Seven Stars Insider – September Edition

Maroon 5 Total Rewards Concert
Maroon 5 at Total Rewards Concert

Here are highlights from the latest edition of Seven Stars Insider. As always it has lots of information, especially for the Atlantic City players. This is an easy read and an excellent resource for Caesars Total Rewards players. It’s still long but full of information. Head over to Seven Stars Insider to sign up for the newsletter.

NOTE: While this newsletter was originally designed exclusively for Seven Stars cardholders, there is useful information for anyone who has a Total Rewards® player’s card and/or plays/stays at a Caesars property. Please feel free to pass this on to your friends. Back issues of the Seven Stars Insider newsletter are available online at http://www.sevenstarsinsider.com.

LAS VEGAS

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

LAUGHLIN

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

ATLANTIC CITY

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

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

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

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

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

PHILADELPHIA

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

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

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

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

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

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

AND IN OTHER INSIDER NEWS. . . .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Seven Stars Insider – August Edition

Penn jillette Total Rewards
Penn jillette

Here are highlights from the latest edition of Seven Stars Insider. As always it has lots of information, especially for the Atlantic City players. This is an easy read and an excellent resource for Caesars Total Rewards players. It’s long, but full of information. Head over to Seven Stars Insider to sign up for the newsletter.

ATLANTIC CITY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Congratulations!

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

HARRAH’S PHILADELPHIA

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

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

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

AND IN OTHER INSIDER NEWS…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Darryl D. McEwen, Publisher

Photo: Aceshowbiz

Seven Stars Insider – July 2013 Edition

Maria Menounos Total Rewards
Maria Menounos

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GENERAL

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo: Hawt Celebrities

Seven Stars Insider – January 2012 Edition

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

Harrah’s New Orleans

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

Las Vegas

Caesars Palace

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

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

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

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

Atlantic City

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

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

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

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

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

Bally’s

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

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

Caesars

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

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

Harrah’s Resort

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

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

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

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

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

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

Harrah’s Chester (Pennsylvania)

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

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

General

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

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

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

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

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

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

Survey: New Year’s Eve
I attended the parties at Caesars in Atlantic City, and I heard lots of nice comments about Bally’s parties in Atlantic City, but what about the rest of the country (and Caesars Windsor in Canada)?  How were those celebrations?  Send me an e-mail (sevenstarsinsider@gmail.com ) and I’ll share your thoughts – anonymously, of course.

Darryl D. McEwen, Publisher
Seven Stars Insider

Photo: Pulse of Las Vegas Blog

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®.