Seven Stars Insider – May Edition

Tyson Chandler Total Rewards Concert
Tyson Chandler at Total Rewards Concert

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

My Mistake. . .

Apparently only one person (other than me) noticed, but I erred when I wrote that the Diamond Celebration Dinner required 40,000 tier credits. . .it’s only 15,000.  Once you qualify, go to a designated kiosk to print your credit – or if your casino doesn’t have one, to the Total Rewards Desk.  You have until March 31, 2014 to use it, but I wouldn’t print the coupon until you’re ready.  Also, remember that you have to use it all at one time, and only at Caesars-owned restaurants.  If there’s a question, always ask first if the coupon will be accepted.

No Fooling!

Thanks, everyone, for your kind responses to the special April Fools’ edition.  I was overwhelmed by the nearly 150 emails I received – including some from top Caesars Entertainment executives (and even a phone call from a reader in Kansas!).  It was all meant in good fun and I’m glad you enjoyed it.

Harrah’s Phoenix Ak-Chin

Stocking Down

According to a reader, Ak-Chin has stopped the practice of decking out rooms for Seven Stars with a gift basket, soft drinks, water, juices and extra personal toiletry items.  “Too bad,” he writes.  “That was one of the nicest things about Ak-Chin, and they don’t have that much going for them.  They do have a nice pool area, but nice pool areas aren’t all that hard to find out here in Arizona.”

Las Vegas

Tickets To Nowhere

Once again, Caesars marketing folks are sending out senseless offers.  Why offer two free tickets to Jubilee! or Penn & Teller, and two complimentary nights at my choice of Bally’s Flamingo, Harrah’s, The Quad or Rio when, as part of my Seven Stars benefits, I can generally get these tickets (along with up to four nights in my choice of property)  any time I am in Las Vegas?  Do they really think I’m going to book a trip to Las Vegas to take advantage of this?  Another East Coast reader got an offer for two free nights and a $50 gas card.  Are they serious?  What a waste of paper and postage.

Atlantic City

‘If A Tree Falls In The Forest. . .’

Why offer special perks for Seven Stars cardholders if you’re not going to tell anyone?  It was only after I finished my breakfast at Caesars Café Roma that someone told me I could have gotten a complimentary mimosa. In honor of the Seven Stars Renewal Weekend, all Seven Stars cardholders were eligible for the free drinks that Friday, Saturday and Sunday.  Meanwhile, over at Bally’s Diamond Lounge, there was a special section reserved for Seven Stars cardholders.  Friday night a chef was carving prime rib to order, Saturday there was chef preparing omelets to order, and that evening the menu featured roasted salmon with Israeli couscous.  Who knows what else may have been available that weekend?  How nice it would have been to receive an email a few days before the event with the message: “Looking forward to seeing you this weekend.  In honor of our Seven Stars guests, the following special perks will be available to you. . . .”  Or, perhaps at check-in, we could have received a small card with a list of special benefits available over that weekend.

Open and Shut Case

It’s no wonder Caesars restaurants so often are empty and under-utilized.  No one knows when they’re going to be open.  On the Friday of the Seven Stars Renewal Weekend my first choice for dinner was Arturo’s at Bally’s. According to its Web site, though, Arturo’s is open only on Saturdays and Sundays (but “Closed on May 7, 21 and 21” – huh?), so I made a reservation at Morton’s (my second choice).  Figuring the Seven Stars Lounge at Caesars would be mobbed – it wasn’t, apparently – a friend and I walked over to the Diamond Lounge to see one of our favorite bartenders, John, and have a couple of pre-dinner cocktails.  Turns out Arturo’s was open (and practically empty!), so I canceled Morton’s, and we had an outstanding meal there.  Other friends went to Nero’s and Atlantic Grill that night, and said they were pretty empty as well.  There’s got to be a better system of letting customers know what’s open and what’s not.  When you checked-in, Caesars and Harrah’s used to give you a two-sided sheet which listed operating hours for the lounges, bars and restaurants, as well as any entertainment scheduled.  It might be time to resurrect this idea.

Read The Fine Print – I

Once again Caesars is running two confusing promotions.  Maybe instead of just having attorneys review the rules, some actual customers should get in on the act.  In other words, be sure to read the fine print.

Wheel of Fortune Millionaire Maker Sweepstakes – Everybody gets one free entry daily and can earn up to 10 additional entries for every 25 Tier Credits earned from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.  However, be sure you claim those extra daily entries before 8 p.m. or they’re lost.  (Yes, the rules are pretty clear on this, but, if you’re busy playing and haven’t studied the rules carefully, the time can get away from you – as it did for me the first time I played while the promotion was running.  I lost my 10 additional entries because I tried to claim them after 8 p.m.)  Between trying to remember to bring my 3-digit codes for free slot play, swiping to opt in on a daily Reward Credit multiplier (which I also forgot one night last month and lost a bunch of Reward Credits), keeping track of my daily Tier Credits to get Bonus Tier Credits (and make sure they’re being accurately credited!), and now this, it’s just too much work.  With all its complicated promotions, Caesars has taken the fun out of playing.

$1 Million Giveaway – Similarly, with the drawings May 25 and 26, you receive entries for each 10 Tier Credits earned between May 12 and 26.  However, the rules state, “Activate your entries each day [emphasis added] by swiping your Total Rewards card at a designated Promotional Kiosk. . .between 11 a.m. and 7:30 p.m.”  Does this mean you have to activate your earned entries each day between May 12 and 26, or only on the drawing days?  The first time I read it, I thought it meant each day I earned entries – similar to the Wheel of Fortune Sweepstakes.  What I think the rule means is only on the two days of drawings, May 25 and 26.

Swipe Out

Related to the above, here’s a perfect example of the antics players have to go through to participate in multiple promotions, all running on the same day this month, May 19:

  • ·         To activate a progressive multiplier on my play that day, I have to swipe at the appropriate Promotional Kiosk between 9 a.m. and 11 p.m., but this will multiply my play from 6 a.m. that day through 5:59 a.m. May 20.
  • ·         To participate in the Wheel of Fortune Millionaire Maker Sweepstakes, I have to swipe somewhere else between noon and 8 p.m.
  • ·         To participate in “Super Spin Sunday” I have to swipe somewhere else between noon and 8 p.m.

To complicate matters further. . .

  • ·         I can swipe at all four Total Rewards casinos – Bally’s Caesars, Harrah’s and Showboat – to get entries in the Wheel of Fortune Millionaire Maker Sweepstakes and “Super Spin Sunday”.
  • ·         I have to swipe only at one casino in order for my play at all four to count for the multiplier.

If I do all that, I won’t have time to play enough to make my multiplier worth anything, earn entries (up to 10 before 8 p.m. for the Wheel of Fortune sweepstakes; unlimited for the $1 Million Giveaway) or qualify for Bonus Tier Credits.  In case you’re not keeping track, that’s four separate promotions going on in one day, not even counting those daily Bonus Tier Credits, or any coupons you might have for free slot play and food.

Free Play Offers Reduced

Whenever slot players get together, one of the topics of conversation is generally, “I’m just not getting the free play offers I used to.”  Statistics released by the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement would seem to confirm this.  Comparing March 2012 with March 2013, while the Atlantic Club increased its “promotional gaming credits” by 51 percent, Bally’s reduced them by 37 percent, Caesars by 32 percent, Harrah’s by 40 percent and Showboat by 45 percent.  However, there’s an interesting explanation behind all this, detailed in an excellent article published last month in the Press of Atlantic City.

Going Online

Caesars Interactive Entertainment, operator of the World Series of Poker and online gambling sites overseas, has applied for a casino license in New Jersey, signaling its intention to enter the state’s Internet gambling market. Majority owner Caesars Entertainment already operates four Atlantic City properties, so the casino license petition would allow Caesars Interactive to operate Internet gambling on behalf of Bally’s, Caesars, Harrah’s and Showboat.  Meanwhile, the Borgata also has announced its intentions to enter the Internet gambling business, as well.

Ride ’Em, Cowboy!

Tickets go on sale May 20 for the third annual City Boardwalk Rodeo, October 5 and 6 at Boardwalk Hall.  The past two years, the rodeo was held in late March/early April, but organizers were up against Easter this year, and fall always had been their first choice.

Bally’s

Read The Fine Print – II

I’m not a video poker player, but I’ve heard from several who are not happy that some of the single line machines at Bally’s have a small plaque underneath the bill acceptor stating “This machine awards one point for every $20 played.”  Other single line machines are all still one point for $10.  If this is happening at Bally’s, is it happening elsewhere?

Caesars

Empty Chairs At Empty Tables

That popular song from the musical Les Misérables pretty much describes the ballroom at Caesars for the Seven Stars Renewal Weekend dinner April 27.  With the room set for 600, I’d guess at least 15-20 percent of the seats were vacant, maybe more.  After the salad course, I ate my shrimp and some asparagus spears, leaving what others at my table described as an inedible filet.  While it looked nice on the plate, the entrée was bland, boring and pretty tasteless – kind of like the event itself.  I gave up waiting for dessert (Baked Alaska) – which some later described as the best part of the meal.  To make matters worse, the volume on the post-dinner music was turned up as high as the heat.  “Celebrity” Mario Lopez made a brief appearance, but, like so much else that Caesars does, it set us up for disappointment.  A lucky few actually met Lopez and got a photograph, but, after some silly remarks standing next to Caesars-Bally’s-Showboat General Manager Kevin Ortzman, Lopez was whisked away, presumably to make the same stupid presentation elsewhere in town.  (I found out later that he was at Harrah’s, but the folks at Bally’s got Robin Leach.)  Plus, either no one coached him well enough, or he just couldn’t remember his lines.  He forgot Ortzman’s name, and when he put in a plug for Caesars latest promotion, he mistakenly called it “Millionaire Matchmaker”.  Why even bother to have Lopez there if he’s going stay less than 10 minutes?  People were expecting him to walk from table to table, others hoped for a dance later.  (And, OK, some just wanted him to take off his shirt.)  When is Caesars going to learn?  The attendance at these weekends has been dwindling for years.  (I remember when it was so popular, they actually had to schedule two weekends.)  There’s little incentive to attend when the only “activities” are a 7X Reward Credit multiplier on Friday, and a dinner-dance (where hardly anyone danced) on Saturday.  Even with the chance to win one of 10 $1,000 cash prizes, the $100 in free play, match play or comps we were given at registration, and the post-dinner “hot seat” from 9 to 11, it’s not worth all the time, effort and expense Caesars puts into this.  If they want to feed us, give us a $200 gift card good at any Caesars-owned restaurant.  That way we can eat when we want – and what we want.  (With the exception of Mia, most of the restaurants at Caesars and Bally’s were pretty empty Friday, so they could use the business.)  Even the Seven Stars Lounge was quiet most of the weekend, and Bally’s Diamond Lounge Friday night was like a ghost town.  Instead of last month’s dinner, I’ll take one of those Diamond coupons books any day.  When you add up the value of those coupons, it’s a much better deal than what Seven Stars cardholders got.

Morton’s Continues 1:1 Policy

Morton’s Steakhouse continues to accept Total Rewards credits on a 1:1 basis – at least through June 30.  This is negotiated quarterly, so I’ll check back near the end of June to see if the policy will continue throughout the summer.

Speed Traps

I’m glad to see that Caesars has installed some speed strips in the self-park garage.  They still don’t seem to be enough to slow down the excessive speed at which drivers maneuver the facility, especially when turning corners to get to the next floor.  Better signage (“Two-Way Traffic”, “Yield” signs, etc.) and lighting are still necessary.

To The Egress

When Diamond cardholders going to pick-up their coupon booklets last month followed signage at the base of the second floor casino stairs/escalator, they were directed to the top, and then were greeted by a security guard and another sign directing them to an entrance around to the left. . .despite the fact there was a door into that room at the top of the stairs/escalator.  Wouldn’t it have made more sense to make that “exit” the “entrance” rather than wasting an employee’s time directing players to a door 100 or so feet away?

Harrah’s Resort

Bathroom Humor

It’s not just the men’s rooms at Harrah’s that have problems.  Here’s a first-hand report:

On April 5 about noon the Diamond Cove ladies room faucet would not turn off.  There was a constant flow of water for at least 15 minutes.  Maintenance stopped the running water – I mean they stopped the water to never run.  In fact, the soap dispenser was removed and on the counter was a box of 80 wet wipes, which didn’t last through the evening.  They hung this sign on the faucet:

I am out of commission but my neighbors here are happy to be of assistance.  Maintenance has been notified.  This unit will be back in service shortly.

This sign was in the fashion of a Do Not Disturb door knob sign that was professionally printed with purple background, white lettering with some words in dark purple as noted above.  How many calls for this message is required that it was actually an official printing project?  I think if someone hand-wrote OUT OF ORDER the women would catch on to the lack of water.  The neighbors wording must have referred to the wet wipes, which were gone before Saturday morning, and women were asking the cashiers if they had any.  By the way, I left April 9 about noon and there wasn’t any running water then when I went to check the status.  Four days!

Bad Wrap

Those ugly building wraps at Harrah’s have finally been removed.  Lady Bird Johnson can now rest in peace. [Only someone as old as I will understand that last reference.]

Showboat

Leaving The Dock Without Caesar?

Penn National’s Tim Wilmott and Jay Snowden, both former Caesars Entertainment employees, were in Atlantic City last month.  According to “Pinky’s Corner”, a column in the Press of Atlantic City, they are looking to possibly purchase Showboat.  (Caesars CEO Gary Loveman was in town for a couple of days, as well, Pinky reported.)  Several bartenders, other employees and even some players say they’re “in the know”.  They claim the deal is done and will be announced this month.  Don’t believe anything until you see the official announcement. A deal this big can’t fly under the radar without public documents being filed.

Smoke Gets In Your Eyes

A small fire in room 544 at Showboat forced customers staying on the fourth, fifth and sixth floors to evacuate for about an hour April 24.  No one was injured, but the floor sustained some smoke and water damage, according to the Atlantic City fire chief.

Harrah’s Philadelphia

Four Stars For Seven Stars Event

While Atlantic City may have blown it (see above), Harrah’s Philadelphia stepped up to the dinner plate two weeks earlier with a classy cocktail reception, a delicious three-course dinner featuring filet mignon Oscar, and an 11-piece orchestra (with a sound technician who knew how to keep the volume at just the right level). Throughout the evening, guests could get their photos taken for new player cards (and, note this, Caesars Atlantic City, they actually work in the machines, kiosks and at restaurants!).  The event was capped by a drawing for several thousands of dollars in free play and a private fireworks show.  In addition, all Seven Stars cardholders got $100 in free play and a polo shirt.  [Kudos, too, for including a dress code on the invitation.  Most guests actually dressed up for the occasion, though there were a handful of jerks who refused to remove their baseball caps during dinner.]

Was It Real Tar?  I Thought They Cleaned Up The Gulf

One of the appetizers on the menu for the Seven Stars Renewal Dinner last month was “Tuna Tar Tar” but I think they meant Tuna Tartare.  Whoever wrote that is probably responsible for the new Philly Tap & Tavern menu with its “Corn Beef”.  Unless this is some new veggie version of a hamburger made out of corn, I think they mean Corned Beef.

Suspect Sought

Police are looking for a suspect wanted in connection with the assault and robbery of a 69-year-old woman at Harrah’s April 24.  The victim was walking to her car just after midnight.  According to police, the suspect tackled her and knocked her on the ground, rendering her unconscious.  The suspect fled with her purse and other personal belongings.  The victim was later treated at a local hospital for minor injuries.

General

Not-So-Secret Circle

Several readers got a “top secret” survey and invitation to join the Caesars’ Circle Community (or Caesars without the apostrophe, depending on the source).  They were asked not to forward it to friends.  (Sure, as ifthat’s going to happen!  People couldn’t wait to send this to me; I must have received 10 copies.)  One woman stopped after 13 pages when the survey asked for her birthdate.  The Circle is not exactly top secret and it’s not new.  Here’s a link to the site, but you can’t access it unless you are a member, and you can’t join unless you’re invited.  Not that I was invited, but, frankly, after reading the rules and regulations, I don’t think I want to have anything to do with it.  Anybody read Doctor Faustus?

Here’s a portion of the email:

Help us create a better casino experiences [sic] for you.  Your opinion is valued!  Caesars Entertainment is inviting select Total Rewards members to form the Caesars’ Circle Community, which will serve as a team of special advisors to us as we seek to improve the services and experiences that we provide our guests.  We have limited spots available, so if you’d like to join the Caesars’ Circle Community, please share some information about yourself in a brief survey; it should only take about 10 minutes.  We’re trying to get a good representation of people who love entertainment, including but not limited to gaming.

So what will you be doing if you are selected?

  • Participating in surveys and discussion forums (when you can)
  • Helping us solve specific challenges
  • Teaching us more about customers like yourself!

What you’ll get:

  • Exclusive sneak peeks behind the scenes at Caesars Entertainment
  • Opportunity to influence direction of Caesars Entertainment and Total Rewards
  • Opportunity to participate in contests

Our promise to you

  • We will listen to what you have to say
  • We will share back with you what we’ve learned
  • We will never sell your information to a third party

We’d also appreciate it if you don’t forward this invitation to your friends – this is a personalized invitation that will work only for you.

Food Fight

Up until last month, players with those $100 Diamond Celebration Dinner certificates (or any other coupon) could not take advantage of special Total Rewards pricing in any of the restaurants either at Harrah’s or Horseshoe in Council Bluffs, Iowa, at the Horseshoe in Hammond, Ind. (and, possibly, others).  The restaurants called it “double-dipping” – citing the “cannot be combined with other offers” disclaimer.  Sorry, but this didn’t make sense, and I wasn’t aware of any other casino restaurants that operated this way.  It’s like shopping at a grocery store where you have a loyalty card and being told you can’t use a manufacturer’s coupon off anything but the full price of the item.  In Atlantic City and Philadelphia, I use coupons all the time and the amount is taken off the Total Rewards pricing, not the “regular” prices.  (Talk about double-dipping, at Harrah’s Philadelphia I not only got a 30 percent “senior discount” – on the Total Rewards price, but also used a $30 coupon.  My $47 order ended up costing me $2.20 in comps.)  Since I felt Caesars needed to have a consistent policy across the country, and the restaurants in Council Bluffs and Hammond were not abiding by the spirit or intent of Total Rewards and its benefits, I contacted officials in Las Vegas.  Long story short, all Caesars-owned casino restaurants have been directed to charge special Total Rewards pricing to eligible customers – coupons/certificates or not.  Thanks, Caesars and Total Rewards!

End Of The Race

According to a posting on the Total Rewards by Caesars Facebook page last month, there will be no “Great Race To Rewards” this year.  More shocking to me – someone who does not “do” Facebook – were all the negative comments from customers.  As I’ve written many times in the past, customers are more likely to focus on the negatives rather than the positives, but if I were a corporation I think I’d rather pass on some of this social media rather than air such “dirty laundry” in public.
No More Comps Or Free Play On Free Play
It’s being phased in slowly company-wide, but you’ll no longer earn Reward Credits and cashback on free slot play.  To be honest, most casino companies’ systems preclude you from this, so it was just a matter of time before Casears execs figured this out.  Frankly, it’s not that big of a deal when you do the math, but,, again, it would have been nice if someone had told us.

Phone Home

Contrary to popular belief, local and toll-free phone calls are not always complimentary for Seven Stars cardholders.  If this is a concern, check with the front desk first – though you might not always get the correct answer.  That’s why it’s a good idea to review your bill before you check-out.  If you find errors, or you have a question, settle this before you leave.  In the event you are charged for something you had been told was complimentary, e.g., local phone calls, all you have to do is request a credit.

On The Level

Isn’t the Level I Experience worth more than any of the Level II Experiences?
Tea For To
The description of the Level II Memphis Basketball Experience on the Total Rewards Web site says it includes: “…dinner for to at Jack Binion’s Steak House of ’37.”  [Oddly, it’s correct in the printed booklet we received.]
Desperately Seeking Cruisin’
I knew Carnival was having problems, but what’s with Norwegian Cruise Line?  This past month alone I received 15 emails (practically one every other day) plus several offers to pick up free cruise certificates at Atlantic City, Philadelphia and Las Vegas casinos.

Question Of The Month

I’m totally confused!  Just when I thought I understood the “new” Total Rewards program, I see another email from a player and I get even more exasperated.  What’s the story?  There has been so much “back-and-forth” regarding the annual retreat (formerly “annual getaway”), the Diamond Aspiration $750 airfare credit (available at 80,000 tier credits), and the Level I Experience (available at 150,000 tier credits), I’ve tried to summarize the benefits using two different examples.  I hope I have this correct (and don’t confuse things even more!), but here goes. . .

  • I achieve Seven Stars status with 150,000 tier credits on June 1, 2013. I must take my annual retreat by March 31, 2014, and I must take my Level I Signature Experience by June 30, 2014.  That gives me 13 months to take two trips.  I then get another annual retreat which I must take between April 1, 2014, and March 31, 2015.  I also get a $100 Celebration Dinner which I can use at any Caesars-owned restaurant before March 31, 2014.  To obtain this certificate, I go either to the Total Rewards desk or, if available, the specially-marked kiosk in the casino.  In addition, I get a $750 airfare credit which I can use to fly to any Total Rewards casino-hotel in the United States or Canada.  This benefit is available through March 31, 2014, and restrictions apply.
  • I achieved Seven Stars status with 102,000 tier credits on November 15, 2012.  If I didn’t take it, I lost an annual retreat because I had to take it before March 31, 2013.  Now I have an annual retreat I must take before March 31, 2014, so I have about 11 months (from May 1, 2013) to complete this trip.  If I earn 150,000 tier credits at any point during 2013, I then get a Level I Signature Experience which I have to use by June 30, 2014, but only after I take the annual retreat I earned from my play in 2012.  The earlier I earn 150,000 tier credits in 2013, the more time I will have to use the two trips.  Even if I earn 150,000 tier credits as late as December 31, 2013, I’ll still have six months to use the Level I Experience I will have earned.  Worst case scenario is that I have not taken my annual retreat by December 31, 2013, and I must complete my annual retreat by March 31, 2014, but still have three more months to complete my Level I trip.  I also get a $100 Celebration Dinner which I can use at any Caesars-owned restaurant before March 31, 2014.  To obtain this certificate, I go either to the Total Rewards desk or, if available, the specially-marked kiosk in the casino.  In addition, I get a $750 airfare credit which I can use to fly to any Total Rewards casino-hotel in the United States or Canada.  This benefit is available through March 31, 2014, and restrictions apply.

Survey Says. . .

I got lots of great tips from readers, but few wanted me to share them because they were afraid they’d get their host in trouble, or worse, the little glitch in the system they discovered might be corrected.  However, here are tips some readers swear are true.  No promises if they’ll work for you.

  • If you are RFB and use all your Reward Credits, you can still get comped at least $100 per night automatically.  It appears to vary by property, but in Atlantic City it is $160.  (Above and beyond how many Reward Credits you may have earned on your trip, more may be considered.)
  • You have to ask, but the Atlantic City properties will offer rebates based on cumulative loss over a calendar quarter for all the properties, not just per trip or per casino: 10 percent of losses over $100,000, 15 or 20 percent over $250,000.
  • If you receive DirectBet, Bally’s Atlantic City allows you to hedge it in some games.  For example, in roulette bet half a $100 DirectBet on red, bet the remaining $50 on black.  If either color hits, you walk with $50.  If 0 or 00 hits, you get half the bets back on red and black, yet still walk away with a net gain of $25.  This is useful when cashing a coupon just before hitting the road.

This Month’s Survey

I was lucky enough to attend two Seven Stars Renewal events, a dinner at Harrah’s Philadelphia and another at Caesars in Atlantic City.  How about you?  Did you attend an event?  How was it?  Send me an e-mail (sevenstarsinsider@gmail.com) and I’ll share your thoughts – anonymously, of course.

Darryl D. McEwen, Publisher

Seven Stars Insider

Photo: Zimbio

Seven Stars Insider April Edition

Cat Deeley at Escape to Total Rewards
Cat Deeley

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

Happy New Year!

I know this is April, but for Total Rewards it’s a brand new year of benefits.  The next 12 months will go fast, so consider making your plans early for the annual trip, oh, excuse me, “Retreat” (see more on this below) and celebration dinner (or dinners – yes, you’ll get a second valued at $100 once you earn 40,000 tier credits this year).  While you’re at it, go ahead and select your annual gift.

Benefits?

Spending 125 comp dollars for $1 of free play is great if you use your Reward Credits that way, but some of the other benefits being touted are a little pathetic:

  • In order to offer complimentary early check-in (which was never a problem as long as a room was clean), Caesars instituted a charge for everyone but its best players.  That’s like adding an extra charge for daily housekeeping, but telling Seven Stars and Diamond cardholders they get it for free.
  • Advance notice and the ability to purchase tickets for certain concerts and shows?  Just about any casino, stadium, theater, arena or similar venue offers that – all you have to do is give them your email.

Signature Events

While it’s a nice change from the past, the first word that came to mind as I was reading the list of options was “leftovers”.  Jazz Fest, the 4th of July Celebration and a Forum Shops shopping spree were – and still are – among the Signature Experiences Caesars offers.  Plus, a lot of Seven Stars cardholders can probably get their hands on complimentary tickets to the Vegas Uncork’d event or Shania Twain without “wasting” their Signature Event.  And getting complimentary rooms shouldn’t be a problem.  In addition. . .

  •  Anyone who wants to go to Jazz Fest will hopefully be within driving distance.  With such short notice, airfares – which already are inflated during this time – are through the roof.
  • The Fashion Weekend is over Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year and the first of the High Holy Days.  Rosh Hashanah begins at sunset Wednesday, September 4, and ends at nightfall Friday, September 6.
  • I can’t blame Caesars for this, but it seems a little insensitive of the Miss America Organization to schedule this year’s pageant over Yom Kippur, considered by many as the holiest day of the year.  Yom Kippur begins at sunset Friday, September 13, and ends at nightfall Saturday, September 14.  Friday is the first of two rehearsal days and Saturday is the “Show Us Your Shoes Parade” (not “Parade of Shoes” as Caesars calls it) on the Atlantic City Boardwalk.

By the way, you won’t find the Signature Events on the Total Rewards Web site yet, but you can access them by clicking here. 

Retreating From A ‘Getaway’

One change from last year’s Seven Stars program is that the “Annual Getaway To Any TR Resort or Casino” has been renamed “Annual Retreat To Any TR Resort or Casino”.  Did anyone bother to look up the definition of the word “retreat”?  Among them are “a movement away from danger or a confrontation, back along the original route”, “a withdrawal from a position or point of view to one intended to lessen conflict”, “a period of quiet rest and contemplation in a secluded place”, and “a quiet secluded place where people go for rest and privacy”.  Not sure any of those accurately describes a trip to a casino.  Or is Caesars suggesting we retreat from its casinos and play/stay elsewhere?  In any event, it’s an unfortunate choice of words.

The Fine Print

Among the “Rules & Regulations” – printed in a typeface about half the size of the rest of the book, is “Movie benefit is available at participating Total Rewards casinos only.  Please check with your host or Total Rewards for more details.”  This is the first and only reference I could find to movies.  Seasoned Seven Stars cardholders will be familiar with this, but those new to the program may be scratching their heads.  Related to this, there is no mention of complimentary Internet access or boarding pass printing – benefits which Seven Stars cardholders have come to expect.  Some properties, but not all, also provide complimentary local and toll-free calls.  Word to the wise: If any of these benefits/services is important to you, ask at the front desk when you check-in.

A Little More Notice, Please

In addition to learning about the Jazz Fest Signature Event about a month before it begins, my invitation to a Seven Stars Renewal Event at Harrah’s Philadelphia arrived a little more than two weeks prior to the dinner. (The return address was Total Rewards in Las Vegas, but it’s not unusual to get invitations from Harrah’s Philadelphia as little as two or three days before an event.  Kind of makes you feel like not enough people responded and you were an after-thought to help fill the room.)  In Atlantic City, many Platinum cardholders got a similar two-week notice for a coupon book giveaway.  We all know that these events are planned far in advance.  At a minimum, Caesars should consider a “Save The Date” email.  Contrary to what it may appear, some of us do have “a life” that includes weekend activities other than gambling.

Left Hand, Meet Right Hand – Part I

I probably received more than 30 emails from readers who called last month to book one of the 2013 Signature Events, only to get what was essentially a verbal “deer in the headlights” reaction at the other end of the telephone.  Here’s a good example:

“I called the toll-free number and the operator didn’t seem to know anything about these.  She asked me for an offer code (I assume she means on an invitation she thought I received in the mail) which I do not have.”

When I called to inquire about the cruise, I was put on hold for about seven minutes, only to be told that no one knew anything about it, that “it hasn’t been loaded into our system yet”, and “a host or someone from Marketing will get in touch with you.”  (Someone did call me back four days later.)

Left Hand, Meet Right Hand – Part II

In addition to the emails from players, I received several more from Caesars employees – especially those who work at properties where the Seven Stars Signature Events are being held.  None of them was aware of any of these and added that, more often or not, they learn about what’s going on in the company from my newsletters and emails.  What was it I wrote about last month?  Communication, communication, communication.

In Memoriam

Since it’s the beginning of a new year for Total Rewards, like the Oscars, the Grammys and other awards programs, it’s time to look back on some of the things we’ve lost over the past 12 or so months.  (I’m sure you can think of more!)

  •          The Range at Harrah’s Las Vegas (now a Ruth’s Chris Steak House)
  •          BarleyQue at Harrah’s Philadelphia (now Philly Tap and Tavern)
  •          Don Marrandino (formerly Eastern Division president of Caesars Entertainment)
  •          Canal Street Bread & Sandwich Co. (now Earl of Sandwich) and the Mansion Café (now banquet and meeting space) at Showboat Atlantic City
  •          Food and beverage outlets that accept comps on a 1:1 basis (too many to mention)
  •          Show in the Sky and Lucky Strike Bowling Lanes at Rio
  •          Café Cappuccino (now Café Tazza – where comps are accepted, but at 2:1) and Temptations at Harrah’s Resort Atlantic City
  •          The Imperial Palace (now The Quad)
  •          Human Nature at the Imperial Palace (now at the Venetian)
  •          Being able to purchase the Press of Atlantic City at any Atlantic City casino gift shop
  •          The Virginia City Buffet at Wild Wild West in Atlantic City
  •          PNC ATMs in all Atlantic City casinos
  •          Bradley Ogden’s (now Gordon Ramsay Pub & Grill) and Nero’s Steakhouse (now The Old Homestead) at Caesars Palace
  •          The President’s Lounge at the Summit at Harrah’s Lake Tahoe
  •          Complimentary early check-in (all Caesars casino hotels)
  •          An extra hour (from 11 p.m. to midnight on Fridays and Saturdays) at the four Diamond Lounges in Atlantic City
  •          Shrimp served Sundays through Thursdays in Atlantic City Diamond Lounges
  •          Monday and Tuesday opening of Bally’s Atlantic City’s Diamond Lounge
  •          Thursday opening of Harrah’s Resorts Atlantic City Seven Stars Lounge
  •          The TR Insider program
  •          Complimentary soft drink refills at 6ix a Bistro (Bally’s Atlantic City)
  •          “No Resort Fees” at select Caesars Nevada casino hotels.
  •          Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall & Saloon (to become next year the Gansevoort Las Vegas)
  •          The Bank of America Total Rewards Visa credit card (now issued by Comenity Bank)
  •          Most of the Wild Wild West at Bally’s in Atlantic City

Ak Chin

Drinks On The House

A reader reports that Seven Stars cardholders may now get coupons for free drinks to be used while actively playing in the casino.

 

Harrah’s New Orleans

Diamond Lounge Returns To Original Location

It was nice while it lasted.  The way-too-small Diamond Lounge at Harrah’s has returned to its original location in the High Limits area.  The move to what was formerly Bambu restaurant was only temporary due to the anticipated larger crowds in town for Super Bowl and Mardi Gras.  During Jazz Fest, which begins later this month and continues through the first weekend in May, a special Seven Stars Hospitality Lounge will be set-up.

Las Vegas

Gansevoort Las Vegas (formerly Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall & Saloon)

Movin’ On Up

The Las Vegas Strip will join the Caribbean resort islands of the Turks and Caicos, as well as Park Avenue in New York and that city’s Meatpacking District when a $185 million redevelopment will transform Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall & Saloon into the Gandesvoort Las Vegas.  Expected to open in early 2014, the hotel will have 188 “Parisian apartment-style rooms” – including 19 suites.  The building is being remodeled to include a new lobby area, a redesigned lobby bar, ultra-lounge, retail outlets and a 40,000 square-foot casino.  A restaurant overlooking the Strip also will be developed, as well as Drai’s Beach Club and Nightclub, a 65,000 square-foot indoor-outdoor nightclub and rooftop pool area overlooking the Strip.

Atlantic City

No Sale

The Pier Shops at Caesars thought they found a buyer in Michael Kohan, a New York real estate investor who specializes in taking over distressed shopping centers.  However, the deal fell through, according to an internal memo from mall General Manager Harry Geety.  Kohan said he wanted to keep the mall’s upscale appearance, but would add more lower-priced stores to make shopping more affordable for Atlantic City tourists.  According to an article in the Press of Atlantic City, Kohan said he remains “ready, willing and able” to close a deal.  But Geety’s memo indicates that the mall has ended negotiations.

The Unfairness Doctrine

It seems a little unfair considering it happened in Las Vegas – and in 2007, but New Jersey has fined Caesars Entertainment $225,000 for a drugs, sex and gambling scandal at Caesars Palace and Rio.  The New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement claims that the company’s alleged misconduct in Las Vegas had the potential to harm the reputation of the casino industry across the country.  The case involved a Nebraska businessman who gambled away millions of dollars and was indicted by a grand jury for failing to pay $14.7 million in gambling debts.  The charges were later dropped in a settlement with Caesars.  The high-roller then filed a civil lawsuit alleging that Caesars allowed him to gamble even though it knew he was incapacitated by drugs and alcohol, further alleging that Caesars Entertainment personnel plied him with alcohol and repeatedly gave him pain killers without a doctor’s diagnosis or a prescription.

Throwing The Book At Them. . .If They Can Be There To Catch It

Those annual coupon booklets, so popular with new and renewing Diamond cardholders, are being given out this year April 19 and 20 (April 12 and 13 for Platinum cardholders).  Several Diamond and Platinum cardholders have contacted me to express their disappointment because they’ve already made plans and can’t change them – one couple has booked a cruise through an offer from Caesars.  I agree. . .it doesn’t seem fair.  You spend all year earning this benefit, then Caesars gives you a few weeks’ notice and eight hours over two days to claim it.  (Also, the Friday giveaway times are 2 to 6 p.m. – difficult for most “working people” who have a 9-5 job Monday through Friday.)  In my opinion, it’s one of the best Diamond and Platinum card benefits.  I wish there was something similar for Seven Stars cardholders.

R.I.P. TR Insiders

The final Insiders event took place March 15 to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.  Aside from the deafening music – when is Caesars going to wise-up and turn down the volume at its events? – the staff at Showboat got it right. The promised cocktails and hors d’ouevres turned out to be a complete dinner buffet that was frequently refreshed and looked extremely appetizing.  (Because I expected only cocktails, I made other dinner plans, so I didn’t get to sample anything.)  And there was plenty of seating.  I was a little put-off by the “little person” dressed as a leprechaun who greeted guests at the door, but if he didn’t object, why should I?

Is Anyone Out There Listening?

A reader got a “Host Survey” from Caesars Atlantic City casinos only to be surprised when the questions centered on a host he never knew he had.  He made it clear he was pretty unhappy that this person had never contacted him, and expected someone from the casino would have responded to his concerns.  He’s still waiting. Another reader sent me an email describing a similar experience.  Kind of makes you wonder if anyone ever reads these surveys.

Ban The Scan

Depending on the day of the week and where you park, Seven Stars and Diamond cardholders may no longer be able to scan their valet parking tickets to retrieve their vehicles.  The scanner was working at Harrah’s on a Monday morning, but the cashiers at Caesars and Showboat told me that so many players were giving their Total Rewards cards to friends that cashiers were told to check IDs and manually process the tickets.  While it really doesn’t delay things that much, it was a nice convenience.  Be prepared to show ID at the self-parking garages too – again, these generally are spot checks, but it’s happening more and more often.

Diamond Lounge Hours

Don’t count on the Total Rewards Web site for accurate information on the hours for the Diamond Lounges in Atlantic City.  The actual hours are

Sunday: Noon to 8 p.m.

Monday – Thursday: 2 to 8 p.m. (Bally’s is closed Mondays and Tuesdays)

Friday: 2 to 11 p.m.

Saturday: Noon to 11 p.m.

Last admittance is a half hour before posted closing; last call is approximately 20 minutes before posted closing. Food service on Fridays and Saturdays ends at 10 p.m.

Disappearing Act

Magician Steve Wyrick may be making things disappear over at the Golden Nugget, but I’m pretty sure he had nothing to do with the fact that the local Press of Atlantic City newspaper has disappeared from the shelves of Caesars four casino gift shops, and you no longer can pick up a complimentary copy of the weekly At The Shore– also published by the Press.  [Full disclosure: I write a biweekly column for At The Shore.]  According to one employee who wished to remain anonymous, this is “retaliation” for the unflattering article the Press published last month about Bally’s (see below).  How childish and unprofessional!  Didn’t anyone consider how this might inconvenience hotel guests who would enjoy reading the morning paper over breakfast?  Caesars also has cancelled its advertising in the daily newspaper.  Caesars pulled a similar stunt at its Las Vegas hotels a few years ago when the Review-Journal published something it didn’t like.  The ban lasted about a year, as I recall.

Bally’s

‘Casual Dining’

While the list of “casual dining” outlets on the back of a promotional mailing from Bally’s lists Nanking, Primo Pizza, Harry’s Oyster Bar, Noodle Village, Wild Wings, Johnny Rockets, Corner Café and Sack O’ Subs, don’t try to use the coupons in that same mailing at any of those places.

 The coupons say “Select Caesars, Harrah’s Resort, Showboat or Bally’s casual dining outlets”.  For the record, the coupons are good at the following places:

Bally’s – Preview and 6ix a Bistro

Caesars – Café Roma and Kwi

Harrah’s – Sammy D’s, Bill’s Bar and Burger, and Waterfront Buffet

Showboat – Crossroads and French Quarter Buffet 

According to Mary at Harrah’s Room Service, the coupons also are good for Room Service at any of the four properties.  As always, check to be sure the listed outlets or Room Service will accept the coupons before placing your order.

Not Much Ballyhoo Over Bally’s

Bally’s doesn’t fare so well in an article published last month in the Press of Atlantic City.  “It’s an eyesore.  It’s a shame,” the article quotes a Maryland tourist.  The article relates how Caesars Entertainment began sealing off parts of the Wild Wild West last year to replace some of the casino space with new retail and entertainment attractions.  To date nothing has been built, and Caesars says it has no updates to announce on any redevelopment.  I receive several emails every month about conditions at Bally’s, and I experienced the less-than-standard accommodations myself earlier this year.  Though The Reserve and Arturo’s still are among my favorite Atlantic City casino restaurants, I won’t be back for any more overnight stays.

Just Change SAMM To BALL

This summer it will just be Bally’s Beach Bar, not Sammy’s – as in Sammy Hagar.  Hagar and Caesars could not reach an agreement over the Hurricane Sandy-damaged bar.

Crummy Deal At Sammy D’s

At breakfast, Seven Stars cardholders get a complimentary half of one of those wonderful “Extra Crummy Coffee Cakes” Sammy D’s serves – a whole one if you have a party of four.  If your server doesn’t offer it, be sure to ask.  Another tip, if you order the Complete Continental, select the muffin or bagel, since the coffee cake comes free.

Bill’s Bar, Burger. . .& Breakfast

Bill’s Bar & Burger is now serving breakfast on Saturdays from 8:30 to 11 a.m.  For those staying in the Atrium Suites and the Harbour Tower, it’s a long walk to Sammy D’s.  Plus, during construction of Sammy D’s, Bill’s proved it could serve a mean breakfast.  (By the way, maybe it was “new restaurant” jitters, but the hamburgers at Bill’s have improved immensely since the place opened.)

Going, Going, Gone

For the third time now, my host has left and no one bothered to alert her customers.  Because I was suspicious that two emails were returned with the message, “Your message can’t be delivered because delivery to this address is restricted”, I picked up the phone and Harrah’s operator gave me the news.  In the past, emails went through as if the person were still working there, so at least there’s some improvement in the system.  But, how difficult is it to send a quick email advising customers their host has left, that someone new will be assigned shortly, and here is an interim contact until that happens?  This happened at Caesars a few years ago, as well, and probably at Bally’s and Showboat too.

Showboat 

Welcome Back, Carl!

Popular Diamond Lounge bartender Carl is back after an extended medical leave.

Rocket Fuel

Johnny Rockets has the best deal in town for casino breakfasts: $6.59 three-ingredient omelets (including bagel, English muffin or toast and potatoes), three pancakes and breakfast meat for $5.99, four strips of bacon for $2.49, and $5.99 for two eggs any style, bagel, English muffin or toast, and potatoes and breakfast meat.  Compare that to prices across the way at Crossroads where you’ll pay $13 for that same omelet, $6 for a side of bacon, and $10 for three pancakes (with no breakfast meat).  Plus, if you’re lucky you might snare one of the tables up front that looks out over the beach and the ocean.  Johnny Rockets accepts comps on a 1:1 basis, but unlike other casino outlets, the sales tax will not be waived.  It’s still a bargain.  [NOTE: Johnny Rockets at Bally’s accepts comps, but at a 2:1 ratio, but the basic pricing is the same.]

Horseshoe Casino Cincinnati

Pitching Horseshoe

Horseshoe Casino Cincinnati has opened.  The $450 million casino features 2,000 slot machines, 87 gambling tables and a 31-table World Series of Poker Room.  The complex has six sit-down restaurants with a seventh on the way.  Click this link for a variety of local articles relating to the casino.  In addition, here’s the link to a video about the casino.

Thistledown Racino 

Racino To Open

Located in the Cleveland suburb of North Randall, Thistledown – which originally opened in 1925 – is one of seven horse-racing tracks in Ohio, and the second to open as a “racino”.  It’s expected to open this month as a new Total Rewards casino – minus any name (Caesars, Harrah’s, Horseshoe) that would indicate so.  Rock Ohio Gaming, a joint venture between Rock Gaming and Caesars Entertainment (which also operates the Horseshoe Cleveland) spent $88 million on renovations and additions.  The racino is limited to video lottery terminals (1,145 of them), which to the average gambler look and play like slots.

Harrah’s Philadelphia

General 

Wheel Of Misfortune

If you’re a “Wheel of Fortune” fan, wouldn’t it be fun to attend a live taping in New York City?  Certain Total Rewards players got that opportunity last month, but, according to one person who accepted the offer, it wasn’t exactly what she expected.   “We stood on the ‘VIP’ line for over an hour with our heavy coats, not being able to leave to get food because there were no concessions open, and no ‘re-entry’ allowed anyway.  Our seats were so bad, we couldn’t even see the board. . .we were too far to the left.  We walked out before the second show taped (forfeiting the ‘gift’ which we heard was a sparkly Wheel pen) and just felt foolish for believing (or hoping) that Caesars might actually offer something special!  All in all, between transportation to and from Madison Square Garden, and two drinks and two mini-sliders at a nearby pub, I spent $90 to take advantage of this silly free offer.  I don’t know why Caesars runs such dumb promotions that only aggravate me more than make me feel appreciated being a ‘valued customer’.”

Total Rewards Web Site 6.2

I’ve lost track of the number of times the Total Rewards Web site has been revamped.  While there’s much to like about the latest version – particularly the consistent look of each casino’s individual Web page, isn’t it time to retire that lame Jimmy Kimmel video?  For one thing, it’s out of date – at the end it says to play the “Escape To Total Rewards Game” which ended last year.  For another, it’s just a stupid premise, having Kimmel inside a prison talking about Total Rewards benefits to a bunch of inmates – not to mention the unsafe driving practices at the beginning where Kimmel takes his hands off the wheel to thumb through cards in his wallet.

Question Of The Month

If a player new to Total Rewards (or even a current Seven Stars cardholder) reaches 150,000 tier points any time before December 31, 2013, will he/she get all the benefits of Diamond Aspiration Level 1 ($100 celebration dinner), as well as 2 and 3 (trip with $750 airfare and four nights’ accommodations, a Diamond companion card, etc.), AND the two retreats, the Seven Stars companion card, etc., etc., that he/she gets as a Seven Stars cardholder?  Excellent question. . .I didn’t know, so I went right to the “top” at Total Rewards for an answer: All players will achieve a Diamond Aspiration and/or Seven Stars Signature Experience as they pass each tier threshold.  In the example below, players will receive all Diamond Aspirations and the Level I Seven Stars Signature Experience, in addition to the Diamond and Seven Stars benefits that come along with tier status. Privileges associated with Aspirations and Experiences are made available to players as they achieve the tier threshold, as outlined below:

  • At 15,000 tier credits, players receive the $100 celebration dinner.
  • At 40,000 tier credits, players receive the complimentary stay.
  • At 80,000 tier credits, players receive a trip with $750 in airfare credit, a Diamond companion card, early check-in/late-check out, etc.
  • At 150,000 tier credits, players have reached Seven Stars Signature Experience Level I, which provides access to a trip, including a $1,200 airfare credit.  Since these players have also achieved Seven Stars status, they also get the “retreat” benefit.  That gives Seven Stars players two trips.
  • If players are already Seven Stars cardholders, but did not achieve the 150,000 tier credits this year, they would still receive the retreat benefit, but would not receive the additional trip.
  • Once players achieve 150,000 tier credits, they would also receive a Seven Stars Companion card, but this companion would be the same companion they’ve selected as their Diamond Companion.

Survey Says. . .

Last month I asked a question regarding the contents of this newsletter: “Should I stick to the facts, and stop editorializing?”  Thanks for the vote of confidence.  Everyone who wrote me – and there were many more than usually respond to these mini-surveys – said to keep calling it as I see it.  Typical of the emails I received: “Don’t question what you are doing or saying, and continue as always!  You are our voice and doing a terrific job of speaking!”

This Month’s Survey

I realize this particular example applies only to those of us whose “dominant casino” is in Atlantic City, but I just learned from another player that I could use my quarterly $100 spa credit to purchase items like shampoo, hand creams, or anything sold in the retail section of the four casino spas.  You just ask your host for a “shopping certificate” instead of a regular spa credit.  How about you?  Do you have an “inside tip” like this that you’d be willing to share with others?  Send me an e-mail (sevenstarsinsider@gmail.com) and I’ll share your thoughts – anonymously, of course. 

Darryl D. McEwen, Publisher

Seven Stars Insider

 

Photo: Hawt Celebs

Tweet me @eastcoastgamblr

Seven Stars Insider – March Edition

Katherine McPhee Total Rewards Concert
Katherine McPhee

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 full of information. Head over to Seven Stars Insider to sign up for the newsletter.


Sorry About That. . .

Gordon Ramsay Steak is located in Paris, not Planet Hollywood, as I wrote last month.  Also, unlike the others, the Diamond Lounge at Caesars in Atlantic City serves nuts.  Sorry for these errors!

Harrah’s Rincon North San Diego

Updates

I’ve updated the Web page to reflect some changes and new information regarding Harrah’s Rincon.  In particular, be aware that major renovations and new construction are taking place.  I stayed there last month and, perhaps because of where my room was located, construction noise was not a problem.  Also, unique to Rincon is a complimentary $50 media package for Seven Stars cardholders.  Rather than providing complimentary Internet access and unlimited in-room movies, Rincon allows you to decide how to “spend” your allowance. Internet access is $12.99 per day ($24.99 for property-wide access) and movie charges vary.  While food and service were “hit or miss” at Rincon’s “fine dining” restaurant, Fiore, one annoying aspect was an unadvertised $3 “split plate charge”.  Friends I took to dinner one evening asked to share a salad and, it wasn’t until the next morning when I had better light and a chance to review the check more thoroughly, that I discovered the cost of the salad increased from $13 to $16.  While I still think it’s a little cheap to levy this additional charge, customers should be advised about this either by their server or by a notation on the menu.  Also, when a specific brand of vodka was ordered, but not available, the server (or the bartender) took the liberty of replacing it with another brand – again without saying anything to the customer.

Harrah’s New Orleans

Diamond Lounge Relocated

The Diamond Lounge – formerly located in the High Limits table games area – has been moved to the location previously occupied by Bambu Restaurant.  Unlike some Diamond Lounges, guests order food from a printed menu; selections include shrimp and prosciutto bruschetta, a red bean onion dip, alligator, crawfish and Andouille sausage, international cheeses and prosciutto, mini muffaletta sandwiches, and fresh fruit with berries. In addition, there are a few desserts.  Diamond cardholders are limited to four cocktails and two menu items; Seven Stars cardholders have unlimited choices.

Harrah’s North Kansas City

Everything’s Up-To-Date In Kansas City

Thanks to a reader who recently visited there, Harrah’s North Kansas City now has a page on the Seven Stars Insider Web site: https://sites.google.com/site/sevenstarsinsider/harrah-s-north-kansas-city.  If you’ve recently visited a Caesars-owned casino not featured on the Web site, please feel free to send me your comments.  Also, if you see information on the site that requires updating, please send me that information as well.

Las Vegas

Hype, Hype, Hurrah!

A reader who lives on the East Coast (and about an hour’s drive from Atlantic City) sent me his latest offer from Las Vegas: Choice of a $50 Macy’s gift card or $50 in casino play – and three complimentary nights either at The Quad or Rio.  “Do Caesars marketing folks really think I’m going to hop on a plane and travel to Las Vegas for $50 and three free room nights (and at The Quad – yuk!)?  Plus, it’s over a specific set of dates.  This was a waste of printing and postage.”

Useless Surveys

Last month I received a second survey from Total Rewards about Las Vegas casino hotels.  [The first one had several errors and I just deleted it.]  This time I exited after the first two questions.  Doesn’t anyone test these on a sample base of customers before sending them out?  One of the questions on the survey was based on a laundry list of Vegas casinos.  I was asked to indicate when I last stayed at any of them, if I’d heard of them but never stayed, etc.  Problem was the list was so long that I had to keep scrolling to the top to be sure I was checking the right box.  I gave up after about 10 casinos.  The next question asked me where I stayed on my last visit to Las Vegas.  As it turns out, I stayed at three different hotels during my weeklong visit.  However, the only option I had was to check one.  That’s when I gave up again because I was sure the next set of questions was going to be based on whatever casino I checked, and would probably result in a bunch of false-positives, for lack of a better word.  I’m happy to give my opinions (just read this newsletter!), but send me a survey that asks the right questions and is in a format I can actually respond to.  I’ve rarely received a survey from Caesars/Total Rewards that I would actually take the time to complete.

Rio All-Suites Hotel & Casino

Before The Parade Passes By

The Rio’s free Masquerade Show in the Sky will end March 30.  This one-of-a-kind show featuring parade floats suspended from a track in the ceiling, as well as an accompanying stage show with singers and dancers, started in 1997, but over the years performances were cut-back to Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

Atlantic City

Seven Stars ‘Renewal Weekend’

Nothing official, but several sources tell me that the Seven Stars “renewal weekend” will be April 26-28.

1+1+1+1=1?

Instead of four different hosts – one at Bally’s, one at Caesars, one at Harrah’s and one at Showboat – I’m hearing that Caesars is considering assigning players just one city-wide host, similar to what they’ve been doing in Las Vegas.

Food, Glorious Food – and Wine

Caesars Entertainment’s Atlantic City Food and Wine Festival will return for the fifth year beginning July 25. Among the first celebrity chefs to be announced are Robert Irvine, Pat and Gina Neely, and Rocco DiSpirito. Total Rewards cardholders can purchase discounted tickets in advance at acfoodandwine.comticketmaster.comor by calling (800) 736-1420.  Ticket sales will open to the public at 10 a.m. March 8.

Room Service

Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa has become the first land-based casino in the United States where customers can gamble while inside their hotel rooms through the television.  The 90-day trial – which began in mid-February – allows hotel guests with a player’s card to play video slots and poker.  While Borgata eventually will allow guests to gamble on smartphones and other mobile devices by the pool or in restaurants, the trial period will restrict mobile wagering to television sets inside the resort’s hotel rooms.  Patrons must first check-in to a Borgata hotel room, where they will be given a password for the television gambling software.  To gamble on the TV, patrons must enter that password, which is valid only for however long the patron is checked in to the hotel, and the PIN associated with their player’s card.  Patrons must first walk to the cashier’s cage on the casino floor and deposit the money with which they will gamble.  Under New Jersey’s mobile gambling regulations, patrons can gamble up to $2,500 a day.

Wynn Loss Statement

Speaking of Borgata, if you purchased My Borgata Vacation certificates with your comp dollars, you need to know that they no longer are accepted at Wynn and Encore in Las Vegas.  They are valid only at Main Street Station, The Orleans, Sam’s Town and Suncoast in Las Vegas; the Blue Chip in Michigan City, Ind. and Par-A-Dice in Peoria, Ill.; and Delta Downs in Vinton, La., and Sam’s Town in Tunica, Miss., and Shreveport, La. Unused and unexpired certificates may be returned to the My Borgata Card desk for credit.

Caesars

Boardwalk Buffet Still Open

It was supposed to close last month for renovations, but the buffet at Caesars is still open for business.  Perhaps someone realized that the folks in marketing printed and distributed coupons good at the buffet for the month of March, though one host reports that the buffet will, indeed, close mid-month.

Harrah’s Resort

Sounds Like. . .

They may not know how to spell it, but they sure know how to prepare it!  The “Coco Van” [coq au vin] on the menu at the Diamond Lounge last month was delicious, as was the marinated grilled flank steak.  Congratulations to the chefs!

New Menu At Seven Stars Lounge

Following in line with the lounge at Caesars, the menu has been changed at Harrah’s.  Some “old favorites” – like ice cream – may still be available, so ask your server.

Harrah’s Lights Up Your Life

Last month Harrah’s was offering a “Light Up Your Love” package that would spell out a proposal in lights on the Waterfront Tower.  Included was a 1 p.m. late check-out, free parking, VIP check-in, a $100 dining credit, limo ride and a bottle of champagne.  The cost?  $699 during the week, $1,000 over the weekend.

Quote Of The Month

Here it is, direct from the top of the menu at Luke Palladino – run-on sentences, unnecessary capitalization and punctuation, misspellings, and all:  “Dear Valued Customer: Harrah’s is very proud to have recently Introduced a newly Re-designed and Re-energized Total Rewards (TR) Program which offers rewards and benefits to it’s members, that are unparallel to any other gaming entity World Wide. As an extension of these rewards and benefits, when you present your TR Card while Dining at Luke Palladino, you will receive the benefit of a favorable enhancement in the form of special pricing.  Please note below the items indicated by the TR logo.” Translation: “Give the server your Total Rewards card and you’ll get discounted pricing on any menu item identified with the TR logo.”

Harrah’s Philadelphia

Two Hours Every Week Have Just Become Happier

Fridays from 10 p.m. to midnight, Harrah’s hosts a “Happy Hour” at the Cove exclusively for Seven Stars cardholders.  It’s in a trial phase to see what type of response and demand Harrah’s receives.  Currently, there are just complimentary cocktails, but, depending on response and demand, Harrah’s may add a limited food selection as well.

Third Time’s A Charm?

First it was the End Zone.  Then, last June, it reinvented itself as BarleyQue – a clever, but confusing moniker that really didn’t mean much to many customers.  In addition, the menu changed more frequently than Hillary’s hairstyles during the Clinton years.  This month, BarleyQue will become the Philly Tap and Tavern with, yes, another menu change, bringing back some of the popular items from its days as End Zone.  I’ve been suggesting this for months, but some high-priced restaurant consultant probably made a bundle off this.

Senior Days

Harrah’s is continuing its popular Senior Days this month – free valet parking, 30 percent discount at participating food outlets, etc. – but note that the day has changed from Wednesday to Tuesday.  Harrah’s defines “Senior” as 60 and older.

General

More Questions Than Answers

We’re two months into the new year, earning tier credits for a casino loyalty program that won’t tell us its benefits.  All we know for sure is that the “milestones” for the various tier levels have increased, we can get bonus tier credits if we earn 500 or more credits in a single day, that two new “Diamond Aspiration” levels have been added, and, effective April 1, Seven Stars and Diamond cardholders are going to get a more favorable rate if they opt to exchange comp dollars for free play.  Yes, we’ve heard that at 40,000 tier credits we’ll get a free four-night trip to any Caesars casino and, if we wait until we earn 80,000 credits, Caesars will throw in $750 for airfare and a “Diamond Companion Card”.  Then there’s this mysterious second trip – “offered as a Level I Signature Experience”.  Other than that, we really don’t know much, including any specific details about these aforementioned benefits.  Contrast this with Delta Air Lines.  In January Delta sent letters to its customers announcing changes and enhancements to its frequent flyer program, but they won’t take effect for a year.  Total Rewards customers should have received a similar courtesy and a little more notice.  At a very minimum, the new program’s benefits should have been spelled out at the same time the increased tier levels were announced.  It gives you the impression that they’re making this stuff up as they go along.  Would you deposit money in a bank or take out a loan without knowing the interest rate in advance?  [For more on this subject, see below.]

Question Of The Month

I became a first-time Seven Stars cardholder in November 2012.  Not wanting to miss out on anything, I’ve already taken my annual trip, scheduled my annual celebration dinner and ordered my annual gift.  I understand I get to do this all over again starting April 1, but I’m concerned about rumored changes to the Total Rewards program.  Will the benefits be different?  Good question.  They shouldn’t be.  After all, you and I earned our 100,000 (or more) tier credits between January 1 and December 31, 2012, when, among the promised benefits were an annual trip (with $1,200 in airfare, $500 dining credit, etc.), a gift and a dinner.  I think Caesars would have a lot of unhappy customers if, at a minimum, cardholders don’t receive these.  However, don’t be surprised to see changes in benefits for this year, meaning benefits you’ll receive for tier credits earned between January 1 and December 31, 2013.

Yes, Resort Fees

A lot of signs came down, a lot of Web pages were changed and even a Facebook page was deleted.  After years of touting “No Resort Fees” Caesars Entertainment is now charging an extra $10 to $25 per night at some of its Nevada hotels, “in response to the increasing demand from our guests to provide a package price instead of the inconvenience of separate fees,” according to Gary Thompson, director of corporate communications.  Sure. Can’t you just see customers lining up at the front desk demanding to pay what is essentially a higher room rate? (For the record, reservations made before March 1 are exempt from the fee.)  The big question will be how players with comp rooms are affected.  It isn’t a problem for Seven Stars cardholders, since they’re already getting free WiFi and admittance to the fitness center, but what about Diamond and Platinum cardholders? According to Kristine Johnson, Total Service Representative, Caesars Entertainment, Western Region, Platinum and Diamond cardholders will have the option of adding the Resort Fee or simply selecting individual components of the package (Internet access, making local calls, etc.) and paying for them separately.  As far as the individual property charges, here is the breakdown:

 

Caesars Palace – $25

Paris and Planet Hollywood – $20

Rio, Harrah’s and Flamingo – $18

Bally’s – $15

The Quad – $10

 

In addition, resort fees also will be levied in Lake Tahoe; Harrah’s will charge $20 and Harvey’s will charge $25. No word yet on Laughlin and Reno.

Great Gift Wrap Up

The Web site was just updated.  Here are the dates for the 2013 Great Gift Wrap Up:

November 7-11: Flamingo
December 4-8: Caesars Palace

 

And, related to this, wouldn’t it be a nice idea to add a line on the monthly My TR eStatement with our Great Gift Wrap Up points? 

‘Communication, Communication, Communication’

In real estate, the mantra has always been: “Location, Location, Location”.  Too bad Caesars can’t take a lesson from that and communicate better with its players.  Some Diamond cardholders I’ve spoken to still aren’t aware of the changes to the Total Rewards tier levels, and most of us learned about Resort Fees at the Las Vegas and Lake Tahoe casinos from newspaper articles and online message boards.  I don’t care about “pre-sale” concert ticket announcements, but I’d like to know about the 2013 Great Gift Wrap Up, as well as the details about the new Resort Fees, without having to call or use the Contact Us feature on the Total Rewards Web site.  Ditto on the local level, had I not dropped in at Harrah’s Philadelphia and seen the sign, I never would have known about its Seven Stars Happy Hour.

Belated Happy Birthday

Several Seven Stars cardholders whose birthdays were in January are just now receiving offer for free play, comp dollars and room nights both at their “dominant property” as well as in Las Vegas.  In January they had received free play, comp dollars and other offers from several competing casinos in the area, but nothing from their local Caesars casino – where they spend most of their time and money.  The response when one player asked his host?  It’s not up to the local casinos any longer, he claimed.  “Corporate Direct Marketing is working on sending birthday offers via email.”  While the promised email arrived, for at least one player, it was too little too late.  “My wife and I just got back from Las Vegas, so there’s no way we’re going to return within a month just to collect a few comp dollars.”  And, considering that Seven Stars cardholders get complimentary rooms anyway, what’s the big deal about free rooms?  “These are pretty pathetic offers,” wrote one player.  And, similar to the reader quoted above, if I got this same offer, I would not make the trek to Las Vegas for a few comp dollars and a little free play.  As it has in the past, Caesars is making you spend money in order to get what it perceives as recognition for your birthday.

Survey Says. . .

Last month I asked:  Now that you know more about the “new” Total Rewards, will you be

  • playing more to reach the next “milestone”?
  • 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?

 Here’s a cross-section of responses:

  • ·         Last year, I earned more than 300,000 points, with a daily average of 2,000+ points per day.  Even though the bonus system wasn’t in effect, Caesars claimed I would have totaled more than a half million points last year.  Therefore, the only effect the change will have on me is that I might stop with 1,000, or go on to 2,500.  Nothing significant either way there.  What will have a drastic effect is if Caesars starts reducing offers.  Last fall, my weekly offers dropped from $80 to $65.  For my birthday, I got nothing.  When I look at my future offers, I’m seeing dining credits and free buffets, but not the incentives that I used to get.  My spouse doesn’t play, so if there’s a play-up, I go by myself and play all day.  If it’s dinner, we go together, and I play very little.  If Caesars thinks it’s saving money by giving more dining credits and fewer rebates, my play will decline dramatically.
  • ·         We did not receive the information about the changes from our host.  We received a mailing on January 7!  Once, we learned about the bonuses, we should have no problem renewing our Seven Stars status.  The big issue for me is that Total Touch doesn’t give you an accurate total of your tier credits as you play.  How do you know if you have reached the threshold for the bonus tier credits?  You have to go over to the Total Rewards desk and check with them if they are still open.
  • ·         Last year I wound up with 25,000 tier credits.  With this new system I will try to play 20 times at 2,500 tier credits each day.  With the 5,000 tier credit bonus each time it will get me to 150,000.
  • ·         I don’t know if this new tier credit increase is good or bad, if it’s going to make me a Seven Stars cardholders next year or make me broke.  I was at Caesars January 1, 2 and 3 and got to receive an extra 1,000 points for each day since I made more than 1,000 each day and trying to get to 2,500 was just too hard.  On another visit I earned 2,550 credits playing penny slots for 12+ hours.  At 2,200 points I had spent $1,700.  Usually I would have quit way before this, but I had to go for the 5,000 bonus credits.  Who wouldn’t?  Well, I certainly won’t go for it again.  It just takes too much money to get.
  • ·         I don’t think I’ll be playing any more to maintain our Seven Star status, even with the 150,000 points requirement.  Why?  Because if my initial two experiences this year are indicative of how things will go then it will be fine.  If my math is correct, with the 5,000 point bonus for earning 2,500 points, it behooves a player to put 2,500 points on each day to get the best bonus.  For low level players who have to really work to make it to Seven Stars that seems like a good strategy.  So far, for each of three days of play, we have been able to reach the 2,500 points.  That gives us 22,500 points each trip (7,500 coin-in plus 15,000 bonus points). Using that strategy, 6.7 three-day trips will get us to 150,000 tier credits.
  • ·         My total yearly play will remain at my current level.  But if I do find myself relatively close (which I will need to define for myself) to reaching a bonus level then I would play to reach that bonus and stop.

This Month’s Survey

I’ll be the first to admit that I was pretty harsh this month in my criticism of Caesars and the “new” Total Rewards program, e.g., lack of information regarding player card benefits, Resort Fees, customer communications, marketing offers, etc.  While I am expressing my personal opinions (often from my own experiences and observations), many of them are formulated based on feedback I get from readers via email or in conversation. Should I stick to the facts, and stop editorializing?  What do you think?  Send me an e-mail (sevenstarsinsider@gmail.com) and I’ll share your thoughts – anonymously, of course. 

Darryl D. McEwen, Publisher

Seven Stars Insider

Photo: Fabbz.com

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 – January Edition

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 with a major heads up on the new Total Rewards tier requirements. Head over to Seven Stars Insider to sign up for the newsletter.

Blood, Sweat and Tiers

It was probably the worst-kept secret since Katie Couric announced on the Today Show that she was leaving to anchor the CBS Evening News.  By now, it’s no surprise to anyone that the number of Tier Credits required to attain Platinum, Diamond and Seven Stars status starting April 1, 2014, will increase, effective January 1, 2013. In November word about this began circulating through the Internet (on message boards such asharrahscasinos@yahoogroups.com and on the Web site, www.vegastripping.com).  In December the discussion intensified, and I began to get daily emails – sometimes as many as 10 per day – questioning rumors or passing on “inside knowledge” about changes to the Total Rewards program.  Most of the information that was published – or questioned – was incorrect or incomplete.

The following (sloppy writing, syntax errors and all!) is from an internal memo distributed to certain Caesars employees:

In 2013, guests are able to earn Tier Credits at a faster than ever before.  For the first time ever, we are offering Tier Credit bonuses.  All day, every day.

  • Bonus Levels – There are three bonus levels a guest can reach.  The more Tier Credits they earn in one day, the more Tier Credits they will receive.

Earn this many Tier Credits in a day. . .               . . .Get this many more Tier Credits

500 Tier Credits                                                    +125 Tier Credit Bonus

1,000 Tier Credits                                                 +1,000 Tier Credit Bonus

2,500 Tier Credits                                                 +5,000 Tier Credit Bonus

  • Things to know

o   Guests can only earn one bonus level per day.

o   Tier Credit bonuses are based on play within a single day.

o   Tier Credit bonuses are awarded based on Tier Credits earned in a promotional day (not a calendar day).

o   Tier Credit bonuses will post to the guest’s account the following day.

o   Bonuses will be added to the guest’s Tier Score only (RCs will not be added).

o   Tier Credit bonuses do not count toward Reward Credit Multipliers and other Earn & Get Promotions.

o   Tier Credit bonuses do not apply to daily criteria.

Since guests will earn Tier Credit bonuses based on their daily play, allowing guests to earn Tier Credits faster, we have increased the number of Tier Credits required to achieve each Tier.

  • Gold (0-4,999 Tier Credits)

o   Gold status is still free for all guests.

  • Platinum (5,000-14,999 Tier Credits)
  • Diamond (15,000-149,999 Tier Credits)
  • Seven Stars (150,000+ Tier Credits to qualify)

o   Membership in Seven Stars will remain by invitation only.  Once a guest has earned 150,000 Tier Credits, their account will be reviewed for approval for Seven Stars.

§  Any guest who is Seven Stars in 2013 (based on their 2012 Tier Score) will be able to maintain their Seven Stars status if they earn 100,000 Tier Credits in 2013.

§  Tier Credit bonuses do not apply.

§  Only valid in 2013.

Daily Criteria

  • Diamond (5,000)
    • Guests who earn 5,000 Tier Credits at one property, in one day, will qualify for “Diamond in a Day.”
    • “Diamond in a Day” is only valid for the current year.
    • Tier Credit bonuses do not count toward “Diamond in a Day.”
  • Platinum – there will no longer be Daily Criteria for Platinum status.
    • Guests who earn 2,500 Tier Credits in a day will be awarded an additional 5,000 Tier Credits. This will give them a total of 7,500 Tier Credits, which qualifies them for Platinum.

 

Las Vegas

Fans of Human Nature and Legends in Concert will still find them performing on the Strip this year, but at different venues – one of which is not owned by Caesars Entertainment.  After touring a bit since the act left the former Imperial Palace (now The Quad), Human Nature puts down its roots at The Venetian January 19. Meanwhile, Legends not only moves to the Flamingo next month, but the long-running celebrity tribute show will now perform six weekly shows at 4 p.m., with the optional ability to add evening shows should the Flamingo’s showroom need a filler for Donny and Marie Osmond or George Wallace.

Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall & Saloon

Bye, Bye, Bill’s

Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall will close February 4 for a $185 million renovation.  Bill’s will reopen in early 2014 under a new name and theme.

Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino

‘The Price Is Not Right’

A “local” who plays at Rio shared an email she wrote to Caesars.  Apparently, she was offered two free tickets to “The Price Is Right, Live!” at Bally’s December 1-30.  Problem was, the show was dark the month of December.

Atlantic City

Tax Dodging

With the advent of the My TR eStatements, many players are just now seeing that Caesars casinos in Atlantic City have been taking 1,300 Reward Credits ($13 in comps) to cover the mandatory $5 tax and Caesars own $8 in “convenience fees” for every night of their “complimentary stays”.  (Check your My TR eStatement and you will see it broken down into four separate items listed as “Hotel Room Charge” at 200, 500, 300 and 300 Reward Credits, respectively.)  Nearly every other casino in Atlantic City charges only the required $5 tax; Borgata lets players use comp dollars to pay it, and Trump Plaza pays the tax for its Signature cardholders.)  The problem is that not everyone wants to use their comp dollars for these taxes and fees, and some would prefer to pay by cash or credit card; however, they’re never given that option, and many assume the tax and fees are being absorbed by the casino.  (On the other hand, some would love to use their comp dollars to pay this, but are not allowed.) Taking comp dollars without a guest’s knowledge is particularly troublesome to those who are visiting Atlantic City for the first time, perhaps on a Seven Stars-related trip.  Caesars needs to be upfront and more transparent with its customers on this issue.

BYOC

First it was a “nominal fee” to check-in to your room before 4 p.m.  Now we’re being told to enjoy the complimentary coffee in our rooms, but if we want additional cups – and how’s this for a poorly worded sentence? – “. . .they are conveniently located at the vending machine located on your floor for a nominal charge.”  (The “nominal charge” is $2 per coffee packet.)  Once again, this just seems a little cheap.  Of course, I have no idea of knowing, but I can’t imagine so many people are drinking that much in-room coffee.  If you’ve ever used those packets, you learn quickly to pour only about half a cup of water in order to get something that tastes even remotely like decent coffee. 

What The Doctor Didn’t Order

Was I the only person a bit taken aback by Caesars promoting a 10X Reward Credit multiplier on Martin Luther King Jr. Day?  What does one have to do with the other?  Sure, it’s a national holiday and lots of people have the day off (and the opportunity to hit the casinos), but why not just offer the promotion on January 21 without reference to Dr. King’s birthday?  It seems a bit disrespectful.

Good News For PNC Customers

A sharp-eyed reader found a PNC ATM on the first floor of the Pier Shops near the entrance to the restrooms. For PNC customers, short of hitting the nearest branch at Atlantic and Boston Avenues, this is one way to avoid the $5.99 fee at the ATMs in Bally’s and Caesars.

Harrah’s Resort

Exclusive: They’re Not Exclusive

Those ugly full-building “ads” on Harrah’s Waterfront Tower are currently displaying the message that Atlantic City’s four Total Rewards casinos have the “exclusive” when it comes to such slot machines as Gone With The Wind, Michael Jackson, Elvis and Grease.  Not only is this incorrect, but Gone With The Wind and Michael Jackson actually debuted at the Borgata.

Harrah’s Philadelphia

Buffetmania

Harrah’s disappointed a number of players in early December by refusing to give them a free buffet after playing 30 minutes (and earning 10 Tier Credits).  Granted, the promotion ended November 30 (and there was a small sign at the two entrances to the casino), but there were still billboards up advertising the giveaway as late as December 2.  Who can read the fine print when driving 55 mph?

General

Caesars Bathrooms: Did They Blow It?

Before Caesars rushes to replace all its bathroom paper towel dispensers with blowers, they might want to check out an article last month in the Wall Street Journal.  “The trouble with blowers is that they take so long,” says Dr. Rodney Lee Thompson, a hospital epidemiologist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.  “Most people dry their hands for a bit, then wipe them on their dirty jeans, or open the door with their still-wet hands.”  [Maybe they even decide not to wash altogether to save time.]  Meanwhile, time-consuming, loud “blowers turn people off,” he says.  “But there is no downside to the paper towel, psychologically.”  Even environmental concerns, Thompson says, are eradicated by the paper towel.  “The electric blower uses more energy than making a paper towel,” he says.  Last June, the Mayo Clinic published a comprehensive study of every known hand-washing study done since 1970.  The authors concluded that drying skin is essential to staving off bacteria, and that paper towels are superior to driers: They’re more efficient, they don’t spatter germs, they won’t dry out hands and most people prefer them.

Survey Says. . .

In the November newsletter I wrote :  “The Total Rewards Web site has gone through more ‘facelifts’ than Joan Rivers.  In my opinion, I think they finally got it right, but what do you think?”  While some people claim they have trouble determining their offers, most everyone who responded said they liked the new look and the functionality.

This Month’s Survey

So, what do you think about the increases in Tier Credits to achieve or maintain Platinum, Diamond and Seven Stars?  Send me an e-mail (sevenstarsinsider@gmail.com) and I’ll share your thoughts – anonymously, of course.

Darryl D. McEwen, Publisher

Seven Stars Insider

Photo – DJVice

Seven Stars Insider – December Edition

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.

Seven Stars Insider – December 2012

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

 

It’s now easier to find the Seven Stars Insider Web site.

Simply go to: 

>> www.sevenstarsinsider.com <<

 

Hollywood Casino St. Louis

Answers To Your Questions

There are a lot of questions regarding the transition from Harrah’s St. Louis to Hollywood Casino St. Louis. Answers can be found at this link.  Several readers have expressed surprise that their Total Rewards tier status was not matched by Hollywood’s Marquee Rewards program; however, if you read carefully – at least the way I interpret it, your tier status with Hollywood will be matched based solely on your play in St. Louis.  In other words, you might have a Total Rewards Diamond card, but if you earned only 5,000 of the required 11,000 annual points at Harrah’s St. Louis, your tier status with Hollywood would be based on 5,000 tier points, not 11,000.  Same with comp dollars.  You might have $1,000 worth of comps under Total Rewards, but Hollywood will match only the amount you earned at Harrah’s St. Louis.

Las Vegas

SlotZilla

Perhaps in an attempt to compete with the two new observation wheels under construction on the Strip, Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman has announced plans to construct a five-block zip line where riders are spit out the “mouth” of an 11-story slot machine.  Construction begins next month, with a projected opening in June. 

Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall & Saloon

Bye, Bye, Bill’s

Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall will close February 4 for a $185 million renovation.  Bill’s will reopen in early 2014 under a new name and theme, transforming the hotel and casino into a “boutique lifestyle hotel and club” – to use the words from a statement issued by Caesars Entertainment.  The conversion includes the complete remodeling of the guest rooms, the casino floor and common areas, the addition of a new second-floor restaurant, and construction of a rooftop pool and dayclub/nightclub.  The rooftop club will open later in 2014. 

Flamingo

Great Great Gift Wrap Up!

I attended the Great Gift Wrap Up last month at Flamingo and it couldn’t have been run more smoothly.  I was there on Sunday, the day before it ended, and there were no lines, as well as plenty of signage to direct people – not only to the event itself, but also within the ballroom, showing where different types of gifts were located. There also were lots of employees to help you find things, answer questions, etc.  The second leg of this popular annual event takes place at Caesars Palace and ends December 3. 

Paris

Evening In Paris

Not that it needs my endorsement or recommendation, but I can’t think of a more perfect evening than dinner at Gordon Ramsay Steak followed by a performance of Jersey Boys. For those of you who don’t mind eating early (6 or 6:30 p.m.) and seeing a show late (9:30 p.m.), check out this great combination on Tuesday nights.  [You also could see a 5 p.m. show on Saturdays, followed by dinner.]

The Quad

It’s Official!

The Total Rewards Web site has dropped Imperial Palace and replaced it with the new name and logo.  Plus, I just got my first promotion – a $100,000 bingo tournament – with the new Quad name and logo.

[Human] Nature Calls For Last Time

If you planned to see Human Nature at the Imperial Palace – oops, The Quad – you’ll have to travel to Florida or Australia.  The group performed its final shows last month.  Las Vegas entertainment columnist John Katsilometes claims that Recycled Percussion will take the singing group’s place starting next month.

Atlantic City

Advertising Hope and Appreciation

Caesars is using some valuable real estate to welcome back customers and employees after Hurricane Sandy devastated parts of the area in late October.  Rather than advertising upcoming entertainment, celebrity chefs or other promotions, the billboards lining the causeway at the end of the Atlantic City Expressway, as well as other locations, offered messages of hope, as well as appreciation to those who risked their lives for others in need. Caesars also donated thousands of dollars to the Red Cross and other local charities.  Nice!

Cool Treat

Winter Sweet, a new 3D light and sound show that is projected onto Boardwalk Hall, has replaced Duality, the show that’s been featured on the outside of the hall since July.  Shows will play every half hour from 6 to 9 p.m.

The Early Bird. . .Gets Charged Extra

Perhaps taking a cue from the airlines and all their extra fees, but for those arriving before 4 p.m., Caesars Atlantic City hotels are now offering early check-in for a “nominal fee”.  (I wonder if Caesars will rebate a portion of the room rate when guests check-out earlier than noon.)  I know companies are looking for all sorts of ways to increase revenues, but this just seems a little cheap.  If a room is ready for occupancy, why not let a guest check-in and avoid a 4 p.m. rush at registration?

More Name Changes?

Several readers received a survey from Caesars asking “Which is your main casino for the New Jersey market?” Among the choices:

Borgota Hotel Casino

Harrah’s Restort Atlantic City

Buffets On Holiday Schedules

Caesars Boardwalk Buffet will open during regular hours this month, but Showboat’s Mardi Gras Buffet will be closed December 10-13 and 16-24, and Harrah’s Waterfront Buffet is scheduled to close Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays through December 24.  It’s always wise to reconfirm these dates before you show up, though.

Climb and Dine

Popular Harrah’s Resort chef Luke Palladino is partnering with the Absecon Lighthouse.  Through December 17, climb the lighthouse, show your “I Climbed” card at Luke’s Kitchen & Marketplace at Revel, and get a bowl of soup for $4, or a soup and sandwich combo for $8.  Details at www.abseconlighthouse.org or call (609) 449-1360. 

Bally’s

Diamond Lounge December Hours

The Diamond Lounge at Bally’s will be closed on the following days this month: December 3-4, 10-14 and 17-24.

Holiday Cheer

Be sure to stop by the Bally’s Diamond Lounge December 8 to sample its “mean” egg nog station.

Gift Shop Sells $1M Powerball Ticket

One of the eight $1 million Powerball tickets sold in New Jersey came from Picks and Wicks at Bally’s 

Caesars

December Seven Stars Lounge Hours

Unlike the lounge at Harrah’s (see below), the Seven Stars Lounge will be open Thursdays during regular hours – at least for the next two weeks; then the schedule will be re-evaluated.  Fridays the lounge will be open from 5 p.m. to midnight through December 21.  The Seven Stars lounge will be open on New Year’s Eve from 1 p.m. to midnight and New Year’s Day from 1 to 8 p.m.

December Diamond Lounge Hours

Unlike the other Diamond Lounges in town, Caesars will be open every day during regular hours.  On New Year’s Eve the lounge will be open from 2 p.m. to midnight, and New Year’s Day from noon to 7:30 p.m.

Chef Shuffle

Former Seven Stars Lounge chef Tim Davis is now in the kitchen at Nero’s.

Harrah’s Resort

Seven Stars Hours To Change

Starting this month and continuing through January, the Seven Stars Lounge will no longer be open on Thursdays.  In addition, the lounge will close the weekend before Christmas, December 21-23, but be open on New Year’s Eve.

Diamond Lounge December Hours

The Diamond Lounge at Harrah’s will be closed on the following days this month: December 10-13 and 17-20.

Up All Night – Not

Despite what it says on the Harrah’s Resort and Sammy D’s Web sites – “An all-day, all-night, all-you-could-ask-for eatery. . . .” – Sammy D’s is no longer the 24-hour outpost originally envisioned.  Currently, it’s open until 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, but closes at 10 every other night.  (There is a disclaimer on the site which says, “Hours subject to change, please call to verify.”)  The Sammy D’s Web site, though, publishes totally different hours (Monday & Tuesday: 7 a.m. – 10 a.m., Wednesday: 7 a.m. – 12 a.m., Thursday: 7 a.m. – 10 p.m., Friday: 7 a.m. – 3 a.m., Saturday: 24 hours, Sunday: 7 a.m. – 10 p.m.).

You Need To Get Out More, Mr. Reservationist

I’m not sure where I was calling, but when I spoke with a reservationist – supposedly working at Harrah’s Resort – he told me things were “pretty bad down there” (meaning Atlantic City) and that “the Boardwalk around the casinos was destroyed.”  I proceeded to update him on conditions, but this is certainly no way to bring back business if Harrah’s reservationists are painting such a glum picture of conditions at the Jersey Shore.

You Also Need To Get Out More, Mr. Smith

I pointed this out more than a year ago, but in “A Few Words From The General Manager” John D. Smith writes, “You’ll enjoy a dining experience where the delicious cuisine and attentive service are only surpassed by breathtaking ocean views.”  Which restaurants offer these “breathtaking ocean views”?

From Dust To More Dust

Apparently I’m not the only person to experience poor housekeeping and maintenance at Harrah’s.  A reader sent me photos, along with some commentary on his experience there:

I stayed in the Waterfront Tower last month.  There was no clock radio, only one ashtray in this “smoking room”, no pen/paper, horrible Wi-Fi service, and no do-not-disturb sign.  I was not spending much time in the room but I had mentioned to housekeeping a need for more ashtrays, paper/pen, clock radio and do-not-disturb sign.  I returned to the room at 4 a.m. and everything was the same.  Needless to say, I was awakened by housekeeping later in the morning at which time I then demanded a do-not-disturb sign.  I mentioned all this to the front desk when I checked out, but it didn’t seem like they were going to do anything, even making jokes about it.  I would hope they’d get someone to at least clean that filthy air filter before the next guest checks in.

Ironically, less than a week after I received these photos I experienced the same problem.  When I checked into my room the thermostat was set for 50º, but the temperature was showing 73º.  I called the front desk and when the maintenance person showed up he found a similarly clogged filter.  Shouldn’t someone put these things on an ongoing maintenance program?  Harrah’s promotes these Waterfront Tower rooms as “premium”, but even basic rooms at most national hotel chains have clean filters, plastic laundry bags, sinks that drain properly, soap dishes, pads and pens, more than four hangers in the closet, and other basics – none of which did I have in my room. Also, once again, my room had a missing towel ring.  (Why not just remove these or replace them with something else?)  Admittedly, these are little things, but just reflect poorly on a hotel where rooms retail (plus tax) – on average from December 1-28 – nearly $105 (some nights as high as $183.20, and that’s not including December 29-31 where the lowest average rate is nearly $365 – $567.20 on New Year’s Eve).  Now let’s talk about all the dust on top of the Diamond Express sign at check-in.  I’m tall, so my eye level focuses right on top of that sign.  It was covered with dust. . .plus an earlier guest must have spotted the same thing and ran his finger across the top of the sign, even further emphasizing the lack of basic housekeeping.  This is not a good way to begin a visit.

False Sense Of Security

It’s bad enough that no one seems to care about all the drunk young ladies walking around without shoes outside The Pool.  Let’s talk about “security” going to rooms in the Waterfront Tower.  Unintentionally, to get into the elevator bank I showed the “guard” a key from a recent stay at the Water Club.  He waved me through, only for me to discover that I didn’t even need to insert my room key in order to ascend to my floor.  Why bother? 

Showboat

Diamond Lounge December Hours

The Diamond Lounge at Showboat will be closed on the following days this month: December 10-14 and 17-24.

Harrah’s Philadelphia

BarleyQue Finally Gets It Right

While I don’t know if it’s going to attract more business, the still unfortunately-named BarleyQue – clever and cute, but meaningless to a lot of people – has modified its menu again, bringing back items from its former End Zone days, and adding some variety to what was once all too dependent on smoked and barbecued foods. Opening the wall behind the host station also should help, as will moving the host desk out onto the casino floor.

General

Tier Jerker

Starting late last month word began circulating through the Internet (on message boards such asharrahscasinos@yahoogroups.com and on the Web site, www.vegastripping.com) that tier levels were being increased. The information is incorrect and, at best, incomplete. The lesson here is, “Don’t believe everything you read on the Internet” and its corollary, “Don’t further distribute information you read on the Internet without being sure of the source and its accuracy.”

Insider Out?

Frankly, it verges on false advertising. . .or bait and switch.  Anyone earning the requisite 10,000 tier points between July 1 and September 30 to qualify for TR Insider status in the fourth quarter of 2012 has been sorely disappointed by the lack of events and benefits.  [In Atlantic City, there was one cocktail party on November 10; there were no events at Harrah’s Philadelphia; and one event in Tunica.  (Those are the only lists I’m on, so if the situation was different in other parts of the country, please let me know.)]  After much hoopla last year – at least in Atlantic City where they had to add a second dinner to announce this supposedly great new program – it seems as though the TR Insider program is just going to quietly disappear.  Don’t such loyal customers – as we keep being told we are – deserve some sort of announcement on the status of the program or, at the very least, some closure?  And what about the people who qualified for fourth quarter 2012 “benefits”?  I know several, and they are not very happy.  Caesars owes these players something, in my opinion.

 Great Race Point Discrepancies

A number of people wrote to say they didn’t feel they got all the credits they deserve for this year’s Great Race. Check “Promotions” on your December My TR eStatement to see how many Reward Credits you received.  If that number is inaccurate, then use the “Contact Us” form on the Total Rewards Web site to send an inquiry.  If Caesars does this promotion a third year, perhaps they could add a line on our eStatements indicating how many checkpoints we hit during that month.  That way, if there is an error, the problem can be solved within a 30-day framework, rather than waiting until the program ends.  [A running total of how many Great Gift Wrap Up points we’ve earned would be a nice feature, as well.  MGM’s M life Web site shows a player’s current tier score, available comp dollars, Holiday Gift Shoppe points and free play right at the top of the Home page after log-on.]

Some Seven Stars Benefits Are Not The Same Everywhere

I’ve heard from several Seven Stars cardholders who were angry about being charged for local and toll-free calls, as well as in-room movies, and even angrier that they were not upgraded to suites on their annual Seven Stars trip (or any stay) – or never received any sort of in-room amenity.  None of these are corporately-mandated “benefits”; however, some casinos do extend these courtesies to Seven Stars cardholders.  Always check first to find out what the casino policy is regarding benefits you “think” you are entitled to.

Total Rewards Rewarded

Congratulations to Caesars Entertainment and Total Rewards!  The casino loyalty program won the 2012 Master of Enterprise Loyalty, an award which “recognizes one company that stands apart for having an enterprise-wide, holistic approach to using data to transform the consumer experience and improve both financial and customer performance.”  The award is presented annually by Colloquy, a collection of resources devoted to the global loyalty marketing industry.  Read details here.

Question Of The Month

I want to take five guests (six total) for my annual celebration dinner, but I’ve been reading that there is a limit of four people.  Is this correct?  No!  Once again, don’t believe what you read on the Internet – unless it’s in this newsletter.  (I know someone who took 11 guests to the Bacchanal Buffet at Caesars Palace.)  The only limit is the amount of the bill.  Caesars will pick up $500; if it’s more than $500, the rest you can pay with cash, credit card or Reward Credits.  (Some restrictions may apply regarding the purchase of alcoholic beverages at certain casinos.)  You’re also responsible for the gratuity, but you cannot use Reward Credits or anything left over from the $500 Seven Stars dinner credit.  My memory is a little fuzzy, but there might have been a four-person limit in the early years of the program, but it’s always been a $500 credit, which, considering how prices have gone up, is due for an increase.

Dress Code

Guys, if you’re lucky enough to receive an invitation to one of the Caesars-sponsored New Year Eve parties, please dress appropriately.  At last year’s party at Caesars in Atlantic City, I saw several men wearing baseball caps, shorts, T-shirts and flip flops, or some combination thereof.  A friend received an invitation to a New Year’s Eve party at Wynn in Las Vegas.  At the bottom of the invitation was this caveat:

“Cocktail party attire is required. Dress code strictly enforced.”

I wish Caesars would do something like this – and enforce it.

Holiday Hours

Don’t assume that your favorite restaurants and lounges will be open during regular hours this month.  Many will observe reduced hours due to the holidays.  Call ahead before making plans.

Leaving Macau

Caesars has given up on efforts to open a casino in Macao.  Five years ago Caesars paid $578 million for a golf course in Macau, hoping to use the land for a casino, but the company still hasn’t received permission to build the casino.  Consequently, Caesars is now trying to unload the money-losing golf course and leave Macau. 

Caesars Financial Report

Here’s a link to a transcript of a conference call with Caesars executives regarding third quarter earnings.

Survey Says. . .

I may unintentionally have skewed the results of last month’s survey because Total Touch was by far the number one biggest irritant that Caesars puts in front of its customers.   “I’ve had to go to as many as six machines before the system recognized my card, sometimes getting to the point where I thought I could download my free play, only to be ‘told’ my request couldn’t be completed.”  Beverage orders were another sore spot.  “Have you tried to find coffee with Bailey’s?” one person wrote.  Another said she ordered a cocktail, but, after winning a big jackpot, wanted to move to a different machine.  “There went my drink order!  At least if I’d ordered from a ‘real person’ I’d know who to tell that I was moving.”  Diamond and Platinum members chimed in with the second biggest complaint – not enough cashiers.  Third was from Seven Stars cardholders who wanted exclusive lines at events and restaurants.  “Why should I share with Diamond and Platinum cardholders?” was a common complaint.

 This Month’s Survey

The Total Rewards Web site has gone through more “facelifts” than Joan Rivers.  In my opinion, I think they finally got it right, but what do you think?  Do you use the site to check your tier points and comp dollars, plan future trips, get answers to your questions?  Or, do you even use the site?  Send me an e-mail (sevenstarsinsider@gmail.com) and I’ll share your thoughts – anonymously, of course.

Darryl D. McEwen, Publisher

Seven Stars Insider

Photo – Got Celeb

 

Seven Stars Insider – November 2012

Total Rewards Cards
Total Rewards Cards

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 Baltimore (Maryland)

Getting Political – I
It hasn’t even opened and already Harrah’s Baltimore is trying to rally certain of its potential customers to push for passage of legislation that would expand gaming options in Maryland. Several readers sent me a copy of this email (which is much longer than the small portion I’ve reproduce

From Empty Lot To Empty Pockets
An empty lot off Russell and Worcester Streets in downtown Baltimore soon will be transformed into the new Harrah’s casino. Construction is set to begin in mid-2013 and the casino is expected to open in mid-2014. The casino will have 1,200 permanent positions and an additional 500 jobs will be added if expanded gambling is passed by voters this month. Here is a link to the casino’s Web site (such as it is): http://www.caesars.com/baltimore/about.html.

Harrah’s Hollywood Casino St. Louis

‘New’ Casino In Town
The candidates for President may talk about creating jobs, but Penn National Gaming Inc. is actually doing something about it. The company hired more than 50 people last month in preparation for taking over ownership and operations this month of the Harrah’s St. Louis casino in Maryland Heights, Mo. The new hires were for dealers with craps, pai gow or baccarat experience, cleaners, security officers, and hostess/cashiers and bussers. Penn National also said it plans to keep most of the 1,250 employees who worked for Harrah’s.

Las Vegas

Great Gift Wrap Up Free Play Offer
If you’re not interested in any of the gifts or gift cards being offered at the Great Gift Wrap Up (November 8-12 at the Flamingo and November 29 to December 3 at Caesars Palace) you can trade in your gift points for free play at a 3:1 ratio, e.g., 15,000 gift points will get you $50 in free play.

Another Name Change?
With the Imperial Palace’s becoming The Quad, is there another name change in store? A reader received this invitation (above) that included a $250 dining credit to Center Cut at Flamigno. [By the way, this individual is a low- to mid-level Diamond cardholder. Considering Seven Stars cardholders get only a $500 annual dining credit, he wonders what the incentive is to play more when he gets offers like this. Good question.]

Improvement For Rooms
According to press reports, last month Caesars CEO Gary Loveman told an invited group of investors and analysts that Caesars was planning “an extensive” hotel room renovation for many of its properties in Las Vegas.

A Great Customer Service Story. . .From Bellagio
For some reason during my first night on a trip to Las Vegas it’s almost become a “tradition” that I have a late dinner at Cafe Bellagio overlooking the beautiful flower displays. I always order the same thing. Last month when I was there I was disappointed to see that my favorite lamb chops were no longer on the menu. Off-handedly, I mentioned this to my server Kong and almost immediately he offered to speak with the chef to see what he could do. A few minutes later he returned with the news that there were no lamb chops in the kitchen. . .but the chef was going to check with the other restaurants in the Bellagio to see if he could find some! Sure enough, about five minutes later, Kong returned and asked how I wanted them prepared. Finally, the moment arrived, and I had a plate of three succulent juicy lamb chops cooked perfectly medium rare, with delicious polenta and a huge pile of crisp tender green beans, oh, excuse me, haricots vert. I devoured it all! They were probably the best lamb chops I have ever had. The biggest surprise? The price: $34! I couldn’t find lamb chops for less than $50 in any Atlantic City casino restaurant, and probably not in any other Bellagio restaurant (or other Las Vegas casino). This was the ultimate in customer service, and I really appreciated it. (And did I mention that this all happened about 11 o’clock on a Wednesday night?)

Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall & Saloon

Gamblin’ On Bill’s
A $180 million renovation is in store for Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall & Saloon. Plans include a rooftop pool deck and nightclub overlooking the Strip. Once financing is in place, other projects include remodeling the hotel’s 198 rooms and its 17,200-square-foot casino. Like its neighbor to the north – Imperial Palace, Bill’s also could get a new name. Meanwhile, Fitch Ratings Service – considered one of the “Big Three credit rating agencies” (Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s Investor Service are the other two) – said it had a “circumspect view” of the project. (In September, Fitch released a negative report on Caesars that expressed concern over the company’s debt obligations, and even hinted that the company might have to undertake some type of bankruptcy restructuring efforts. Caesars officials have vehemently denied that the company would have to take that step.)

Flamingo

Paradise On Earth
Caesars Palace’s new Bacchanal Buffet (see below) may be getting all the publicity – the local Vegas newspaper last month sent five of its writers to see how many of the reported 500+ items they could consume in one visit – but don’t dismiss Flamingo’s venerable Paradise Garden Buffet. I was anxious to try the new Bacchanal for breakfast, but on weekends there is no breakfast, just brunch, and I wasn’t hungry enough to spend $39.99. (Weekday breakfast is $20.99.) Meanwhile, over at the Flamingo, weekend brunch (including champagne) is $20.99, but be seated by 10 and you’ll pay only the $15.99 breakfast charge. Seven Stars cardholders get prime window seats overlooking the beautiful gardens, a fancy bottle of water and the opportunity to be fawned over by the buffet’s attentive staff – everyone from the hostess, to the manager on duty, to the servers. The morning I was there a chef came around to prepare tableside a special bananas foster served over New York-style cheesecake. The buffet may have only 60 or so items, but, in addition to eggs prepared to order and standard breakfast offerings, you’ll find shrimp, crab legs, prime rib, ham, fried chicken, fish, sushi, smoked salmon, an extensive salad bar, and more. A separate dessert buffet also features crepes made to order – including savory crepes stuffed with scrambled eggs – however, you might miss this unless you survey the dessert section when you first arrive. In addition, there is a VIP menu on each table from which you can order special dishes which vary from breakfast to lunch to dinner.

Wasting Away [Your Money] In Margaritaville
Earn 25 tier credits playing in Flamingo’s Margaritaville Casino and get a free t-shirt. After qualifying, obtain a voucher from the Total Rewards desk in Margaritaville, then take the voucher to the gift shop. Restrictions apply, and this offer could be discontinued at any time.

Caesars Palace

Bang For Your Bacchanal Buck
For about the same cost as an al a carte breakfast at Central by Michel Richard, and not much more than the price of a continental breakfast at Payard Pâtisserie & Bistro or Java Coast, you can enjoy an incredible morning dining experience at the new Bacchanal Buffet. It’s like a fine art gallery, but where everything on display is food. Before making your first selection, take a few minutes (and I mean minutes – it’s that extensive!) to walk the entire buffet to get an idea of that day’s offerings. Skip the dry cereals and scrambled eggs – you can have that at home – and start with the cute little individual bottles of orange, watermelon and carrot juices, as well as some fresh fruit. Then go in for some shrimp and grits, red velvet pancakes, and/or chicken and waffles – you won’t find them at your local Old Country Buffet! (Note the Caesars logo imprinted in the individual circular waffle, but first enjoy that incredibly crispy, yet hot and juicy piece of chicken. KFC could take some lessons from the chefs at Caesars.) The rest of the menu is way too large to detail, but it’s definitely worth at least one visit. Of course, I have to cite a few minor quibbles: there are no signs at the entrance to tell you the meal hours or the prices (nor are the hours posted on the Bacchanal’s Web site); the individual frittatas had a slight metallic aftertaste, possibly due to the tiny cast iron skillets they were prepared in; it’s tough to scoop out cream cheese for the bagels without noisily tapping (and tapping and tapping!) those big spoons on your plate; and individual servings of butter are “hidden” in small ramekins which are difficult to identify. On the positive side, service is excellent: plates are whisked away promptly while you’re up getting something new to try. Other nice touches are the stylish stainless steel Spring coffeepots and salt and pepper shakers, and the fact that clean glasses and dinnerware are wheeled in discreetly covered with black table cloths. (At Paris’ Le Village Buffet, I was shocked to see an employee roll a large gray plastic garbage tub right through the middle of the dining room and past my table. Plus, a server used my table to “park” several bottles of champagne and open them with a shellfish cracker, all while dumping a dozen or so plastic pens all over the table as I was trying to enjoy my meal. It was pretty unprofessional.)

Harrah’s

Four Other Legends To Replace Legends
Million Dollar Quartet, the Broadway jukebox musical, opens February 4, replacing Legends in Concert which closes December 30 after playing the Strip for 29 years. No word whether the show will move to another Caesars property, or even another Las Vegas casino, but, according to Mike Weatherford, Las Vegas Review-Journal entertainment reporter, “the Legends folks vow to stick around.” Million Dollar Quartet was inspired by a recording session in Memphis that brought together Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins for the first and only time on December 4, 1956. The score includes “Blue Suede Shoes”, “Great Balls of Fire”, “Walk the Line” and “Folsom Prison Blues”.

Paris

Cable News
According to the Review-Journal, that crane sitting between Bally’s and Paris last month had nothing to do with construction. It was part of a stunt for the film Hangover III involving cables attached to the top of the Eiffel Tower.

Harrah’s Reno

Bad Date
A reader was perplexed by the date on a survey he received regarding a recent visit:

Hype, Hype Hurrah – II
Once again, I guess it’s all relative, but a reader who sent this to me thinks a $30 gift card is not exactly “pull[ing] out all the stops” or a particularly big reward:

Atlantic City

Stormy Weather
Due to Hurricane Sandy, all Atlantic City casinos closed at noon October 28, and remain closed as of November 1. While none sustained serious damage, the casinos are still waiting for the state to allow access to the city before they can reopen.

Bleak Friday
You would have thought it was Friday the 13th, not Friday the 12th. Opening night of the Holiday Shopping Spree – exclusively for Seven Stars and Diamond cardholders – was a disaster: long lines to register, computers down, long lines to check out, angry employees and angry customers. Reportedly, someone even passed out while waiting – at least that’s what one of the check-out clerks told me. By Saturday, procedures were changed, cardholders other than Seven Stars registered at a different location, and an “express” option was offered. It worked. Saturday there was no line at the Seven Stars registration and, by 2:30 or so (they apparently opened check-in earlier than the advertised 2 p.m. start), even lines for all other cardholders were manageable. That didn’t help the mayhem in the ballroom trying to search out things to buy, though. First, there were way too many people – including too many children. Second, there was no one to ask for help. (One Bally’s executive – who shall remain nameless – was downright rude when I asked him about assistance. “No, there is no one,” he said curtly.) Third, why was there no list of available products – or at least a “map” of the layout? There seemed to be no logic to how things were displayed. Fourth, there was no explanation of the different color pricing tickets. It didn’t take a Ph.D. to figure out that blue was the Seven Stars cardholder price (a 10 percent discount) and white reflected the five percent discount for Diamond cardholders, but, nonetheless, it was confusing. And, fifth, why not control entry to the ballroom Saturday, limiting the number of people at any one time? [There was Friday evening.] As it turned out, on Saturday, I simply picked up tickets for a number of items I was interested in, took them home, did a little research, and returned Monday about an hour before closing time. I was in and out of there in less than 15 minutes. Lesson learned: Wait as long as possible when there is a multi-day event like this – especially when it’s the first time.

People were already angry leading up to the event. No one had any idea what was being offered, how much a “shopping dollar” was worth, or what the shopping times were. Even a last-minute reminder email about the event neglected to list the times. This has to go down in the history books as the worst promotion/event Caesars has done in years. Even before it officially started, dates were changed (it originally was supposed to start June 15 – and there were ads in the newspapers stating that), an additional shopping event in Chester was cancelled (again, after it had been announced). Even up through the conclusion of the event, the TR Web site still listed the “earning” dates as June 15 to September 30.

Borgata is doing a gift event this month, but I didn’t have to earn shopping credits, activate them or anything. I received notice about the previously unannounced event in the mail a month before. It said I had $XXX amount in shopping dollars – about the same as I had for the Bally’s event – with considerably less play, I might add. It also directed me to a Web site where I could preview the entire gift selection, as well as reserve a shopping date – I had three choices in 30-minute intervals (on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday). In addition, if I chose, I could purchase additional shopping dollars with cash, credit card or comps (at 2:1). How simple is that? Why does Caesars always make everything so complicated and why don’t the people in charge anticipate problems before they happen?

Bleak Friday Follow-Up
Some people – but not all – who attended the opening night at the Holiday Shopping Spree received the following email:

My name is Matt Heiskell and I am one of the executive team members for Caesars Entertainment in the Atlantic City region. I am writing you on behalf of Caesars Entertainment to express our sincerest apologies for the experience you had on Friday the 12th at the Holiday Shopping Spree event. As a loyal Total Rewards customer, you are surely to have experienced many other events we have held for you. The Holiday Shopping Spree experience you had on Friday simply did not meet yours or our expectations.

While we are working to fix the issues from Friday with our future events, I did want to provide you with an update on this event. If you should have any questions regarding the status of your order, you can either visit www.jdrshoppingspree.com or call (877) 920-SHOP (7467). Again, we apologize and do not hesitate to let me know if you have any further concerns.

Sincerely,

Matt Heiskell
Assistant General Manager – Bally’s Atlantic City

Others received this in the mail:

As a member of Total Rewards you surely have participated in many great events and promotions. You also know that the quality of these marketing programs are almost always impeccable and provide you with an experience worthy of your patronage. However, during the first day of our Holiday Shopping Spree gift selection event we know the experience we provided was not up to your standards.

Please access [sic] $25 dollars in comps as our apology. Comps will be issued in the form of Total Rewards credits that will be added to your account. You can redeem this offer by taking this letter to any Total Rewards Center in Atlantic City and we will add these credits to your account. This offer is valid until November 30, 2012.

Again, your experience matters to us and I do apologize for any inconvenience you experienced. We are certain that your next visit will meet your expectations and we look forward to seeing you again.

Sincerely,

Don Marrandino
Eastern Division President

Unfortunately, those who ventured up to the sixth floor of Bally’s that night, saw the mess and didn’t register – and there were many – didn’t receive either of these missives, and they deserve an apology (and extra Reward Credits), as well.

Uneventful TR Insider Month
Newly-minted and veteran TR Insiders were disappointed – no, make that pretty irritated – to find out that no special events were scheduled last month. “Throughout July, August and September I went to a lot of effort – and expense! – to become a TR Insider, only to get no benefit during the first month,” one person emailed me. A mailing finally showed up October 21 for an event on November 10 – just the day I’m leaving for a week’s vacation. The whole TR Insider, in my opinion, has been a disappointment. Other than what usually were two events per month, there are no ongoing benefits for Insiders. In other words, if you’re not available to attend one of the scheduled events, you get nothing for your efforts. At least in other parts of the country Insiders can frequently cash-in comps for free play at rates lower than 2:1, and there were other benefits which the Atlantic City market did not offer. Plus, there is no easy way to find out how many points you’ve earned as you near the end of a quarter. The whole program needs to be re-thought – or, better yet, abandoned.

TR Insiders: On The Cutting Edge
I actually read the invitation twice. The giveaway at the TR Insider event November 10 is a $20 ShopRite gift card and – no way! – a carving knife? Does Caesars really want hundreds of people wandering around their casinos on a Saturday night carrying knives?

Talking Turkey
Be thankful – unless you’re an employee. As of now, the Seven Stars Lounges at Caesars and Harrah’s will operate on their regular schedules for the Thanksgiving weekend.

In Sickness and In Health
If you need some low-grade emergency medical attention, don’t go to the nursing stations at any of Caesars four casinos. They’re all closed. While Borgata has a beautiful medical service for players, hotel guests and employees, it’s getting rarer and rarer that casinos have in-house medical facilities. A security guard at Resorts told me it’s just become too expensive to offer these services; theirs closed nearly two years ago, he said. Fortunately, Atlantic City has a number of first-class emergency centers, as well as a hospital – all close to the Boardwalk casinos.

Robert Now At Robert’s
Robert (Bob) Grabowski, most recently general manager at Showboat’s Scarduzio’s, is back at Trump Taj Mahal managing the new Robert’s Steakhouse, scheduled to open this month.

Withdrawal Symptoms
In addition to increasing fees to $5.99 per ATM transaction, according to one reader, the amount you can get in one transaction has been reduced from $3,000 to $1,000. I have a much smaller limit on daily withdrawals, so I can’t say I’ve experienced this, but now to get $3,000, it would cost $17.97 – three separate $1,000 withdrawals. [In Las Vegas, ATMs at Caesars properties also charge $5.99, but the limit seems to fluctuate between $1,000 and $3,000. Bellagio also charges $5.99, but its limit is $5,000.]

♫These Are A Few Of My Favorite Things♫
Here’s a YouTube link to an online interview with Caesars Eastern Division President Don Marrandino. In the video, Marrandino tells you his favorite restaurants, favorite places to take a date, shop, etc.

The Light Show Fantastic
I finally got to see the light show projected onto Boardwalk Hall every night. It’s really terrific. If you haven’t seen it, make sure you spend 10 minutes one evening. Starting times vary depending on the season, but shows begin every 20 minutes. There’s a countdown clock to let you know when the next show will begin. Here’s a YouTube link to a video of the show.

Bally’s

They’re Baaack!
Popular bartenders John Santini and Jennifer Jones have returned to the Diamond Lounge. Go pay them a visit and welcome them back.

Platelets
What’s with the tiny plates at Bally’s Diamond Lounge? They’re barely large enough for some salad, let alone an entrée, a vegetable and a starch. Doesn’t management realize that a tiny plate is still not going to stop people from gorging themselves? They just go back to the buffet more frequently, give the dishwashers more work and waste hot water. [Remember “Code Green”?] A table for two next to mine at lunch one Saturday last month had 15 dirty plates stacked up. I suppose not clearing plates promptly also is intended to discourage guests from eating more. Guess what? It’s not working.

Now That’s Italian!
Congratulations to everyone at Arturo’s. The restaurant has received a Certificate of Excellence from TripAdvisor for earning a 4.5-star rating. (Top rating is five stars.)

Cutting Coupons
Speaking of Arturo’s. . .it was a Monday evening and the restaurant was practically empty. Two of the three of us each had a $30 coupon good at the Caesars Boardwalk Buffet or 6ix a Bistro – which we wanted no part of for dinner. Because the coupons are somehow coded as good only at “casual restaurants” we were unable to use them at Arturo’s. It’s a shame, too, because we would have spent a lot more than $60, and some servers would have gotten a nice gratuity. If Caesars is looking for an inexpensive Seven Stars benefit, why not allow these coupons to be used at its “fine dining” restaurants, as well? 6ix a Bistro certainly didn’t need the business; there were lines out the door. (Oh, by the way, we ended up at Golden Nugget’s Grotto, and, as usual, it was terrific. If they’re there, ask for servers Tripp or Keith.)

Caesars

It’s Not Your Eyesight
If you valet your car and retrieve it on the second level, you might think your eyes are playing tricks on you. One of the large posters outside the doors was printed backwards:

Burger King
Seven Stars Lounge Chef Tim Davis won an in-house corporate national burger challenge involving several hundred competitors from restaurants around the country called the Best Burger Battle 2012. His winning burger will soon be available at Café Roma [and, in Las Vegas, at KGB (Kerry’s Gourmet Burgers) at Harrah’s]. To see a video about how to make Chef Tim’s creation, visit http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2UkkUIet74k.

Harrah’s Resort

Conference Call
Caesars plans to construct a $134 million 100,000 square-foot conference center at Harrah’s. Caesars has applied to Atlantic City’s Casino Redevelopment Investment Authority for $45 million to help fund the project. According to Caesars, the conference center, which will break ground in January and should be open by July 2014, will target business meetings rather than trade shows that are typically drawn to the Atlantic City Convention Center.

Harrah’s Cherokee (North Carolina)

Free Food!
Seven Stars cardholders and a guest, as well as the Seven Stars Companion cardholder and a guest each get a free buffet daily, according to a reader who just returned. That’s up to four free buffets every day if both you and your companion cardholder are there at the same time. Prices vary depending on meal times, but, according to the Cherokee Web site, average price for the buffet is $26.

Harrah’s Philadelphia

Due to driving restrictions imposed by the governor and other reasons related to Hurricane Sandy, Harrah’s temporarily closed beginning at 4 p.m. October 29 and reopened at 10 a.m. October 31.

While the casino sent an email (see above) to some of its customers – I didn’t receive one even though I live about 15 minutes from Chester and am a somewhat “regular’ player there – advising them of the reopening, what the message omitted was the fact that there would be limited food service. The Diamond Lounge and Temptations Buffet were closed, as was the Cove restaurant, resulting in long lines at Caffè Napoli and BarleyQue. It probably wouldn’t have been as big of a problem had October 31 not been a “Senior Day” when eligible players got 30 percent discounts at these food outlets, and many people had coupons to redeem before the end of the month.

Forget The 47%, Watch That 30%
For three Wednesdays – November 7, 14 and 28 – Harrah’s again will offer seniors 30 percent discounts at most of its restaurants, as well as free valet parking. However, last month, after having lunch at BarleyQue, my server added 30 percent to the bill!

Veterans Benefits
November 12 Harrah’s will offer a 50 percent discount at its restaurants for all active duty and retired military, as well as veterans, with proper ID. Maximum one 50 percent discount per dining check. Offer not valid at Tony Luke’s or Krispy Kreme.

Driven To Distraction
It’s not going to do any good, but I will continue to press my point that better signage is necessary in the self-parking garage – particularly at ground level. It’s an accident waiting to happen – and I’ve come close to being a victim several times. Because they’re not clearly marked, most drivers think the lanes in the garage are one way. Even two of Harrah’s security guards driving their “golf cart” ignored the faded yellow arrows and practically cut-off another driver as they made a right-hand turn toward the ground floor exit. In addition, drivers also aren’t paying attention to the direction signs at the garage exit. Several times last month I saw drivers making left turns from the right lane.

General

Questions Of The Month
Is there a list – casino-by-casino – of which properties add a $500 folio credit vs. adding $500 in RCs to your TR account? For example, I understand that Las Vegas gives the folio credit, but New Orleans adds the RCs. Also, there seem to be differences in what the $500 can be used for. The current rules refer strictly to dining, but last year Caesars Palace credited some spa services against this account. Again, is there a casino-by-casino listing of which casino allows what? According to Total Rewards, “We recommend that all properties add this credit to the hotel folio, and are currently working with properties to execute this benefit more consistently across the network. Our goal is to create a consistent, seamless experience for our guests, regardless of where they choose to visit. In terms of how the credit may be used, there still will be a few exceptions. For example, in some states we cannot provide free alcoholic beverages. In those locations, alcoholic purchases are excluded from use with the folio credit.” My advice is that if you have a question about a specific casino or resort you want to visit during your annual trip, ask your host or contact a host at the destination casino. If you don’t think you’ll spend all your money on meals, I’m sure if you talk to a host, he or she might be able to work something out for you – but no guarantees! Remember, I’m not the authority (see more on this below).

What happened to the Web site listing of special Seven Star perks, e.g., horse race at Harrah’s Philadelphia, carriage ride in New Orleans, etc.? Is there a revised list? According to Total Rewards, “We removed the property-specific information from our Web site earlier this year because some of the items listed were outdated and actually created dissatisfaction for guests looking to utilize them. We’ve partnered with each property to create an updated list, and have already begun updating our benefits for 2013. Once we finalize those benefits, we will publish them on the Web site to provide easy reference for our guests. In the meantime, our Total Rewards and host teams have access to the current property-specific benefits, and should be able to answer any questions a guest may have.” Further, the good news is that many of these benefits are still in place. Unfortunately, Harrah’s New Orleans no longer provides the carriage ride, but they are hoping to identify a comparable property-specific benefit to add in 2013. Below are some of the current benefits:

A complimentary round of golf for the Seven Stars cardholder and a guest is available each quarter in Atlantic City, Las Vegas and Horseshoe Southern Indiana. This benefit is provided monthly in Metropolis and Tunica. In all locations, this benefit is not available during high-demand periods.
Las Vegas provides two free show tickets each month; free entry into Rio’s VooDoo Lounge; and a hotel upgrade to a premium Diamond room, when available.

Harrah’s Louisiana Downs will name a race in your honor, and guarantee racetrack suite availability.
Reno and Tahoe offer two Tahoe Star tickets per season, as well as an annual Tahoe Star private cruise for up to 30 people. They also offer two Improv show tickets, and up to four ski resort lift tickets per season.
Harrah’s Philadelphia will name a race in your honor and give you a starter betting card, plus provide a $125 dining credit to be used race day in one of several food and beverage outlets – some restrictions apply.

Available at all properties, where applicable:
Up to three complimentary movies per night (cannot exceed $45 retail value).
Complimentary spa and health club access – sometimes for a Seven Stars cardholder’s guest, as well.
Complimentary Internet access.
25% discount at Caesars golf spa retail shops.

If you want authoritative answers to questions about Caesars, Total Rewards, etc., do not post questions like this on any of the message boards out there, e.g., vpFREE@yahoogroups.com, harrahscasinos@yahoogroups.com, etc. Use the “Contact Us” feature on the Total Rewards Web site. Generally, you’ll get a response with 48 hours – usually less. Save the email and, if you experience a problem or something is not as you were told, then you have some valid proof. Citing a Web posting by John Smith (or some alias like “hotcasinomama@yoohoo.com”) isn’t going to cut it. Recently, someone posted a question about extended overnight parking at Harrah’s in New Orleans while the player was on a cruise. Rather than returning from the cruise to find my car towed, I would have picked up the phone and called Harrah’s to get a definitive answer from someone in charge, and recorded that person’s name and title, as well as the date and time of my call. These message boards are fine for gathering opinions on hotel room conditions, restaurant recommendations, etc., but when it comes to a policy question, please consult with the authorities at Total Rewards. That’s what they’re there for.

Odds Are. . .

“Whether you play slots, craps, blackjack, roulette or any other game in a casino, it is important to remember that games of chance are based on random outcomes and always favor the casino. These games of chance are a form of entertainment, at a price to you, the player.”

Sound like advice from Gamblers Anonymous? Nope. This is a direct quote from a pamphlet that Caesars distributes in its casinos. The copyright is 2010, but I just saw this brochure for the first time last month at Harrah’s Philadelphia. I applaud Caesars for this forthright approach. Unfortunately, the people who need to read this probably won’t.

A Not So Happy Birthday – Again
While every other casino where I play sent me bonus free play and/or comp dollars good this month, once again Total Rewards wants me to earn up to 5,000 tier credits, so it can match them as my birthday present. I have all of October, November and December to do this, but I have to decide – within 48 hours – which day’s play I want to count. Plus, I never got the offer until mid-October, after I had a pretty big day of play earlier that month which now won’t count. This might be a great promotion for someone who has a birthday early in the year, but by October, November and December, when a lot of people have already reached their threshold, it’s not much of an incentive – especially with all the competition.

Eat Your Heart Out, Revel!
Turns out that fancy new casinos aren’t what attract players, Revel – oh, I forgot, when you opened you weren’t interested in the gambling market. According to an article in the New York Times, a casino that opened a year ago at Aqueduct horse racing track in Queens has emerged as the country’s highest-grossing slot parlor, “helping to reshape the gambling landscape in the Northeast as patrons chose less opulent, more local casinos instead of traditional gambling meccas in Atlantic City and Connecticut.” Read the entire article here.

Keep Track Of Comps
I’ve been saying it for years, but, no matter how you do it, keep track of your comp dollars. Just last month a reader told me that he noticed a drop in his comp account. Upon researching his charges, he learned that someone used his comp dollars at a restaurant in Atlantic City – but he was miles away at home. Caesars temporarily froze his account and refunded the comps, but had he not kept track, no one would have been the wiser.

Holiday Hours
With the holiday season approaching, it would be nice to report any special hours next month for player’s lounges, restaurants, etc. Caesars executives, please start thinking about this now. I’d be happy to serve as your “unofficial” location to post these special hours.

Making A Statement
Kudos to the team at Total Rewards for those new statements detailing our “income” and “expenditures” during the previous month. I’ve been waiting for this for years. [OK, so on that first statement some players’ tier levels were wrong. . .it was an honest mistake that people couldn’t wait to jump all over.]

Getting Political – II
According to the IRS, Caesars Entertainment Operating Company – historically the most Democratic-leaning casino company, has given more than $165,000 to the Republican State Leadership Committee; however, Caesars contributed to both Democratic and Republican Senate candidates, according to Nevada Secretary of State records.

Survey Says. . .
Last month I asked you what you’d tell Vice President of Total Rewards Joshua Kanter. Unfortunately, I can’t print some of your responses, but here’s a sampling of what I can report:
“I don’t fly. For my annual trip, why can’t I get a mileage allowance or fuel reimbursement if I show proof of these expenditures?”
“I’m a widow who frequently travels alone to Las Vegas. I love the shows – and think the two free tickets a month is a good benefit, but I’m disappointed I can’t get one ticket to two different shows. Short of finding another Seven Stars cardholder in the same predicament, what’s the difference if two of us each take two tickets to two different shows and trade, or you just give each of us one ticket to the two shows of our choice? Same with free buffet coupons. Why not give players two coupons each good for one buffet so we can enjoy two meals instead of just one?”
“Are you going to redesign those ugly new Seven Stars cards? They’re also difficult to read.”
“There are too many Seven Stars/Diamond and Seven Stars/Diamond/Platinum lines around the country – especially Las Vegas. I’m not that much of a prima donna that I can’t wait behind a few people, but you need to make it easier for us Seven Stars cardholders to jump to the head of the line – that’s one of the perks I enjoy most about Seven Stars.”
“Why am I getting mailings, emails and phone calls from casinos I may have visited once – sometimes several years ago – inviting me to dinners, gift-giveaways and other events? Don’t they look at my zip code or area code? Frequently, these casinos are thousands of miles away. Often with less than two weeks’ notice, why do they think I would travel there for a free Vera Bradley bag? It’s not only wasteful in terms of printing, paper and postage, but also a host’s time when he or she is making phone calls or signing letters to players who are probably never going to return – leastwise for some silly giveaway.”
“About those Las Vegas Diamond Lounges. . .why do they close so early [9 p.m.] – especially on Fridays and Saturdays? Also, in most other cities I can bring in three guests with my Seven Stars card, but in Las Vegas, I’m limited to one guest. Shouldn’t this policy be consistent throughout the country?”

This Month’s Survey: A Contest
Well, not really. Picture this: It’s a busy Saturday afternoon during a three-day holiday weekend last month at Caesars in Atlantic City. There are long lines at the Main Cashier and at practically all the self-serve Fast Cash dispensers. Why? Because there are only four cashiers working and the satellite cashier on the second floor has been closed – whether just “for the season” or permanently, I don’t know. Next door at Bally’s Wild Wild West, there is no longer a cashier and only one of the two Fast Cash dispensers in Coyote Kate’s Slot Parlor is operable. Again, the line is ridiculous. Add to this the fact that many people are just not capable of using these machines, and others use them not only to redeem their Fast Cash tickets, but also to break larger bills into smaller bills – we’re talking about first breaking $100 into five $20s, then breaking each of those $20s into $5s. Then there are those who refuse to consolidate all their tickets at a slot machine, and keep the rest of us waiting while they cash in one ticket at a time. The point of all this is: What else can Caesars Entertainment do to irritate its customers? (My vote goes to Total Touch – whoever approved that stupid system should be fired!) What’s your vote? Send me an e-mail (sevenstarsinsider@gmail.com) and I’ll share your thoughts – anonymously, of course.

Darryl D. McEwen, Publisher
Seven Stars Insider

Photo: Pulse of Vegas Blog

Seven Stars Insider – May Edition

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.

Las Vegas

Show Ticket Update
In response to his inquiry about why free show tickets no longer were being distributed to eligible players in Las Vegas, one reader received a response from Total Rewards claiming that ticket offers now would be based on play, and sent directly to individual players. Other than the tickets offered under the former system, this always has been the case. Problem is that many times the show ticket offers are for dates when you aren’t in town. In March I had an offer for Jersey Boys tickets, but it didn’t go into effect until three days after my already previously scheduled departure. I asked my host for an exception, but he wouldn’t budge – despite the fact that it was opening night and there were plenty of available seats when I went to the box office. I just refused to pay the ridiculously inflated ticket prices when I can see the same show on Broadway for one fourth the cost.

Atlantic City

Mea Culpa: I’ve Seen The Light
I’ve been en-light-ened. Last month I erroneously reported that the lights remained on at Caesars and Bally’s after a news release touted that the casinos would participate in Earth Hour. Turns out the lights I saw were necessary for safety and security reasons, and all four of Caesars casinos in Atlantic City participated to the best of their ability. I thought my observation had been confirmed by a front page story in the Press of Atlantic City, but that article was incorrect, as well. I guess you can’t always believe everything you read in the papers! My apologies to Caesars executives – and especially the hard-working Facilities Engineers who made it happen.

June Signature Event
Considering this event is scheduled to begin June 14, it’s not yet been “officially” announced. What is everyone waiting for? [There is still nothing on the Total Rewards Web site other than June 2012 and the fact that it will be held in Atlantic City.] West Coast players already are complaining that airfare prices continue to climb, but they’re uncomfortable making firm plans until they see something in writing. In terms of specific events, there will be an opening night party June 14 at The Pool over at Harrah’s, Bally’s will host parties on its deck Friday and Saturday, and Diana Ross will be the featured entertainment for your choice of concerts Friday or Saturday. You’ll have the opportunity to multiply your Rewards Credits by seven on June 14 and 18, as well as play throughout the weekend to earn Caesars gift cards.

Food and Wine Festival
The Atlantic City Food and Wine Festival has been scheduled for July 26-29. Among the celebrity chefs already confirmed are Robert Irvine, Tom Colicchio and Anne Burrell. Foodies who can’t wait should consider The Taste of Revel May 18-20, presented by Food & Wine and Travel + Leisure.

Wires
If you wire money to any of the four Atlantic City casinos, note that some of the routing numbers have changed. Check with a Credit Executive for details. I don’t know if other regions or casinos are also affected.

A New Gold Standard
I was fortunate enough to attend the VIP opening reception at the Golden Nugget last month – the same night as the Seven Stars Celebrations around town. What an outstanding job the crew there did! Taking advantage of the fourth floor space surrounding the atrium, planners had all of the Golden Nugget’s restaurants develop a tasting station of menu samplings. Each was better than the next! Even if you never plan to play or stay at Golden Nugget, do yourself a favor and take a look at the place – especially if you knew it as Trump Marina. You won’t recognize it. In particular, don’t miss the H2O pool deck with its fire pits, cabanas and outdoor bar. Once word gets out, I think this will become the place to hang out this summer. Back at Caesars, I couldn’t contain my enthusiasm over the Golden Nugget, telling everyone from managers to servers about my experience. Kudos to each and every Caesars and Bally’s employee who had nothing but praise for the Golden Nugget, noting it will only be a positive influence on the entire city. Thanks for “taking the high road” and not knocking the competition! This says a lot about Caesars employee training.

Bally’s

‘Dealertainers’ Coming To AC
Taking a cue from what I must assume is successful in Las Vegas, Bally’s is hiring entertainers who look – and sound like – celebrities to do double duty as dealers on the casino floor. I witnessed a couple of these “dealertainers” at the Imperial Palace, and I hope their dealing skills were better than their singing voices.

Caesars

Celebration Exasperation
“Disappointing.” “What were they thinking?” “This is how they treat their ‘best’ customers?” Within hours – and in one case, minutes – after the last Cadillac lease was announced, my inbox started filling up with comments about the Seven Stars Celebration April 28. I walked in around 8 p.m. and – loud (make that, very loud!) music notwithstanding – I thought I was attending a funeral, not a celebration. People were sitting around looking pretty bored, just cooling their heels until the door prizes were announced at 8:30. No one I spoke with liked the food. [I hardly touched the food because I had just come from the reception at Golden Nugget (see above), but what I did try was not very good and not very appetizing. Plus, I had a 9 o’clock reservation at Arturo’s.] Part of the problem, too, was that no one really knew what to expect. “What’s a ‘cocktail soiree’?” Turns out it was a fancy name used as an excuse for not serving a decent sit-down dinner. And what was the point of having a dance band if you’re not going to have a dance floor? There was plenty of space. . .and at least it might have brought some much needed energy to the room. Related to the celebration was an extra large bottle of Belvedere vodka left in our rooms. What if you don’t drink vodka, or what if you don’t drink at all? Since it was stamped with the Seven Stars logo, you can’t even give it as a gift. Most people I talked to would have preferred a Macy’s or Best Buy gift card, or even some free play coupons. All in all, this was not one of the best efforts from a team that usually produces some of the highest quality events in town.

Showboat

Boatload Of Changes
Canal Street Bread & Sandwich Co. – After closing May 5, I’ve been told the space will reopen with an outside vendor. My guess is that means another venue which will accept Total Rewards comp dollars, but probably at a 2:1 ratio. I hope I’m wrong; that would leave no place for players to grab a quick sandwich, salad, dessert or other snack without paying double – or being forced into a sit-down situation.

Mansion Cafe – After the Mansion closes May 13, the House of Blues will become a 24-hour operation. Space currently occupied by the Mansion is expected to be turned into meeting space for groups.

Vive Day Spa & Salon Offers Seven Stars Special
During the month of May 2012, show your Seven Stars card and mention “Seven Stars Insider” to get these special savings:

Seasonal Cocktail Facial
This unique limited edition facial treatment incorporates the purest ingredients from each season’s harvest. Packed with antioxidants to help restore and brighten skin ravaged by the season. Enjoy a new melody of ingredients every six months. Previous seasonal treatments include Melon & Mint, Ginger & Tangerine and Green Tea & Honey. $99 (regular $135)

Women’s Haircut, Blow Dry & Finish

$50 (regular $85)

Harrah’s Philadelphia

What’s In A Name?
As reported last month, Harrah’s Chester has rebranded itself as Harrah’s Philadelphia. According to a message on the inside cover of this month’s coupon book, “We’re proud to announce that Harrah’s Chester is now the all-new Harrah’s Philadelphia,” writes Senior Vice President and General Manager Ron Baumann. [Now, someone should tell the folks who maintain the Total Rewards Web site and iPhone app. Harrah’s Chester, not Harrah’s Philadelphia, is still listed.]

Seven Stars Celebration Dinner
Perhaps the staff at Harrah’s can give some pointers to the folks in Atlantic City when it comes to recognizing Seven Stars cardholders. Earlier last month, Harrah’s Philadelphia hosted a lovely cocktail reception with a raw bar and other hors d’ouevres, followed by a sit-down dinner that featured a delicious salad, a “surf-and-turf” entrée [shrimp and perfectly cooked filet] and a lavish dessert. While there were no Cadillac leases, there was a drawing for a trip and some free play, and everyone left with a $25 Macy’s gift card, $100 in free play and a collapsible insulated picnic hamper. Very nice. Too bad the next event there wasn’t quite as successful. . . .

Thursday Becomes Fry-day
Apparently there’s no shortage of oil in Philadelphia. At last month’s TR Insider “Cocktails and Conversation” nearly all the “food” accompanying the cocktails was breaded and fried: fried shrimp, fried chicken, fried chicken stuffed with cheese, fried cheese – even fried green beans! The one exception was something baked in a pastry that was totally indistinguishable and tasteless. Perhaps, more accurately, it should have been called “Cocktails and Cholesterol” or “Cocktails and Calories”. Did I miss something, or is Paula Deen the new executive chef there? Come on, folks, how about something a little more tasty, healthful – and creative?

Tip On Tipping
Comp dollars may no longer be used for gratuities at Harrah’s. For a long time – to the best of my knowledge – [then] Harrah’s Chester was the only Total Rewards casino that allowed you to use comp dollars for server gratuities.

General

September Signature Event
While the official dates have yet to be announced, let’s hope planners don’t select the weekend that ends on September 16. Rosh Hashanah begins at sunset that Sunday and it might be difficult for some East Coast attendees to get home from Las Vegas in time. Two years ago, the fall Signature Event began on the last day of Rosh Hashanah, one of the holiest days on the Jewish calendar, and many players were not happy about the scheduling. And, speaking of scheduling. . .again, what’s the big secret, folks? September is only four months away and there are people who like to plan their schedules in advance.

Call ’em What They Are: Comp Dollars
It’s nice to see that Caesars is using the term “Tier Credits” (instead of “Base Rewards Credits”) to more accurately reflect those points players earn each year to qualify for the various card levels, e.g., Platinum, Diamond, etc. Now, I wish they would consider dumping “Rewards Credits” (or “Reward Credits” – it shows up both ways depending on where you look). It’s like traveling to a foreign country and having to calculate U.S. dollars into some other currency. Just give us the total amount of comp dollars we have in our accounts. In Atlantic City (and I think Las Vegas), this number pops up when you swipe your card at a kiosk. You get your tier score and the amount of comp dollars available. However, sign on to the TR Web site and you get your tier score, plus that “inflated” Rewards Credits number. What also gets confusing is when you see a sign that says: “Guests will be charged 1,000 Rewards Credits for admission to the Diamond Lounge”. How many players know that this is $10 (in comp dollars)? Or that ridiculous birthday promotion – “Get up to 50,000 Rewards Credits by earning up to 5,000 Base Rewards Credits [now Tier Credits] in a gaming day”. Though 50,000 Rewards Credits sounds like a lot, it’s actually $50. Considering that, to earn one Tier Credit, it takes $5 “coin-in” ($10 with video poker), you’d have to put $25,000 through the slots ($50,000 for video poker). That’s not much of a gift, or a bonus. Borgata in Atlantic City has one of the easiest systems to understand. Every comp dollar you earn equals one tier point.

Still Not App-licable
There’s finally a new Total Rewards app for the iPhone, but it’s not very user-friendly or helpful. Since it’s actually a new app, if you have the old My TR app you won’t get any notification to update it; just delete My TR and go to the App Store and search for Total Rewards. You’ll need your Total Rewards account number to sign-in. Though it sometimes offers the option of using the new username you had to create to access the Web site, that log-in page will not accept upper and lower case letters, so you have to use your account number. Once you’re online about the only useful information available is your current tier score and Total Rewards credits. Clicking on various links sends you to pages that – in most cases – are not yet available, are inaccurate, incomplete or useless. A couple examples: On the Caesars Atlantic City page, clicking on “Senator Suite” tells you, “Experience the Empire as it was meant to be. Appreciate true indulgence when you retire to a Caesars Senator Suite.” [Huh?] Click on “Standard Room/Classic” and you learn, “Our classic rooms offer 1 King or 2 Double beds. At Caesars we plan to make your stay a friendly one.” [Gee, most hotels I stay in offer a choice of a king or two double beds. How about some of the amenities? How large are these rooms?] Interested in the “Dinner & Giada Show”? Click and learn, “Giada DeLaurentis show and dinner.” [How about a date, a time, the cost and some details?] On the Bally’s Atlantic City site there is a reference to a restaurant that’s no longer open; and clicking on the rooms tab gives you a mixture of sleeping rooms and meeting rooms. Unless Bally’s is planning overnights in its ballrooms, keep the meeting space and accommodations separate.

Rumor Control
Don’t always believe everything you read on some of the message boards and blogs. Last month someone wrote that she was told by employees at Paris and Flamingo that her play at Harrah’s Philadelphia, nee Chester, and in Atlantic City wouldn’t count toward getting offers from Las Vegas. Suspicious – because I don’t play in Vegas as much as I used to, but the offers continue to pour in, I contacted a senior executive at Caesars who said this was absolutely false. Granted, part of this may be Caesars fault for perhaps not educating their employees, but, on the other hand, these could be employees who misunderstood something they heard or read, or maybe they were disgruntled employees who decided to take it out on a customer.

New At The Top
According to paperwork filed in late March, M. Tariq Shaukat has been named Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer of Caesars Entertainment. Mr. Shaukat comes to Caesars from McKinsey & Co., a global management consulting firm.

From The In-Box
Some Caesars executives seem to think I make up comments from my fellow players because they rarely hear from anyone directly. Want to know why? I can’t tell you how many people are scared of “retaliation” – they actually believe that, if they complain about something, somehow Caesars will withdraw offers, hotel stays, free play, etc., or, worse, code their player’s cards so they don’t win as much. I hope everyone knows this is not true – and would be illegal (or, in the case of suppressing wins, not even possible). However, starting this month, I’m going to reprint some of the e-mails I receive which I think might reflect not only opinions expressed by the writer, but also of many others I talk to on a regular basis:

“Both Harrah’s [Resort in Atlantic City] and Caesars [in Atlantic City] seem to be replacing many of their slot machines with the new digitized versions. I really do not like them, as they’re just big piggy banks. By the way, I stopped at the new Golden Nugget and played for a few hours. Surprisingly, after four hours I had accumulated almost $70 in comps! (That would take me days at Caesars or Harrah’s.) And, their cashback is immediate so you can download it right into the slot machine you are playing. How’s that for convenient? I’ve always hated those damn coupons with specific days on them. And, I notice that they aren’t sending as many as they did in the past.”

“I had three coupons valid yesterday. However, I’m curious. One went right in the machine; one had to be taken to the cage to get Reel Rewards to put in the machine; and one was for cash, which found its way into the machines. Why not make them all work the same way?”

Survey Results: ‘How would you have changed Total Rewards?’
If you’d been in charge of changing/updating the Total Rewards program, what – if anything – would you have done? Here are a few of the responses I received (several people sent in similar suggestions):

I would have asked for feedback from players before announcing any changes to the program. It would have been amazing the valuable suggestions and feedback they might have received.
I would increase the tier points needed to become a Diamond cardholder from 11,000 points to 40,000 or 50,000 points. There is too much of a gap between Diamond and Seven Stars. Make getting Diamond status worth something.
For Seven Stars cardholders, I would waive fees, such as that room assessment fee and comp fee in Atlantic City.
For all Total Rewards members who may travel to different casinos and not be particularly loyal to one property, why not reward them a small Rewards Credit bonus annually once they visit five different properties or a greater number of RCs if they visit 10 different properties. Because of my business travel, sometimes I visit a variety of properties, and I’m penalized for not being loyal 90 percent of the time to one particular property. (This is reflected in the offers I receive, compared to what some of my friends receive.)

Survey: ‘Did you attend a Seven Stars renewal event? Your thoughts?’
I’ve already received lots of unsolicited feedback on last month’s Seven Stars Celebrations in Atlantic City. Here are some examples:

“Thought I’d offer some comments on the Seven Stars Cocktail Party this weekend. . .the one at Bally’s was interesting. The food preparation was led by The Reserve Executive Chef Joseph Muldoon and was consistently good throughout. The party theme of Mission: Escape was odd given that car leases, not trips, were given away. The bottle of Belvedere vodka was over the top, too large to fit in my liquor cabinet, and the labeling of it as ‘Seven Stars’ renders it nonregiftable. I offered it to my housekeeper in lieu of a tip. Some people apparently offered their bottles to Boardwalk vagrants as I saw a homeless guy outside of Caesars drinking from one of those huge bottles. I hope he’s not found under the Boardwalk today suffering from alcohol overdose.”

“Just got back from the renewal weekend in Atlantic City. Some thoughts. . .the 7X comps on Friday was nice, the party on Saturday was underwhelming. The food was not very good – four stations with lots of odd selections: assorted hummus, terrible potato latkes, not enough places for people to sit and eat. The seven Cadillac leases and 10 $1,000 cash prizes awarded seemed a little cheap for the number of 7 Star guests. I would have liked to see more prizes spread around. Also, I realized at about 10 p.m. on Saturday night that I had not received the promised signature bottle of Belvedere vodka. It wasn’t handed out at registration, nor was it given out at the party. I called VIP Services to enquire and was told, ‘Oh, room service was supposed to deliver it to you.’ Well, they hadn’t, although the woman at VIP Services promised to have it sent up. Made me wonder what would have happened if I had not thought to call and try to track it down. Perhaps the people in room service would have ended up with a lot of extra mega-bottles of vodka. Seemed like a very poor method of distribution. Hopefully the lackluster weekend is not an indication of things to come in Caesars new Total Rewards program.”

“I attended the event last night at Harrah’s Resort in AC. Can these guys at Caesars Entertainment possibly get more cheap? Are you kidding me? What casino has ever given away vehicle leases – and for a lousy two years at that? Add to that poor gas mileage at a time when fuel prices are outrageous, hefty tax and insurance costs, and the fact that you are receiving something that has no lasting value at all. This has to go down as one of the most ill-conceived casino ‘gifts’ ever. I’m serious when I say that given a choice between $20 in free slot play and this lease, I’d choose the slot play. Talking with others last night, I found many others similarly unimpressed. I hold out hope that next year Caesars management will opt to step up their top prize by offering seven high mileage, used econoboxes with some front-end damage. At least you get to keep these cars, and the fuel, tax and insurance costs won’t kill you. Thanks for showing us once again how much you appreciate your best customers!”

I know there must have been similar events around the country. Did you attend one? What did you think? Send me an e-mail (sevenstarsinsider @ gmail .com) and I’ll share your thoughts – anonymously, of course.

Darryl D. McEwen, Publisher
Seven Stars Insider

Photo: Pulse of Las Vegas Blog

Seven Stars Insider – August Edition

Here’s the latest edition of Seven Stars Insider.  As always there is a lot of good information. This is an easy read and an excellent resource for Caesars Total Rewards players.  Head over to Seven Stars Insider to sign up for the newsletter.

Seven Stars Insider – August 2011

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

It’s now easier to find the Seven Stars Insider Web site:  Simply go to:  www.sevenstarsinsider.com

Lake Tahoe

Signature Event
Lots of folks are not happy that the official invitations didn’t arrive in the mail until just about a month before the Event, set for August 18-21.  (Some people got theirs via e-mail and were directed to make arrangements through their local host.)  In addition, several people reported difficulties in getting through on the toll-free number to make their reservations.  Others received an invitation which included a hotel stay, not at Lake Tahoe, but in Reno (with transportation provided daily between the two venues)!  That’s at least an hour away.  Kind of like inviting someone to the Event in Atlantic City, but putting them up outside Philadelphia.

According to the web site, “Let Harrah’s and Harveys [sic] Lake Tahoe entertain you for four days amidst the picturesque setting of the Sierra Nevada.  With so many spectacular outdoor activities to choose from, we’ve designed a personal Tahoe Adventure just for you!  Also, look forward to enjoying great music under the stars at our Harveys Lake Tahoe Outdoor Arena, featuring Grammy® and Academy of Country Music Awards winner Miranda Lambert on August 19.  The fun does not stop there, with a Seven Stars only Millionaire Maker Slot Qualifier and many more exciting offers to come!”

Considering it’s just a little more than two weeks before the event, why does the Web site still say, “Check back soon for updates” when the site hasn’t been updated in months?  If no one is going to maintain and update these Web sites, why even bother?  [And why list the three Events in an order different from how they are scheduled?  Ever since I found the site, in my mind, I thought the Lake Tahoe Event was going to be in October.]

Las Vegas

Harrah’s

The More Things Change. . .
Those of you who were frequenting Las Vegas back in 2007 may remember when the Diamond Lounges were serving “real” food.  Here’s a link someone sent me to a blog that wrote about it (and included photos):

New Orleans

October Signature Event
To be offered on two separate weekends, October 6-9 or 13-16 (that second weekend coincides with the Crescent City Blues and Barbecue Festival), the final 2011 Signature Event will be held in New Orleans.  Already announced are an open-air dinner at the Crazy Lobster Restaurant on the pier near the river, a boat ride on the Mississippi, a cooking demonstration and dinner in the theater featuring chef John Besh, and a ride on a Mardi Gras float from Harrah’s hotel to Bourbon Street where participants will disembark and be entertained on two terraces overlooking the street.  Of course, again, nothing about this is listed on the Web site.

Harrah’s Cherokee  (North Carolina)

Seven Stars Lounge
I stand corrected!  Last month I wrote that the only Seven Stars Lounges were located at Caesars and Harrah’s Resort in Atlantic City, and at the Horseshoe in Hammond, Ind.  In addition, there is a Seven Stars Lounge just off the Fresh Market Square Buffet at Harrah’s Cherokee.  Several years ago when I visited Cherokee’s Diamond Lounge (now also called the VIP Lounge or Seven Sisters Lounge) there was a separate Seven Stars section that offered a special menu from which you could order a selection of sandwiches prepared to order.  If anyone wants to send me information about the Seven Stars Lounge, I will be happy to publish it.

Harrah’s Chester  (Pennsylvania)

Getting It Right
As opposed to the modest offerings at Caesars July 4th fireworks viewing party in Atlantic City (see below), Harrah’s Chester did it right a few weeks later with a champagne barbeque on the terrace of its racetrack grandstand.  Beautiful white floral arrangements graced all the tables, while a Jimmy Buffet-style band entertained.  The menu consisted of mini-Kobe beef hot dogs, “All-American Sliders” (mini-hamburgers), corn on the cob, delicious barbequed chicken (which had been marinated in Coke and bourbon – yum!), fingerling potato salad and an ice cream sundae bar – along with a full bar featuring top-shelf brands (not just champagne).  And to the credit of an “on the ball” food and beverage staffer, when I requested a non-alcoholic beer (which I didn’t realize wasn’t being offered), he practically flew back inside and brought an ice-cold Sharp’s to my table.  Talk about great customer service!  I’m just sorry I didn’t get his name.

You’ve Come A Long Way, Baby
After four – often less-than-satisfying, but always improving – Sunday brunches at the Cove, I’m happy to report that on the fifth they finally got it right.  Like stars aligning in the heavens, service and food really came together July 31.  Management had added more employees, and the wait staff seemed more comfortable in their roles – which in the evening are considerably different from when they serve diners ordering from a menu, rather than selecting their own food from a buffet.  It’s not perfect, but expect even more improvements in the weeks to come.  If you tried the Cove’s Sunday brunch in the past and walked away disappointed, give it another shot – I think you’ll like what you find.  [One small quibble: How about some variations on the menu?  While I’d hate to see that wonderful cucumber, tomato and mozzarella salad disappear, perhaps the chefs have some other interesting combinations they’d like to showcase.  Same with the chicken breasts and risotto, and the crab-stuffed fish with polenta.  If you’re going to try to cultivate a “regular” crowd, my guess is that folks are getting tired of the same entrees week after week.]
Atlantic City

Bally’s

Half The Credit For The Same Play
It’s clearly marked, but those 98% pay “Wild Party” slots near the escalators on Bally’s main casino floor earn only half the number of tier credits as all other machines.  For example, instead of $5 of play earning one tier credit, it takes $10 – similar to how video poker players earn TR credits.  The real beneficiaries are those who don’t have a player’s card and, theoretically, will get more return on their “investments”.

Caesars

Seven Stars Lounge
A good description of the new lounge can be found at this link:

I’m not sure how long it will be available online, but it’s from The Press of Atlantic City’s weekly At The Shore.  It’s unfortunate there were no comments solicited from Seven Stars cardholders who have visited the lounge.  The feedback I’m getting is less than positive (on the décor, the food and the service), but folks are willing to give management and the kitchen some time to get their act together.  The problem is that Alisa Hammill and her team at Harrah’s Resort have set the bar so high – and, let’s face it, there is a “comfort factor” over there since it’s been open for so long.

Menu Mystery
While I’m always grateful to be included in some of the nice parties hosted by Caesars, I was a little surprised by the food offerings at the private viewing party for the July 4th fireworks.  While the invitation promised “our favorite 4th of July food,” what was served were hot dogs, mini hoagies, funnel cakes, and a few other items (which I can’t recall because I was so disappointed with what I saw).  I have no problem with hot dogs and hoagies, but I’d like something to go along with it, e.g., potato salad, cole slaw, or even some potato chips. I ended up next door at Trump Plaza eating a hamburger with some french fries, and then returned for the fireworks. (I also took in my own cocktail because I’m suspicious of invitations that promise “signature cocktails”. Too many times that means some fruity drink made with vodka or rum – and no other options. Turns out there was a full bar, but I wasn’t about to take a chance.)  And, finally, who sat in that special roped-off section?  It seemed a little odd to give special treatment to such a small select group of people.

Harrah’s Resort

Off The Hook: Now You See It, Now You Don’t
One month, five stays in five different rooms in the Waterfront Tower, and in three of the bathrooms there were no towel holders.  Is someone stealing them?  Have they been declared some sort of hazard, and management removed them?  What’s up?  Unless you know what’s supposed to be there, it just appears that part of a towel bar might be missing.  (Maybe, because it was July, the towel holders were on vacation somewhere with the notepads and pens, as well as the coffee packets and laundry bags that used to be in the rooms too.)

It’s Called A Pep Rally, Not A Dinner
The invitation promised a “chance to sit down to an invitation-only dinner with your fellow VIPs and all your favorite TV chefs.”  What it turned out to be was 1,199 other guests and I – and no TV chefs I could spot – crowded around tables of 12 (that would have more comfortably seated 10).  Taking our seats around 10 p.m., we were faced with an underdressed and lifeless “salad” of mixed greens, “hiding” a thick slice of under-ripe, pale and tasteless tomato.  Adding insult to injury, as my father used to say, nearly 45 minutes later (about 40 minutes after everyone had finished his/her salad), out came chef Robert Irvine in his trademark tight T-shirt and tattered jeans.  He insisted that everyone stand up, wave their arms, and “hoop ‘n’ holler” – even to the point of barging into the audience to embarrass anyone who wasn’t intimidated by his threats to keep up this madness (and hold dinner until everyone cooperated).  Even though I had a front row seat to his much-anticipated cooking demonstration, I’d had enough and walked out.  (It also didn’t help that one of the servers assigned to our table had overwhelming body odor!)  According to some who remained, dinner was finally served around 11:15, but the menu, preparation and presentation were nothing extraordinary.  Me?  I had dinner at Dos Caminos – more on that next month.

Table For Two At Luke Palladino – Oceanview, Please
Browsing once again through the [still out-dated] in-room guest guide, John D. Smith –  in his “A Few Words From The General Manager” – writes, “You’ll enjoy a dining experience where the delicious cuisine and attentive service are only surpassed by breathtaking ocean views.”  Huh?  What ocean views?  Perhaps Mr. Smith needs to spend a little time walking around his hotel to familiarize himself with the restaurants.  I’m not aware of any restaurants at Harrah’s Resort with ocean views.  Last time I checked, Harrah’s was located in the Marina District, not on the Boardwalk.  [And, by the way, it’s McCormick & Schmick’s, not McCormick & Schmicks – there goes that aversion to apostrophes again!  And it’s: “surpassed only” not “only surpassed”.]

Gone, But Not Forgotten
Though he resigned in April, former Senior Vice President and General Manager Jay Snowden is still “signing” letters.  I received one July 23 thanking me for playing at Harrah’s Resort and informing me that I had earned slot dollars on a prior visit.

General
Seven Stars Countdown
For the benefit of those Diamond cardholders who aspire to Seven Stars status – and those former Seven Stars cardholders who may be returning to the fold this year – let’s track how long it takes.  I know someone who topped 100,000 tier points July 29.  On July 30 he contacted his host, but she insisted she wasn’t aware of this since “her system” takes 24 to 48 hours to register tier points.  (Odd, because this player’s My TR iPhone app – see more on this below – was up-to-date, as were the computers at Total Rewards, the Rewards Kiosks and the readouts on the slot machines)  I’ll keep you posted each step of the way to detail what happens when, and how long it takes to actually receive the coveted blue card.

Clubs or Lounges?  Seven Stars or Seven Star?
OK, this is not a big deal, but why the inconsistency?  Most of the literature calls them Diamond and Seven Stars Lounges, but the names posted outside many of the facilities call them Clubs.  Ditto with Seven Star and Seven Stars.  Which is it?  [The cards say Seven Stars Club.]

Total Touch – Totally Frustrating
Speaking of consistency, there seems to be none when it comes to everyone’s encounters with Total Touch.  In terms of beverage service, it’s been “hit or miss” or me – but my only experiences are at Bally’s in Atlantic City or Harrah’s Chester in Pennsylvania.  Either the drink arrives within five minutes or not at all.  However, for a company that is doing everything it can to promote itself as “green” why does it mail so much paper and make it so cumbersome to download free slot play?  Here are step-by-step examples of what it takes at Bally’s vs. practically every other non-Caesars casino:

Bally’s
Other Casinos
1.      Computer assigns amount of promotional free play.
1.      Computer assigns amount of promotional free play.
2.      Computer assigns random 3-digit code.
2.      Casino alerts customer via e-mail.
3.      Casino prints special coupon with code.
3.      Customer goes to casino, inserts player’s card into slot machine.
4.      Casino mails coupon to customer.
4.      Customer enters 4-digit PIN.
5.      Customer must remember to bring coupon (or memorize/write down the code and have it when he/she arrives at casino
5.      Customer touches appropriate button on keypad, e.g., 1 to download free play, 2 to check comps, 3 to check tier score, etc.
6.      Customer inserts player’s card into slot machine
6.      Customer selects amount of free play to download.
7.      Customer touches “Use Offer” button.
7.      Play is downloaded.
8.      Customer enters 4-digit PIN.

9.      At prompt, customer enters 3-digit code.

10.  Play is downloaded.

And, this is if the system is working properly.  I had to go to three different machines before I could find one that would accept my offer last month.  Plus, it takes an annoyingly long time for the system to register your card.  You could get hypnotized sitting there watching those silly little “balls” banging against themselves while the screen reads “One Moment Please” – which, of course, frustrates me because it should read, “One Moment, Please”.

Aside from fewer steps – and the fact that the Bally’s system involves printing and mailing unnecessary coupons (why not just e-mail the 3-digit code and the dates/times the free play is valid?), the customer has to remember to bring the coupon – or at least write down the code or commit it to memory.  But what if you’ve been traveling and not checked your mail?  Under other casinos’ systems, all you need to do is insert your player’s card into any slot machine, log-on with your PIN, and check to see if you have any free play.  Hopefully, Total Touch is set-up to offer a similar system in the future.

Nothing Express About Express Play
As has been pointed out before, at those casinos without Total Touch, there are similar multi-step procedures – unless the casino has mailed you a coupon you can take directly to a slot machine.  Otherwise you have to:
1.      Find a kiosk (which could be a “Promotional Kiosk” or a “Total Rewards Kiosk” – read the fine print on your offer).
2.      Swipe your player’s card.
3.      Enter your PIN.
4.      Download a voucher.
5.      Go to a cashier and exchange the voucher for “generic” Express Play coupons.
6.      Take the coupons to a slot machine to redeem your free play.

Making it even more complicated is the fact that many of the generic Express Play coupons expire the day you receive them, or within five or six days; others are good for up to a month, and still others, up to a year.  Again, if Caesars is serious about reducing waste, print more coupons with longer validation periods.

Time For Some Spelling, Grammar and Punctuation Lessons?
Maybe Caesars should consider sending its copywriters back to school for some refresher courses.

Last month Caesars in Atlantic City sent invitations offering complimentary “accomodations” during the Food & Wine Festival, and Harrah’s Chester still can’t seem to figure out whether to use “its” or “it’s” in promotional copy or in signage.

Now comes an invitation from Harrah’s Joliet that says: “CONGRATULATIONS ON YOUR GM CLUB MEMBERSHIP AND ENJOY IT’S MANY BENEFITS.”

[It’s actually easy to remember which word to use:  If you can substitute “is” for the “’s” and the sentence makes sense, you’ve used the proper word.  In the example above, it’s clearly wrong because it would read:  “Congratulations on your GM Club membership and enjoy it is many benefits.”]

Of course, what can you expect from such an “apostrophe-conflicted” company?  Why are there never any apostrophes in Caesars?  Or Harveys at Lake Tahoe (which sometimes in copy uses an apostrophe, but not in the official logo)?  Then there’s that poster for Straight, No Chaser (see below) in the elevator at Harrah’s Resort in Atlantic City on which Harrah’s is spelled both with – and without – an apostrophe.

A mailing from Las Vegas for a “Bring A Friend Cruise Giveaway” asks you to “bring a friend along [and] they (emphasis added) will also receive a complimentary three-night stay. . . .”  Further in the copy it states, “. . .have your friend sign up to become a member of Total Rewards and they (emphasis added) will be entered into a drawing. . . .”  The word “they” requires a plural reference, e.g., “friends”.  To be perfectly – and politically – correct, the copy should read, “he or she” or “he/she”.  (Also, the word “along” is superfluous.)

Unless the rules are different in Canada, someone needs to correct the copy below.  The “valued guest” referred to in this VIP offers mailing is the player to whom it was addressed; “we” is Caesars Windsor.  Last time I checked, those references needed to “agree”.  Try, “As a valued guest, you are being rewarded with something everybody can use. . . .” – except, that is, if you only ride public transportation, or pedal a bicycle!

And, I missed one big blunder until just last month. . .

The Seven Stars book detailing all the benefits (and which is available online) spells “accommodations” wrong:

At least they used the correct “complimentary”!

My TR
I finally downloaded this app to my iPhone. . .what a disappointment!  About the only thing it’s good for is checking your current tier score and available comp dollars.  It also might be useful if you’re traveling and need directions to the nearest Caesars casino.  Other than that, the individual casino listings are pretty lame and don’t really give you much information.  And, when they do, it’s generally overblown hype that reads like something written by a first-year copywriting student at the local community college.  Worse, it’s woefully out-of-date, or, in some cases totally undecipherable.  Here’s an example from the Harrah’s Chester site:

Gaming
Our renowned casino now features table games!  [Yes, since July 2010 – see below.]

Live Table Games
Scheduled to open July 18*, Harrah’s Chester will be home to the largest table games offering in Pennsylvania and Delaware. . .as well as a 25 table Poker Room.  [That was July 18, 2010!  And there is no indication what that asterisk refers to.]

Slots
Now open!  [Yes, since the casino opened, duh.]

Racing
The 2008 season features 140 live days from April 20 through December 18.  [Isn’t this 2011?]

Events/Entertainment
The highlight of the culinary options at Harrah’s Chester is , with stunning views of the racetrack and the river.  The $34.99 Cove features a Prix Fixe.  for more details.  Other dining alternatives include. .and is open daily, offering all your favorite concession food in the simulcast and racing area.  [What?!?  Doesn’t anyone read these things before they’re posted?]

Harveys [sic] Lake Tahoe’s site doesn’t fare much better:

Spend the night in one of our spectacular restaurants.  [Why, are there no hotel rooms available?]  When it comes to fun and excitement, Harvey’s Lake Tahoe is the place to be! to watch our exciting Food and Wine Festival video.  [Again, does no one review these postings?]

I didn’t check every casino’s site, but these two were among the worst I reviewed.

Annual Getaway Grief
If Caesars really wants to promote its Total Rewards Visa card, why not just download the $1,200 annual getaway travel credit on a pre-paid card?  Or just ask travellers to submit their ticket at the destination and get a reimbursement – similar to what’s done in any number of offers Caesars sends out from its various casinos?   In other words, let Seven Stars cardholders have the option of making their own travel arrangements.  That way, someone who may have a fear of a flying could drive, and use the funds for fuel and tolls, or take a train or bus.  It also would be quicker and simpler for travelers who prefer specific airlines, want to use miles to upgrade, etc.  Hosts have enough to do without serving as go-betweens arranging travel for these annual trips.  In the past, I’ve found it to be nothing but a hassle – and I’ve even written some tips which are posted on the Seven Stars Insider Web site.

Time For A Total Total Rewards Makeover?
If the volume of e-mail I received is any indication, this is a real “hot button” for players.  With a majority of Seven Stars (and “high Diamond”) cardholders as subscribers, it makes sense that the overwhelming number of respondents agreed with my suggestions.  However, even some Diamond cardholders admitted they were getting a pretty good deal, especially compared to how they’re treated at other casinos with the same amount of play.  The problem, as many pointed out, is that Caesars would need to announce changes to be effective more than a year from now, or simply “grandfather” certain players under the current system for a limited period of time.  [What do you do, some wrote, with a person who has already earned 11,000 tier points since April 1 and expects Diamond status through March 31, 2013?  Not much, other than restrict benefits, e.g., charge 10 comp dollars for entry into the Atlantic City Diamond Lounges (and maybe all Diamond Lounges throughout the country?).]  It’s an interesting dilemma. . .continue to alienate your best players, or risk offending, i.e., losing, some of your lower-level players?  I guess we just have to leave it up to the CET execs making the big bucks.

Children At Casino-Sponsored Events
There’s an old expression, “I just love having children for dinner – preferably roasted rare, and paired with a nice cabernet.”  Seriously, I have nothing against children, but what were they doing both at the July 4th fireworks-viewing party at Caesars and the celebrity chef dinner at Harrah’s Resort in Atlantic City last month?  Even the disclaimer on the back of the chef dinner’s invitation it states, “Must be 21 or older. . .to participate in any Caesars Entertainment promotion.”

Number One Complaint?  Housekeeping
Of all the e-mails I receive each month, the number one complaint is about housekeeping – from the cleanliness of the rooms and hallways to the lack of amenities, e.g., notepads, ice bucket inserts (plastic bags), drinking glasses, “Do Not Disturb” signs, pens, coffee, laundry bags, etc.  In fairness, these are the same complaints nagging non-casino hotels, as well.  Despite “green initiatives” that save some time by not making housekeepers change sheets on a daily basis, corporate cutbacks have forced housekeepers to clean more rooms, and time constraints cause less attention to detail.  While I agree with these complaints – and have lodged them myself, I also am tired of seeing dirty Room Service trays sitting in hallways for hours at a time, scratched up furniture and other painted surfaces, ripped sheets, and stained and soiled bedding “accessories” – I don’t know what you call those long pieces of fabric that cover the duvet.  Last month during several stays at Harrah’s Resort in Atlantic City, on one visit there was only a single glass in the bathroom, on others, coffee packets were not replaced (or weren’t in the room to begin with), there were no pads or pens, the “Do Not Disturb” sign was missing (causing an unwanted early wake-up call by a housekeeper), there were no laundry bags,  no plastic bag liners for the ice bucket, the bottom sheet on my bed was ripped to shreds on the side, and then there was that aforementioned piece of soiled and stained green fabric adorning the foot of my bed.  I’m no germaphobe, but even I couldn’t throw it off onto the floor fast enough.  This is not what I would call an example of the “world-class accommodations” Senior Vice President & General Manager John D. Smith touts in his “A Few Words From The General Manager”.  Also irritating is having to plug in the lamps on either side of the bed.  In a proposal to potential investors several months ago, Caesars actually bragged about how much time housekeepers saved by not plugging in lamps they had unplugged in order to operate their vacuums!  So, how do you feel?  Send me an e-mail (sevenstarsinsider@gmail.com) and I’ll share your thoughts – anonymously, of course.

Darryl D. McEwen, Publisher
Seven Stars Insider

Seven Stars Insider is affiliated in any way with Caesars Entertainment or Total Rewards®.

Baseball Futures: World Series

Spring Training is here and it’s time for baseball!  This is one of my favorite times of the year.  Since I’m so stoked I think it’s time to look forward to the season with MLB futures odds.  We’ll look at the futures from sportsbook.com from division winners and then to win the world series.  As always, check sportsbook.com for exact odds as they change all the time.

I don’t like to make many futures bets, in part, because I don’t like to have my money tied up for almost an entire year.  That being said I decided to make one baseball futures play this year and that’s all.  I shared that with you yesterday with the NL Championship futures.

Besides the Brewers, my lone plays for the season is watching as many games as possible and playing in my one fantasy baseball.  I don’t think much about the options beyond the favorites (Phillies and Red Sox) for the World Series and betting chalk bores me so I stay away.  Click any team below to go to sportsbook.com for up to date odds.

World Series

Arizona Diamondbacks +10000
Atlanta Braves +2000
Baltimore Orioles +6000
Boston Red Sox +400
Chicago Cubs +3000
Chicago White Sox +2500
Cincinnati Reds +2500
Cleveland Indians +20000
Colorado Rockies +2500
Detroit Tigers    +2500
Florida Marlins +3500
Houston Astros     +10000
Kansas City Royals +20000
Los Angeles Angels +2500
Los Angeles Dodgers +3000
Milwaukee Brewers +3000
Minnesota Twins +2000
New York Mets +6000
New York Yankees +700
Oakland Athletics +5000
Philadelphia Phillies +200
Pittsburgh Pirates +20000
San Diego Padres +10000
San Francisco Giants +1500
Seattle Mariners +10000
St Louis Cardinals +1600
Tampa Bay Rays +2500
Texas Rangers +2000
Toronto Blue Jays +6000
Washington Nationals +10000