Harrah’s New Orleans
Heading Santa’s Naughty List
I’m a big fan of Harrah’s New Orleans, and have never experienced anything but first class service and a good time. I always describe the hotel as being more like a Ritz Carlton or Four Seasons – though I wish they had included a spa in their initial plans. However, based on the volume of e-mails I received during 2011, New Orleans got the most complaints about everything from missing comp dollars, screwed up hotel and dinner reservations, and uncaring and inefficient hosts. Admittedly, it’s been awhile since I’ve been down there, but I hope they can get their act together. It may just be a vocal minority that’s having these bad experiences, but word is spreading throughout lots of message boards on the Internet, as well. There’s often a fine line between perception and reality and, like a woman scorned, an unhappy gambler – especially if he/she is losing – can be your worst nightmare.
See Celine For A Good Cause
If you haven’t seen Celine Dion’s new show in the Colosseum, you can help raise money to fund research for and increase awareness of sickle cell anemia by attending a special performance at 8:30 p.m. on Sunday, January 15. Ticketholders also get to attend an exclusive reception at PURE Nightclub, sponsored by Southern Wine & Spirits.
In case you missed it, Christmas Eve/Christmas dinner at Guy Savoy last year was a mere $358 per person (not including beverages, taxes and gratuity). The menu included:
Oysters in Ice Gelée
Langoustine and Fennel
“Colors of Caviar”
Roasted John Dory in Sage and Tarragon Crust
Artichoke and Black Truffle Soup, Toasted Mushroom Brioche, and Black Truffle Butter
Poussin “en Cocotte” and Albufera Jus
Brie Black Truffle
For further decadence at Caesars – available year-round, go to Casa Fuente and try the “Forbidden Collection” of cigars costing up to $150 each, along with some rare scotch at $1,100 a shot.
Eyes Wide Shut
I’m not sure whether Caesars employees have a vision problem or just don’t like confrontation. Why is it, then, that even the most casual visitor to Atlantic City spots vagrants sitting at slot machines sound asleep? One Saturday evening last month, a man with a large thick beard, wearing several layers of clothing – identity protected by a thick hooded parka, tucked a huge backpack between his legs, and napped for nearly an hour right outside the Diamond Lounge at Caesars. The same man was spotted in a different section of the second floor casino the day before. Many players – particularly women – simply refuse to play at the Boardwalk casinos just because they don’t feel safe. “Sleepers” aren’t exclusive to the Boardwalk, though. Over at Harrah’s, a woman was sleeping at a table in front of Club Cappuccino as two security guards chatted away in front of her, seemingly oblivious to the situation. While there’s no reason to believe these nappers are doing anything but catching 40 winks in the warmth of the casino, nevertheless, no other business would be as tolerant.
Easy Revenue Source For AC
If the city police better patrolled Arkansas Avenue between Wild Wild West and Caesars they could write a bunch of tickets for illegally parked cars. On several occasions during the New Year’s weekend, friends picked me up from the first floor exit of the Centurion Tower at Caesars; I was amazed at the number of cars that were parked there – most of them minus the driver and/or any passengers. While, theoretically, the three sets of doors to Caesars on Arkansas only can be opened from the inside, folks seem to have no problem prying them open from the outside. It’s not such a big deal with the two sets of doors leading into the casino, but the fact that individuals are entering the door leading into the first floor of the Centurion Tower makes me a little nervous.
Controversial Decision Paying Off
It didn’t sit well with a lot of Diamond cardholders, but Caesars decision to require a minimum of 25,000 tier points to enter the four Atlantic City Diamond Lounges at no charge is apparently paying off. While I’ve seen no official statistics, based on conversations with certain casino executives, as well as talking with a number of players, a lot of people went out of their way to reach that 25,000 point threshold by the end of 2011.
Home For The Holidays
Many “regular” players skipped their trips to Atlantic City last month when they learned that the Diamond (and the Seven Stars Lounge at Harrah’s), as well as several buffets, restaurants and other venues were closing for several days – and, in some cases, weeks – at a time. Others were downright angry – some, just perplexed – when they got to one of the lounges, only to find it was closed. At least Harrah’s offered the option of a Waterfront Buffet to eligible cardholders. This year, Caesars management, please decide further in advance if – and when – you are going to close lounges, buffets, restaurants, The Pool at Harrah’s and other venues. Then, let everyone know! (I’ll even help you spread the word – plus, I’ll be reminding you in November to start thinking about this.)
Airshow Moves To Friday
The 10th Annual Atlantic City Airshow will be held August 17 – a Friday, rather than the traditional midweek timeframe. Headlining the show once again will be the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds and the U.S. Army Golden Knights.
Seven Stars 101
The VIP Registration staff and Total Rewards crew need a crash course in Seven Stars cardholder benefits – specifically, the Companion card. My “companion” tried to check in at Bally’s VIP last month, and was condescendingly told to check-in at the “regular” registration desk. When I stopped in later to find out why, I was told that, “of course, we would extend that courtesy to a Seven Stars Companion cardholder.” Apparently, Chris who was working there that afternoon didn’t know this. Furthermore, when I inquired at Total Rewards, the gentleman at the Seven Stars section said he didn’t know and, when he checked with his manager, told me that his manager didn’t know either. Shouldn’t there be a list of basic benefits handy at each Total Rewards desk and each VIP Registration?
Send Me No Flowers
Apparently, the New Year’s Eve dinner at Bally’s was another outstanding example of the fine work done by the hotel’s food and beverage department. I heard many wonderful compliments about the food, service, music and ambience – both at dinner and the Sunday brunch. However, some miscommunication – later apologized for – caused a bit of a scene at the conclusion of the dinner. When some guests tried to leave with flowers from the centerpieces, many were chased by security guards who told them the flowers couldn’t leave the ballroom because they were needed for the brunch. Frankly, I always find it appalling how some people walk off with table decorations – many times before the event even concludes. Sometimes guests even “fight” for the flowers! [The worst I’ve seen was at Caesars New Year’s Eve when a woman pulled out a pair of manicure scissors and began cutting off the strands of “crystals” from the decorations suspended over some of the tables.]
Welcoming 2012 In High Style
Caesars hosted an absolutely flawless New Year’s celebration this year: simple, but elegant and understated invitations. . .tasteful and creative hors d’oeuvres (steak tartare in mini-parmesan tuille cups, slices of rare ahi tuna on tiny pancakes, grilled baby lamb chops, etc.). . .stunning décor in the Palladium Ballroom that elicited audible gasps as the doors were dramatically opened. All this was complemented by an imaginative dinner menu featuring a salad with the largest shrimp I’ve ever seen, followed by a dual entrée of roasted mero (a delicious white fish that was so moist it literally cut like butter) and lobster-crusted filet. Dessert, below, was an edible miniature “snowman” encased in half a “snow globe” (made of sugar), perched atop vanilla sponge cake filled with Meyer lemon mousse and covered in vanilla butter cream, sitting in a pool of light blue “ice”. It looked beautiful, and tasted even better. The versatile musicians backing up four equally versatile singers provided continuous entertainment and dance music, breaking only for two professional dance exhibitions right out of those opening numbers on Dancing With The Stars. Brunch the next day was just as outstanding. Congratulations – and thank you! – to all involved.
Morton’s Steakhouse Chain Sold
After Landry’s Inc. bought Trump Marina, it had one of its chain restaurants – the Rainforest Café – already ensconced in Trump Plaza, as well as McCormick & Schmick’s at Harrah’s Resort. Now Morton’s Steakhouse in Caesars is in the same situation. Last month, Houston billionaire Tilman Fertitta bought Morton’s Restaurant Group Inc. in a $117 million deal.
Breakfast Of Champions
Kudos to the staff at the Diamond Lounge for their excellent breakfast buffets late last month. Anticipating larger crowds due to the holidays – and with the closing of Reflections to make way for Sammy D’s (see below) – management opened the Diamond Lounge for breakfast on a temporary basis.
Hopefully, it was an isolated case, but one of the electrical outlets in my room last month had a cracked coverplate, above, exposing potentially dangerous wiring to a curious child or even a careless adult. A similar cracked plate partially covered another outlet in the hallway near the elevator. When I reported this at check-out, the clerk said the room should not even have been assigned. But, how would anyone know? Housekeepers don’t seem to report these maintenance issues, and, apparently, housekeeping supervisors don’t notice them either. It’s up to us, as guests, to notify the front desk when we spot these problems, but no one seems to take the initiative. Next time there’s a burned out light bulb, a frayed lamp plug, etc., please call it to someone’s attention.
The special reserved parking section for Seven Stars cardholders is currently open to anyone. It appears that perhaps a frustrated driver just plowed through the second card-controlled gate. I’m not sure why that warranted that the first gate should remain permanently open.
Scheduled to open last month, Sammy D’s – located in the area formerly housing Reflections – is now supposed to open this month. Bill’s Bar & Burger, which has been serving breakfast during the transition, will discontinue that service once Sammy’s opens. Ironically, breakfast at Bill’s was the best meal of the day.
Red Door: Improvement Still Needed
Not long after it opened, I visited the Red Door and wrote, “This fabled Elizabeth Arden institution is a disappointing experience for men. The facilities need much stronger supervision, and the front desk personnel need more training.” I’m happy to report that my experience last month found these problems corrected. However, several things have not changed: the men’s “grooming area” still has only two sinks, and the lighting is so bad, it’s like shaving in the dark. (“Assuming it was a man,” I wrote earlier, “whoever designed the lighting should be forced to shave there for a month.”) The spa also has the “wimpiest” Jacuzzis (in terms of jet strength), so it’s not the most satisfying way to relax.
Bet $20, Win $1 Million
An unidentified woman won $1 million on a $20 bet last month while playing poker. The jackpot is the second of its kind for “Three Card Poker 6 Card Bonus” which began play at Caesars Entertainment casinos in September. The woman said she had played the game only twice before and was at the table for about two hours. The winning hand was a royal flush in diamonds. In October, an unidentified man won $1 million on a $19 bet in the game and last month a Virginia man won $100,000.
Harrah’s Chester (Pennsylvania)
Happy Fifth Anniversary!
Hard to believe, but January 22 marks the fifth anniversary of the opening of Harrah’s Chester.
There Has To Be An Easier Way. . .
Maybe it’s just me, but Chester’s “Beat the Freeze” is second only in confusion and complication to Bally’s “Beat the Heat” promotion in Atlantic City this past summer. Here are the official rules – misspellings and missing words included: “Guests can win free slot play on days in December in which the temperature is forecasted to be below 28 degrees Fahrenheit. The weekly forecast will be displayed in the casino atrium (the forecast used will be NBC Channel 10) and will update each day at 10am. When a day is forecasted to be below the 28 degrees threshold we will communicate that day as a ‘Beat the Freeze’ day. The day prior we will promote the ‘Beat The Freeze Day’ through Facebook, Twitter, e-blasts and outdoor signage (Billboard). Guests are then invited [to] come to the casino, swipe there [sic] card at the promotional kiosks on the 2nd floor starting at 10am to have a chance to receive 5 dollars slot play for every degree below 28 degrees. 500 guests will randomly receive the slot cash prize!” December’s unseasonably warm weather probably saved the casino a lot of free slot play, but you have until January 15 to get in on the fun. Checking the official NBC 10 forecast through January 8, though, only January 2, 3 and 4 are forecast to have temperatures less than 28 degrees.
Skating With The Stars
I hope you got to see Caesars Tribute II on NBC January 1. It was an excellent show and gave Caesars some very positive publicity. Taped at Boardwalk Hall in early December, the show was a tribute to Peggy Fleming, and featured some of the top female skaters from the United States, Canada, France and Japan.
Regrets, He’s Had A Few
In August 2010 Caesars Chairman Gary Loveman called his decision to reject an opportunity to acquire the Macao gaming subconcession controlled by Wynn Resorts Ltd. a “big mistake”. “I was wrong. I was really wrong,” Loveman told Bloomberg Businessweek. Determined not to be left behind again, Caesars is focusing on U.S. expansion, according to Howard Stutz’s “Inside Gaming” column in the December 4 Las Vegas Review-Journal. “Through a joint venture, the company will operate two of the four casinos opening [this] year in Ohio. Caesars is the leading bidder for a downtown Baltimore casino project and is expected to earn the license for a casino in the Boston area.” Further, Stutz writes, “The company is looking at Miami, the next potential casino expansion market.”
Seven Stars cardholders, don’t forget you have only until March 31 to complete your annual celebration dinner and trip, order your gift, and, if applicable, complete your Signature Experience. Trips require a 30-day advance notice, so make your plans by the end of February.
Tier Levels: It’s Not Just Gold, Platinum, Diamond and Seven Stars Anymore
My guess is that, similar to direct mail promotions and even certain products, Caesars is testing several ways to bridge the gap between Diamond and Seven Stars. As I’ve written before, several Midwest casinos, as well as the Grand in Biloxi, have General Managers Clubs (some actually have separate physical locations for the clubs; others are just “virtual” and offer special quarterly or monthly benefits); about 15 months ago Rincon (and perhaps others) introduced Diamond Select and Diamond Signature cards, below; and the Atlantic City casinos have their “TR Insider” program which begins its second quarter this month.
Survey Says: New Year’s Resolutions
Among the additions to my list, suggested by readers:
Allow Companion cardholders (who do not qualify through their play) to bring one guest into Diamond and Seven Stars Lounges.
Offer free slot play as an alternative to the annual gift.
Be more sensitive to singles, as well as those widowed or divorced; too many events are so couple-oriented that those traveling by themselves feel uncomfortable or less welcome.
Allow Total Rewards credits (comp dollars) to be used toward airfare, rental cars and other travel – similar to Mohegan Sun’s player’s card program.
Survey: New Year’s Eve
I attended the parties at Caesars in Atlantic City, and I heard lots of nice comments about Bally’s parties in Atlantic City, but what about the rest of the country (and Caesars Windsor in Canada)? How were those celebrations? Send me an e-mail (email@example.com ) and I’ll share your thoughts – anonymously, of course.
Darryl D. McEwen, Publisher
Seven Stars Insider