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