Bill’s To Become Gansevoort Las Vegas

Bill’s Gambling Hall closed in February so that Caesars Entertainment could renovate the property. The talk was that the property would cater to a younger, club going crowd and it seems like that will be the case with Bill’s becoming Gansevoort Las Vegas. Here’s the info straight from a Caesars press release I just received.

Caesars Entertainment Corporation announced today the collaboration with New York-based luxury hotel brand Gansevoort Hotel Group and nightlife impresario Victor Drai to launch a never before seen Las Vegas experience creating an intimate urban resort at the location of Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall & Saloon. 

As the only standalone boutique resort, perfectly situated at the center of the Strip, Gansevoort Las Vegas’ exceptionally high standard of style and service will redefine the boutique hotel experience. Glitterati and everyday guests alike will receive the ultimate in VIP treatment and unique social experiences.

Gansevoort Las Vegas will be the fourth installment of the luxury hospitality brand following the recent success of Gansevoort Park Avenue in New York. Following a $185 million renovation, Gansevoort’s iconic style will completely reimagine the hotel experience in Las Vegas, creating the only intimate property among the Strip’s towering skyscrapers.  Gansevoort Las Vegas will feature 188 Parisian apartment-style guest rooms including 19 suites, designed by Tandem Las Vegas. An intimate lobby space will welcome guests upon arrival, with a redesigned lobby bar, ultra-lounge, retail outlets, and 40,000 square-foot casino providing a unique upscale energy. A destination restaurant overlooking the Strip will round out the guest experience.

Caesars Entertainment hasn’t created anything original in years so it’s no surprise that they would partner with a company (actually two companies with Victor Drai) to bring some sort of celebrity cool to their Las Vegas portfolio. USA Today was the first to report that the Gansevoort partnership was happening last week and I’m not very impressed with the initial renderings.

Of course, they are just renderings but the Gansvoort website looks like a 1990’s real estate website which is equally unipressive. I guess the “glitterati” don’t really care about that. Vegas Chatter has some useful information on Gansvoort Las Vegas:

  • Rooms will start at $249
  • Gansvoort Las Vegas will be part of Total Rewards (Bill’s wasn’t)
  • Beyonce, Prince, Brangelina are customers of Gansvoort

$249 seems to be the new price point for luxury hotels with Cosmopolitan and the Nobu Tower at Caesars Palace both charging prices in that range. Total Rewards players usually get better pricing so if you’re a gambler expect a small discount.

Gansvoort Las Vegas is exactly what I expected Bill’s to become and I’m curious to see how it develops.

Photo: USA Today

Seven Stars Insider – February Edition

Katrina Bowden Total Rewards Concert
Katrina Bowden

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

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

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

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

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

‘Convenience’ Fees

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

Caesars Windsor (Ontario)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Photo – Fabzz

Seven Stars Insider – 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

Caesars Palace Remodel Option

Caesars Palace chose to work with Nobu to remodel the Centurion Tower and Appian Way.  I have an idea that I would like way better that would entail more work and would never have happened.

First, use the funds differently. Instead of paying for the remodel and any other costs with Nobu – Caesars could have created a desirable hotel room and remodeled the Centurion Tower themselves.

Caesars could have knocked out the walls between the small rooms and made large upscale rooms similar to what Wynn and Encore has with average room size of 600 – 800 square feet.

This would have also increased room rates by creating a better product and decreasing capacity slightly. This also may have decreased some of their tower renovation costs since they would be responsible for less TV’s, Beds, Bathroom materials, etc.  It cost Wynn, roughly, about $36,ooo to renovate each room (more for suites, less for resort rooms).

Second, they could have used some of the saved funds to lure new stores and restaurants to Appian Way or they could have relocated the food court and made more room for gambling on the gaming floor.

Yes, this would have created more work internally but it would have been an option to keep the integrity of the property.  This clearly isn’t important to Caesars corp. as they took the easy and quick way to do the job that may work short term but probably isn’t something that will stay long term.  This is how Caesars has been doing business forever so I wouldn’t expect more from them.

Caesars Palace – Appian Way and Nobu

Why would Caesars corp throw a new Asian theme (Nobu) in the middle of their Roman themed palace on the strip in Las Vegas?  Good question, but this move makes sense in a very Caesars way.

Caesars Palace is massive.  It’s expansive and confusing.  Besides MGM Grand there may not be a more poorly laid out property in Vegas.  What’s a company looking to breathe new life into it’s hodgepodge of a property to do?  Bring in some help.

It must not easy to find a brand partner that can fit in with their Roman theme.  Nobu’s Asian theme may be a very far cry from what Caesars Palace was built on, but they are a partner that makes sense in the way Caesars operates.

The restaurant and lounge will be in 9,500 square feet at the base of the Nobu tower, near the existing Appian Way at Caesars Palace.

“Nobu’s distinctive brand will bring a new dimension to Caesars Palace and will be designed to attract first-time visitors. The re-branded hotel tower, restaurant and lounge will offer an experience unlike anything in Las Vegas, pairing exclusive accommodations with a resort famed for world-class entertainment, shopping and leisure experiences,” Caesars Palace President Gary Selesner said in a statement.

Pussy Cat Dolls, Sugar Factory and Kerry Simon are just a few outside brands that Caesars has used in their recent expansions. They aren’t keeping ideas in house to expand.  Using outside names and partners allows for further reach.  In simple form you now have the corporate marketing teams working with outside teams.  Maybe theirs strength in numbers.

So the center of Caesars Palace will be modernized with a hip, Asian theme.  Most of the rooms are tiny, so I don’t think this is about the rooms.  If Caesars really wanted to make a statement, they’d knock down walls and double the room size.

The real reason to bring Nobu on is to develop Appian Way, which is underdeveloped and lightly trafficked.  This might create overall theme confusion but this gives the square footage of Appian Way a chance for Caesars to see revenue they aren’t seeing now.  This is probably the least expensive way for Caesars to remodel this portion of the casino.

This likely allows Caesars to manage the hotel tower while Nobu will probably be bringing their name, celebrities and PR staff to the mix managing the Appian Way section.

This is similar to other major corporate partnerships for the most part.  Such as the other partnerships in things I enjoy (music, sports)  I don’t like it, I get it.