Shelter
With the weather getting colder in the East, the homeless once again are beginning to take refuge inside Atlantic City’s casinos.  A popular haven is the large area inside the exit/entrance around the corner from the Racebook/Keno area on the first floor.  Despite the fact that the doors on Arkansas Avenue are locked from the inside, it doesn’t take a cat burglar to figure out the way in – or you just wait patiently until a customer or employee exits.  Perhaps Security could patrol this area on a regular basis.  One afternoon last month I spotted a guy sprawled out on the floor against the back wall, but I couldn’t find anyone to do anything about it.

Morton’s Steakhouse Offers Early Holiday Gift
If you’ve been wanting to try Morton’s, but were put off by the 2:1 comp dollar policy, give it a try between now and December 24 when comps will be accepted on a 1:1 basis.

Harrah’s Resort

 Water and Blackjack Combo Gives ‘Card Sharks’ A New Meaning
Harrah’s Resort has added two blackjack tables inside its dome-covered pool and entertainment complex, becoming the second Atlantic City casino to expand gambling into traditionally nongaming areas.  Days after Tropicana Casino and Resort won state regulatory approval to put slot machines and electronic table games inside The Quarter shopping center, Harrah’s filed paperwork with the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement to transform The Pool complex into a gambling attraction.  Don Marrandino, Caesars Eastern Division president, said, “There are at least five casinos in Vegas that have blackjack by the pool.  I think we should take learnings from there and use it here to make things more unique.”  He added, “Stay tuned.  We’ve got a few things up our sleeve.”

Harrah’s Chester (Pennsylvania)

A Not-So Welcome Reception
Patrons entering the building from the first floor garage or front door valet are too frequently greeted with the site of men and women sleeping, reading and eating, often with their – sometimes shoeless – feet propped up on tables.  There’s nothing wrong with having a place for folks to wait for a bus, or for non-gamblers to read a book while their spouses hit the slots, but these people are taking advantage of the situation.  Security needs to patrol the area more frequently, and some “No Loitering”, “No Sleeping” and “Keep Your Shoes On” signs need to be posted.

Getting To Chester Without Going Through Chester
Driving to Harrah’s from the south via I-95 just got a little easier.  You now can take Exit 4 (Commodore Barry Bridge/New Jersey to East 322 and 291).  Don’t go across the bridge – that will drop you off in New Jersey, but take the first exit (Chester Waterfront PA291) and turn right at the bottom of the ramp on Second Street (PA291).  (A sign will direct you to Eddystone.)  Harrah’s should petition for a sign to direct folks to the casino.  It’s a little confusing if you don’t know that the casino is just before Eddystone.

General

How The Grinch Stole Birthdays
Oh, for the days when you got a chocolate cake delivered to your house, or some free play, or maybe even some comp dollars.  As many of you know, the birthday gift du jour is now bonus Base Rewards Credits – I got offered up to 5,000.  Wow, 50 comp dollars – assuming I want to invest up to $25,000 in slot play on one day during the last three months of the year.  As I wrote before, this is like having your best friend tell you to go out and buy a birthday present at your own expense, but he/she will gift wrap it for you for free.  And, considering these are Base Reward Credits (that count toward your tier status), those who have birthdays earlier in the year really get the most value.  By October (or even July), if you’ve already achieved Seven Stars status, it really doesn’t do you much good – unless you’re going for one of the Signature Experiences.  Even then, by October, November or December, many players already have surpassed the 125,000 mark.  Caesars, please rethink this birthday “gift” next year.  Considering how generous competing casinos are with everything from cash and comp dollars to free play and “real” presents, this is pretty pathetic.  You want to recognize my birthday by asking me to invest more money on the off-chance I am going to win, just so I can get a few points and comp dollars?  I don’t think so.  [By comparison, Dover Downs in Delaware – where I play a fraction of what I play at Caesars casinos – gave me $200 in free play, good the entire month of November.  And the best gift?  Good all during November, Aria in Las Vegas – where I’ve never even played! – is giving me three nights in a corner suite, $700 in free play, and a $450 food and beverage credit.]

Seven Stars Discount Discontinued
The 15 percent Seven Stars discount on gift cards sold through the Total Rewards Catalog has been discontinued, effective last month.

Great Race Credits
Looks like Caesars was right on schedule.  Messages boards are buzzing and e-mails are being exchanged about the Rewards Credits everyone earned with the Great Race promotion.  Caesars said the bonus credits would be added by October 31, and they were!

Survey: Old vs. New Slots?
Once again, it’s a draw.  Slot players were almost evenly divided as to whether they stick with the same machines, or tire of the old and search out the new.

Survey: 125K+ Players
Looking over the choices for 2011-12 Signature Experiences, there doesn’t seem to be much logic in what they include for the amount of play required.  If you could design some new Experiences for 2012-13, what would you suggest?  Which of the current experiences would you eliminate?  How about an à la carte option that would allow you to assemble your own personal experience?  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 – October Edition

Here’s the latest edition of Seven Stars Insider.  This is an easy read and an excellent resource for Harrah’s players.  Head over to Seven Stars Insider to sign up for the newsletter.  There is lots of information in this edition, as usual, so read on for all the goods.

Harrah’s Ak-Chin (Phoenix)

Free Food and Drinks
Seven Stars cardholders get two free buffets every day, as well as additional complimentary cocktails and appetizers in the Diamond Lounge. There is no Seven Stars Lounge, but the Diamond Lounge opens at 2:30 p.m. daily. Sunday through Thursday, the lounge is open until 9 p.m., on Fridays and Saturdays it remains open until 11. Seven Stars cardholders may bring up to three guests and get up to eight free drinks and two appetizers daily; Diamond cardholders may bring just one guest and get four drinks and one appetizer daily. According to Ak-Chin’s Web site, the appetizers are large enough for two to share.

Harrah’s New Orleans

Signature Event Web Site
With the first weekend event beginning October 6, someone should check out the website . It’s nearly impossible to read. The color needs to be darker. It’s the same with the Seven Stars Signature Experiences online booklet:

Tunica

Buffet of Buffets Concept Expands
Joining Las Vegas and Atlantic City, the Buffet of Buffets in Tunica includes the Paula Deen Buffet at Harrah’s, the Village Square Buffet at the Horseshoe and the Big Kitchen Buffet at the Roadhouse. I’ve gained five pounds just writing this paragraph!
Lake Tahoe

Signature Event Gets Rave
I’m always pleased to publish positive feedback, so I was happy to receive this e-mail from a couple who attended the Seven Stars Signature Event in Lake Tahoe: “This was our first Seven Stars Event and it was thoroughly enjoyable. Everybody bent over backward to see to our needs. Even when there was some confusion (poor signage, conflicting directions, lack of sufficient limos) upon arrival at the Reno airport, it was more than made up for by the hospitality of the hosts and the beverages and snacks on the bus to Lake Tahoe. We stayed at Harrah’s Lake Tahoe and the room was very good, the hotel clean, and the service superb. Meals were superior and the lounge provided an out of the way escape from the hustle and bustle of the casino. We took the cruise on the lake and it was a delightful afternoon. All in all, this experience provided incentive for us to maintain our Seven Stars status. Kudos to the Harrah’s/Harvey’s staffs at Lake Tahoe for a great job.”

Las Vegas

Linq To Link Imperial Palace and Flamingo
Work has begun on The Linq, a $550 million outdoor retail, dining and entertainment district patterned after The Grove in Los Angeles and anchored by the world’s tallest observation wheel. In addition, the Imperial Palace will be rethemed and renovated with a new facade, porte cochere, and hotel reception area. The casino also will be renamed; Caesars is currently leasing that name, and the lease expires next year. The project will 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, which will be converted from public to private streets. The Linq’s centerpiece is the 550-foot observation wheel, dubbed the Las Vegas High Roller. The structure is nine feet taller than the Singapore Flyer and 107 feet taller than the London Eye. With 28 enclosed transparent sphere cabins that hold up to 40 passengers each, the wheel can transport an estimated 2,240 passenger per hour. It will take 30 minutes to make one revolution on the wheel. Caesars executives say they anticipate charging less than $20 per person to ride the observation wheel, and the first riders are expected to board sometime in 2013. In addition, the Linq will have 30 to 40 retail, dining and entertainment attractions in a 200,000 square foot open-air marketplace. About 70 percent of the mix will be restaurants and bars. As part of the project, the Flamingo will receive a new pedestrian entrance that connects the casino with The Linq and the current O’Shea’s will be demolished, with a new location to be rebuilt about 150 feet to the east within the rebranded Imperial Palace.

Fast Cash Math Error
Maybe I’m the one who should go back to school! At least for some math lessons. Last month I noted that Fast Cash tickets are now valid for 180 days – “two months longer than before”. Make that five months. Previously, tickets expired after 30 days; you now have six months. Sorry for the confusion!

What’s Next? Unlimited Purchases In Caesars Gift Shops?
After binging at the buffets and being entertained by your fill of shows, now you can party like a reality star. Skip those long lines with the new All Night Pass that gets you into Pure Nightclub at Caesars Palace, Chateau Nightclub at Paris, Gallery Nightclub and Pussycat Dolls Burlesque Saloon at Planet Hollywood, Crown Nightclub and VooDoo Rooftop Nightclub at Rio, and Carnaval Court at Harrah’s. Price is $44.99 for Total Rewards cardholders ($49.99 without the card). Blackout dates apply and there are other restrictions – like being young, thin, gorgeous and well dressed (just kidding about those, but there are “other restrictions”).

Caesars Palace

Video Poker vs. Penny Slots
I’m not a video poker player, but one reader reports that the casino seems to have replaced a number of $1-$2-$5 VP machines with penny slots. The 20-year Caesars Palace veteran writes that, if the trend continues, he’ll take his Seven Stars card – and his play – elsewhere.

Flamingo

Buffett of Buffetts: Slot Machines In Paradise (or is that, ‘Pair Of Dice’?)
The new “Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville Casino” inside the Flamingo is scheduled to be open by the time you see this. You can read all about it, and view some artist renderings. Grand opening events (in the form of street parties) will be held October 15 and 22 – coincidentally, the same dates Buffett is performing at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. (By the way, this cleverly disguised “Pulse of Las Vegas Blog” is produced by Caesars Entertainment. At first glance, you’d think it was written by some opinionated self-appointed “hack” – like me! – but it’s actually a great promotional tool for the Caesars properties in Las Vegas.)

Atlantic City

Hide and Go Shrimp (and other rumors)
In any environment where stakeholders aren’t kept up-to-date, rumors become rampant. [If either of these rumors turns out to be true, you heard it here first (or second).]

For example:

· Shrimp cocktail is going to disappear from the menu at the Diamond Lounges – at least during the week and continuing through Memorial Day weekend. Considering that those shrimp are the centerpiece of the promotional campaign justifying the 10 comp dollar per person charge for certain players, it would seem like an unwise decision.
· The charge for Diamond Lounge admission is going to increase to 15 comp dollars per person. Doubtful. That said, in my opinion, the food quality in the lounges continues to deteriorate – or, at the very least, is inconsistent. Yes, there are more entrée choices, but nothing very interesting or well prepared. A lunch last month at Caesars was practically inedible. Grilled chicken breasts were overcooked and dry, “pizza” was topped with an overwhelmingly strong barbecue sauce instead of tomatoes, and an interesting individual serving of eggplant parmesan would have been fine if it had been hot. Then, a week or so later, they were carving the juiciest, most tender turkey breast I’ve ever had. Go figure! [By the way, my offer to host any Caesars executive for a free meal at the Borgata’s Amphora Lounge still stands. Now that’s a player’s lounge that knows how to treat its customers!]

TR Insider Insight
Caesars seems to be suffering from a multiple-personality disorder. . .and it’s passing it on to some of its customers. I guess it’s not enough that I am a Seven Stars cardholder and – after one overnight visit to the casino – a member of the Harrah’s Joliet General Manager’s Club. According to an invitation I received, I now have “The Exclusive Access Of A TR Insider”. To maintain this status, all I have to do is earn a minimum of 7,500 Base Reward Credits® every quarter. How am I going to benefit from this? “From October to December [I’ll] have access to special events at Caesars, Harrah’s Resort, Showboat and Bally’s Atlantic City. [Caesars has] created private sweepstakes, unique parties, select promotions and tournaments for our TR Insiders.” Gosh, sort of sounds like what I’m getting with my Seven Stars card. In all seriousness, this TR Insider is just another variation of the General Manager Clubs I wrote about last month. It’s a way for Caesars to recognize those players who earn more than the 11,000 tier points required for Diamond, but not enough for Seven Stars – yet, apparently, Seven Stars cardholders are included in the fun. To get an initial invitation, players had to have earned 7,500 tier points from April 1 through June 30. But, back to that invitation, why did everyone receive it just about a week prior to the Welcome Reception? Even several hosts I spoke with weren’t aware of this program until they received an e-mail around September 10 – again, just a week before the inaugural event on September 17. And, while it’s pretty obvious that the “TR” refers to Total Rewards, a Google search on “TR Insider” brings up articles on insider trading within Tootsie Roll Industries. [TR is the New York Stock Exchange trading symbol for Tootsie Roll Industries.] And, finally, there’s that pesky grammar problem Caesars has. It reared its ugly head in the invitation’s message from Regional President Don Marrandino: “As a member of our brand new TR INSIDER loyalty club, I personally invite you to indulge in the many exciting and exclusive events we have planned for you.” I think he meant to say something like, “Welcome to our brand new TR INSIDER loyalty club. I personally invite you to indulge in the many exciting and exclusive events we have planned for you.” [It’s not Mr. Marrandino who’s a member of the club.] It’s a common error, but I expect better from Caesars.

So, how was the Welcoming Reception? Those who attended the 5 p.m. dinner reported extraordinarily long lines to register, to get a cocktail and even to enter the ballrooms. [The event was so well attended, it had to be moved from its original location in Bally’s Traymore Ballroom to separate concurrent dinners in the Ocean and Grand Ballrooms.] I inadvertently avoided the long registration line by meeting some friends who attended the early dinner. Registration remained open after the 5 o’clock dinner commenced, and continued through the start of the second, 8 p.m., dinner. I also avoided the long lines at the bars during the cocktail hour by having drinks in the nearby Diamond Lounge – at least it offered a place to sit down, and some pretzels and shrimp to nibble on. And, while a lot of folks were not happy with fish as one of the entrées, I thought the sea bass and its accompanying petite filet mignon were perfectly cooked. As a matter of fact, the staff at Bally’s needs to be commended for serving nearly 3,000 people in two back-to-back seatings. What the folks at Caesars missed, though, was the opportunity to fully explain the benefits of this new loyalty program. Guests to whom I spoke did not seem impressed with what they would get for their play; many of them said they weren’t really sure why they were there because they rarely earn more tier points than the basic 11, 000 to qualify for Diamond. It will be interesting to see what this first quarter offers us new TR Insiders. Also, don’t be surprised if this isn’t the first step to qualifying (and requalifying) on a semi-annual basis, i.e., every six months, for tier status. Caesars executives have discussed this in the past; Golden Nugget and Resorts already operate on this system.

Diamond Lounge Passes
There was lots of head-scratching last month when many Seven Stars and high-level Diamond cardholders received coupons for free admission to the Diamond Lounges at any of the Atlantic City casinos. Since they receive free admission by virtue of their level of play, why waste money printing and mailing the coupons? Many of those who don’t qualify for free admission were surprised to learn that the coupon was good for just one person, and not the cardholder and a guest. All in all, a little confusing.

Buffet Of Buffets Policy Change
You may not have noticed the small print addition to the signs, but you now can use comp dollars to pay for the Buffet of Buffets. Previously, this was an all-cash deal.

Mail Pattern Boldness
It makes no sense: Early in September I received my booklet of October offers from Bally’s, but on September 14 I received an offer for a giveaway three days later at Caesars on the 17th. It turned out that I already would be there because of the TR Insider dinner (see above), but it seems like Caesars is cutting it close with their mailings. Considering the huge attendance at the TR Insider dinner, apparently, short notice is not a problem for lots of people. A week later, though, I noticed an invitation on my Total Rewards Web site for a Boardwalk Empire dinner (see below). That invitation never arrived in the mail. Lesson: Check the Web site periodically.

Free Parking – ID May Be Required
The Seven Stars/Diamond Express lanes seem to be closed more frequently at Caesars self-parking lots. As a matter of fact, be prepared (but not always!) to show ID when you exit. I’ve also heard reports about ID checks at Harrah’s valet. In fairness to Caesars, my guess is that too many people are “sharing” their player’s cards, or players (and employees) trying to save a few bucks are savvy enough to pick-up discarded cards in the casino, realizing the monetary value of the complimentary parking. ID is required for practically every other transaction involving your player’s card, so why not parking? Caesars, just be consistent, so we all can be prepared. For us guys, it can take a while to unbuckle our seatbelts, fish out our wallets and take out our driver’s licenses – further slowing the exit process. (Borgata and Taj Mahal often require ID, too, but, like Caesars, they are not consistent.)

Police Patrolling Parking Garages
Police are now patrolling casino parking garages after a carjacking last month left a man dead and a woman injured. The announcement was made shortly before the last of the three suspects in the carjacking at Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort’s parking garage made his first appearance in court. The attack was the second at the Taj Mahal garage in 16 months. It brought the issue of casino parking garage safety to the forefront.

Bally’s

Photo-Op-Oly
Despite all the warning signs, lots of children (and adults!) are climbing all over the giant Monopoly game pieces at the Boardwalk entrance to Bally’s. If this display really does pose a danger, then Bally’s needs to put some sort of fence around it or post a security guard out there to monitor it. All the disclaimers in the world aren’t going to stop some angry parents from filing a lawsuit when their kid falls and breaks an arm.

Nanking Opens Seventh Location
Formerly Red Pearl (and formerly Mr. Ming’s), Nanking is now open and offers a unique fusion of Indian, Thai and Chinese cuisines. Another “non-chain” chain, Nanking also has locations in Jersey City, as well as Times Square and Long Island.

Caesars

Sound Decisions Mar Otherwise Flawless Evening
For a party celebrating the premier of the second season of HBO’s Boardwalk Empire, the Palladium Ballroom could not have looked lovelier – hundreds, no make that thousands, of red carnations punctuated the room in arrangements high and low, and in “kissing balls” suspended from elaborate candelabra. Complementing the elegant florals were rich red and gold fabric panels suspended around the perimeter, as well as other large set pieces – all contributing to the look of a 1920s supper club. The menu, while simple, included “classics” like Waldorf salad, and filet mignon “Oscar” (crabmeat, asparagus and hollandaise sauce). The chocolate dessert was so rich, all I could handle was a couple bites. But the music! Does Caesars employee health plan not cover hearing tests? Since everyone else at my table was too embarrassed to say anything, I spoke to no less than three people – including the woman who supposedly was in charge of the event. I even followed her as she talked to the sound engineer, but, still, the music was deafening. You couldn’t hold a conversation with the person sitting next to you, let alone anyone else at your table. Even the bartenders were complaining because they couldn’t hear anyone’s order. And why a band – excellent as they were – playing all contemporary music? How much more appropriate it would have been to feature music from the period. Ironically, as I was leaving the casino, I spotted that perfect band, playing to passers-by in Caesars lobby. Sadly, no one could have cared less.

Wipe Out
Someone is spending way too much time watching TV. When I went to check-out of my room last month, I noticed that there were no numbers on the remote:

Chew The Fat – Or The Nonfat – With A Chef
It would have been nice had someone told us in advance, but from 6 to 7 p.m. on Friday nights the Seven Stars Lounge has been featuring – and will continue to feature for the first two Fridays this month – celebrity chefs mixing and mingling with customers, as well as preparing special dishes. From 6 to 11, the kitchen also serves menu items selected by the chef du jour. On October 7, you can meet Chris Scarduzio (of his namesake restaurant at Showboat, as well as Mia at Caesars and Table 31 in Philadelphia); October 14, Chef Jerry [Longo] from Café Longo in Providence, R.I., will appear. There’s a large sign around the corner from the Diamond Lounge near the circular elevator leading to the top floor, but, unless you happened to be walking that way, you’d never know it was there.
And, Speaking Of The Seven Stars Lounge. . .

I’m happy to report that things have improved immensely at the Seven Stars Lounge. Maybe it was because it was Friday night, maybe it was because of the aforementioned celebrity chef feature, but the place had a certain vibe it had been missing. My server Chris was as professional as anyone working at a first-class gourmet restaurant and, I understand you can finally get a bowl of mixed nuts at the bar! The seating situation is still the same, and I didn’t get to check if the bartenders are now serving food. And, yes, and there are still those tiny portions, but, folks, these Seven Stars Lounges were never meant to be a substitute for a “real dinner”. If you want a more substantial meal, head down to the Diamond Lounge or go to a restaurant.

‘R’ You Seeing What I’m Seeing?
Either they changed the name of the Centurion Tower, or someone in Caesars sign department doesn’t know how to spell. (This is a two-sided sign, and it’s the same on the other side.)

Up, Up and Aware – Not!
The last weekend in September only three of the six elevators in the Centurion Tower required a room key to access a guestroom floor. I’m still not convinced that requiring a room key does anything to improve security – especially since, as long as one person inserts his/her key, everyone else can punch away at the floor buttons. It’s especially annoying if you have a bunch of packages in your arms and can’t get to your key – and that’s always when you’re the only one in the elevator!

Harrah’s Resort

No Longer Seeing Reflections
By the end of the year, the BR Guest Hospitality folks will gobble up yet another dining area in a Caesars-owned casino. Promising a quick turnaround during the month of December, Sammy D’s – I hope I got that correct – will open in the space currently occupied by Reflections. Watch for more details.
Harrah’s Chester (Pennsylvania)

‘Royalty’ For Loyalty
A mailing announcing this month’s “King and Queen of Chester” promotion begins with, “Here Ye, Here Ye”. I think the writer meant, “Hear Ye, Hear Ye”. Also, despite the concluding well wishes for “Maidens”, I assume the promotion is open to married ladies, as well.

Bring Your Coupons!
You no longer can use the excuse that your free play coupons got lost in the mail, your dog ate them, or you forgot to bring them. To its credit, Harrah’s won’t issue replacements. Apparently, too many people were taking advantage of the previous system (including a former employee – see below), frequently causing long lines at the Total Rewards desk.

Watch Your Coupons!
An employee allegedly rewarded himself with more than $20,000 in free play coupons, according to Pennsylvania State Police. The suspect was caught stealing $4,320 in coupons, and later admitted to stealing about $16,000 more since February, according to a state police press release. The incident occurred one Saturday last month about 1 a.m. and was captured on surveillance video. The suspect reportedly told authorities he gave the coupons to another, unidentified person. He was arrested and charged with theft and related offenses. An investigation by Trooper Christian Picard is continuing.

Here Yesterday, Gone Today
The complimentary appetizer for Seven Stars cardholders and their guest(s) is no longer being served at Temptations Buffet; however, certain eligible purchases at Club Cappuccino entitle cardholders to a complimentary non-alcoholic beverage. Also, End Zone is currently offering Seven Stars and Diamond cardholders a chance to play “Plinko”. You may get $1, $5 or $10 off your check – then, again, you may get nothing, but it’s a fun way to begin your meal.

General
That’s Harrah’s – With Two Rs
Browsing through the Total Rewards online catalog, I discovered this little blunder:

Maybe they could use that extra ‘R’ from the misspelled Centurion Tower sign at Caesars in Atlantic City.

Hats Off. . .
It’s happening everywhere, but I am tired of seeing gentlemen (and I use that term very loosely) wearing hats and baseball caps indoors – particularly in restaurants. Caesars could do all of us a big favor by posting signs at the entrances to its restaurants, buffets, and Diamond and Seven Stars Lounges telling men that hats must be removed before entering. And, while they’re at it, ban cellphone use – or at least ask that they be set on “vibrate”; then require guests to take their calls outside. It’s unlikely that this will happen, but we can hope.

Playing A Round
The complimentary quarterly rounds of golf at the Atlantic City Country Club are only for Seven Stars cardholders whose “home casino” is located in Atlantic City or Harrah’s Chester. Those Seven Stars cardholders from outside that area who might be planning a trip to Atlantic City should contact a host, though. Especially if it’s off-season, a complimentary golf outing may be arranged. And, unlike the monthly spa credit at the Grand in Biloxi, Miss., the quarterly spa credit in Atlantic City is available only to “locals”.

David Norton Update
According to LinkedIn.com , David Norton, former senior vice president and chief marketing officer at Caesars Entertainment, is now managing director of David Norton Consulting in Las Vegas. The company is “[e]ngaging with several world class clients on marketing activities including loyalty, CRM, technology, org design and performance management, sales teams, Branding and digital and emerging channels.” CRM is “customer relationship management”; “org design” refers, I assume, to organizations; but “Branding” has nothing to do with cattle.

Harrah’s Message Board
Not sure how many of you are aware of this message board:

harrahscasinos@yahoogroups.com. (ED: This is not a URL)

Several months ago I signed up just to monitor what folks are saying and to pick up a tip or two. Last month I responded to the group when someone asked details about cruise certificates he wanted to “purchase” with Reward Credits from the Total Rewards Catalog. The poster said he couldn’t get the details he required either by asking his host, the Total Rewards Center at his home casino or casino marketing. Here’s an excerpt:

Maybe I am not aggressive enough, but I have asked more than one host at more than one property. They refer me to Total Rewards who then refers me to casino marketing who then refers me to either NCL or back to the host. At the end of day no one seems to be able to tell me anything and I am tired of going in circles. I am not sure how I can force my host to investigate. The one host who offered something up framed it in “my understanding is” which does not help at all. I’ve lost a decent chunk of change to [Caesars] earning my Rewards Credits. It is really frustrating that it is so difficult to find out what I am actually purchasing with those credits. Computers lack a lot of the specs I am interested in. I have no idea what I get with the cruise certificates and what the restrictions are. Please, find a way to provide more information about the items in the catalog. At least having an Internet portal with more information would be very helpful.

While I didn’t mean to be rude, I politely suggested that these message boards [or this newsletter, or the Seven Stars Insider Web site, for that matter] are not the place to get “official” answers to questions about Total Rewards, Rewards Credit purchases, rules for the Great Race, etc. I further suggested that players need to tell their hosts that “I don’t know” is not an acceptable answer. “Rather than use hosts as glorified secretaries to book your hotel and dining reservations,” I wrote, “let them do the legwork and research, then get you an answer in writing.” Once again, as I’ve written in the past, Caesars needs a dedicated toll-free phone line for its Seven Stars (and Diamond) cardholders.

Survey: Old vs New Slots?
Slot players, are you “addicted” to one or two machines, or do you get bored after a while and search out the latest additions to the casino floor? I had an interesting discussion on this topic recently, and thought I would informally poll readers. 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 – August Edition

Here’s the latest edition of Seven Stars Insider.  As always there is a lot of good information. 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.

Seven Stars Insider – August 2011

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.

It’s now easier to find the Seven Stars Insider Web site:  Simply go to:  www.sevenstarsinsider.com

Lake Tahoe

Signature Event
Lots of folks are not happy that the official invitations didn’t arrive in the mail until just about a month before the Event, set for August 18-21.  (Some people got theirs via e-mail and were directed to make arrangements through their local host.)  In addition, several people reported difficulties in getting through on the toll-free number to make their reservations.  Others received an invitation which included a hotel stay, not at Lake Tahoe, but in Reno (with transportation provided daily between the two venues)!  That’s at least an hour away.  Kind of like inviting someone to the Event in Atlantic City, but putting them up outside Philadelphia.

According to the web site, “Let Harrah’s and Harveys [sic] Lake Tahoe entertain you for four days amidst the picturesque setting of the Sierra Nevada.  With so many spectacular outdoor activities to choose from, we’ve designed a personal Tahoe Adventure just for you!  Also, look forward to enjoying great music under the stars at our Harveys Lake Tahoe Outdoor Arena, featuring Grammy® and Academy of Country Music Awards winner Miranda Lambert on August 19.  The fun does not stop there, with a Seven Stars only Millionaire Maker Slot Qualifier and many more exciting offers to come!”

Considering it’s just a little more than two weeks before the event, why does the Web site still say, “Check back soon for updates” when the site hasn’t been updated in months?  If no one is going to maintain and update these Web sites, why even bother?  [And why list the three Events in an order different from how they are scheduled?  Ever since I found the site, in my mind, I thought the Lake Tahoe Event was going to be in October.]

Las Vegas

Harrah’s

The More Things Change. . .
Those of you who were frequenting Las Vegas back in 2007 may remember when the Diamond Lounges were serving “real” food.  Here’s a link someone sent me to a blog that wrote about it (and included photos):

New Orleans

October Signature Event
To be offered on two separate weekends, October 6-9 or 13-16 (that second weekend coincides with the Crescent City Blues and Barbecue Festival), the final 2011 Signature Event will be held in New Orleans.  Already announced are an open-air dinner at the Crazy Lobster Restaurant on the pier near the river, a boat ride on the Mississippi, a cooking demonstration and dinner in the theater featuring chef John Besh, and a ride on a Mardi Gras float from Harrah’s hotel to Bourbon Street where participants will disembark and be entertained on two terraces overlooking the street.  Of course, again, nothing about this is listed on the Web site.

Harrah’s Cherokee  (North Carolina)

Seven Stars Lounge
I stand corrected!  Last month I wrote that the only Seven Stars Lounges were located at Caesars and Harrah’s Resort in Atlantic City, and at the Horseshoe in Hammond, Ind.  In addition, there is a Seven Stars Lounge just off the Fresh Market Square Buffet at Harrah’s Cherokee.  Several years ago when I visited Cherokee’s Diamond Lounge (now also called the VIP Lounge or Seven Sisters Lounge) there was a separate Seven Stars section that offered a special menu from which you could order a selection of sandwiches prepared to order.  If anyone wants to send me information about the Seven Stars Lounge, I will be happy to publish it.

Harrah’s Chester  (Pennsylvania)

Getting It Right
As opposed to the modest offerings at Caesars July 4th fireworks viewing party in Atlantic City (see below), Harrah’s Chester did it right a few weeks later with a champagne barbeque on the terrace of its racetrack grandstand.  Beautiful white floral arrangements graced all the tables, while a Jimmy Buffet-style band entertained.  The menu consisted of mini-Kobe beef hot dogs, “All-American Sliders” (mini-hamburgers), corn on the cob, delicious barbequed chicken (which had been marinated in Coke and bourbon – yum!), fingerling potato salad and an ice cream sundae bar – along with a full bar featuring top-shelf brands (not just champagne).  And to the credit of an “on the ball” food and beverage staffer, when I requested a non-alcoholic beer (which I didn’t realize wasn’t being offered), he practically flew back inside and brought an ice-cold Sharp’s to my table.  Talk about great customer service!  I’m just sorry I didn’t get his name.

You’ve Come A Long Way, Baby
After four – often less-than-satisfying, but always improving – Sunday brunches at the Cove, I’m happy to report that on the fifth they finally got it right.  Like stars aligning in the heavens, service and food really came together July 31.  Management had added more employees, and the wait staff seemed more comfortable in their roles – which in the evening are considerably different from when they serve diners ordering from a menu, rather than selecting their own food from a buffet.  It’s not perfect, but expect even more improvements in the weeks to come.  If you tried the Cove’s Sunday brunch in the past and walked away disappointed, give it another shot – I think you’ll like what you find.  [One small quibble: How about some variations on the menu?  While I’d hate to see that wonderful cucumber, tomato and mozzarella salad disappear, perhaps the chefs have some other interesting combinations they’d like to showcase.  Same with the chicken breasts and risotto, and the crab-stuffed fish with polenta.  If you’re going to try to cultivate a “regular” crowd, my guess is that folks are getting tired of the same entrees week after week.]
Atlantic City

Bally’s

Half The Credit For The Same Play
It’s clearly marked, but those 98% pay “Wild Party” slots near the escalators on Bally’s main casino floor earn only half the number of tier credits as all other machines.  For example, instead of $5 of play earning one tier credit, it takes $10 – similar to how video poker players earn TR credits.  The real beneficiaries are those who don’t have a player’s card and, theoretically, will get more return on their “investments”.

Caesars

Seven Stars Lounge
A good description of the new lounge can be found at this link:

I’m not sure how long it will be available online, but it’s from The Press of Atlantic City’s weekly At The Shore.  It’s unfortunate there were no comments solicited from Seven Stars cardholders who have visited the lounge.  The feedback I’m getting is less than positive (on the décor, the food and the service), but folks are willing to give management and the kitchen some time to get their act together.  The problem is that Alisa Hammill and her team at Harrah’s Resort have set the bar so high – and, let’s face it, there is a “comfort factor” over there since it’s been open for so long.

Menu Mystery
While I’m always grateful to be included in some of the nice parties hosted by Caesars, I was a little surprised by the food offerings at the private viewing party for the July 4th fireworks.  While the invitation promised “our favorite 4th of July food,” what was served were hot dogs, mini hoagies, funnel cakes, and a few other items (which I can’t recall because I was so disappointed with what I saw).  I have no problem with hot dogs and hoagies, but I’d like something to go along with it, e.g., potato salad, cole slaw, or even some potato chips. I ended up next door at Trump Plaza eating a hamburger with some french fries, and then returned for the fireworks. (I also took in my own cocktail because I’m suspicious of invitations that promise “signature cocktails”. Too many times that means some fruity drink made with vodka or rum – and no other options. Turns out there was a full bar, but I wasn’t about to take a chance.)  And, finally, who sat in that special roped-off section?  It seemed a little odd to give special treatment to such a small select group of people.

Harrah’s Resort

Off The Hook: Now You See It, Now You Don’t
One month, five stays in five different rooms in the Waterfront Tower, and in three of the bathrooms there were no towel holders.  Is someone stealing them?  Have they been declared some sort of hazard, and management removed them?  What’s up?  Unless you know what’s supposed to be there, it just appears that part of a towel bar might be missing.  (Maybe, because it was July, the towel holders were on vacation somewhere with the notepads and pens, as well as the coffee packets and laundry bags that used to be in the rooms too.)

It’s Called A Pep Rally, Not A Dinner
The invitation promised a “chance to sit down to an invitation-only dinner with your fellow VIPs and all your favorite TV chefs.”  What it turned out to be was 1,199 other guests and I – and no TV chefs I could spot – crowded around tables of 12 (that would have more comfortably seated 10).  Taking our seats around 10 p.m., we were faced with an underdressed and lifeless “salad” of mixed greens, “hiding” a thick slice of under-ripe, pale and tasteless tomato.  Adding insult to injury, as my father used to say, nearly 45 minutes later (about 40 minutes after everyone had finished his/her salad), out came chef Robert Irvine in his trademark tight T-shirt and tattered jeans.  He insisted that everyone stand up, wave their arms, and “hoop ‘n’ holler” – even to the point of barging into the audience to embarrass anyone who wasn’t intimidated by his threats to keep up this madness (and hold dinner until everyone cooperated).  Even though I had a front row seat to his much-anticipated cooking demonstration, I’d had enough and walked out.  (It also didn’t help that one of the servers assigned to our table had overwhelming body odor!)  According to some who remained, dinner was finally served around 11:15, but the menu, preparation and presentation were nothing extraordinary.  Me?  I had dinner at Dos Caminos – more on that next month.

Table For Two At Luke Palladino – Oceanview, Please
Browsing once again through the [still out-dated] in-room guest guide, John D. Smith –  in his “A Few Words From The General Manager” – writes, “You’ll enjoy a dining experience where the delicious cuisine and attentive service are only surpassed by breathtaking ocean views.”  Huh?  What ocean views?  Perhaps Mr. Smith needs to spend a little time walking around his hotel to familiarize himself with the restaurants.  I’m not aware of any restaurants at Harrah’s Resort with ocean views.  Last time I checked, Harrah’s was located in the Marina District, not on the Boardwalk.  [And, by the way, it’s McCormick & Schmick’s, not McCormick & Schmicks – there goes that aversion to apostrophes again!  And it’s: “surpassed only” not “only surpassed”.]

Gone, But Not Forgotten
Though he resigned in April, former Senior Vice President and General Manager Jay Snowden is still “signing” letters.  I received one July 23 thanking me for playing at Harrah’s Resort and informing me that I had earned slot dollars on a prior visit.

General
Seven Stars Countdown
For the benefit of those Diamond cardholders who aspire to Seven Stars status – and those former Seven Stars cardholders who may be returning to the fold this year – let’s track how long it takes.  I know someone who topped 100,000 tier points July 29.  On July 30 he contacted his host, but she insisted she wasn’t aware of this since “her system” takes 24 to 48 hours to register tier points.  (Odd, because this player’s My TR iPhone app – see more on this below – was up-to-date, as were the computers at Total Rewards, the Rewards Kiosks and the readouts on the slot machines)  I’ll keep you posted each step of the way to detail what happens when, and how long it takes to actually receive the coveted blue card.

Clubs or Lounges?  Seven Stars or Seven Star?
OK, this is not a big deal, but why the inconsistency?  Most of the literature calls them Diamond and Seven Stars Lounges, but the names posted outside many of the facilities call them Clubs.  Ditto with Seven Star and Seven Stars.  Which is it?  [The cards say Seven Stars Club.]

Total Touch – Totally Frustrating
Speaking of consistency, there seems to be none when it comes to everyone’s encounters with Total Touch.  In terms of beverage service, it’s been “hit or miss” or me – but my only experiences are at Bally’s in Atlantic City or Harrah’s Chester in Pennsylvania.  Either the drink arrives within five minutes or not at all.  However, for a company that is doing everything it can to promote itself as “green” why does it mail so much paper and make it so cumbersome to download free slot play?  Here are step-by-step examples of what it takes at Bally’s vs. practically every other non-Caesars casino:

Bally’s
Other Casinos
1.      Computer assigns amount of promotional free play.
1.      Computer assigns amount of promotional free play.
2.      Computer assigns random 3-digit code.
2.      Casino alerts customer via e-mail.
3.      Casino prints special coupon with code.
3.      Customer goes to casino, inserts player’s card into slot machine.
4.      Casino mails coupon to customer.
4.      Customer enters 4-digit PIN.
5.      Customer must remember to bring coupon (or memorize/write down the code and have it when he/she arrives at casino
5.      Customer touches appropriate button on keypad, e.g., 1 to download free play, 2 to check comps, 3 to check tier score, etc.
6.      Customer inserts player’s card into slot machine
6.      Customer selects amount of free play to download.
7.      Customer touches “Use Offer” button.
7.      Play is downloaded.
8.      Customer enters 4-digit PIN.

9.      At prompt, customer enters 3-digit code.

10.  Play is downloaded.

And, this is if the system is working properly.  I had to go to three different machines before I could find one that would accept my offer last month.  Plus, it takes an annoyingly long time for the system to register your card.  You could get hypnotized sitting there watching those silly little “balls” banging against themselves while the screen reads “One Moment Please” – which, of course, frustrates me because it should read, “One Moment, Please”.

Aside from fewer steps – and the fact that the Bally’s system involves printing and mailing unnecessary coupons (why not just e-mail the 3-digit code and the dates/times the free play is valid?), the customer has to remember to bring the coupon – or at least write down the code or commit it to memory.  But what if you’ve been traveling and not checked your mail?  Under other casinos’ systems, all you need to do is insert your player’s card into any slot machine, log-on with your PIN, and check to see if you have any free play.  Hopefully, Total Touch is set-up to offer a similar system in the future.

Nothing Express About Express Play
As has been pointed out before, at those casinos without Total Touch, there are similar multi-step procedures – unless the casino has mailed you a coupon you can take directly to a slot machine.  Otherwise you have to:
1.      Find a kiosk (which could be a “Promotional Kiosk” or a “Total Rewards Kiosk” – read the fine print on your offer).
2.      Swipe your player’s card.
3.      Enter your PIN.
4.      Download a voucher.
5.      Go to a cashier and exchange the voucher for “generic” Express Play coupons.
6.      Take the coupons to a slot machine to redeem your free play.

Making it even more complicated is the fact that many of the generic Express Play coupons expire the day you receive them, or within five or six days; others are good for up to a month, and still others, up to a year.  Again, if Caesars is serious about reducing waste, print more coupons with longer validation periods.

Time For Some Spelling, Grammar and Punctuation Lessons?
Maybe Caesars should consider sending its copywriters back to school for some refresher courses.

Last month Caesars in Atlantic City sent invitations offering complimentary “accomodations” during the Food & Wine Festival, and Harrah’s Chester still can’t seem to figure out whether to use “its” or “it’s” in promotional copy or in signage.

Now comes an invitation from Harrah’s Joliet that says: “CONGRATULATIONS ON YOUR GM CLUB MEMBERSHIP AND ENJOY IT’S MANY BENEFITS.”

[It’s actually easy to remember which word to use:  If you can substitute “is” for the “’s” and the sentence makes sense, you’ve used the proper word.  In the example above, it’s clearly wrong because it would read:  “Congratulations on your GM Club membership and enjoy it is many benefits.”]

Of course, what can you expect from such an “apostrophe-conflicted” company?  Why are there never any apostrophes in Caesars?  Or Harveys at Lake Tahoe (which sometimes in copy uses an apostrophe, but not in the official logo)?  Then there’s that poster for Straight, No Chaser (see below) in the elevator at Harrah’s Resort in Atlantic City on which Harrah’s is spelled both with – and without – an apostrophe.

A mailing from Las Vegas for a “Bring A Friend Cruise Giveaway” asks you to “bring a friend along [and] they (emphasis added) will also receive a complimentary three-night stay. . . .”  Further in the copy it states, “. . .have your friend sign up to become a member of Total Rewards and they (emphasis added) will be entered into a drawing. . . .”  The word “they” requires a plural reference, e.g., “friends”.  To be perfectly – and politically – correct, the copy should read, “he or she” or “he/she”.  (Also, the word “along” is superfluous.)

Unless the rules are different in Canada, someone needs to correct the copy below.  The “valued guest” referred to in this VIP offers mailing is the player to whom it was addressed; “we” is Caesars Windsor.  Last time I checked, those references needed to “agree”.  Try, “As a valued guest, you are being rewarded with something everybody can use. . . .” – except, that is, if you only ride public transportation, or pedal a bicycle!

And, I missed one big blunder until just last month. . .

The Seven Stars book detailing all the benefits (and which is available online) spells “accommodations” wrong:

At least they used the correct “complimentary”!

My TR
I finally downloaded this app to my iPhone. . .what a disappointment!  About the only thing it’s good for is checking your current tier score and available comp dollars.  It also might be useful if you’re traveling and need directions to the nearest Caesars casino.  Other than that, the individual casino listings are pretty lame and don’t really give you much information.  And, when they do, it’s generally overblown hype that reads like something written by a first-year copywriting student at the local community college.  Worse, it’s woefully out-of-date, or, in some cases totally undecipherable.  Here’s an example from the Harrah’s Chester site:

Gaming
Our renowned casino now features table games!  [Yes, since July 2010 – see below.]

Live Table Games
Scheduled to open July 18*, Harrah’s Chester will be home to the largest table games offering in Pennsylvania and Delaware. . .as well as a 25 table Poker Room.  [That was July 18, 2010!  And there is no indication what that asterisk refers to.]

Slots
Now open!  [Yes, since the casino opened, duh.]

Racing
The 2008 season features 140 live days from April 20 through December 18.  [Isn’t this 2011?]

Events/Entertainment
The highlight of the culinary options at Harrah’s Chester is , with stunning views of the racetrack and the river.  The $34.99 Cove features a Prix Fixe.  for more details.  Other dining alternatives include. .and is open daily, offering all your favorite concession food in the simulcast and racing area.  [What?!?  Doesn’t anyone read these things before they’re posted?]

Harveys [sic] Lake Tahoe’s site doesn’t fare much better:

Spend the night in one of our spectacular restaurants.  [Why, are there no hotel rooms available?]  When it comes to fun and excitement, Harvey’s Lake Tahoe is the place to be! to watch our exciting Food and Wine Festival video.  [Again, does no one review these postings?]

I didn’t check every casino’s site, but these two were among the worst I reviewed.

Annual Getaway Grief
If Caesars really wants to promote its Total Rewards Visa card, why not just download the $1,200 annual getaway travel credit on a pre-paid card?  Or just ask travellers to submit their ticket at the destination and get a reimbursement – similar to what’s done in any number of offers Caesars sends out from its various casinos?   In other words, let Seven Stars cardholders have the option of making their own travel arrangements.  That way, someone who may have a fear of a flying could drive, and use the funds for fuel and tolls, or take a train or bus.  It also would be quicker and simpler for travelers who prefer specific airlines, want to use miles to upgrade, etc.  Hosts have enough to do without serving as go-betweens arranging travel for these annual trips.  In the past, I’ve found it to be nothing but a hassle – and I’ve even written some tips which are posted on the Seven Stars Insider Web site.

Time For A Total Total Rewards Makeover?
If the volume of e-mail I received is any indication, this is a real “hot button” for players.  With a majority of Seven Stars (and “high Diamond”) cardholders as subscribers, it makes sense that the overwhelming number of respondents agreed with my suggestions.  However, even some Diamond cardholders admitted they were getting a pretty good deal, especially compared to how they’re treated at other casinos with the same amount of play.  The problem, as many pointed out, is that Caesars would need to announce changes to be effective more than a year from now, or simply “grandfather” certain players under the current system for a limited period of time.  [What do you do, some wrote, with a person who has already earned 11,000 tier points since April 1 and expects Diamond status through March 31, 2013?  Not much, other than restrict benefits, e.g., charge 10 comp dollars for entry into the Atlantic City Diamond Lounges (and maybe all Diamond Lounges throughout the country?).]  It’s an interesting dilemma. . .continue to alienate your best players, or risk offending, i.e., losing, some of your lower-level players?  I guess we just have to leave it up to the CET execs making the big bucks.

Children At Casino-Sponsored Events
There’s an old expression, “I just love having children for dinner – preferably roasted rare, and paired with a nice cabernet.”  Seriously, I have nothing against children, but what were they doing both at the July 4th fireworks-viewing party at Caesars and the celebrity chef dinner at Harrah’s Resort in Atlantic City last month?  Even the disclaimer on the back of the chef dinner’s invitation it states, “Must be 21 or older. . .to participate in any Caesars Entertainment promotion.”

Number One Complaint?  Housekeeping
Of all the e-mails I receive each month, the number one complaint is about housekeeping – from the cleanliness of the rooms and hallways to the lack of amenities, e.g., notepads, ice bucket inserts (plastic bags), drinking glasses, “Do Not Disturb” signs, pens, coffee, laundry bags, etc.  In fairness, these are the same complaints nagging non-casino hotels, as well.  Despite “green initiatives” that save some time by not making housekeepers change sheets on a daily basis, corporate cutbacks have forced housekeepers to clean more rooms, and time constraints cause less attention to detail.  While I agree with these complaints – and have lodged them myself, I also am tired of seeing dirty Room Service trays sitting in hallways for hours at a time, scratched up furniture and other painted surfaces, ripped sheets, and stained and soiled bedding “accessories” – I don’t know what you call those long pieces of fabric that cover the duvet.  Last month during several stays at Harrah’s Resort in Atlantic City, on one visit there was only a single glass in the bathroom, on others, coffee packets were not replaced (or weren’t in the room to begin with), there were no pads or pens, the “Do Not Disturb” sign was missing (causing an unwanted early wake-up call by a housekeeper), there were no laundry bags,  no plastic bag liners for the ice bucket, the bottom sheet on my bed was ripped to shreds on the side, and then there was that aforementioned piece of soiled and stained green fabric adorning the foot of my bed.  I’m no germaphobe, but even I couldn’t throw it off onto the floor fast enough.  This is not what I would call an example of the “world-class accommodations” Senior Vice President & General Manager John D. Smith touts in his “A Few Words From The General Manager”.  Also irritating is having to plug in the lamps on either side of the bed.  In a proposal to potential investors several months ago, Caesars actually bragged about how much time housekeepers saved by not plugging in lamps they had unplugged in order to operate their vacuums!  So, how do you feel?  Send me an e-mail (sevenstarsinsider@gmail.com) and I’ll share your thoughts – anonymously, of course.

Darryl D. McEwen, Publisher
Seven Stars Insider

Seven Stars Insider is affiliated in any way with Caesars Entertainment or Total Rewards®.

OMG! Hotel Check-In, Diamond Member!

This Diamond Member check in video was sent to me by Maria R last night via twitter.  This sounds like about half of the people I encounter checking in who pull the “Don’t you know who I am?” card on people.

Personally, I just want a room and the quickest way to get to the Diamond Lounge so I can snack and drank it up.

Step Off…Step Off!

On my last trip to Las Vegas I was yelled at while I skipped a line of about 20 people at Starbucks at Planet Hollywood because I have a Diamond Card.  Judging from the girls at the counter this happens a lot in Vegas.  People don’t like being slighted for people that gamble more.

I used to be shy about this privilege, but after watching others do it with no problem and hating lines I’ve grown out of that shyness and just take what the casinos give me.  It’s a nice perk that I only get a Harrah’s properties so I enjoy it.

The latest Seven Stars Insider posted to a link to an article that talks about why Harrah’s caters so much to their big spenders.

June 2004 relaunch introduced a fourth tier (Seven Stars) to the (Total) rewards program that caters to the 0.15 percent of customers who contribute 12 percent of Harrah’s revenue.

As many know the old saying that 20% of tax payers contribute 80% of the revenue.  This isn’t much of a surprise as that’s the case with many markets.  This is the first time I’ve seen numbers put to gamblers.

I don’t need any further reason to use the “privileges” of my Diamond card, but the next time some jerk cuts the line you’ll understand why.

Photo: Harrahs Blog

By the way, if you’re interested in Harrah’s direct marketing efforts there’s some good information in the source article.

New Total Rewards Diamond Levels

Vegas Tripping shared information they received about two new divisions of the Diamond tier of Harrahs Total Rewards program.  No real information has been released besides the names “Select” and “Signature.”

Time to change the sign

Continue reading “New Total Rewards Diamond Levels”