Seven Stars Insider – November Edition

Here’s the latest edition of Seven Stars Insider.  This is an easy read and an excellent resource for Caesars Total Rewards players.  Head over to Seven Stars Insider to sign up for the newsletter.  There is a lot of information in this edition and I will pull out some nuggets to look at closer later this week or next. Read on for all the goods.

Seven Stars Insider – November 2011

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

Horseshoe Indiana

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

Harrah’s New Orleans

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

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

Suffolk Downs (Massachusetts)

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

Las Vegas

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

Bill’s  Gamblin’ Hall & Saloon

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

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

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

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

Caesars Palace

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

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

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

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

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

Flamingo

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

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

Harrah’s

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

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

Imperial Palace

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

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

Planet Hollywood

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

Atlantic City

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

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

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

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

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

Caesars

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

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

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

Harrah’s Resort

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

Harrah’s Chester (Pennsylvania)

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

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

General

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

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

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

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

Survey: 125K+ Players
Looking over the choices for 2011-12 Signature Experiences, there doesn’t seem to be much logic in what they include for the amount of play required.  If you could design some new Experiences for 2012-13, what would you suggest?  Which of the current experiences would you eliminate?  How about an à la carte option that would allow you to assemble your own personal experience?  Send me an e-mail (sevenstarsinsider @ gmail.com ) and I’ll share your thoughts – anonymously, of course.

Darryl D. McEwen, Publisher
Seven Stars Insider

Photo: Pulse of Las Vegas Blog