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.
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.
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.
- · “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.
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.
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.
President’s Lounge Closes
“The President’s Lounge at the Summit” on the 16th floor of Harrah’s has closed.
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.
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!
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.
Diamond Lounge Closing
Until further notice, the Diamond Lounge is no longer open Mondays and Tuesdays. Your closest option is next door at 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.com, www.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?
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 (email@example.com) and I’ll share your thoughts – anonymously, of course.