Seven Stars Insider – April

Seven Stars Insider is back with more information for Harrah’s, Total Rewards, players. Of the subjects covered in this edition, I’m most curious about texpress at Ceasars Palace.  I’m into technology stuff like that.  On to the newsletter.

Seven Stars Insider – April 2010

NOTE: While this newsletter was originally designed exclusively for Seven Stars Club members, there is useful information for anyone who has a Total Rewards® player’s card and/or plays/stays at a Harrah’s property.  Please feel free to pass this on to your friends.  Back issues of the Seven Stars Insider newsletter are available online at http://sites.google.com/site/sevenstarsinsider/.  You will need Adobe Acrobat to view them, but this is a free program available at www.adobe.com.

Signature Event Scheduled For New Orleans

Choose the weekend of April 22 – 25 or April 29 – May 2 and journey to Harrah’s New Orleans.  The weekend includes cocktail parties, dinners, local tours and the annual Jazz Fest.  Click here for a copy of the invitation.  If you haven’t received information, contact your host.

Harrah’s Resort Offers Dedicated Self-Parking

Harrah’s Resort in Atlantic City now has a dedicated Seven Stars self-parking area.  You’ll need to use a valid player’s card to access the gated area; however, several visits found the gate open so anyone could park there.  When leaving the garage, there is a special Seven Stars Club/Diamond express lane which allows you to bypass the booth attendant by swiping your player’s card to open the gate.  Caesars, Showboat and Bally’s all have similar express lanes, and Caesars has a gated Seven Stars Club parking area on the seventh floor of its self-park garage.

$500 FreePlay, 3 Nights In A Suite, $100 Dining Credit

The Atlantis Casino Resort and Spa in Reno is offering $500 in FreePlay, three nights in a luxurious suite and a $100 dining credit to all current Seven Stars Club members, as well as those who were Seven Stars Club members last year (April 1, 2009, to March 31, 2010).  For details, go to www.atlantiscasino.com/insider.

Caesars Palace Goes High-Tech

Texpress – At check-in opt in for Texpress at Caesars Palace and you can do everything from find your Total Rewards balance, check any special offers you might have, get hours of operation and menus for Caesars 12+ restaurants, and more.  Simply go to any one of the 14 Total Connect 42” digital screens located throughout the casino.  Tap your special room key on the sign and your personalized messages will appear.  If you have a special restaurant offer, take your key to that location, give it to an associate and your offer will be activated – no vouchers or promotional codes needed.  While at this point Texpress is just a test program, you will have access to this at least through the end of June.

Yes, There’s An Ap For That! – Dubbed a “virtual concierge,” a new iPhone ap is being called the “ultimate electronic pocket guide” offering things to do, as well as famous features and tidbits on Caesars Palace’s history.  You can take a virtual tour of hotel rooms, review dining options and menus, and view a map of the casino floor.  The Special Offers function will alert you to offers just for you, and you can send an e-postcard where your picture appears on the Caesars Palace marquee.  Download the ap through the iTunes App store or call **7777 on your iPhone.

Upgrade To My Sands Preferred Card

The Sands Casino Resort in Bethlehem, Pa., will upgrade new My Sands player’s card members to its blue Preferred card.  Simply show your Seven Stars Club (or Trump Signature) player’s card when you sign-up.  In addition to the standard benefits – same-day comps, free alcoholic beverages on the casino floor, etc., players earn comps at a higher rate, get free valet parking or special Preferred-Level parking in the self-park garage, priority access at the My Sands Card Center, and access to a small private section of the High Limit area which serves hot and cold hors d’ouevres, cookies and other treats.  This area also has a small bar, but drinks are not complimentary; though you can use your comp dollars, and prices are extremely reasonable.  Visit www.pasands.com for more information.

Buffet For A Day

If you like casino buffets, the Las Vegas Harrah’s properties have a special combo offer that’s hard to resist.  For $29.99 during one 24-hour period you can sample the following buffets: Flavors at Harrah’s, Le Village at Paris, Carnival Word at Rio, Paradise Garden at Flamingo, Lago at Caesars Palace, Emperor’s at Imperial Palace and the Spice Market at Planet Hollywood.  Luxor has been offering something similar, but just at its own buffet, and Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City has an all-day buffet offer, as well.  The Taj deal is scheduled to end April 30, but may be extended.

What’s Your Recommendation For The Annual Seven Stars Trip?

Lots of people reported poor or marginal experiences on their trips.  Some loved Caesars Palace, others hated it.  The Grand Biloxi had several negative reviews, as did Rincon and Ak-Chin (mainly because of their “isolated” locations – especially Rincon where the individuals felt a bit misled in terms of its distance from San Diego and area attractions).  Harrah’s New Orleans got unanimous raves.  However, one reader was so impressed with her trip to the Flamingo in Las Vegas, she wrote a four-page trip summary.  “Overall, the Flamingo made this feel like my first REAL Seven Stars trip, and is definitely the property I’ll return to!”  You can view her full report by clicking here.

Are You Exclusively A Harrah’s Player?

Some people are so loyal, they won’t even play anywhere other than their favorite Harrah’s casino; others “play around” at a number of Harrah’s casinos, but wouldn’t even consider playing at another chain’s casinos.  What about you?  Are you also a “regular” at any non-Harrah’s casino?  Do you hold another casino’s premium (similar to Diamond level) or ultra-premium (similar to Seven Stars) card?  Send me an email (sevenstarsinsider@gmail.com) and I’ll share your thoughts – anonymously, of course – with everyone in a future newsletter.

Total Rewards 1 – Players Club 0

This morning I saw that BlogWorld was announced for October in Las Vegas.  I’m not sure that I’ll be able to make the expo, but I figured I’d see if there were any comp rooms available in case I could make it.

Players Club

Since BlogWorld will be at Mandalay Bay I looked at my Players Club account to see if there were rooms at an MGM property.  Not a bad site, but not very functional.  Rooms cannot be booked through the site.  You’re just given the information for your comps.

I saw that I had 3 comp nights at Luxor, but the offer only went to June.  I called Luxor VIP services to see if they could offer the same in October and was told they would charge me (and my credit card) full rate and adjust if offers come through.  Offers are only made available once a quarter.  I thanked the woman and told her I’d probably go elsewhere if I can get an offer today.

Total Rewards

After that call I went to check my Total Rewards (TR) account to see if there were any comps available at the Harrah’s properties.  My TR account showed me that I had comps available at 4 properties.  Not too shabby.  Since the offer was available I booked at Bally’s since I’ve never been there and it was the closest comp room to BlogWorld.  It was easy as pie and done in about 5 minutes.

Conclusion

Harrah’s Total Reward program is the grand daddy of all comp programs.  I’ve read multiple articles that say it is the best.  MGM’s Players Club is still, relatively, new and developing. In fact, I recently posted an article how MGM is trying to improve Players Club

Nothing done here was wrong here as most casino offers only come out quarterly.  For a person like me, that plans almost everything in life well in advance, the ability to book a comp room 6 months out is great.

There may be plenty of things Harrah’s doesn’t do well (6:5 blackjack, poor video poker pay tables and mediocre customer service) but Total Rewards shows comp offers and easily makes them available.  That gives Harrah’s a big edge on the competition and gives them my business again.

MGM is trying to improve Players Club and a great place to start would be linking all of their properties reservation systems together and making offers available more in advance.  I’m looking forward to seeing if Players Club can catch up with Total Rewards.  They have a big hill to climb.

Seven Stars Insider – Feb March

Seven Stars Insider is a great resource for Harrah’s players looking for information and ways to possibly improve their Total Rewards experience.  The Total Rewards system is a little confusing so the more info the merrier.  As the disclaimer says in the newsletter this info isn’t only for Harrah’s top tier players.

Sign up for Seven Stars Insider on their site.

Seven Stars Insider – February/March 2010

[NOTE: While this newsletter was originally designed exclusively for Seven Stars Club members, there is useful information for anyone who has a Total Rewards® player’s card and/or plays/stays at a Harrah’s property.  Please feel free to pass this on to your friends.]

Planet Hollywood Becomes Part Of Total Rewards April 1

By now you probably know that a subsidiary of Harrah’s Entertainment Inc. has assumed ownership of the Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino in Las Vegas.  As of April 1, Harrah’s Total Rewards program should be fully integrated, enabling guests to earn and redeem Reward and Tier Credits every time they play at the casino.  Points earned in Planet Hollywood’s loyalty program, A-List, will automatically convert into Total Rewards credits at the time of the Total Rewards integration.  This is similar to what happened when Harrah’s purchased Caesars several years ago.

Harrah’s Cherokee Now Serving Alcohol On Limited Basis

Alcohol is now being served at Harrah’s Cherokee from 7 a.m. to 2 a.m. Monday through Saturday and from noon until 2 a.m. on Sundays. Note, though, that only non-alcoholic beverages are complimentary and you cannot use comp dollars to purchase alcohol.

Aces Closes

In preparation for recently approved table games in Pennsylvania, Aces Diner at Harrah’s Chester closed in mid-February.  Not a big loss, in many guests’ opinions.

Snow Days In Atlantic City

Once again, Harrah’s angered its most valued customers by closing its Diamond Clubs the last Thursday and Friday of February “due to inclement weather.”  Meanwhile, the bars at Showboat Thursday night were packed to capacity, and most other Harrah’s food and beverage outlets around the city were open for business.  By Friday, there were no significant weather problems that should have delayed most guests or employees from getting to Atlantic City.  As a matter of fact, Trump Marina’s Chairman’s Club was open both Thursday and Friday, as was the Borgata’s Amphora Lounge.  Trump Taj Mahal’s Chairman’s Club was closed Thursday, but offered eligible players coupons for the buffet at a reduced rate (10 comp dollars for a lunch or dinner valued at $21).

Seven Stars Insider Site Updated

Google did a wholesale conversion of all its Web sites, and caused a number of sites – including Seven Stars Insider – to lose much of its original formatting.  This has since been fixed, some factual errors corrected, and information on several properties updated.  If you visit a Harrah’s property and find incorrect information on the site – or information that needs to be updated, please send an email to sevenstarsinsider@gmail.com.  In addition, as always, we are looking for reports on properties currently not represented on the site.  If you can provide any insights, again, please send an email to sevenstarsinsider@gmail.com.

Did You Attend A New Year’s Eve Celebration?

Not a big response to this question, but everyone who commented had “raves” (especially for the events at Harrah’s Resort and Bally’s in Atlantic City).  See specific comments below:

  • “My husband and I attended the party at Harrah’s Resort in Atlantic City.  It had a Moulin Rouge theme in one of the upstairs ballrooms.  The dinner was wonderful – an ‘11’out of ‘10’.”
  • “We attended the party at Bally’s in Atlantic City.  It was an excellent event, just as good as previous years’.  [The 12-piece band] played and sang everything from the ’40s through ’90s rap music.  The meal was lobster, shrimp and filet mignon.  We did not expect it to be that good.  Recent events at Bally’s had been very disappointing.  One previous dinner featured a chicken cutlet and one stuffed shrimp.”

What’s Your Recommendation For The Annual Seven Stars Trip?

A lot of new members, in particular, would appreciate your thoughts on where to take the annual trip.  Did you have an outstanding experience somewhere, or, conversely, is there some property you wouldn’t send your worst enemy?  Send me an email (sevenstarsinsider@gmail.com) and I’ll share your thoughts – anonymously, of course – with everyone in a future newsletter.  (Be sure to check out some tips for your annual trip by going to http://sites.google.com/site/sevenstarsinsider/yourannualsevenstarstrip.)

~Darryl

P.S.  Back issues of the Seven Stars Insider newsletter are available online at http://sites.google.com/site/sevenstarsinsider/.  You will need Adobe Acrobat to view them, but this is a free program available at www.adobe.com.

Darryl D. McEwen, Publisher

Seven Stars Insider

Planet Hollywood Starts Total Rewards April 1

Maybe it’s an April fools joke.  Maybe it’s not.  According to @PHVegas on twitter Planet Hollywood will begin using the Total Rewards system on April 1.

We’re rolling out Total Rewards on April 1, so there are plenty of new perks and privileges coming to make our guests feel like celebrities!

Harrahs.com shows Planet Hollywood, but redirects you to the old reservation system and website for Planet Hollywood.  Unfortunately, this may take Planet Hollywood out of my plans for my next Vegas trip.  Oh well.

Harrahs Buying Palms Next?

New rumor: Harrah’s is buying Palms next.  How can this be possible?  Steve Friess from The Strip Podcast was the first person I saw with this rumor.  After reading his blog and the accompanying Financial Times article it seems as if we have a repeat of how Harrah’s purchased Planet Hollywood.

The piece relies on anonymous sources, albeit more than one, and notes that “the investment points toward a systematic strategy by Harrah’s to acquire other casinos through their distressed debt.”

Friess followed up this with a call to George Maloof, owner of Palms, to get even more information on the subject.

I just hung up with George Maloof, who cast doubt on the Financial Times’ report that Harrah’s has been buying up Palms debt by saying, flat-out: “They’re not going to take over my company. It’s so far remote.”

Great job of digging for info here.  I love the Palms in the same way I love Planet Hollywood.  Maybe it’s the independent nature of those casinos that draws me or maybe it’s the youthful, energetic crowd that both casinos seem to draw.

Mass homogenization of casinos is boring and it seems as if that’s where Las Vegas is heading.  This will create a wider gap for casinos like Wynn/Encore from MGM-Mirage and Harrah’s properties.

There is part of me that will pay for great service and there is another part that loves the comps provided by “The Man.”  I will sit here torn a little as I ponder whether or not I’m going to make it to Harrah’s in Atlantic City.

ALSO: Props to Steve Friess for the info here.  Follow The Strip Podcast on twitter, read the blog for more info and check the podcast.  A great source for Vegas info from a person that’s actually in Vegas.

Where Will The World Series Of Poker Go?

While I was writing up rumor of Penn National’s purchase of the Rio in Las Vegas, I saw a tweet wondering where the World Series of Poker (WSOP) will move.

Harrah’s owns the hosting rights to the location of the WSOP.  If this deal is put into motion quickly location will likely be moved from the Rio, unless that is part of the deal Penn National makes with Harrah’s.

Let’s assume that this deal happens quickly and rights remain with Harrah’s and the WSOP moves.  Where does the WSOP go?

Most people, and my initial thought, is that the WSOP is a natural to move to Caesars Palace.  Caesars Palace is the flagship casino for Harrah’s in Las Vegas.

However, there may be a thought to use the WSOP to raise the visibility of another property.  Here are some possibilities.

Planet Hollywood isn’t much of a poker oriented casino, but it’s a coo, hip spot and the bright and shiny star of the Harrah’s empire.  It’s also been set up to host special events such as movie premiers and TV events.  Going to Planet Hollywood would also allow for Caesars Palace to keep their Heads Up Poker/NBC alignment.

Paris (and Bally’s) is another option.  Paris is just down the list of Harrah’s property priority scale.  Barry Manilow and Pussy Cat Dolls are possibly going to add a little life to the property.  Adding the WSOP would add even more shine on Paris.  Because it’s connected with Bally’s you have a very large selection of rooms attached to one area.

I think Caesars Palace is top of the list to get the WSOP from Harrah’s, but I could see it going somewhere else as leverage to bring people to other properties.  I’m a little past my poker prime, but I’m a marketing guy and curious to see what happens here.

Rumors: Penn National To Buy Rio?

I haven’t noticed this before, but there’s been a rumor that Harrah’s would be selling the Rio to Penn National, who has been looking to get into Las Vegas for a while now.  Last time I read (and wrote) about Penn National was their failed bid for Fontainebleau.

Penn National has been working it’s way towards Las Vegas for years and the Rio would be a healthy start for the company. Although the Rio is not located on the Las Vegas Strip it is considered a Las Vegas Strip property. Penn National has an extensive data base and it is unclear it they will be able to tap into the Harrahs Entertainment’s enormous database as part of the deal.

I think the Rio is a good entry point into Las Vegas for Penn National.  The purchase price should be less expensive then being on the strip, but its location is close enough to be part of the action.  There are also quite a bit to update at the Rio, but it’s not as though the place has to be destroyed.

This gives Harrah’s some extra cash so that it can pay down some of it’s debt when it’s due.  Or they can buy more casinos.

I’m looking forward to seeing some fresh blood in Las Vegas.  Maybe this will give me an excuse to wander on over later this trip.

Planet Harrahswood Commence!

Harrah’s officially begins their takeover of Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas today.  Some things about the takeover are starting to trickle out.

  • …the property should be integrated into Harrah’s Total Rewards database by the end of March.
  • Harrah’s also plans some physical changes to the property, such as moving the high-limit room away from the front entrance and removing some of the slot machines.
  • Harrah’s acquisition of Planet Hollywood does not include some restaurants, Privé nightclub, the Miracle Mile Shops or the new 1,201-room PH Tower By Westgate.
  • A licensing agreement also allows Harrah’s to brand other casinos with the Planet Hollywood name internationally.

So effective immediately will be the movement of some slots and Total Rewards will get going by the end of next month. With a trip in early April, I’d like to see Total Rewards to kick in a little quicker.  I’d still like to stay here if possible.  A friend called reservations last night and they weren’t sure when the players club switchover would take place.  Now we have an idea.

I’m sure pay tables for video poker will be switched out over the weekend.  Can’t wait to play 7/5 Jacks or Better.  At the same time, maybe they’ll add the $5 9/6 Jacks or Better which they have in every other casino on the strip.

MGM Looking To Improve Players Club

MGM has decided to hire two companies to help in improving their comp club, Players Club.

The move may improve MGM Mirage’s competitive position against industry leader Harrah’s Entertainment Inc., which is known for mining its own databases with scientific formulas to produced personalized offers to customers through its Total Rewards Program, which launched in 2000 and now has some 40 million members.

MGM’s Players Club is an improvement of the non-system that they used to have.  I like the direction Players Club is going and found the website easy to navigate and find offers.  Their offers seems to be in line with the amount I play at MGM casinos.  Not great, but something.

Harrah’s Total Rewards get’s a lot of praise in the media, but I don’t think there’s many customers that understand how it works.  I don’t completely understand how Total Rewards works, but I’ve changed how I gamble to get better comps.  I play much more video poker and slots than I used to because that gets recorded more accurately than playing at the tables.

MGM’s Players Club seems to be on the right path with a simple web design and easy to find offers.  I’m looking forward to seeing how this improves their marketing.

Total Rewards Could Be Coming To Planet Hollywood In 2 Weeks

Yesterday Harrah’s moved one step closer to acquiring Planet Hollywood.  The Nevada Gaming Commission will meet on February 18 to give final approval.  If (once) approved Harrah’s would assume control of Planet Hollywood on February 19 at noon.

This will create some consolidation with Harrah’s cutting about 5% of the Planet Hollywood workforce.  Harrah’s will also induce the property with $30 million in cash.  However, one of the most important things Harrah’s brings to Planet Hollywood is their customer database from all of their properties in Las Vegas and across the US.

It will use direct mail, group sales and try to attract leisure visitors.

Sure this seems unexciting if you’re a marketing geek, but direct mail seems to be what helps Harrah’s and Total Rewards stand out.  Total Rewards is the hub of all Harrah’s marketing.  I have a stack of postcards for upcoming trips to Atlantic City and Las Vegas.

As I plan my next trip to Las Vegas this will influence where I stay.  Say what you will about Harrah’s and Total Rewards, but they’re fairly consistent sending offers to stay at their properties.  The same can’t be said for all casinos.  I’m still waiting on an acknowledgement of existance from Wynn & Encore from my December stay.  I’m told I should see my offers soon.

I haven’t stayed at Planet Hollywood in a couple years and am considering it for my next trip with or without comps.  However, comp or discounted rooms could absolutely turn my attention away from some of the newer, shinier casinos.  We’ll revisit this in 2 weeks.