Seven Stars Insider – August Edition

Penn jillette Total Rewards
Penn jillette

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

ATLANTIC CITY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Congratulations!

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

HARRAH’S PHILADELPHIA

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

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

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

AND IN OTHER INSIDER NEWS…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Darryl D. McEwen, Publisher

Photo: Aceshowbiz

Seven Stars Insider – July 2013 Edition

Maria Menounos Total Rewards
Maria Menounos

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GENERAL

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo: Hawt Celebrities

Seven Stars Insider – June Edition

Alyssa Campanella at Escape Total Rewards Concert
Alyssa Campanella

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

HARRAH’S PHOENIX AK-CHIN

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

LAS VEGAS

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

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

FLAMINGO

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

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

ATLANTIC CITY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BALLY’S

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

CAESARS

Promotions Supervisor

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

HARRAH’S RESORT

Developing Executive

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

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

Earl Of Sand-Bitch

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

HARRAH’S PHILADELPHIA

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

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

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

CAESARS WINDSOR

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

GENERAL

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Darryl D. McEwen, Publisher
Seven Stars Insider

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

Photo: Zimbio

Seven Stars Insider – February Edition

Katrina Bowden Total Rewards Concert
Katrina Bowden

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

Harrah’s Rincon (San Diego)
Meet and Greet
I’ll be at Harrah’s February 6-10 for my annual Seven Stars trip.  If any of you are going to be there during that time and would like to get together, send me an email and we’ll figure out a time to meet.
Spa Discounts
While doing some research for my trip I discovered that Seven Stars cardholders get a 25 percent discount on spa services.  (Diamond cardholders get 20 percent; Platinum, 15 percent; and Gold, 10 percent.)
Harrah’s New Orleans
Spoken Like A True Politician
While I always encourage readers to use the “Contact Us” feature on the Total Rewards Web site, it’s responses like this that discourage people from writing.  Here’s an actual question submitted to Total Rewards and the response.  (I’ve deleted the name of the Harrah’s employee who wrote the response.)

I have friends who just returned from NOLA on their annual 7* trip. They were offered a complimentary carriage ride/tour that I understood was no longer offered as a property-specific 7* benefit.  Has this changed, or was this just an extra annual trip benefit?

Thank you for contacting Caesars Entertainment.  The complimentary carriage ride is still offered at our property, if you receive that offer.  They would have to email us if they have any questions about the offer.  Let the good times roll!!!

Uh, let me repeat, 1) has the policy regarding the carriage ride/tour changed? and 2) is this just an extra annual trip benefit?  Neither question was answered.
Las Vegas
MGM Offers Free Wi-Fi
MGM Resorts International will be offering free Wi-Fi at eight of its resorts.  There will be no fee or password required to access the wireless local area network via smart phones, laptops and tablets.  Installation has been completed at the Bellagio, MGM Grand, Mandalay Bay and Mirage.  Excalibur, Luxor, Monte Carlo and New York-New York will be completed by the end of the year.  The system will make each resort a wireless hotspot with access available in the casino, at the pool, in the lobby and in restaurants.  In addition, MGM Grand expects to have free Wi-Fi in all of its rooms by next month.
Entertainment/Dining Updates*
  • ·         “Recycled Percussion” opened last month at The Quad.  They perform at 7 every night but Friday in The Showroom.
  • ·         Donny and Marie extended their contract through 2013 and will begin their new season February 12. They perform at 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays in the Flamingo Showroom.
  • ·         American Idol winner Taylor Hicks moved next door from Bally’s to Napoleon’s at Paris.  He performs every night but Sunday and Wednesday at 8.
  • ·         Carnaval Court at Harrah’s is closed for renovations.  It is expected to reopen March 1.
  • ·         Celebrity Chef Gordon Ramsay has opened his second and third restaurants in Las Vegas.  Already ensconced in Planet Hollywood, Gordon Ramsay Steak is now joined by BurGR.  (Get it?  GR – Gordon Ramsay.)  Over at Caesars Palace is Gordon Ramsay Pub & Grill.
  • ·         With the February 4 opening of Nobu Restaurant and Lounge at Caesars Palace, Hyakumi now serves only lunch.
  • ·         Ruth’s Chris Steak House has opened in the location formerly occupied by The Range at Harrah’s.
  • ·         Chairman’s Club (Atlantic Club) – Exclusive to Ultra cardholders (the Atlantic Club’s highest tier, probably closest to Total Rewards Diamond in terms of play required), the lounge is located inside what was once one of Atlantic City’s best “fine dining” restaurants, Peregrine’s, and formerly a player’s lounge both for Ultra and Elite cardholders.  Admission was free for Ultra cardholders and up to three guests, and 10 comp dollars each for Elite cardholders and one guest.  I had lunch there once, and it was pretty dismal – the décor, the food and the “clientele”.  Consequently, I had high hopes when I learned the lounge was being temporarily closed to reopen in late December, exclusive to Ultra cardholders with, according to COO Michael Frawley, “an all-new menu brimming with upscale choices like sliced filet mignon, lobster ravioli, New Zealand lamb chops, crabmeat stuffed shrimp and pistachio-crusted Chilean sea bass.”  Admission still remains free, but there is now a limit of one guest, and the hours have been substantially reduced (noon to midnight on Fridays and Saturdays, and noon to 8 p.m. on Sundays).  Eager to try the new menu, I went for lunch last month.  Disappointing is probably not strong enough to describe my impression.  First, nothing had been done to refresh or enhance the décor.  The room is dark and filled with tightly spaced cheap-looking tables.  There are two mini-“buffets”.  One had two hot entrees – swordfish in a tomato sauce with black olives, and sliced sirloin with a mushroom sauce. The swordfish was pretty good, but the sirloin was as tough as shoe leather – totally inedible.  (What happened to the filet mignon?)  The rest of the menu consisted of chicken salad, shrimp salad, some cheese, crackers and bread, and sliced roasted red peppers.  In addition, there were some fruit salads, cookies and mini-desserts.  And the guests?  At the risk of sounding snobby and judgmental, I swear if you ran into many of these people on the street, you’d think they were homeless and about to ask you for a handout.   They were poorly dressed, and devouring food like there was no tomorrow.  Some piled plates – which were the size of saucers – with so much food, I thought it would fall on the floor; others were filling shopping bags with cookies, crackers and cheese.
  • ·         Paramount and Epic Clubs (Resorts) – While they share the same check-in area, these two lounges are totally separate.  Paramount is Resorts highest level player’s card – again, probably closer to Diamond in terms of play; Epic is Resorts mid-level card.  The new clubs occupy the area formerly home to Resorts “high limit slots” called Hollywood Hills, and they are both stunning.  Even though there are no windows, they are brightly lit – but not too bright – and beautifully furnished.  The Paramount Club is smaller, but both offer you a choice of table or bar seating.  There is a charge of 12 comp dollars per person for admission, and each cardholder may bring one guest.  The biggest difference between the two clubs is the menu.  Both serve buffet-style, but the food in the Paramount Club is definitely higher quality, e.g., crab cakes, sliced-to-order prime rib.  At the Epic Club one Sunday night, the menu included sliced to order roast beef (not prime rib), fried flounder, tortellini, chicken wings, hot dogs, chili, soft pretzels with mustard, tortilla chips with salsa and guacamole, sliced fresh fruit, and assorted mini-desserts.  [What I particularly appreciated was the fact that you could have cocktails at the bar and the bartender served pretzels (plus the “snack food” at the buffet).  With all the cutbacks, you can’t even get a peanut at any of the Diamond Lounges.]  Also, even Resorts “lower level” club had “top shelf” liquors (Johnny Walker Black, Maker’s Mark, etc.), and drinks were served from the bottle, not a “gun”.  The Paramount Club is open only on Fridays (from 5 p.m. to 1 a.m.) and Saturdays (from 2 p.m. to 1 a.m.); Epic is open Monday through Thursday from 1 to 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday from noon until 1 a.m., and Sunday from noon to 8 p.m.
*performance dates and times subject to change or cancellation
Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall & Saloon
You Won’t Be Able To Drop Your Bills At Bill’s Anymore
On February 4, Bill’s will officially close its doors for renovations.  Look for a reopening date – with a new name – next year.
Caesars Palace
Honey, Nobu!
The former Centurion Tower officially opens February 4 as Nobu Hotel – a hotel within a hotel at Caesars Palace.  Guest perks will include complimentary VIP access to Pure Nightclub and the Qua Baths and Spa fitness center, as well as private pool access.  Other exclusive benefits include priority reservations at the hotel’s Nobu Restaurant and Lounge, as well as the services of a private Nobu concierge and a signature Nobu green tea welcome gift.  In February and March, nightly rates start at $249, plus applicable taxes and fees.
The Quad
It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like. . .
Renovations and enhancements to the former Imperial Palace are starting to be unveiled.  First, there’s the spiffy new porte-cochere, as well as a fancy new bathroom across from Fat Tuesday.  They’ve still got a long way to go, in my opinion.
Lake Tahoe
Harrah’s
President’s Lounge Closes
“The President’s Lounge at the Summit” on the 16th floor of Harrah’s has closed.
Atlantic City
Don, But Not Forgotten
I was as shocked as anyone to learn last month that Don Marrandino was no longer working for Caesars Entertainment.  For those of us who are “regulars” in Atlantic City, particularly at Caesars, Don was like the mayor of our small town and we were the residents.  Don was generally at every casino event, always accessible, often stopped just to chat and see how we were doing, responded to emails and returned phone calls, and, basically, was an excellent representative of Caesars Entertainment in Atlantic City.  Certainly, he had his critics – we all do, but Don will be missed by many of us.
Where Are Those Scrubbing Bubbles When You Need Them?
Until they start getting better maintenance, stay away from the men’s rooms back by the Credit Office at Bally’s and near the Poker Room at Harrah’s.
Sticker Shock
I wish Caesars would take a cue from Revel and start enforcing parking regulations in their self-park garages in Atlantic City.  All too frequently I see vehicles that make their own parking spaces where none exists, cars taking up more than one space, and huge trucks and vans parked in spaces clearly marked “Small Car Parking Only”. Do that at Revel and you get a fluorescent orange sticker – which is solidly “glued” to your driver’s side window.  Not only are your violations checked off, e.g., parked in two spaces, parked in Motorcycle Only parking, parked in a handicapped zone without proper documentation, etc., but your license plate number is recorded and next violation your vehicle is towed.  Good for them!
Lounging Around
Two new player’s lounges have opened in Atlantic City, one has been “re-booted” and another is scheduled to open shortly – none, though, is located inside a Caesars-owned casino.  Here’s a peek inside of three of the lounges (the new Pearl Lounge at Revel is still under construction):
The best player’s lounge in town remains Borgata’s Amphora Lounge.  It’s open to all Black Label cardholders and one guest for 10 comp dollars each; Titanium cardholders go to the head of the line and are not charged. Every evening there is always chilled shrimp and prime rib, as well as at least four or five creative hot entrees, two soups, several interesting side dishes (vegetables and starches), and a beautiful display of desserts.  Caesars Diamond Lounges, Trump’s Chairman’s Clubs and Golden Nugget’s Chairman’s Club are widely inconsistent, and don’t even come close in a head-to-head comparison.  I haven’t been to Tropicana’s player’s lounge in years, so I can’t really comment on food, service or atmosphere there.
Bally’s
Diamond Lounge Closing
Until further notice, the Diamond Lounge is no longer open Mondays and Tuesdays.  Your closest option is next door at Caesars.
Caesars
Seven Stars Lounge Has New Menu
The Seven Stars Lounge introduced a new menu last month.  The only thing I tried was the tuna tacos, and they were delicious.
A Whole New Meaning To ‘Hours Subject To Change’
Apparently, someone doesn’t know the difference between a.m. and p.m. Here’s a screen shot of the Boardwalk Buffet Web site:
It may not make any difference.  The buffet is about to close for renovations after the Presidents Day Weekend.
Gone Fishing
The Atlantic Grill will be closed on Fridays during February.
Steaking Its Reputation
As my mother used to say, “Things happen for a reason.”  While I think she had something a bit more spiritual in mind, I thought of that when I found myself at Caesars on a Thursday night last month and the only “fine dining” restaurant open was Morton’s Steakhouse.  I had been wanting to try Morton’s for years and – now that the restaurant is accepting comp dollars on a 1:1 basis through March 31 (call first to verify this because policies often change) – I had my chance.  It was one of the best steak dinners I have ever had in Atlantic City.  The service was friendly and exceptionally efficient, without the pretentiousness I’ve frequently experienced at Harrah’s Steakhouse and other restaurants in town.  I’ll be back.
Harrah’s Resort
Seven Stars Lounge Thursday Closing
With the exception of Valentine’s Day (February 14), until further notice, the Seven Stars Lounge remains closed on Thursdays.  The Caesars Seven Stars Lounge is open from 5 to 9 p.m. on Thursdays.  Last admittance is 8:30; last call is 8:40.

‘Convenience’ Fees

How nice that Dos Caminos and McCormick & Schmick’s accept comps 2:1 “for your convenience”.  At least they post this information on their menus.  Last time I checked, Nanking at Bally’s still keeps you in the dark about its 2:1 comp policy.
Insider Out
Let’s see, after I earned 10,000+ tier credits during October, November and December last year, my “reward” this month for becoming a TR Insider is the chance to win my share of $25,000 in slot play. . .by playing even more – and, then only at Harrah’s!  [On February 22 – a Friday (which is a workday for most people, so it might even be difficult for a lot of folks to get to Atlantic City much before 6 or 7), Insiders will earn one drawing entry for every 50 tier credits earned between 6 a.m. and 7:45 p.m.  Then at 8 p.m. there will be drawings for free slot play.  Oh, and read the fine print, winnings not claimed by midnight will be forfeited.]  There were no events in January (or, for that matter, in October or December last year for those who earned TR Insider status for the quarter ending September 2012), and this is how you recognize my “exclusive” status?  I don’t think so.  The Insider program lost steam over the summer, and never recovered.  It was another example of layer after layer of complicated promotions that really produced no benefits for the players. . .only the casinos.
Harrah’s Philadelphia
Sounds A Little Flaky
I didn’t get to try one, but the latest menu at BarleyQue features “Homemade Buttermilk Buscuits”.

Caesars Windsor (Ontario)

Play For Pay
We’ve all come to expect to receive gifts at casinos, but now Caesars Windsor is requiring “rated play” (one tier credit) on the day of the giveaway – granted, a small amount.  [Seven Stars cardholders are excluded from this requirement.]  In Atlantic City, Golden Nugget, Trump Plaza and Taj Mahal, Resorts, and the Atlantic Club (formerly Hilton) all do this – but at much greater levels, and I recall the Total Rewards casinos doing it once or twice. . .and I hate it!  You’ve either earned access to the gift or not.  What irritates me is that you could have earned 2,000 tier points the day before, but the next day before you return home, if you want the gift, you’ve got to play even more.  Either give the gift based on previous play, or don’t offer it at all.
General
Last-Minute Reminders
If you haven’t already done so, don’t forget to select your annual gift, and schedule your annual trip and dinner. Remember, that annual trip must be completed by March 31, and requires a minimum of 30 days advance notice to your host.  You cannot book the trip – or your annual dinner – yourself; these must be booked by a host.  Also, if you achieved Seven Stars status for the first time during 2012, you’re still eligible for these benefits, and you’ll receive them once again beginning April 1 through March 31, 2014.
Question Of The Month
I finally achieved Seven Stars at the end of 2012.  I play mostly at Harrah’s Philadelphia.  I’ve been disappointed not to stay in suites when I visit Atlantic City, and having my requests to obtain multiple rooms denied.  I thought this would be easier once I had a Seven Stars card.  What’s the deal?  Everything is based on play (“What have you done for me lately?”).  Just because you have a Seven Stars card, all you’re guaranteed are the “basics” (trip, dinner, gift, etc.).  Everything else (giveaways, free play, party invitations, room upgrades, multiple rooms, etc.) is based on your play at that particular casino.  I’ve said this before, but “high Diamonds” get better treatment at their “home” casinos than a Seven Stars cardholder who has never played there, or played very little.
‘Big Game’ Sunday
Since, legally, you can’t use “S—- B—” (it’s trademarked), several casinos are having viewing parties under various names.  If you weren’t invited to a party – or choose not to attend, check with your local Seven Stars or Diamond Lounge to see if it might be open later than regular hours.  Several lounges that normally close earlier may remain open through the game.
Presidents Day Weekend
Be sure to check with your local Seven Stars or Diamond Lounge to see if they will be open extended hours for this three-day weekend.
Secure Emails
Learn from my mistake.  When sending my host details for my annual trip I included a credit card number in the attachment.  Who knew that Caesars email system could “read” the contents of an attachment (a .pdf)?  Because “Harrahs [sic] Entertainment will no longer accept this data sent in normal email,” my email was not delivered and plans for my trip were delayed.
Putting Seven Stars On The Map
Who knew?  There is a Seven Stars, N.J., right off Route 9.
Advantage Players
If anyone ever wanted a reason why Caesars increased the tier score for Seven Stars – and instituted those bonus tier credits – read the following story about my encounter with “Oliver” (not his real name).  I was playing at Harrah’s Philadelphia one evening and I noticed that the gentleman sitting next to me was a Seven Stars cardholder.  We both were playing the same type of penny machine, but I was playing the $2 max and he was playing the 40-cent minimum.  I jokingly said, “It must take a lot of 40-cent bets to get Seven Stars.”  He took it from there.  “Oh, I’m retired,” he said.  “My wife died a few years ago and I live nearby and, so I come over every day about 3, have a couple free beers in the casino, go upstairs to the Diamond Lounge, have my supper, play a little more and have another beer before going home.  Sometimes I take my buddies up there since we can go to the head of the line with my card.” About then a server brought him another beer.  Noticing he didn’t tip, I said, “Isn’t that a little risky not giving her a tip?  You’re going to get a bad reputation around here.”  “Are you kidding?” he retorted.  “I never tip.  Let some other jackasses tip.  She does OK without my money.”  “What about upstairs in the Diamond Lounge?” I pursued.  “No way, Harrah’s gives those girls enough money,” he countered.  “I’ve already ‘paid’ for those free meals and I’m not about to spend a nickel more.”  When I asked him about earning the additional 50,000 tier credits it would take to renew his Seven Stars card during 2013, he said he didn’t know anything about that, but that he just barely made 100,000 in 2012.  While I certainly wouldn’t want to make a steady daily diet of the crappy food they serve in Harrah’s Diamond Lounge, I guess if I were in my late 70s/early 80s, lived nearby, and had limited income, it’s not a bad life.
Fueling Controversy
Some Total Rewards cardholders in Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Texas may have received an email about Energy Plus, and the opportunity to earn bonus Rewards Credits.  Should you choose to do this, you might want to check out the company’s Web site –http://www.energypluscompany.com/index.php – to see if other “rewards” (like airline miles, retail gift cards, cash, etc.) might be a better deal.  However, before you do that, you may want to read some of the online “reviews” of Energy Plus.  Check out www.complaintsboard.comwww.electricrates.com orwww.consumeraffairs.com/homeowners/energy-plus-company.html.  Here’s a sampling of some of the comments:

“Like everyone else, I fell for the bait – 2 months reasonable cost, then absolutely outrageous overcharging.”

“It’s short and simple.  My electric bill went from $150/$170 monthly to $300/$350 monthly.  When I signed up with them, I was promised the same rates, or even lower than Con Edison would provide me, plus miles credited to my SkyMiles account every month.  That is simply not true!  I must say they were very polite when I called to cancel my account. . . .”

“It was offered through United Airlines and with a sweet looking promo.  I fell for it.  Huge mistake. They charge three times the market price and hope you won’t notice.”

“Energy Plus will raise your rates almost 80% right after first bill.  This is what they did to me.  They prey on us not checking our bills right away.  They rely on loopholes in the industry.”

Why is Caesars Entertainment even getting involved with an energy company?  Why not work on getting the “new” Total Rewards program in order before venturing into this sort of thing?
Price Line
First there was Overstock.com.  Perhaps Total Rewards should call its merchandise catalog Overpriced.com. Hopefully, those of you redeeming your comp dollars are also doing the math.  I just took a couple sample items and found that – using 1,000 RCs = $10 – prices were 20 to 40 percent higher than I could buy the products online or at a local retail store.  (Gift cards demand a 100 percent premium, i.e., a $25 gift card will cost $50 worth of RCs.)  Also, be sure to check the details of the products you’re ordering.  Get a model number, for instance.  One item I ordered at last year’s gift giveaway in Atlantic City turned out to be a refurbished product no longer available for purchase or service.
Cruising Along With MGM
MGM Resorts International’s M life is now offering an annual complimentary cruise to its top-tier players.  Noir cardholders (the highest level) get a seven-night Caribbean cruise in a balcony stateroom; Platinum cardholders get a three-, four- or five-night Bahamas or Caribbean cruise in an oceanview stateroom.  Additional benefits include onboard drink vouchers, departure lounge access, priority onboard check-in, onboard welcome amenity, and complimentary onboard specialty dinner.
Survey Says. . .
Last month I asked, “What do you think about the increases in tier credits to achieve or maintain Platinum, Diamond and Seven Stars?”  I received the largest response ever, with additional feedback about other changes to the program.  I’ll try to summarize as best I can the overall mood of players, with the addition of some personal comments:
The initial reaction regarding the bonus tier credits and the higher tier scores was not very positive – at least from Seven Stars cardholders.  However, as folks started to work the numbers they began to see some real plusses. One problem, though, especially, for those who might play at multiple casinos in one “day” (such as can be the case in Tunica, Lake Tahoe, Las Vegas, or in Atlantic City and nearby Harrah’s Philadelphia) is that the system frequently does not register play fast enough, or even accurately.  For example, in the Eastern Division, the tier score you see at the kiosks is different from what you see on the Total Rewards Web site; is different from the score on the Total Touch screens at Harrah’s Resort and Bally’s in Atlantic City, and Harrah’s Philadelphia; is different from the information you get from the Total Rewards Desk (which on weeknights in Atlantic City closes at 9); and is different from the score on the read-outs on slot machines that are not part of the Total Touch system (Caesars and Showboat).  You get the picture.  At Harrah’s Philadelphia one night, once I reached 1,000 tier credits, the counter went to 1 and, no matter how much more I played, it never increased.  I actually saw a woman with a hand-held calculator sitting on her lap.  I’ve gotten to the point that I write down my tier score before playing so I can keep track on my own.  (I’m not the only one doing it, and I’d recommend you do likewise.  Some people even take a picture of their final tier score before leaving the casino.)  Caesars has taken the “fun” out of playing since no one wants to be so close to a bonus and not reach that milestone.  For Caesars, it’s win-win.  They get more play out of someone trying to reach that next tier level, yet they don’t have to pay up with bonus credits if someone just misses a level.  In terms of the increased tier levels, nearly every Seven Stars cardholder agreed that Caesars had been “giving away” Diamond and Platinum, and the majority wished that Caesars had increased the required points even more.  The biggest complaint, though, was not hearing about these changes earlier – and hearing it from a source other than Caesars.  There were lots of rumors floating around toward the end of 2012 – and lots of misinformation and/or incomplete information (most of it coming from hosts and other Caesars employees who were in on the discussions and plans, and then blabbed to their buddies).  Folks are still waiting for more details about the new benefits at the various levels – effective April 1, e.g., the $100 Appreciation Dinner for Diamond cardholders, the Diamond Companion Card, the Preferred Reward Credits-to-free play exchange ratio (1.25:1 for Seven Stars, 1.75:1 for Diamond), the annual getaways for Diamond and Seven Stars cardholders, etc.  If there’s any word – OK, two words – I hear more about Total Rewards is that it’s “overly complicated”.  While none of the other casino loyalty programs is as large as TR, most are pretty simple and straight-forward.  I think people would prefer a more generous comp dollar and/or free play component to TR rather than all these trips, Signature Events, dinners, gifts, bonus tier credits, etc.  “The last thing I need is more Omaha steaks – I already have a freezer full of them, courtesy of the casinos.”  That’s how one person put it.  Another frequent complaint was about the $500 folio credit for the annual trip.  “I’m not a big fancy eater when I go to a casino, but I do like shows, massages, facials, etc.  This money should be available for tickets and spa treatments too.”  I believe it used to be that way, and some casinos are pretty liberal about how you spend that money – especially those that don’t allow you to use the money for alcoholic beverages.  Others have no interest in traveling outside their home area, and don’t use the annual trip (or the cruise).   There also needs to be more consistency.  As of last month, at least in New Orleans, instead of a $500 folio credit, one player’s TR account was credited with the equivalent of $500 to be used any time – even after he returned from his trip.  I’m afraid we’re going to be stuck with this new program for some time to come, but let’s hope that next time Caesars puts a little more effort into consulting with its customers.  Caesars is never going to please everyone, but with so many common threads among the feedback after announcing the initial phase of the program, if Caesars did talk with its players, it’s apparent they may have been listening to the wrong people.
This Month’s Survey
Now that you know more about the “new” Total Rewards, will you be
  • playing more to reach the next “milestone” (Gold to Platinum, Platinum to Diamond I, Diamond I to Diamond II, Diamond II to Diamond III, Diamond III to Seven Stars)?
  • playing more, but just to maintain your current tier?
  • playing at your current level and “letting the chips fall where they may”?
  • switching to another casino’s player loyalty program?

Send me an e-mail (sevenstarsinsider@gmail.com) and I’ll share your thoughts – anonymously, of course.

 Photo – Fabzz

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 – June Edition

Here’s the latest edition of Seven Stars Insider.  Wow, there is more good info than usual.  I will break it out later, but wanted to get this up ASAP.  This is an easy read and an excellent resource for Caesars Total Rewards players – although he touches on other casinos this month.  Head over to Seven Stars Insider to sign up for the newsletter.

Seven Stars Insider – June 2011
[Also featuring information/commentary on Golden Nugget’s Elite and Trump’s Signature Cards]

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

General

Think ‘Twice’ Before Using Comp Dollars – Part II
Add Taste of the Shore at Harrah’s Resort and Bally’s in Atlantic City to those outlets that accept Total Rewards credits – but on a 2:1 basis.  That means your $8 sandwich at Sack O’ Subs will cost you 16 comp dollars.  Ditto for the stand-alone Ben & Jerry’s and Pretzel Factory at Bally’s, as well as the new Harry’s (see below).  Meanwhile, down in New Orleans, according to an e-mail, “. . .[P]artner restaurants (Ruth’s Chris, Gordon Biersch, Grand Isle) require $2 comps for each $1 served.  If you plan on having lunch and/or dinner at Fuddruckers, Lucky Dog, Macalister’s, Starbuck’s, Bambu and/or Besh Steak, please feel free to show your card – Cost for meal(s) will be deducted from your Reward Credit Comp Value. Note: Paper vouchers will have to be picked up from VIP Services [located in the high limit area/next to cashier cage] prior to lunch and/or dinner for ALL other partner restaurants.”

More On ‘Singles Discrimination’
One reader says she has no problem getting two single tickets from Total Rewards at Harrah’s in Las Vegas, so maybe that’s the secret – get your voucher there instead of Caesars Palace.  [She also pointed out that, since these ticket offers are based on a calendar month, if you’re traveling at the end of a month, you could get up to four free tickets.]  And, related to this issue, another “solo” player/traveler pointed out that those “two free buffets” offers should be split so single diners can get two free meals.  Definitely something to chew on.

Caesars Global Life
With its main focus on overseas expansion, Caesars Entertainment Corp. has formed Caesars Global Life to develop non-gaming hotels and restaurants.  In a statement May 9 the company said it will develop hotels via licensing, franchising and management agreements.

Discretionary Comps vs. Total Rewards Credits
The creativity some players exhibit in exhausting their Reward Credits so hosts can authorize discretionary comps is amazing.  Apparently, casinos in the Midwest allow players to exchange their RCs for cash and/or free play.  Somehow this just doesn’t seem fair for the rest of us, but, heck, these folks are just taking advantage of a loophole in the rules.

North Kansas City

Seven Stars Renewal Dinner
Think things were bad in Atlantic City?  One reader reported that her dinner consisted of a pasta bar with either red or white sauce, a potato bar and a taco bar.  A pre-Oscar dinner was even worse, but there were nice giveaways.

Chester

Web Site Woes
Someone needs to go through Chester’s Web site.  It’s in desperate need of updating.  Under “Temptations Buffet” special hours are posted for “Feb. 14th, Feb. 20 and Feb. 12st (sic).”  There are references to the Cove’s Prix Fixe dinner, but clicking on the link produces an “Oops. . .” page noting that the page is no longer available.  [The same dinner special is referenced under “Special Packages & Offers” where there also is a “Retail Package” that touts, “Buy 3 Items at Bijoux Terner and get a FREE Gifft (sic) with purchase!”]  The dinner is still available – and it’s a real bargain! – but you are unable to access the menu on the site.

Today’s Lesson:  How and When To Use An Apostrophe
I hope whoever is running the Cove knows more about food than punctuation.  [Happily, I can report they do; a recent dinner there was outstanding.]  The plural of crab cake is crab cakes, not crab cake’s as printed on the menu.  In addition, there was a sign outside the entrance promoting a special tapas menu on Wednesday’s (sic); again, the plural of Wednesday is Wednesdays (and it appears twice on the sign!).  Another sign outside the Temptations Buffet promotes its Italian-themed section featuring “Pizza’s and Pasta’s”.  And when there should be an apostrophe, there isn’t, evidenced by a sign to the right of the casino exit leading to Level 4 of the parking garage.  The sign says, “Its sure to please. . .”; make that “It’s sure to please. . . .”  And, finally, there is another sign flashing on the video screens throughout the casino that reads, “At Harrah’s Chester Its [sic] Easy To Check Your Reward Credits”.  Add an apostrophe between the “t” and “s” in “Its” – “It’s”.

A Little More Notice, Please
I received an invitation to a very nice brunch with $100 in free play on the Sunday prior to Memorial Day; unfortunately, the mailing arrived on Thursday, and I already had scheduled a long weekend in Atlantic City.  I’m not sure the brunch and $100 would have kept me in town, but, had I not made plans I definitely would have attended.

Harrah’s Chester Hotel?
Not sure where it’s located, but the cover of my Memorial Day Weekend mailer touted, “Call To Book Your Harrah’s Chester Hotel Stay Today”; however, there were no other references inside the mailer as to where the hotel is located or what number to call.

Winning Streaks Becomes Derby Burger Bar
What is Caesars Entertainment’s (and other casinos’) obsession with “burger bars”?  Add Chester to the list of casinos.  The Derby Burger Bar is basically a “reincarn-ivore-ation” (sorry, couldn’t help that!) of Winning Streaks on the simulcast level, one floor beneath the casino.  As a matter of fact, the original Winning Streaks sign is still there; it’s just covered up by the new sign.

Atlantic City

Signature Weekend vs. Dave Matthews Band Festival
Those driving or otherwise arriving by car to Atlantic City for the Signature Weekend should do their homework to avoid road closures, possible traffic jams and the anticipated 50,000 additional visitors expected each day June 24-26 attending the Dave Matthews Band Festival.  Not sure which event was planned first, but lots of “locals” already are crying “foul” over what could be a real mess.  Let’s hope for the best.

Food/Beverage Credits vs. RFB
If you’re staying at a Caesars property in Atlantic City and your room offer includes a food and beverage credit, make sure your room account is set-up properly.  I had a $100 credit, courtesy of Harrah’s Chester, and I was RFB at Caesars; however my first two room charges went against my Rewards Credits and not the $100 credit from Chester.  To correct this, my RFB was disabled, and I had to settle my bill personally at the conclusion of my stay.  [No big deal. . .those employees at Caesars VIP Check-In (Valerie, Carol, Jennifer, Gene, Joyce, et al) are so nice, I wouldn’t do anything to make their jobs any more stressful.  I continue to be amazed at the arrogance exhibited by some of the guests checking in there.  Please, your Seven Stars or Diamond card is a way to recognize your level of play, not a license to be rude and unnecessarily demanding.]  RFB is a nice convenience, but, unless you keep all your receipts, you have no way of knowing how many of your comp dollars you “spent” (or earned) during your stay.

Donny Osmond To Perform In August
Remember that rumor about Donny and Marie coming to Atlantic City this summer?  We’ll it’s partially true, but you won’t see Marie, and you won’t see Donny at a Caesars property.  He’ll be performing at the Borgata in August.

$1,000 Hand Pays
According to a slot manager at Harrah’s, the reason the $1,000 hand pay was instituted was so more people would qualify for the once-a-month $15,000 jackpot promotion open only to those who hit a jackpot $1,000 or more – even though they didn’t have one last month.

$8 ‘Resort Fee’?
Considering that casinos in Atlantic City are required to collect only $5 in New Jersey State and Atlantic City taxes, it appears that the additional $8 Caesars casino hotels collect is tantamount to a Resort Fee without any of the benefits usually associated with such an additional charge, e.g., free newspapers, local calls and Internet access.  Considering its Las Vegas properties tout “No Resort Fees” (something their MGM competitors collect from paying customers), I’m surprised competitors in Atlantic City don’t launch a similar campaign against Caesars.  Only Tropicana charges more than $5, and the Borgata allows guests to use comp dollars to pay these taxes.  Trump Signature cardholders have the taxes waived entirely at the Plaza, but not, ironically, at the Taj Mahal.

Giving Back
Kudos to Donata Caloiero from Caesars and her other Caesars Entertainment team members who volunteered last month during the United Way of Atlantic County’s eighth annual Day of Caring.

‘Wizard Of Odds’ Needs A Fact-Checker
He (or, maybe, she?) sounds more like a disgruntled player than a legitimate source of information about Atlantic City casinos.  The column in the May 27 edition of TV Atlantic magazine is full of inaccuracies and unsubstantiated claims.  “Best Casino Deals” include “Best Steakhouse – Ruth’s Chris” (Ruth’s Chris is not a casino steakhouse), “Best Italian Restaurant – Primavera’s [sic]” (Primavera closed several months ago to make way for the new Atlantic Seafood Grill), “Best Deli – The Deli [at Harrah’s]” (The Deli has been closed to make way for the new Bill’s Bar & Burger), “Best Buffet Food (tie) – Harrah’s” (and ?).  In addition, the Wizard claims that Prime Place (“Best Steakhouse”) and Magnums (“Best Player’s Club”) are gone (yes, but are now The Reserve and the Diamond Club, respectively), and that Pickles (“Best Jewish Deli’) is gone – last time I checked, it was still open and, over Memorial Day weekend, thriving, especially its outdoor seating.  Also, I’m not sure how the Wizard can blame “poor management” – his words – for employees who choose to retire or move to another position at a different casino.  He also blames management for “diminished” cocktail service, even though the new Total Touch system is one of the most advanced and high-tech ordering systems available – surely more efficient than trying to flag down a busy server.  And, “Best Birthday Gift” (two dozen long-stemmed roses)?  I’ll take free play or comp dollars any day.

Caesars
What’s Next?  No More Shampoo?
What’s happened to the notepads and pens in the rooms?  It’s a little thing, but we “old folks” sometimes need to write things down or we forget them.

Mr. Met’s Sleepover
Whoever produced and signed off on the Mr. Met video playing throughout Caesars apparently never stayed in the Centurion Tower.  A final scene shows Mr. Met putting a “Do Not Disturb” sign on his doorknob.  When the Centurion Tower was renovated, those signs were replaced by an electronic system that’s activated by pushing a button just inside the door.  A small red light on the room number panel in the hallway comes on to indicate the guest doesn’t want to be disturbed.  [Also, Mr. Met is probably the only guy allowed in Dusk with a baseball cap – I guess team mascots get special treatment.]

And, Speaking Of Those Room Numbers. . .
Would someone please dust the tops of those plexiglass squares with the room numbers mounted on them?  I noted this several months ago and the dust just keeps building up.  [I realize I’m overly harsh with Caesars, but I stay there almost exclusively, and they bill themselves as Caesars Entertainment’s “luxury” property in Atlantic City.  When a couple without a reservation checked in next to me on a recent Saturday night, they didn’t even blink at the quoted $249 rate.  At that price, they deserve better.  (But, doesn’t that rate make you appreciate those comp or discounted rooms you get?)]

Enough With The Menus Under The Doors!
Those marble floors in the entryways are slippery enough, but I almost fell tripping over the menus shoved under my door last month.  Perhaps it’s time for a certified letter – or, better yet, a personal visit – from Caesars management to AC Pizza Palace, Chelsea Pizza & Italian Grill, Pizza King and Tommy’s Seaside Grill & Pizza.  Whoever is distributing these menus is probably not a guest – or a guest of a guest – so isn’t that trespassing?

Please, Be Careful. . .
. . .if you choose to use the first floor Boardwalk exit from the Centurion Tower.  While, as far as I know, there have been no reported “incidents” there, I find it disconcerting to walk out the door and navigate my way between drunken vagrants sprawled out over the steps drinking from brown paper bag-covered beer cans.  It happened again Memorial Day evening around 6:45.  If you see some “unsavory characters” outside the door, simply turn around, get back on the elevator and exit through the casino.  Even more importantly, do not let anyone in through that door as you walk out.  That door is an exit, not an entrance, and it’s locked from the outside for a reason.

Bally’s

What’s More Central?
Bally’s is now using the tagline: “Be In The Center Of The Action”.  Sounds awfully similar to Trump Plaza’s longtime taglines: “The Center Of It All” and “The center of the Boardwalk.  The heart of the action.”

Cheapskates Of The Month Award

Business – Bally’s fast food outlets (Gold Tooth Gertie’s, Lone Star, Wild Wings) have the skimpiest paper napkins I have ever seen.  They’re about the same thickness (thinness?) as a piece of one-ply toilet tissue, only as “long” as two sheets of toilet tissue and 1½ times as wide.  [I took one to my room and measured it.]  If management thinks it’s saving money, keep in mind that the average customer is probably using 10 of these, as opposed to one larger and heavier one.

Individual – A customer at Gold Tooth Gertie’s in the Wild Wild West asked for a small paper cup and proceeded to fill it to the brim with milk from the dispenser meant for coffee.  Cheaper than buying a pint of milk at the local Wawa or 7-11, I guess.

Asleep At The Switch
Despite a slew of “No Sleeping” and “No Loitering” signs, the bus terminal at Bally’s was full of sleeping passengers and others who may – or may not – have been waiting for their transportation home.  I was meeting a friend at Bally’s the Sunday morning of Memorial Day weekend, and no one seemed to be enforcing the rules.  I couldn’t help but pull out my cellphone to snap the – admittedly blurry — photo below:

Total Touch Not Working?
OK, I guess one try isn’t a sufficient test, but a drink request using the new Total Touch system produced nothing but a long wait.  I tested the system about 7:40 a.m. on Mother’s Day and, after 15 minutes, no one ever showed up with my bloody mary.  I never even saw a server, and the Wild Wild West casino was practically empty.  If you can’t get a drink during a slow period, what’s it like on a busy Saturday night?  What’s your experience been?

Taste Of The Shore Opens
Smaller, but similar to the Taste of the Shore at Harrah’s Resort, Primo Pizza and Sack O’ Subs is open in the “gateway” corridor between Bally’s and the Claridge.  You can use comp dollars, but at a 2:1 ratio.

Sore Sight For Eyes
I don’t know anyone whose eyesight is so good that he or she can read the tiny type on those billboards Bally’s is using on the Atlantic City Expressway to promote its

Play 60 Minutes*
Get A Free Buffet
Who’s approving this ridiculous signage?  (And if the copy the asterisk refers to is so important, why not make it larger so everyone can read it?

And, Speaking Of Approving Copy. . .
Didn’t anyone review the full-page ads in the May 26 editions of At The Shore and Atlantic City Weekly?  The section promoting “Let’s Make A Deal” has Joey Fatone as the host – it’s now Alan Thicke – plus some really confusing copy

Wild Wild West Breakfast Buffet
I thought it seemed too good to be true, a weekend breakfast buffet for $10.99.  And, as many of you know, I’m not a fan of buffets, but, in the interest of this newsletter, I decided to try it.  Mistake!  It took me longer to stand in line for my omelet (20 minutes) than it did for me to eat it.  Plus, the buffet is set-up in such a manner that, after you get your eggs cooked to order, you then have to cut through the line in order to get at potatoes, biscuits and other accompaniments.  [A lot of people got the rest of their food first and then stood in line.  Hello!  Your food just gets cold while you wait for your eggs.]  The buffet also comes with a “steak”; mine was a small triangular piece of meat that looked like anything but a steak, but, ordered rare, I must admit, it was rather tasty.  If you go, though, don’t make the mistake that a lot of people did:  Don’t get into the “egg line” thinking it’s the “steak line”.  There is no line for the steaks, even though you might have a couple of people ahead of you.  And, Bally’s management, please fix the refrigerator door behind and to the right of the cook preparing the eggs.  Someone went to get a new bag of grated cheese, and the door practically fell off in her hands.

Another New Restaurant To Open
Harry’s Oyster Bar & Seafood will open this month in what was formerly the Sidewalk Buffet.  It will be operated by the owners of what many call “Atlantic City institutions” – Dock’s Oyster House and the Knife & Fork.  According to an interview published in the Press of Atlantic City, “The whole concept is that it’s a throwback to old seafood houses that were once predominant in the East Coast.  The idea that very fresh food prepared simply is outstanding.  The idea of people getting together eating oysters, clams and good fish should be a perfect fit.”  In addition to a 45-seat bar and seating for 140 more people inside, the restaurant also will extend into the Dennis Hotel courtyard, where an additional 25-seat bar and 60 more seats will offer outdoor dining.  Again, you can use comp dollars, but at a 2:1 ratio.

Loosen Up Slot Tournament Rules
A slot tournament from 7 to 11 p.m. June 10 requires winners to be present at 11:30 p.m. in order to collect.  Seems a little unfair – even if the grand prize is $10,000.  (And, what’s with all these huge first, second and third prizes?  I’m not talking just Bally’s, but everywhere.  Wouldn’t it be nicer if the prizes were a little less and more players won?  Just a thought.)

About Other ‘Premium’ Player’s Cards

Since many of you also have “premium” cards from other casinos’ player’s clubs, if news warrants, periodically, I’ll publish information (and my thoughts!) about programs such as MGM’s M life, Trump Entertainment’s Signature Card and the Golden Nugget’s 24 Karat Club Elite card.

Golden Nugget Elite – While the Golden Nugget is a welcome new addition to the Atlantic City gaming scene, its players club program is a major disappointment.  Basically, it’s a carbon copy of the Trump One Card program – meaning their Elite card (comparable to Trump’s Signature card) has very few benefits.  The benefits for the Elite card don’t even get a mention in the 24 Karat Club brochure; “Ask a host for details,” the brochure advises.  Problem is, when you ask someone, all you’re told is that benefits are basically the same as the Chairman card.  [Turns out, though, that you earn comps and cashback at an even higher accelerated rate than Chairman, and you get complimentary admission for two to the Chairman Club (normally 10 comp dollars per person).]  Why is Golden Nugget so afraid to put these “benefits” for its highest level player’s card in writing?  [Trump finally did this in its latest players club literature.]

Trump Signature – Trump Entertainment Resorts’ “management by accountant” policy is not only irritating its customers, but alienating them.  No one can quibble with sound business decisions, but just communicate them to your customers.  Last month, Trump closed down its shopping catalog (a new catalog has been promised), and drastically cut the hours of its flagship restaurants at Trump Plaza, as well as its popular Plaza Bar – all with little or no advance warning to its players.  The Plaza Bar was closed all of Mother’s Day weekend and is now closed on Sundays, leaving just Friday and Saturday hours.  The biggest punch in the gut last month was the purge of all comp dollars earned during the past six months at Trump Marina (now, the Golden Nugget).  [In an extremely generous move, Golden Nugget gave all its eligible players comp dollars equal to the amount they had banked in their Trump One account.]  However, none of this was communicated to its best players – most of whom receive at least one monthly mailing, along with weekly “weekend updates”.  Also gone are weekly e-mails from each of the Trump properties reminding customers of their offers and encouraging them to stay and play.  Sunday, May 15 (which may have been the first Sunday the closures of the Plaza Bar, Roberto’s and Max’s took place), Evo was packed to the gills, with customers spilling out into the crowded Boardwalk entryway, blocking escalators and causing “traffic jams” as customers tried to enter the casino.  Evo was obviously not prepared to handle the crowds, which further angered “regulars” and newcomers alike.  [Trump finally disclosed the Marina comp dollar situation in its June promotional mailer.]

Darryl D. McEwen, Publisher
Seven Stars Insider

Seven Stars Insider – April Edition

Here’s the latest edition of Seven Stars Insider.  Wow, there is more good info than usual.  I will break it out later, but wanted to get this up ASAP.  This is an easy read and an excellent resource for Caesars players – especially in Atlantic City this month.  Head over to Seven Stars Insider to sign up for the newsletter.  There is lots of new and useful information in this edition (some of which I’m going to reference in future posts), so read on for all the goods.

Seven Stars Insider – April 2011

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

Second Seven Stars Club Set For Atlantic City
The site of the former Bacchanal dining experience at Caesars will become Atlantic City’s second Seven Stars Club.  Management hopes to have it open in time for the June Signature Event (see below).

June Signature Event
The next Signature Event will take place in Atlantic City June 23-26.  Lionel Richie will be the featured entertainment and “Straight, No Chaser” – last summer’s resident entertainment at Harrah’s Resort – also will appear.  [“Straight, No Chaser” will officially open its summer 2011 season on June 27 at Harrah’s Resort.]  Additional Signature Events are scheduled for August 26-29 at Lake Tahoe, and October 6-9 and 13-16 in New Orleans.  The second weekend in New Orleans coincides with the annual Crescent City Blues and Barbecue Weekend.

Surveying Useless Surveys
When is Caesars going to stop sending those ridiculous surveys to its customers?  I was in Caesars Atlantic City briefly one Monday morning to use some expiring free play, and three days later a survey “about my visit” popped into my e-mail.  For one thing, much of the information asked in the survey – and previous similar surveys – is already known to Caesars, e.g., what I play (slots or table games), slot machine denomination, etc.  But what was really crazy were the questions regarding my overnight stay.  While I clearly stated that I stayed at another property (and even identified it!), subsequent questions asked about how I made my reservation, the cleanliness of the room, etc. – as if I had stayed at Caesars!  I don’t mind surveys, but these are truly meaningless and I refuse to bother with them in the future until someone takes a good hard look at their content.  [At least they dropped the question I used to hate most: “Is this a casino you feel ‘lucky’ in?”  What was the point?]

Reservations About Caesars Reservation System
Message boards were buzzing last month when someone posted her [not so great] experience with Caesars telephone reservation system.  Lots of people agreed with her, but, oddly, no one suggested the simplest way to make a reservation – the Caesars Web site.  You get an immediate response and you can print your confirmation details in the event of an error once you go to check-in.

Use Hosts As Ambassadors, Not Secretaries
Speaking of making reservations, last month I was approached by a host at a non-Caesars casino, but one where I have played since it opened.  [I have what is basically equivalent to a Caesars Diamond card.]  This casino has an excellent Web site and it’s very easy to make hotel reservations – and, if it’s available, even request a suite (knowing that this can’t actually be confirmed until check-in, but, 75 percent of the time, I’ve gotten the upgrade I requested).  The host cited all sorts of “advantages” to using his services, e.g., comp rooms, late check-outs, restaurant reservations, etc.  Frankly, I’ve never had a problem getting a comp – and usually upgraded – room (and, if I did, I just went elsewhere), nor have I ever been denied a late check-out just by calling the front desk, and I’ve never had a problem getting a restaurant reservation.  When are casinos going to wise-up and stop wasting hosts’ time by making them nothing more than glorified secretaries?  Rather than making hotel and restaurant reservations, these ladies and gentlemen should be spending their time checking up on their guests, getting to know them better, and finding out how their customers can help get more of their friends into the casinos, etc.  Oh, and report back to management all the “negatives” they’re hearing!  I can’t tell you how many “front line” employees – especially bartenders, restaurant servers and player’s club staffers – have told me that management seems to totally ignore their reports of customer dissatisfaction.

Just When You Thought It Was Safe To Use The Men’s Room
A second robbery in as many months has occurred in the men’s room at Bally’s Atlantic City.  New Jersey State Police are investigating the robbery and assault of an 86-year-old man on the morning of March 6.  The victim – a World War II veteran of Gen. George S. Patton’s Third Army and the Battle of the Bulge – suffered bruises, but refused medical attention.  Maybe there’s a reason it’s called Wild Wild West?

Smoking Lawsuit
The mother of a former employee at Harrah’s New Orleans has filed a lawsuit seeking class-action status and accuses the casino of failing to protect its employees from generous levels of secondhand smoke.  Her son died of cancer last year, according to published reports.

Caesars To Open Hotels Without Casinos
Look for Caesars hotels in “underserved” Asian markets – India, China and southeastern parts of the continent, but don’t expect to gamble there.  You might even see a Flamingo in Europe.  It’s a plan similar to one already instituted by MGM Resorts International.

Caesars Palace Plans Hotel-Within-A-Hotel
Caesars Palace has turned to Nobu Hospitality to create a boutique hotel within the hotel.  The year-long transformation will turn the 180-room Centurion Tower into the Nobu Hotel Las Vegas.  The renovation will also include development of a Nobu-themed restaurant and lounge facility at the base of the hotel tower, encompassing 9,500 square feet near Caesars Appian Way retail area.  Caesars Palace will operate the hotel and employ the staff for Nobu Tower, which will include a separate check-in area and small lobby.

Mixed Messages?
First I get a mailing from Caesars Palace which touts:  “Reel Rewards is the most convenient free slot play around.  There’s no PIN to remember, or complicated download sequence – simply insert your Total Rewards card and Reel Rewards Express Play Coupon, and play away!”

Then a week later, I get another mailing from Caesars:  “At some locations, and coming to many more, Total Rewards members can download Free Slot Play right at the slot machine!  No more coupons to keep track of – just start playing your favorite machine and offers will be delivered by our Total Touch technology.”

So, which is it?  Coupons or downloading play at the machine?  I’ll opt for the download any day.  I don’t know anyone who is thrilled with Caesars system of issuing Express Play Coupons, both for some of its promotions and “Gaming Offers” [what used to be called Cashback, and actually was money returned to you in the form of real cash].  Unless you’re redeeming a coupon you received in the mail and, depending on whether it’s promotional free play or gaming offers earned from prior play, you need to go to a Promotional Kiosk (if it’s some sort of “promotion” – but not always) or to a regular “Rewards Kiosk” if you want to check your gaming offers – except that not all promotional offers are limited to the Promotional Kiosk, e.g., the Lucky Clover game at Caesars Atlantic City last month.  [Are you following me?]  With some promotions, first you have to swipe your card at the second floor Promotional Kiosk, make a selection, print your coupon, and then take your coupon to the Main Cashier – which at Caesars in Atlantic City is on the first floor  (unless it’s a weekend when the second floor cashier might be open).  The cashier then will issue you Express Play Coupons in the denominations of your choice.  (However, be very careful and check the expiration dates – sometimes they’ll be good for five or six days, sometimes, they expire that same day.)  At Bally’s next door you don’t even have a choice when it comes to downloading your free play, i.e., “Gaming Offers”.  As soon as you swipe your card, you get a screen which tells you how much free play you’ve earned, and you can’t go any further into the system without hitting the icon and printing a coupon – which, again, you have to take to the Main Cashier (and, if you print your coupon at a kiosk in the section of Wild Wild West closest to Caesars, it’s a bit of a walk to the Main Cashier).  What if you have $100 in free play, but don’t have time to play it, or don’t want to play all of it that day?  Or what if you got coupons in the mail and left them home?  At least on this issue, Trump and Borgata have it right.  No coupons are needed; everything is downloadable at any machine.

Las Vegas Bar and Restaurant News
– Chef Michel Richard will bring Central 24/7 to Caesars Palace in late summer.
– An enhanced version Burger King’s famous brand, a Whopper Bar will soon be open for 24-hours-day at the Rio.  Offering customers 30 different hamburger toppings and Whopper concepts not found at traditional Burger Kings, the Whopper Bar also allows customers to order various beers with their meal.  Among the 30 toppings include A1 steak sauce, pepper bacon, guacamole and crispy onions.  The restaurant also will offer several specialty hamburgers, including The Angry Whopper, which includes spicy jalapeños and pepper jack cheese; the California Whopper, with guacamole, bacon and Swiss cheese; and the BK Black & Bleu Steakhouse, with bleu cheese and blackened Cajun sauce.  In addition to hamburgers, the Whopper Bar will serve breakfast from 2 to 11 a.m.

Atlantic City Restaurant News
Caffe Tazza (not Tozza, as reported in the Press of Atlantic City) has opened in the lobby at Caesars.  Offerings include pastries, breakfast fare, gelato, wraps, sandwiches and salads.  Similar to the Gelato Bar in the Metropolitan over at the Borgata, Caffe Tazza, though, is strictly “take-out” since there is no seating available.
Primavera in Caesars has closed to make way for the new Atlantic Grill Seafood.   I always enjoyed Primavera, but, as I wrote more than a year ago, the days of tuxedoed waiters, white glove service, crystal chandeliers, hand-painted murals, etc., are gone – especially in casinos. Arrivederci, Primavera!
Nero’s Sunday brunch has been relocated to Mia in Caesars lobby.
– First it was the Harbor Club/Diamond Club, then last summer it was transformed into D’Zio and now this mezzanine-level space at Harrah’s Resort will become Dos Caminos, featuring “modern Mexican cuisine”.  Look for an opening Memorial Day weekend.
The Deli at Harrah’s Resort has closed and will become Bill’s Bar & Burger by the end of June.  Hopefully, it will be better organized than the Deli and keep more consistent hours.

Loveman’s Compensation Tops $18 Million
Caesars Entertainment Corp. Chief Executive Officer Gary Loveman earned more than $18.2 million in total compensation in 2010, of which almost $12.4 million was listed as option awards.  According to the company’s annual report filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Loveman earned a salary of $1.9 million in 2010, nonequity incentive plan compensation of $2.7 million and other compensation of more than $1.268 million.  Loveman earned total compensation of more than $5.9 million in 2009 and more than $39.6 million in 2008, much of which was tied to $36.4 million in option awards following the formerly public company’s buyout by two private equity firms.  According to the filing, Loveman is required to use Caesars aircraft for personal and business travel due to security reasons.

Smoking Mad!
I ran across this on one of the message boards I subscribe to.  Makes a lot of sense:  Harrah’s AC held a sweepstakes on March 18 and again on March 25. It was called “Diamond Cove Hot Seat Sweepstakes”. To be eligible, you had to be a Diamond cardholder and be playing in the Diamond Cove room between 6 p.m. and midnight using your player’s card. Every 15 minutes one active player in the Diamond Cove would win $500. Since the Diamond Cove is a smoking-permitted room, and due to the drawing, the room was even more smoky than normal. Non-smokers who do not want to be exposed to the high levels of secondhand smoke could not participate in these sweepstakes. It may not have been intentional, but Harrah’s AC is discriminating against non-smokers. I am sure that smokers would be unhappy if a casino ran a promotion that prohibited them from participating.

$1,000 Hand Pays
As reported last month, many Caesars casinos are hand-paying jackpots at $1,000, rather than $1,200.  No W2-Gs are issued, but, as many have complained, it’s annoying and inconvenient to have to sit and wait for your cash.  Two other points I hadn’t considered have surfaced over the last month: tipping and security.  Though by no means an obligation, most people are probably going to give the slot attendant some sort of gratuity, basically leaving it up customers to help compensate Caesars employees.  Far more serious is the tip-off to potential muggers who now know someone has a wad of cash in his pocket (or her purse).

Security Concerns At Boardwalk Casinos
I’ve written before about folks sleeping at slot machines – particularly at Caesars, Bally’s and Showboat (and, to be fair, the other Boardwalk casinos).  The number of “questionable types” roaming these casinos –even during the day – actually discourages business and drives some people to play exclusively at the Marina District casinos.  Trip Advisor, though, has had some particularly harsh comments about lack of security at Caesars and Showboat.  You can read them for yourself here and here. [For that second link, you’ll have to scroll down a bit to get to the security portion.]

Kansas City Harrah’s
Lest you think it’s only Atlantic City that has security problems, check this out:  According to a Web posting, a man had a seizure and fell off his chair in Harrah’s Kansas City.  According to the report (see link below), there were no employees around so a customer went running to the bar yelling, “Help, help, we need a medic. A man is having a seizure.” The report claims that the bartender didn’t even look up.  After another round of yelling (and no response), the customer called 911.  Fortunately, the man having the seizure is OK.  Here’s the complete story.

Gain An Extra Hour: Stay At Caesars In Atlantic City
Stepping back in time has new meaning at Caesars in Atlantic City.  Apparently, no one bothered to change all the room clocks when we went to Daylight Saving Time last month.  I’m sure guests would be happy to advance their room clocks if it didn’t take a degree from MIT to accomplish this.  For now, maybe a Housekeeping supervisor should add this to his/her list of things to check when inspecting rooms.  [Start with Room 4303 in the Centurion Tower.]

6ix: A ‘Garbage Dump’?
I’ve never been a fan of the “casual dining” outlets in Bally’s Atlantic City (6ix: A Bistro, Pickles and especially the Virginia City Buffet).  However, after receiving several coupons for free food and beverage, I decided to have lunch at 6ix one day last month.  I was seated at a booth with a view of at least six or more uncleaned tables with dirty plates and leftover food piled up.  (See photo above.)  There were discarded – and presumably used – paper napkins on the floor under my table, and the whole place seemed woefully understaffed.  Considering there was an entire section in the rear of the restaurant that appeared relatively neat and clean (and only partially occupied by other diners), I don’t know why I was seated in the midst of all this filth.  Rather than request another table, the reporter in me decided to stick around to see how long it would take to get things back in shape.  By the time I finished my tuna sandwich, but not my tepid and greasy french fries, the area was once again ready for customers.  The only bright spot was my charming and accommodating server Abu.  When Bally’s closed its previously sad coffee shop, Animations, I had high hopes for this new venture.  However, the whole place is poorly designed.  Customers and employees are constantly dodging tray stands – usually topped with trays, which are topped with dirty dishes, and back-ups at the cashier are legendary.  Plus, why locate the cashier where paying customers are forced to line up directly in the path of servers bringing food from the kitchen?  And then there is that great sign at the entrance: “Please Wait For Hostess To Be Seated”.  [I’ve waited and waited, but she never sits down.J]

New Orleans Partners
There seems to be lots of buzz lately about which restaurants in New Orleans are 1:1 and which are 2:1 – also, which ones are even included in the program.  Here is the link that shows you the partner restaurants. Since these policies change frequently, I would call Harrah’s New Orleans (1-800-Harrahs) and ask for the VIP Guest Desk which is where you would go to get your comp vouchers for the off-site restaurants.  (Even Ruth’s Chris in the hotel lobby is 2:1.)

Atlantic City GM Recognized By Magazine
Senior Vice President and General Manager of Caesars Atlantic City and Harrah’s Resort Jay Snowden has been named by Atlantic City Weekly as one its “Top 40 Under 40”.  His bio pointed out that he has 13 years of industry experience, including six in the Atlantic City market.  “Looking at 2011 as a pivotal year for the A.C. market, Jay plans to continue to stay involved in the city’s revitalization efforts and build upon the current success and momentum in the areas of entertainment, citywide events and nightlife,” according to the article. “In addition, Jay plans to introduce some new, well-known restaurant names/brands, provide innovative gaming experiences, and enhance hotel accommodations at both properties.”

Great Gift Wrap Up Bonus
Head to Las Vegas April 15-17 if you want to rack up some bonus points for the 2011 year-end Great Gift Wrap Up.

Comments, Complaints and Other Observations
Asking an open-ended question last month really unleashed the floodgates.  In descending order, the biggest complaints were perceptions that Caesars has downgraded the Seven Stars program by reducing the number of annual gift choices and Signature Experiences, understaffing (from housekeepers and restaurant servers to security guards, slot attendants and cashiers), and poor housekeeping.  More specifically, players would like longer and later hours at the Las Vegas casinos’ Diamond Lounges, as well as the reopening of the Seven Stars Club at Caesars Palace (or the opening of a Seven Stars Club somewhere in Las Vegas).  Two players wished Caesars would just add $500 in comps to their account each year rather than force them to “blow” 500 bucks on a one-time dinner.

[A Not So] Happy Birthday To You!
One Seven Stars cardholder, used to getting a generous [cash] birthday gift each year, received a mere $50 in free play this year.  Upon questioning this change in policy, according to the e-mail she received, the amount was based on her play during the previous three months.  This “what have you done for me lately” philosophy doesn’t seem fair.  Once they’ve achieved Seven Stars (100,000 tier points), many folks scale back their play toward the end of the year.  If you’re unlucky enough to have a birthday toward the end of the calendar year or the beginning of the calendar year, you’re going to get less than you probably deserve if your overall annual play was accounted for.  Has anyone else found their birthday “gift” to have been cutback?  Send me an e-mail to sevenstarsinsider@gmail.com and I’ll share your thoughts – anonymously, of course.

Darryl D. McEwen, Publisher
Seven Stars Insider

Seven Stars Insider – March Edition

Here’s the latest edition of Seven Stars Insider.  This is an easy read and an excellent resource for Harrah’s Caesars players – especially in Atlantic City this month.  Head over to Seven Stars Insider to sign up for the newsletter.  There is lots of new and useful information in this edition (some of which I’m going to reference in future posts), so read on for all the goods.

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

Seven Stars 2011-12
The new booklets are out detailing benefits for Seven Stars cardholders, effective April 1.  Already several folks are complaining that the money that went into printing the book could have been better spent.  (One person wrote she would have been happier with $100 in free play and a sheet or two of “regular paper”.)  One thing you’ll notice is that your choice of gifts has been substantially reduced to just four – all of which many people probably have, received as a casino giveaway, or already would have purchased had they wanted them.  [Caesars, be prepared for a lot of flak on this one!]  “Signature Experiences” also have been reduced and – the biggest complaint I hear – most don’t include airfare.  Also, they tend to be heavy on sports-themed events – something else that isn’t making some people very happy.  Finally, there will be three “Seven Stars Signature Events”: Atlantic City in June, Lake Tahoe in August and New Orleans in October.  It would be nice if they’d give some advance notice on exact dates, but when you go to http://www.SignatureEvents2011.com <http://www.signatureevents2011.com/> , all you get is a form to complete and you will receive information when it’s available.  Also, many folks have expressed an interest in discounted charter flights to these events.

Le Ombré
If you missed Le Ombré at Harrah’s Resort in Atlantic City last month, you missed a real treat.  It was probably one of the classiest, most sophisticated entertainment events in recent memory.  The combination of acrobatics, contemporary dance and other theatrics made for an entertaining and memorable evening.  I hope the powers-that-be bring them back for an encore performance – and one that lasts longer than seven performances.

From Pollistino’s To Palladino’s
Former Borgata chef Luke Palladino, who left to open his own stand-alone restaurant in Northfield, N.J., will be returning to Atlantic City where he will take the helm at his namesake restaurant in Harrah’s Resort.  The old Pollistino’s will be gutted and feature a whole new look with a larger bar.

Tazza To Open At Caesars
Speaking of new places to eat in Atlantic City, Caesars seems ready to open Tazza in the main lobby across from Mia and the front desk.  We should know more about the entire concept later this month, but think upscale Starbucks with an Italian twist and an expanded menu.

More Las Vegas Benefits
Absent from last month’s list of special Seven Stars benefits was a quarterly round of golf.  Details are on the Caesars Web site.

Asian Marketplace
While rain forced cancellation of a Boardwalk parade celebrating the Lunar New Year, it was warm and comfy inside Caesars Palladium Ballroom last month where an Asian marketplace was created.  This was another winner for lucky players in Atlantic City who got vouchers for shopping and enjoyed traditional entertainment.  While the wares were a little overpriced, there were some unique foods and other trinkets for sale.  Hey, Caesars, how about a similar Italian marketplace for Columbus Day?

ACES Train/Hampton Luxury Liner
ACES – the speedy New York-to-Atlantic City train – is on hiatus, but will resume May 13.  The best deal right now for a cheap trip to Atlantic City from New York is the Hampton Luxury Liner.  Currently, the service is offering $5 round-trips between Long Island-Manhattan to Resorts in Atlantic City.  In addition, every passenger gets $5 in free slot play.  If you decide to stay over, it will set you back another $5.  Details here.

Bill’s Withdrawal
As noted in a special follow-up e-mail to last month’s newsletter, the free food deal for Seven Stars cardholders at Bill’s Gambling Hall no longer exists.

Showboat Goes To The Dogs
Showboat’s New Orleans Tower last month became the first casino hotel in Atlantic City to allow guests’ dogs to stay overnight in their rooms.  The program, available only in nine rooms, began February 24, and the nightly $40 extra per room per night fee was waived through March 2.  (A similar “Pet Stay” program in Las Vegas is offered at the Imperial Palace, Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino and Caesars Palace.  Rates are a little lower there: Imperial Palace and Rio, $20 per night additional, and Caesars Augustus Tower, $25.)  Guests are limited to two dogs per room, the dogs must be present at check-in, and they cannot weigh more than 50 pounds each.  The extra fee gets your pooch treats, food and water bowls, a doggie mat for sleeping, disposable waste bags, and a keepsake dufflebag.  Warning, though:  If you leave Fido in the room he/she must be crated or caged.  For less money, gamblers with dogs (and cats) can leave their pets at the Atlantic City Pet Hotel (http://www.atlanticcitypethotelandgrooming.com/ <http://www.atlanticcitypethotelandgrooming.com/> ). Showboat does not allow cats.

$1,000 Hand-Pays
Many Caesars properties are now hand-paying jackpots starting at $1,000, rather than the taxable $1,200.  (Some non-Caesars casinos set their machines to go off at $500.)  The reason:  To get other players excited about winning, they want to “milk” that annoying sound a machine makes when it pays off, plus to let other folks witness the “drama” of all those $100 bills’ being peeled off.

Rio Robbed
Fedora?  Check.  Fake mustache?  Check.  Sunglasses?  Check.  Steal $32,000 in chips from the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas?  Yep, and pulled out a gun when a dealer tried to stop him.  The robber fled the scene in a cab.

Caesars Buffet Hours Change – Again
There were lots of people scratching their heads as they read a sign in front of the buffet at Caesars in Atlantic City.  According to the sign, the buffet should have been open Thursday morning, but, apparently, they changed the hours, and not the sign.  One couple was particularly irritated because they had driven over from Harrah’s.  “I hate Reflections, but I hate Café Roma even more,” the wife said, “but we weren’t about to drive back.”

Question Of The Month
I signed up for one of those “Signature Experiences” that includes a $500 spa credit.  Do I have to use it for just one service, or can I split it up?  Have a massage, a facial, whatever. . .the credit is good for total services up to and including a maximum of $500, not just one service.

Seven Stars For Less
Turns out several people are sneaking in to Seven Stars with less than 100,000 tier points.  Those who wrote – or wrote about their friends – seemed on the verge of paranoia, afraid that their identity would be divulged.  Trust me, your secret’s safe with me.  And, 2010-2011 Seven Stars cardholders who last year made it only to “High Diamond” status, if your total points were in the mid- to high-80Ks, I’d petition the general manager at your “home” casino – especially if all (or at least the bulk) of your points were earned at that casino.  Another tip, just ask for the card and forget about the annual dinner, trip, gift, etc.  For many folks, access to the Seven Stars Club in Hammond, Ind., or at Harrah’s Resort in Atlantic City is worth the card, as is the ability to “jump the line” at Diamond Clubs, certain restaurants, box offices, giveaways, etc.

Want To Share a Comment?
Rather than ask a specific question this month, here’s your chance to “vent” on any topic from Caesars Entertainment (in general), to Seven Stars (in general) and other related topics.  Send me an email (sevenstarsinsider@gmail.com and I’ll share your thoughts – anonymously, of course.

Darryl D. McEwen, Publisher
Seven Stars Insider