Seven Stars Insider – September Edition

Maroon 5 Total Rewards Concert
Maroon 5 at Total Rewards Concert

Here are highlights from the latest edition of Seven Stars Insider. As always it has 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 still long but full of information. Head over to Seven Stars Insider to sign up for the newsletter.

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.

LAS VEGAS

‘Book Me On The Next Flight To LAS!’
Once again Caesars marketing folks have outdone themselves in the “dumb offers” department. Why would they offer complimentary accommodations and show tickets as a special incentive to travel to Las Vegas when, as a Seven Stars cardholder, I’m entitled to these benefits anyway?

LAUGHLIN

‘Toys’ Aren’t Us
Justifying the request by citing the increasing popularity of bachelor and bachelorette parties, inspired perhaps by such films as “The Hangover”, Caesars has petitioned Clark County to allow casino gift shops to sell a limited inventory of sex toys and other “marital aids”. However, members of the Laughlin Town Advisory sent a strong message to county commissioners by voting to deny the request. The issue will go before the Board of County Commissioners on September 18.

ATLANTIC CITY

Dream On
The fourth – and final – planned installment of the popular nightly light show at Boardwalk Hall is now on display. Titled “AC Dreamin’”, it features two people who, after taking a train ride to Atlantic City, discover a variety of things the city has to offer. It features the same assortment of animation, music, video and 3-D lighting as the three other shows that have been produced over the past year, but this time there is a story with people and narration. In the eight-minute video the two people stay in a luxurious hotel, enjoy rides and games on the Boardwalk, and observe an underwater beach.

Go East, Young Man
The “mystery man” I chose not to identify last month is Rick Mazer, a top Las Vegas gambling executive, who started his career 30 years ago as a craps dealer. According to several published reports, in a filing last month with the New Jersey Casino Control Commission, Mazer applied for licensing as a key employee, senior vice president and general manager of Harrah’s Resort.

In addition, Caesars spokesman Gary Thompson said Mazer will oversee the $125.8 million convention center expansion at Harrah’s and the company’s proposed $1 billion hotel-casino development Suffolk Downs Race Track in East Boston, Mass. He comes to Atlantic City after serving as president of Harrah’s, Flamingo and The Quad in Las Vegas, as well as overseeing the $550 million Linq project that will include retail shops, restaurants and a 550-foot “High Roller” observation wheel. Prior to his Las Vegas tenure, Mazer was general manager of the Horseshoe Hammond in Indiana.

No word on what role, if any, Mazer will have in the management of Bally’s, Caesars and Showboat, as well as Harrah’s Philadelphia in Chester, Pa.

Was It Something I Said?
The Boardwalk Buffet at Caesars will close September 16 for much needed improvements. In the meantime, those who crave a breakfast buffet will have to settle for the tasteless, rubbery pre-made omelets, greasy bacon and other abominations at Café Roma.

PHILADELPHIA

Get Into The Kitchen
If you’re in the Philadelphia area – or plan to travel there, Harrah’s has a unique venue to hold your annual Seven Stars celebration dinner. Its Chef’s Table in the kitchen at The Cove will dazzle you and your guests, and make the evening a truly special occasion.

The Chef’s Table can accommodate up to 10 people, and the menu can be tailored just about any way you want. Do you prefer an Asian or Italian-themed meal? No problem. Have a certain budget in mind? They’ll work with you. Have a particular entrée in mind? Chef Erick will prepare it to your specifications. Want to just order off the regular menu, but watch how your meal is prepared? Done!

If you’ve never witnessed a professional restaurant kitchen in action – short of “Top Chef” or one of those television reality shows – this is your opportunity.

You just need to give them advance notice so they can work out the menu and other details with you. Contact your host to get things started.

Special Seven Stars Benefits
Harrah’s knows how to treat its Seven Stars
cardholders:

  •  Look for the special Seven Stars-only cashier at the main cage. You can’t miss the sign over the entrance to two dedicated windows. You may have to ring the bell to get some service because they’re not always staffed, but, while you’re waiting, you can always enjoy a delicious piece of wrapped chocolate with the Seven Stars logo. You might even want to slip a couple pieces of the delicious morsels in your pocket – just don’t forget or you’ll find a gooey mess once you return home. Yep, I’ll admit it, I did just that! What a mess!
  • To check into the Diamond Lounge, look for the dedicated path leading to the desk where you’ll be the next person called if there’s a line. (I’ve heard staff members warning of up to 45-minute – or longer – waits to get in on a busy weekend night.) Someone also comes to greet and escort you to special reserved tables by the windows overlooking the racetrack.
  • The Seven Stars Happy Hour is still held on Fridays, but the time has changed. It’s now from 5 to 7 p.m. in the lounge at the Cove. In addition to complimentary cocktails for the Seven Stars cardholder and a guest, passed hors d’ouevre are served.

AND IN OTHER INSIDER NEWS. . . .

Love Boat
With few exceptions, nearly everyone I heard from raved about their Signature Experience cruise to Bermuda last month. There was some minor quibbling about an overly crowded cocktail reception at the hotel in New York the night before the cruise, but, overall, it sounds like Caesars earned its “A+” on this one. A second and third cruise have been scheduled for this month and next, respectively.

Getting To Know You – Part One
If there is one question I get most often, it’s: “Why can’t casinos better tailor their offers to my schedule?”

Players frequently complain that their mailboxes are filled with offers of free food and bonus slot play, but they’re valid on days when they never travel to their favorite casinos. “I get offers for $50 in food and $150 in free play all the time, but they’re good only Monday through Thursday,” one person told me. “Can’t they tell by my play that I only travel here on weekends? It’s like they know I can’t use these offers, but they think I’ll be impressed just by receiving them. Guess what? It just angers me and makes me
want to play someplace else.”

Getting To Know You – Part Two
Speaking of tailoring offers to customers, one Seven Stars cardholder sent me his offer of a comp room in Atlantic City, as well as the chance to convert Reward Credits into free slot play. “Considering that, with 48 hours’ notice, I’m supposed to be able to get comp rooms anywhere – OK, I know there are some exceptions – why can’t my mailer from Harrah’s Resort recognize my Seven Stars status and include some other sort of promotion or ad?” he writes. “Also, as a Seven Stars cardholder I’m supposed to be able to convert my Reward Credits for slot play at a discount – $5 for 675 Reward Credits (a ‘retail value’ of $6.75), yet my mailer is telling me it’s $5 for 1,000 credits (a ‘retail value’ of $10’).”

Door Stop
Companion cardholders who have access to a Diamond Lounge based on their own play should show their Diamond cards when they check-in. I’ve heard several reports of players being embarrassed when they were told they couldn’t bring a guest into the lounge. The person at the door just didn’t pay attention and assumed that these Companion cardholders weren’t eligible for entry based on their own play.

Gifts That Keep On Giving
How many more sets of luggage, pots and pans, or manufacturers’ close-outs do we really need? Last month, for example, Bally’s and Harrah’s Resort in Atlantic City gave out pancake makers and breakfast sandwich makers. Do any of us really need these? I don’t know about you, but I’m trying to reduce clutter in my kitchen. If the casinos are going to continue to dole out gifts, how about something useful like the ubiquitous gas cards or Visa gift cards?

At least these don’t have to be shipped across country, warehoused and delivered to ballrooms for distribution – and then schlepped home by us. Code Green, anyone?

Hold On
Apparently no one from Total Rewards has been subjected to the monotonous – and out-of-date – “on hold” message you get while you’re waiting to make a reservation or calling with a question. For approximately three minutes – and then it repeats – you hear blurbs about Lake Tahoe, Atlantic City, Tunica, etc., as well as the newest addition to Total Rewards, Horseshoe Casino in Cincinnati “which will open this spring”

Survey Says. . .
Last month I asked you whether you preferred attending city- or casino-specific events open to all Seven Stars cardholders, e.g., the events in 2012 held in Atlantic City and Las Vegas, or having your choice of several different types of events. The responses fell into two categories: those who were able to reserve space on the August cruise to Bermuda and those who didn’t. Those who went on the cruise hope another one is scheduled next year, not only because they really enjoyed themselves, but because they also felt the entire package had a much greater monetary value than any of the other choices. The rest preferred the types of weekend events which were held in the past.

This Month’s Survey
My guess is that the staff at Total Rewards is already working on the details of next year’s Seven Stars (and Diamond and Platinum) program, hopefully tweaking some rules and considering suggestions from its many surveys. Here is a portion of my “wish list”:

  • For the annual retreat and Level I Signature Experience, allow the $500 folio credit to be used for food and beverage, as well as other charges such as spa treatments, in-house show tickets, etc. Many of us travel alone and cannot possibly use that amount of money on meals. Plus, if you’re staying at a casino that does not allow Reward Credits to be used for alcoholic beverages, or you don’t drink alcoholic beverages, that makes it all the more difficult to spend the $500.
  • Offer an option or some sort of alternative for those who don’t like to travel or travel by air. The annual retreat and the Level I Signature Experience each currently includes up to a $1,200 airfare reimbursement. While I know that concessions have been made “privately” for some customers, why not codify this “officially” with some alternatives that might include a mileage reimbursement for those who prefer to drive or offer some variation of the popular “stay-cation” where someone can choose a retreat at his/her “home” casino and get the transportation credit in the form of free play or a gift card?
  • For those who are comfortable making their own travel arrangements, let us skip the “middleman” [a casino host] and make our own travel arrangements with Passport? And, while you’re at it, waive that $10 per ticket charge that Passport imposes. After all, you’re forcing us to use Caesars own travel agency, then you take $10 per ticket off whatever amount you’re giving us as a reward for our play.
  • Don’t force us to have that one-time $500 celebration dinner. Many of us have a difficult time organizing a group for dinner, or don’t live near a local casino where we can invite our friends and family to dine. Just add extra Reward Credits to our account, and let us spend them as we choose.
  • We all have different “needs” and tastes, so offer free play or a gift card as one of the options for the annual gift. I know you’re trying to give Seven Stars cardholders a variety of benefits, e.g., a trip, a dinner, a gift, etc., but, at this stage in our lives, most of have just about everything we want or have the ability to purchase it.

I could go on and on, but I’d like to hear from you. What changes would you make to the 2014-2015 Seven Stars program? Send me an email and I’ll share your thoughts – anonymously, of course.

 

Ranking MGM Las Vegas Hotels By Revenue

Bellagio Las Vegas Hotel And Fountain Show at Night
Bellagio At Night

Ranking casinos owned by the same company comes in handy more often than you think. If you’re looking for cheaper rooms, just look to the bottom of the list. If you’re looking for the most players club comps, just look to the bottom of the list. If you’re looking for better gaming odds, you’ll typically look at the bottom (but not always) of the list . If you want to hang with the masses, look to the top of the list because that’s where the money is being spent.

Last week MGM Resorts International reported their quarterly earnings. As part of that information it was easy to pull out how the casino hotels in Las Vegas were doing. In fact, it was real easy since the awesome Stiffs & Georges blog already did it.

  1. Bellagio, $303M
  2. MGM Grand, $255M
  3. Mandalay Bay, $205M
  4. The Mirage, $142M
  5. Luxor, $83M
  6. Excalibur, $70
  7. New York-New York $69M
  8. Monte Carlo, $69M
  9. Circus Circus, $51M

The revenue is fairly in line with how Mlife has the properties ranked when you’re looking for players club comps. If you’re looking at Monte Carlo or New York-New York I recommend you making your plans sooner than later because they should climb the priority chart when the construction is completed next year.

The Mirage is also undergoing a few renovations to freshen it up but it shouldn’t climb much, if any, on the MGM Resorts hotel rankings.

My final thought is more about the revenue for the MGM Resorts hotels than the rankings. It looks like the kiddie corner of the Vegas Strip (Mandalay Bay through Excalibur) is going pretty well. The better the hotels on the south end of the Vegas Strip do the more families and kids it will attract and the less chances that they will have me return as a curious visitor.

If this kiddie corner is creating a niche for MGM Resorts to make more money then it’s a win-win for the company and for me.  It keeps kids away from the casinos I like in Las Vegas and makes MGM Resorts more money.

Photo: Wandermom 

Seven Stars Insider – August Edition

Penn jillette Total Rewards
Penn jillette

Here are highlights from the latest edition of Seven Stars Insider. As always it has 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.

ATLANTIC CITY

‘Do I Hear $30?’
Video poker messages boards are buzzing about some machines in Las Vegas that require $25 “coin in” to earn one tier credit. VP players have always needed to play twice as much as us slot machine players ($10 coinin for one tier credit), and the fear is that this policy will start finding its way into other markets where Caesars has casinos.

Eat Your Pickles – or No Dessert!
Bally’s held a pickle-eating contest on the Boardwalk last month to promote the re-opening of Pickles Deli and its new self-service ordering system.

Belt and Suspenders
Why is Caesars sending an email to alert customers they will be getting offers in the mail? Also, what’s with that first sentence? Who writes this stuff? What does “Iconic as Caesars is” have to do with the rest of the sentence – or, for that matter, the entire paragraph?

Bored-walk Buffet
Customers at Caesars Boardwalk Buffet were a little taken by surprise last month when the venue changed its schedule to offer only brunch for $25 (beginning at 9 a.m.) and dinner for $32 (from 2 p.m. to closing). I was there for lunch one weekday around 1:30, and heard lots of grousing over the price – plus the fact that there were no longer breakfast and lunch options at a price point less than $25, and that dinner prices kicked in as early as 2.

Even worse was the fact that half the buffet contained heaping piles of dried up pancakes, waffles and French toast, along with overcooked bacon and sausage that hardly anyone was eating at that hour. An egg/omelet station attendant was basically standing around waiting for the changeover to “dinner” service when it would become a pasta station.

The other additions to the menu – pizza, grilled “steaks” and more vegetable choices – didn’t seem to justify the $7 premium, especially when compared to the more creative and upscale fare across town at the Borgata where the dinner buffet is $31.95 (but only $10 each for a Borgata Black Label cardholder and a guest).

A week or so later I returned for breakfast when the buffet opened at 9 and found the opposite situation. Lots of unappealing “lunch” items (mussels, clams, turkey breast, sliced carrots, broccoli and several Chinese specialties) that already looked “tired” even though the buffet had just opened – and which hardly anyone was eating.

Notably missing from the brunch menu, though, were bananas, fresh strawberries, bagels and smoked salmon, though there were plenty of canned pears, peaches and stewed prunes.

Looking for toast? It’s back by the desserts, along with an assortment of pastries and made-to-order waffles.

Apparently, the $25 brunch price includes a mimosa or bloody mary, yet during neither visit did my server offer these. Why not delegate this to the hostess who takes your order for other beverages?

Food and Whine
I attended the Kick Off Party for the Atlantic City Food and Wine Festival last month at The Pool at Harrah’s Resort. I got there about 10 o’clock – three hours after it started and an hour before it ended. There was one long line that extended from halfway on one side of the pool to halfway around the other.

While I think the line was actually for the free Absolut vodka cocktails being served, anyone interested in trying some of the food on that side of the pool couldn’t get to it without standing in line for 30 minutes. Figuring I’d just get a drink and skip the food, I ordered my favorite alcoholic beverage at the bar, only to be handed a bill: “Cash or credit card, no room charges.” Huh? This event doesn’t have an open bar?

When have you been invited to a party hosted by a casino and then asked to pay for a cocktail? [Retail price on the ticket was $55, but I had been comped by my host.] I took my drink and left.

Ever since I attended the opening night pool party at last year’s Seven Stars Signature Event, I’m convinced this is not the venue to hold one of these “Taste of. . .” parties. There’s just not enough room to arrange the various food booths to avoid the inevitable traffic jams. People instinctively form one big line rather than visit each restaurant’s booth individually. Plus, I’m amazed no one fell into the water!

Oh, by the way, I never got to rub elbows with Rocco DiSpirito.

Food and ‘Wow!’
Imagine receiving this invitation: Join us in the Paladium Ballroom at Caesars for a wonderful low-calorie, low-fat, low-sodium, low-sugar dinner. “Uh, thank you, but I’ll pass,” you say. “I’ll just take another slice of pizza with extra cheese.”

Fortunately, the folks at Caesars didn’t show their cards in advance, and everyone sitting in the elegantly decorated ballroom had no clue that the delicious meal they were about to enjoy was just that – a typical casino dinner of salad, surf and turf, and dessert, but with a fraction of the fat, calories, sodium and sugar usually associated with these affairs.

Sitting on each table was a beautiful “relish tray” – when was the last time you saw one of those? – with a variety of heirloom cherry tomatoes, small raw beet quarters, baby carrots, and an assortment of colorful orange, green and purple cauliflower florets. (Did you even know cauliflower came in colors?)

The meal began with a lightly dressed salad of assorted greens, fennel, orange sections and lima beans included several slices
of beautifully seared rare tuna.

The combination entrée featured a perfectly grilled filet – pizzzaiola-style – and a crab and cod cake, along with thin spears of crisp-tender asparagus.

Dessert was a silky smooth panna cotta with sugar-free chocolate and caramel sauces, garnished with fresh blueberries, blackberries and raspberries.

The menu was devised by celebrity chef Rocco DiSpirito and his team, and prepared by Caesars Banquet Chef Tim Davis and his crew.

Just before dessert was served, DiSpirito made a brief appearance to explain how he cut the calories and reduced the fat, plus demonstrated how to make the dessert and its accompanying sauces.

I understand that the following night’s Beach Soirée at Caesars attracted 1,100 guests and was equally successful.

Congratulations!

Under Construction
Construction is underway at Harrah’s Resort on a conference center, billed as the largest of its type in the Northeast. Cost to build the facility is estimated to be $126 million. The project, designed to host corporate meetings complementing the conventions and trade shows at the Atlantic City Convention Center, will include 250,000 square feet of space. In addition, there also will be two ballrooms, each featuring 50,000 square feet of space.

HARRAH’S PHILADELPHIA

Construction Zone
Work is underway to construct new high limit slots and table games areas on the casino floor. There are temporary areas set-up, so you won’t be stuck playing pennies, nickels and quarters while you wait for work to be completed.

Color Blind
Remember this joke when you were a kid: “What’s black and white and ‘red’ all over?” The monthly mailers that Harrah’s Philadelphia sends to its Seven Stars cardholders are black, white, red and grey, and generally look pretty nice. However, when it comes to readability, any Graphics 101 student will tell you not to print red ink on a black background – it’s nearly impossible to read. Add to that the advancing age of many of us Seven Stars cardholders, and it makes it even more difficult to decipher the special code Harrah’s prints for collecting bonus free play on certain days.

No More Temptations
Temptations Buffet is history, but no one is disclosing what will replace it. Several options, some of which include entertainment along with food, are under consideration. Watch this space.

AND IN OTHER INSIDER NEWS…

Companion-ship Does Not Have Its Privileges
Many Seven Stars cardholders became extremely upset last month when “new” rules regarding entry to the Seven Stars and Diamond Lounges, as well as use of the Companion card, became effective – supposedly with no notice – at Harrah’s Resort in Atlantic City. Among these rules:

-Seven Stars cardholders may bring up to only three guests into the lounges. If the Seven Stars cardholder has to leave the lounge for any reason, his/her guests must also leave. And, unless the Companion cardholder checks in first as an individual, if one of the three guests holds the cardholder’s Companion
card, he/she is considered one of the three guests.

– The Companion cardholder may use the lounges only if the primary cardholder is “in the market” – but may not bring any guests. In other words, say you’re in Atlantic City or Las Vegas. The primary cardholder must be a registered hotel guest and/or be showing play in any of the Total Rewards casinos in that
city.

Actually, it turns out that these are not new rules at all. They always have been in place. It’s just that no one ever told anybody, and not every casino was enforcing them. Frankly, with two exceptions, I agree with these rules.

For example, what’s to stop someone from bringing his/her three guests to the Seven Stars Lounge, leaving for 30 minutes, then returning with three more guests? Why should someone be allowed to bring in six guests when I play by the rules and bring no more than three?

And, yes, the Companion cardholder should be counted among the primary cardholder’s three guests. None of the Seven Stars lounges in the country are that large, so there is good reason for these limitations. To put things in perspective, at The Borgata in Atlantic City, the Society Club – Borgata’s equivalent to a Seven Stars lounge – allows Titanium cardholders only three guests. The cardholder and one guest are admitted free of charge. For the other two cardholders, the Titanium cardholder’s comp account is charged $20 each. The Society Club is more than twice the size of either of Atlantic City’s Seven Stars lounges, it is much more elegant (think high ceilings, crystal chandeliers, grand piano), and the food makes what’s served at the Seven Stars lounges seem like high school cafeteria fare. [I’m not being critical of the
lounges or what they serve – particularly at Caesars – but, in comparison to The Borgata, well, there is no comparison.]

What I don’t agree with is the rule that says the primary cardholder must be “in the market” in order for the Companion cardholder to use the Seven Stars or Diamond Lounge. I also think a Companion cardholder visiting the lounge solo should be allowed one guest. (Then if the primary cardholder shows up, he/she should be able to bring just one guest.)

Plus, it turns out, Caesars has a totally different definition of a Companion cardholder than a lot of us do – but never bothered to define it clearly. Here’s the difference between how Caesars and I interpret this benefit:

Basically, Caesars is saying that the “companion” part of Companion card means that this person is accompanying – being a companion to – the primary cardholder, and only benefits when they are traveling together, or are in the same city.

To me and many others, the “companion” part of Companion card referred to the primary cardholder’s relationship – legal or otherwise – to the individual with whom he/she shared this card. I know any number of people who have assigned their Companion cards not necessarily to spouses or “significant others” with whom they live (or don’t live), but to relatives and friends across the country. The reason? They rarely travel together, but wanted to extend some special privileges to these individuals when they’re not together. For example, I know a father who lives in Phoenix and is not a huge gambler, but enjoys occasional excursions to Ak-Chin, Laughlin and Las Vegas. His single son, a Seven Stars cardholder who lives in Ohio, assigned his Companion card to dear old dad. Other than possibly receiving some expedited attention at check-in, preferred seating at dinner or use of a special line at the buffet, he now will receive little benefit from the card. Another person I know lives in Boston, travels frequently and plays all over the country. Not knowing “the rules” he assigned his Companion card to a friend in California who’s not a big player, but travels frequently to Las Vegas and San Diego. Under this new strict enforcement policy, his friend no longer will be able to drop by the Diamond Lounge when he’s playing out there.

Or, what about a situation where a Seven Stars cardholder travels to Tunica, but stays and plays exclusively at the Gold Strike? Not being a gambler, her husband – the Companion cardholder – decides to visit theDiamond Lounge next door at the Horseshoe. Technically, unless she accompanied him, he would be denied admission.

So, what’s the point of having a Companion card if the primary cardholder has to be there? Let’s say a Seven Stars cardholder is traveling with his buddies to Las Vegas for a long weekend. His wife, the Companion cardholder, decides to go to Atlantic City over that same weekend. Following a strict interpretation of these rules, she wouldn’t be allowed in either of the Seven Stars Lounges. This dilutes the value of the Companion card by requiring both parties to be “in the same market”.

Regarding guest privileges, even if the Companion cardholder is traveling with the primary cardholder, perhaps that companion is not a gambler and would just like to enjoy a snack or beverage in the Seven Stars Lounge.

Why not extend the courtesy of allowing those persons someone to enjoy their company so they don’t have to be by themselves? Like the American Express card, membership has its privileges, but not companionship.

Cruise Control
Since I’ve never used my Seven Stars NCL cruise, a reader (who wishes to remain anonymous) wrote an excellent guide to getting the most out of this benefit. I’ve posted it on the Seven Stars Insider Website.

Giving Credit Where Credit Is Due
If you’re playing in a city with two or more Total Rewards casinos – and you play at more than one, good luck finding out how many tier credits you’ve earned that day. I’ve personally experienced this in Atlantic City and Lake Tahoe, and I know others who’ve experienced it in Las Vegas. In Atlantic City, play some at Caesars, then at Showboat, and no one can tell you your total daily tier credits. Check your daily play through Total Touch at Bally’s or Harrah’s, and neither that Caesars nor Showboat play will show up in your Total Daily Tier Credits. Same thing happened to me at Harveys and Harrah’s in Lake Tahoe.

The only way around this is to carry a pad and pen, write down the number of credits earned as you leave each casino, then total them manually. Very frustrating.

Balancing Act
Just as you – hopefully! – balance your checkbook each month, be sure to review your monthly eStatement from Total Rewards. Both my May and June statements had duplicate charges. Kind of makes me wonder how many mistakes I never knew about before these electronic statements. It’s gotten to the point where I now keep copies of my charges – just as I do with American Express.

Now You See It, Now You Don’t
If the Total Rewards app on your smartphone isn’t working, don’t complain to the manufacturer. The app is being revamped and should be back online by the end of the year.

Darryl D. McEwen, Publisher

Photo: Aceshowbiz

Filthy Flamingo Fab Hotel Room

Rusted Faucet In Flamingo Las Vegas Fab Room
Rusted Faucet In Flamingo Fab Room

I’ve stayed at Flamingo a lot over the past few years. I’ve said that I will never return if I have a FAB room. I need to follow through on these kind of statements.

The Flamingo casino isn’t anything special but it’s not too smoky and the gaming usually treats me well. The addition of the Margaritaville casino adds a little brightness to this old casino. The rooms at the Flamingo are hit and miss. The GO rooms are bright and appear to be clean while the FAB rooms are superficially renovated but really just filthy pigs with a quarter of their lips covered with lipstick. You can see a comparison of the two rooms I did on Vegas Chatter.

The FAB sleeping area looks like a cheap hotel room that’s still 10 years behind modern but the awful housekeeping just makes the rooms only appear clean. The rooms are actually never really clean. More on that later. The bathroom in the FAB rooms were never renovated and are falling apart. The sink in the room had a faucet that was rusting (as you can see above) but still working and paint that was peeling on the walls and cabinets. I’ve paid for hotel rooms with worse bathrooms than this comp room but I’ve definitely had cleaner and bathrooms that aren’t falling apart. Here’s half of a room tour video (I deleted the full tour by accident).

Flamingo Las Vegas Fab Executive Queen Room from East Coast Gambler on Vimeo.

Housekeeping didn’t show up for the first day of my stay at Flamingo. My friend and I were gambling and not sober by the time we returned to the room so it didn’t really matter to us. The next day we left early to make sure that the room was cleaned. It wasn’t. Upon return I verbally spoke with a housekeeper who ensured me that the room was to be cleaned next. It wasn’t. I called the front desk but never got through so I hung up after 5 minutes. I finally called VIP services to ask for help getting our room cleaned and housekeeping showed up in 10 minutes. I’m no longer Total Rewards Diamond so it was very nice of them to help.

Housekeeping at Flamingo was horrible. They basically made the beds and switched out towels. They left half-finished day old drinks and various crumbled up papers in the living quarters and hair trimmings in the bathroom.

Purple Drank

My friend and I were hoping that our combined play would get us an upgrade to a GO room which, for some reason, seem to have housekeepers that do their job. At least they show up with new towels and make the beds without being asked. The upgrade we received was to an executive floor and executive FAB room which has extra room for a couch. Not quite what we were hoping for.

The main reason we stayed at Flamingo was because of the pools but this is the last time I’ll stay at the here. Caesars Entertainment and Total Rewards offer so many free rooms that it’s easy to say yes instead of paying for a quality hotel room. There’s a reason Caesars rooms are free.

I tell others that when it comes to hotel rooms in Vegas you get what you pay for. I need to practice what I preach. 

Seven Stars Insider – July 2013 Edition

Maria Menounos Total Rewards
Maria Menounos

Here’s the latest edition of Seven Stars Insider. It’s another 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.

HORSESHOE SOUTHERN INDIANA
Mail Fraud
Last month several players received coupons for other customers (along with their names and Total Rewards number). In some cases, all the coupons were for table games, while the cardholders who received them play only video poker. One player who was affected asked if corrected mailings would be sent, but was told to come to Total Rewards for the information.

LAS VEGAS
A Real Las Vegas Linq, er, Link
MGM Resorts International and Hyatt Hotels Corp. now allow customers to earn points and redeem credits at properties owned by both companies. The agreement links M life tier credits and Hyatt Gold Passport. The relationship connects Hyatt’s more than 450 hotels and resorts worldwide, and MGM Resorts 12 properties in Las Vegas. Starting next month, M life and Gold Passport members will be eligible to opt-in to a reciprocal tier status program. This is one collaboration that finally makes sense. Hopefully, Total
Rewards will catch up and offer a similar partnership with one of the airline or hotel loyalty programs.

Dealers Unionize
Casino dealers at Paris and Bally’s have voted to join the Transport Workers Union. Dealers at Paris voted 105 to 26, while Bally’s dealers voted 183 to 13. The Transport Workers Union, which arrived in Las Vegas in 2000, also represents dealers at Wynn Las Vegas and Caesars Palace.

ATLANTIC CITY
Home. . .Cooking
Those of you who miss Chef Joe Muldoon’s cooking at The Reserve in Bally’s can now satisfy your cravings at Roberta’s By Joe Muldoon in Northfield, N.J. Roberta’s (named after Joe’s mother) is open for lunch Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., and for dinner Friday and Saturday from 5 to 10 p.m. The address is 1205 Tilton Rd.,Tilton Plaza (by Esthetica). Call (609) 677-0470.

Turning A Worst Buy Into A Best Buy
Kudos to Caesars marketing department for admitting their “miscalculation” and offering Best Buy gift cards to players expecting a similar card last month at Bally’s and Harrah’s. Many players were disappointed when the cards ran out and they were given free play instead. For the players who were inconvenienced – especially those who waited in long lines that Sunday afternoon – getting $30 in free slot play was not exactly the same as a $30 Best Buy gift card.

‘Losers Wanted’
Am I the only person who thinks Revel – excuse me, Revel Casino Hotel – is missing the mark with its new promotional campaign? Yes, the name change makes sense, but that’s purely cosmetic, in my opinion. And, yes, allowing players to smoke is great if you’re a smoker – I’m not, so that’s not going to get me into the casino. Less expensive restaurants? Maybe, but I don’t choose a casino based on its restaurants. It’s the “You Can’t Lose” campaign that’s misleading – and inaccurate. Does Revel really want to promote itself as the casino where you go to lose? (“Hey, don’t worry, we’ll reimburse you – sort of, but just this one time.”) Yes, you can lose – and probably will! Your loss during the month of July must be at least $100, and those “refunds” are in the form offree slot play over a 20-week period. In other words, if you lose $1,000 between July 1 and 31, you’ll get $50 in free slot play every week for 20 weeks starting August 5. If you don’t set foot in Revel on one of those weeks, that period’s $50 in slot play is forfeited.
And do you really think your play with that $50 is actually going to return $50 in cash? A related promotion promises to match free slot play offers from all other Atlantic City casinos, but, again, there are some important caveats you need to be aware of:

  • You must have the complete mail piece that includes your name and address.
  • The mail piece will not be returned, unless there are multiple offers on it. In that case the offer you claim will be marked “void”. (Note to those who turn over certain offers from Bally’s and Harrah’s: Write down your three-digit code, alon with the date and amount of the offer.)
  • You can claim only one offer per gaming day.
  • There is a $500 maximum match per offer.
  • Whatever is downloaded must be played that same day.

Since many free slot play offers, specifically those from the four Total Rewards casinos, come in mailings that also contain coupons good for free meals and slot play, once the mailer is verified, those coupons will be returned to you. Also, if the mailer has several offers, such as $50 on July 4, $50 July 16 and $50 on July 25, you can choose just one of them, and that free play will be matched only on the same day it’s valid at the initiating casino. In other words, while another casino mailer may have a total of $150 in free play offers on three different days, you’ll only be able to get $50 from Revel – and have to return to Revel on each of the two subsequent days it’s valid at that competing casino – assuming you have no other greater offers that same day from another casino.

(Remember, it’s just one offer per day.) Also, using free slot play at Revel does not count toward earning Resort Dollars or Resort Play (free play), nor will it count toward your win-loss calculation. In addition, any “bounce back slot play” (approximately $1 per one Resort Dollar earned) will not be offered during July.

BALLY’S
Pickles Goes Self-Serve
Check out Pickles and its new Express Service. It’s basically the same food, but without the servers. Order at the counter, pay and then wait for your food. Both inside and outdoor seating is still available.

Tangled Web
Somebody needs to check Bally’s page on the AtlanticCityNJ.com Web site. Despite the fact that it says, “All information, photographs and links have been checked or received by Bally’s Atlantic City, Atlantic City, NJ” there are several errors and a lot of out-ofdate information. There are references to Don Marrandino, “matzoth” ball soup at Pickles, the Bellezza Salon (which is closed) and Sammy’s Beach Bar (now Bally’s Bikini Beach Bar). Caesars page on the Web site is also out-of-date.

CAESARS
Special Seven Stars Lounge Hours
The Seven Stars Lounge will be open July 3 and 4 from 5 to 10:30 p.m.

Tip On Tipping
I don’t know about the other Atlantic City hotels – or ones elsewhere, but Caesars is now adding an
automatic gratuity to its Room Service orders. Unless you’re feeling extra generous, or you get some really terrific service, there’s no need to add more, even though you’re given the opportunity to. To Caesars credit, the bill does state, “Gratuity Included”, but when you’re so used to adding a little extra, it’s easy to overlook this.

Morton’s Still 1:1
At least through the end of July, you can still use your comp dollars on a 1:1 basis at Morton’s.

‘Do You Like Movies About Gladiators?’
See the real thing as “gladiators” fight in the lobby of Caesars starting July 4 through September 2 across from Mia.

HARRAH’S RESORT
Lounge To Open Thursdays
Starting July 4, the Seven Stars Lounge will open Thursdays from 4 to 10 p.m.

Pretzel Bites Bite Back
As I’ve written in the past, I rarely eat anything in the Seven Stars Lounge other than some cocktail nibbles – cheese and crackers, nuts, a shrimp cocktail – before going to dinner. However, I ordered the new pretzel bites to try something different, and they tasted like rubber. This is a commercial product, available in most grocery store freezers, and the cooking instructions clearly recommend heating them in an oven, not a microwave. That said, the accompanying cheese sauce was delicious.

Cash Of The Titan
It’s hard to miss and you can play it only at Harrah’s. Standing nearly 12 feet tall, Titan 360 is a cylindrical tower surrounded by eight standard slot machines, all programmed to deliver a spectacular bonus when a key and a lock symbol appear in the first and fifth reels on any of the four popular slot machine titles to which it’s connected – China Shores, Heavenly World, Legion Warrior and Fortunes of the Orient. The twist is that players can enjoy their favorite games, but for a modest extra bet – 20 cents added to a minimum 30-cent bet (50 cents total), they get the opportunity to win thousands of extra
dollars in an ever-increasing series of bonuses called Rise To Wealth. Titan 360 is located across from Bill’s Bar & Burger, near the Brigantine entrance.

SHOWBOAT
‘With Furniture, That Will Be $200 Extra’
I guess I wasn’t so far off in my April Fool’s edition. Check out the detailed description on the Total Rewards Web site of a “Premium” room at Showboat:
Really? There’s no furniture in these rooms? And the first thing they tell you about the room is that it has sheets and a mattress? How much extra for the bed to put these on?

HARRAH’S CHEROKEE CASINO RESORT
Credit Card Fraud Alert
You may have seen this on television where it was happening in Florida. Apparently, the
scam is moving north.

HARRAH’S PHILADELPHIA
Seven Stars Happy Hour At The Cove
While complimentary cocktails are still being offered to Seven Stars cardholders and a guest from 10 p.m. to midnight on Fridays, starting July 20 the event will move to Saturdays starting at 7 p.m.

Missing In Action – Sort Of
Searching for Harrah’s Philadelphia using the Casino Locator on the Total Rewards Web site is a bit confusing. While every other casino is listed in alphabetical order, no one thought to change the
order when Harrah’s Chester became Harrah’s Philadelphia, so you’ll find it between Harrah’s Cherokee and Harrah’s Council Bluffs.

GENERAL

Card Sharks
Just because you think someone will ask for identification before you cash in comp dollars through Caesars Quick Rewards system, don’t be so sure. In Atlantic City a reader left his player’s card in a machine and someone took it to a casino gift shop, wiping out more than $500 in comps on various purchases. Security is investigating. Something similar happened to a player in Las Vegas – even though his photo was
printed on the back of his Seven Stars Companion card. The lesson here is to treat your player’s card like any credit card you may have in your wallet.

Off The Deen’s List
In the wake of last month’s controversy about Paul Deen, a news release from Caesars Entertainment said it intends to rebrand its current Paula Deen-themed restaurants in the coming months. Food outlets bearing her name have already been eliminated from the four affected casinos’ Web sites, but Googling “Horseshoe Southern Indiana + Paula Deen” or “Harrah’s Cherokee + Paula Deen” displays old Web sites that are still
accessible online. On their current Web sites, there no longer is any mention of the Paula Deen Buffet at
Harrah’s Tunica or Horseshoe Southern Indiana. Paul Deen’s Kitchen at Harrah’s Joliet has a temporary name – The Restaurant At Harrah’s. Leeann Bridges, a spokeswoman for Harrah’s Cherokee, said the 400-seat restaurant remains open but is offering a new menu immediately. “We are working to rebrand with a new name in the upcoming weeks and anticipate it having a coffee shop style of offerings for our guests,” Bridges said.

Total Rewards Visa Buffet Coupon
I never applied for the card, but I’ve heard from several players who got their new Total Rewards Signature Visa card and inadvertently threw away the enclosed coupon that entitled them to two Buffet of Buffets in Las Vegas. If this happened to you, keep reading. According to Kristine Johnson, a Total Service Representative for Caesars Entertainment, Western Region: “[A]s long as you are the primary cardholder, and have your photo identification, Total Rewards can help you redeem this offer when you are on property.”

Caesars Circle Confidential
If you’ve wondered what it’s like to be part of the Caesars Circle, here’s insight from someone who’s been part of the group for about a year: “It’s not what I imagined it would be,” he wrote. “[It’s] basically all about surveys.” These surveys, he adds, just get a small view of what participants think. “Most questions are multiple choice and I can’t tell you how often that none of the choices fits my answer.” Recently, he said, they gave some write-in space in the last survey. “But, all in all, it’s useless as a venue to learn or voice things on a regular basis.”

Featured Fee Of The Month
First it was Resort Fees, then Early Check-In Fees, now we have “Experience Fees”. Those of you who received letters inviting you on “junkets” – such as upcoming trips to Tunica and Laughlin which include airfare, taxes, ground transportation at the destination and accommodations – have probably noticed you must pay a per person Experience Fee upon booking. (This was probably coined by the same person who renamed the annual Seven Stars trip a “Retreat”.) I don’t think any of us has a problem with some sort of fee for a trip like this, just call it what it is – a booking or handling fee. . .not something that’s
going to make us jab a spouse, partner or friend with our elbow and chuckle, “Look what they’ve come up with now?”

Survey Says. . .
Last month I asked you to recommend the best place for players to take their annual Seven Stars retreat and why. Here’s a sampling of the responses:

“My choice would be Caesars Palace. Las Vegas just has more variety than any other place. I don’t think anywhere else can match the package with food, shows and things to do.”

“Instead of jumping at a recommendation, I would ask, ‘What are your interests?’ Lake Tahoe has skiing in the winter and a fantastic lake in the summer; Cherokee has great hiking, fishing and golf; Atlantic City has the shore; and Las Vegas has more nightlife, dining, and shows than anywhere. Without knowing interests, I’d say, ‘Try someplace new.’”

“Having taken our trips to almost all the major locations – Las Vegas, New Orleans, Joliet, Phoenix, Reno, Lake Tahoe, San Diego, Cherokee, Tunica and Biloxi (we get two trips per year, since we are both Seven Stars cardholders), I would say Tahoe has been my favorite. The view is great. The staff is dedicated
to making sure you have a great time. Jeff Bryan, the lead host, is a pleasure to work with, and either he or his assistant Rick checks with you multiple times a day. Second choice would be Cherokee. . .beautiful place, great people, but a once-in-a-while location.”

“We have found that the best trip we have taken was to Caesars in Atlantic City. When we went to Atlantic City, they treated us wonderfully and the attraction of the beach is great. We have used Las Vegas as our destination many times, but primarily as a means to entertain friends or family. We are both Seven Stars so it is easy to get two rooms at Caesars (our preference). We only go there to entertain; the crowds and hustle and bustle are too much. Been there and done that. Shows are OK, but too much effort to go see a show. The restaurants are good to very good and, of course, highly varied, but how much can one eat?”

Darryl D. McEwen, Publisher
Neither Seven Stars Insider nor http://www.sevenstarsinsider.com is affiliated in any way with Caesars Entertainment or Total
Rewards®

Photo: Hawt Celebrities

Seven Stars Insider – June Edition

Alyssa Campanella at Escape Total Rewards Concert
Alyssa Campanella

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.

HARRAH’S PHOENIX AK-CHIN

Another Viewpoint: Compliments All Around!
“We’re just back, and cannot compliment the staff enough on their hospitality. Every person we talked to, without exception, went above and beyond to be helpful and gracious. They didn’t just answer a question, or provide a basic response. Every person provided additional helpful suggestions, and went out of his or her way to make sure that
we were made welcome. We got one of the patio suites in the new tower. These were quite lovely and comparable to any high-end property we’ve visited. It appeared that there are only five of these, as we did not see any other balconies in this new section. The room was well appointed, and we did find amenities waiting, in the form of small
snacks and an assortment of beverages in the fridge. We didn’t realize at first that the Diamond Lounge is now in the Agave restaurant. (It had been separate before.) So when we arrived the first evening, we headed to the restaurant, and discovered it was on ‘lounge’ hours. We were given coupons for four drinks and three appetizers. Since we weren’t drinking alcohol, we traded those in and sampled five appetizers. We had no clue that most of them were large enough to be dinner for a fully grown man! We also learned that Seven Stars cardholders get two free buffets daily. Turned out to be good food, and the largest selection of sugar-free desserts we had ever seen. Overall, I can only compliment this property on the upgrades, and commend the staff on outstanding service
all around. Everyone, from the driver who met us at the airport to the folks at the Total Rewards desk acted as though it was their mission in life to get us to return. . .so we most probably will!”

LAS VEGAS

Curtain Down
The All-Stage Pass, which offered unlimited admission to several shows in Las Vegas over a 48-hour period, will no longer be available after June 30.

Let The Sun Shine
An East Coast reader forwarded this email invitation with the following comment, “This just screams. . .go buy an expensive plane ticket and run to Vegas.”

FLAMINGO

Free Slot Tournaments
Visit the Margaritaville Casino from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays to play a free three-minute session and possibly win free slot play. You must have a current Total Rewards card. Tournament results are posted at 3:30 p.m. Top prize is $500, second prize is $400, third prize is $300, fourth prize is $200 and fifth prize is $100.

RIO
Whee-ee-ee-ee!
Opening in late summer, the VooDoo Skyline will launch passengers 400 feet in the air from the VooDoo Lounge to the Ipanema Tower at speeds up to 33 miles-per-hour. Unlike most ziplines, the VooDoo Skyline will accommodate two riders at a time and, on the attraction’s return trip, guests will ride an additional 800 feet to the starting point,
facing backwards, for a total distance of nearly one-third of a mile. VooDoo Skyline is slated to operate seven days a week from noon to midnight. Pricing and other details have not been announced.

ATLANTIC CITY

‘Separate Checks, Please’
Couponing has become so popular, it even has its own shows on television, as well as frequent segments on the morning network news shows. It’s a lot easier to redeem a coupon at the grocery store, though, than it is at a Caesars casino in Atlantic City. In its latest effort to alienate players, depending on where you eat, Caesars is no longer allowing customers to combine their food credit coupons or those coupons from the Platinum and Diamond coupon books. Here’s the scoop:

>At Sammy D’s a friend and I were told that – in the future – we would have to get separate checks if we wanted to each use our weekly discount coupons. (The cashier made a “one time exception” but told us “they” were cracking down on this practice.)

>At 6ix a Bistro the day before two of us had no trouble paying one check with two coupons. The policy there – and at all Bally’s restaurants which accept these coupons – is one coupon per player; no separate checks required.

>At Luke Paladino another reader and his party were told that their $25 Diamond dining credit coupons were limited to one per table. Since there were three guests, they later relented and allowed the use of three coupons. [I subsequently confirmed that they would accept one per person.]

>At Scarduzio’s six of us each had a coupon – five Diamond coupons and a $100 Aspiration certificate – and there was no problem using these to pay one check.

>When I called the Atlantic Grill and Café Roma directly, I was told a party of two could use an unlimited number of coupons, but I got different information from another source at Caesars – one coupon per person per table.

>And, unless things have changed in less than a week, two of us each used a weekly dining credit coupon for one bill at Café Roma.

Confused? Me too. I’ve tried to get a definitive policy for Atlantic City, but this all came about too late in the month and I’ve already held up publication trying to get answers. More to the point, if these restrictions are going to be put into effect, why is this not printed on the coupons or why isn’t there some sort of notification either by the cashier or on the menu? (OK, the coupons have the generic disclaimer: “Restrictions may apply” but in previous years there never was a problem with combining coupons.

When the coupon books first came out several years ago I specifically recall asking if we could combine coupons or if we needed to request separate checks, and the response was a resounding “no”. It’s also not been the case on several occasions since the 2013 books were issued.) And why wait until a month before the current Diamond/Platinum coupons expire? Change the policy next year – assuming those coupons books don’t go the way of so many other perks. Changing policies without notifying your customers is not exactly A+ service – especially when you have email addresses for most of us. I generally have no problem agreeing that most front line employees at Caesars casinos in

Atlantic City give me A+ service, but I can’t say as much for management and these ridiculous policies. Also does the extra time and cost of asking servers to prepare separate checks, and the extra time and cost of processing these checks really do anything for the bottom-line? What is to be gained by this policy? Whether there are separate checks or not, two (or more) coupons are still going to be redeemed, so what is the logic behind this stupid policy? Maybe if all of us start asking for single tables and separate checks, management will see the folly in this – especially when they start losing money by wasting valuable dining “real estate” with singles occupying tables that could accommodate parties of two or four.

Film Flam
It all started with a text from a friend whose husband was being charged by Harrah’s for viewing seven movies during his stay. As a Seven Stars cardholder he was used to viewing unlimited complimentary in-room films during his visits to Atlantic City. No longer, he was advised at check-out – information that was confirmed by his host. It’s now four films per visit, not just per night. An investigative reporter at heart, I happened to be at Harrah’s the next day and asked about this at check-in. No, I was told, it’s unlimited. “I just checked out a guest who had more than seven movies on his bill and there was no charge.” Confused, I asked my own host. She told me there was a limit of $45 per day. Now, even more befuddled, I called VIP Check-In. No, it’s unlimited, the voice on the phone said. This prompted calls and emails to the other three casinos. Here’s what I was told:

  • Bally’s – By a host, $45 per day credit; by VIP Check-In, unlimited.
  • Caesars – By VIP Check-In, unlimited. (A text to a host was not answered.)
  • Showboat – By VIP Check-In, unlimited. (An email to a host was not answered.)

So, what’s the policy? Apparently, no one can agree. My advice, if this Seven Stars benefit is important to you, ask at check-in and get the employee’s name. (By the way, I’m not publishing them, but I have names to back-up all the information I’ve just documented.)

Squeeze Play
Caesars continues to squeeze every last cent out of its customers. In addition to early check-in fees – from which Seven Stars, Diamond and Platinum cardholders are exempt, Harrah’s and Showboat are now charging some players extra to choose in which tower they reside – even if they’re staying in a comp room. (Again, Seven Stars and Diamond cardholders are exempt.) At Showboat one Sunday, a Bourbon Tower room was an additional $60. The desk clerk told the customer, “The orders came from Las Vegas to charge these fees.”

Management Shake-Up
While there’s good news below about employees who are leaving their positions in Atlantic City to start new businesses, and others are getting promotions, I and many others were saddened to hear that Caesars and Harrah’s Vice President of Marketing Jim Byrnes is no longer with the company. Jim is a great guy, was very visible to customers, returned calls and responded to emails in a timely manner, and always managed to greet you by name when he saw you. He will be missed.

PNC ATM MIA
I haven’t been there to confirm it, but I’ve been told that the convenient PNC ATM at the Pier Shops is gone.

Let There Be Light. . .Show!
Boardwalk Hall has once again been transformed into the canvas for a new 3D musical light show which opened last month. This is the third such show to dazzle audiences in Atlantic City. Be sure to go see it.

Let There Be Flight. . .Show!
Don’t forget, the Atlantic City Airshow is June 26 – a Wednesday this year. Be prepared for crowds and traffic. Missing this year due to the Federal government sequester will be the centerpieces of previous years’ shows – the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds and the U.S. Army Golden Knights. This means, too, that the show will be considerably shorter – about 3-1/2 hours, down from last year’s six. Civilian performers apparently cost more than those from the military so budget restraints mean fewer “acts”.

Questioning The Wisdom Of Pearls
The new Pearl Lounge at Revel opened last month. I attended the opening May 10 as a member of the media – I do not have a Pearl card to gain access on my own. Unfortunately, the Lounge looks like the after-thought it was. Stuck in a rear corner of Revel’s new high-limit slot area, the two rooms are cramped and a bit claustrophobic. There’s a small bar in the room where you enter, and an even smaller room that looks like it was carved out of a utility closet, fabric draping some of the walls, looking suspiciously like it’s covering something unsightly. [Revel’s decorating philosophy seems to be, when in doubt drape; its Revel player’s card “office” has yards of black fabric on the walls, giving the impression that this might be a temporary location, but it’s not.] Opening night, the “buffet” had two hot offerings: some sort of pasta and sliced flatiron steak served out of silver chafing dishes. Clearly Revel doesn’t intend for guests to consume a full meal – which is fine. [I’m in the minority, but I think that’s the mistake that Caesars and Harrah’s Seven Stars Lounges made; these were never meant to be full service restaurants, but players don’t seem to have embraced that.] If the meager food offerings don’t discourage you, the tightly spaced collection of small tables provides no incentive to linger. It has all the ambience of a 1960s basement rec room. The lounge is open exclusively to Pearl cardholders (similar to Seven Stars) Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays; and to Beach members (similar to Diamond cardholders) Mondays through Thursdays – if they have host approval or earn 20 Resort Dollars! There is no charge for admittance. It is open from noon to 8 p.m. Mondays to Thursdays, noon to 4 a.m. Fridays, 10 a.m. to 4 a.m. Saturdays, and 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sundays. After 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays the buffet features only pastries and fruit; and Saturdays and Sundays, a continental breakfast is served.

BALLY’S

A Tip Of The Toque
Chef Joseph Muldoon has left The Reserve to open his own restaurant in Northfield, N.J. [More on this next month.]

CAESARS

Promotions Supervisor

Gets A Promotion Special Events & Promotions Supervisor Donata Caloiero has left Caesars to become the new Special Events manager at Harrah’s Phoenix Ak-Chin.

HARRAH’S RESORT

Developing Executive

She was always a pro at developing great customer relations, but former Seven Stars Lounge Supervisor and casino host Alisa Hammill is now officially a Customer Development Executive. Congratulations! SHOWBOAT

Spaaahh Offer
Through the end of June, use your $100 quarterly Seven Stars spa credit at Vive and get a facial or a massage for $99. Call (609) 343-4118 for details and any restrictions.

Earl Of Sand-Bitch

Since I was staying in the Bourbon Tower one night last month I decided to try the Earl of Sandwich for breakfast rather than making the trek to Crossroads or Johnny Rockets. Big mistake! My “Breakfast BLT” was more “L” [lettuce] than anything else. The bread overwhelmed the taste of the tiny scraps of bacon and two slices of Roma tomato that were about the size of a quarter. To make matters worse, it took three different customers to point out that the self-serve coffee was depleted, and nearly 10 minutes to brew another dispenser. A friend had the ham, cheese and egg sandwich, and the egg was about as thin as a coin, and the “cheese” appeared to have been painted on. And, once again, the bread overwhelmed the taste of everything else. It looked nothing like the Egg McMuffin-ish poster above the counter. In full disclosure, I responded to an online survey I saw on the receipt and the general manager called me within 24 hours. He didn’t exactly disagree with my assessment, but said the sandwiches were made to “corporate standards” and that I probably would like the sandwiches at lunch better.

HARRAH’S PHILADELPHIA

Booting Them Out
Congratulations to Harrah’s for starting to enforce illegal parking in its self-park garage! Last month I saw a piece of paper on the window of an illegally parked car telling the owner that his license plate had been recorded, and any further violation would result in towing or booting. Let’s hope they actually enforce this.

Changes At The Cove
The Cove will be closed from June 2 to 6, reopening June 7 – only for Seven Stars and Diamond cardholders – with a new menu and a better-trained staff. (Are they really going to turn down paying customers just because they don’t have a Seven Stars or Diamond card?) The restaurant will reopen to the general public June 8. Frankly, in my opinion, the Cove has not been very good since manager Michael DiTomassi left and some new chefs took over the kitchen. Apparently, several regular customers were invited to some tastings and asked for their suggestions in improving the menu. Let’s hope for the best.

Telephone Tag
I’m not sure how many people Harrah’s Philadelphia and The Cove are irritating (and how much business they might possibly be losing), but at 5:45 p.m. June 1 I called the casino’s toll-free number (866-554-5590). After listening to my voicemail options I pressed the one for restaurant reservations. This took me to some centralized Caesars Entertainment reservation line which I didn’t want because I needed some specific information about the restaurant and wanted to speak with someone who actually works in The Cove. I called back, waited until I heard the last option (speak to an operator) and asked for The Cove. The operator put me through to that same centralized reservation number. I asked my question, but the individual didn’t know – which I suspected would happen; however, he came back on the line and gave me a “direct number” to the restaurant (484-490-1816). I got another recording giving me the restaurant hours, and the option of leaving my name and number to make a reservation, plus the option to make a reservation during restaurant hours by calling 484-482-3615. Calling that number I got yet another recording – a Sprint mailbox that went directly to voicemail. Sorry, folks, this is totally unacceptable.

CAESARS WINDSOR

Workin’ At The Car Wash, Girl
“I got this offer and thought it was a joke. This is what Caesars Windsor has resorted to in lieu of their constant weekly $15 gift give-away. They are now offering an $8 to $10 car wash/tire detail and vacuum to their Seven Stars cardholders. In other words, they finally ran out of cheap merchandise to give away. For U.S. residents, in order to take advantage of this you would have to pay the $9.50 Canadian/U.S. toll to come across the border, not to mention the drive time, crossing time and border guards.”

GENERAL

Game Peace
While all the craziness is now over with the Wheel Of Fortune Millionaire Maker Sweepstakes, if you were one of the 20 $50,000 winners, you still have until June 7 to claim your prize. If you missed any of the shows, winning phrases may be found at http://www.wheeloffortune.com/minisites/millionairemaker/. I guess I really didn’t pay much attention until the first “Wheel Of Fortune” television show when I saw that only two $50,000 prizes would be given out each night. How much better it would have been to give 10 $1,000 prizes each night, and forget about the trip to Las Vegas and the extra $1 million – or better yet, add the million dollars to the prize pool and give even more during each broadcast. With so few chances to win, it’s not much incentive to collect game pieces. I’ll read the rules and regulations more carefully next time.

Seems Like It Was Just Summer 2012
What happened to the fall and winter issues of Total Rewards magazine? If you access the publication online (http://www.totalrewards.com/emagazine/), there’s a gap between the Summer 2012 edition and the Spring 2013 issue.

Total Rewards Phone App
I and many others are waiting for the powers-that-be to update the Total Rewards mobile phone app so we can enter our username to access our records – just like we do on the Web site. Both of these should be seamless and identical. I have a horrible memory for numbers and couldn’t tell you my account number for $1 million, but I do know my username.

Research Tanked
I know I’m not the only one who received this email from Total Rewards: Please Take Our Quick Survey About Special Casino Events You’ve Participated In. Problem was, I couldn’t access it because I needed a password – which I never received. More curious about the contents of the survey than actually wanting to complete it, I emailed a contact at Total Rewards and got this response: “The person needs to allow for pop-ups in order for the ID to populate” (which I had). An alternative was to put my TR account number in the space where it asked for my password. (If my TR number was the same as my password, why not just ask me to type in my account number in the first place?)

Anyway, once I started responding, I came to a series of questions about the Great Gift Wrap Up. However, it was a little difficult to answer because the dates and locations for the 2012 event were incorrect:

The 2012 events were held November 8-12 at Flamingo and November 29-December 3 at Caesars Palace. How many people must have approved this, yet no one bothered to double-check the dates and locations? Once I pointed this out, my reply was: “We will be re-deploying the survey to those that took the survey.” I keep wondering how many people responded to the original survey, not bothering to check the dates. How accurate can a survey like this be?

Follow-Up: The survey was revised, but once I got to the Great Gift Wrap Up questions again, my only option was to give my opinions on the event held at Caesars Palace. Problem was. . .I went to the one at Flamingo, so once again, I was stonewalled and could go no further. I wrote back to the person I was corresponding with at Total Rewards, but, to date, I’ve yet to receive a re-revised survey.

Moving Violations
From a reader: “I couldn’t agree more about having to work extra hard to earn points for the Millionaire game, bonus tiers, etc. If they’re going to give you something, then just give it. I go to Harrah’s Philadelphia and you have to run all over the place. I feel bad for the elderly and physically challenged individuals. Especially if your name is called for a drawing and you have like seven minutes to get through the crowds. At other casinos, once your card is in it’s activated for a drawing. I missed out on a lot of entries for the Millionaire promotion because I didn’t get there until after 8 p.m.”

Circle Of Life
In early May I got the invitation to participate in the Caesars Circle I wrote about last month. To see what it was looking for, I took the survey, but never submitted it. Among the questions asked were about my bar/club-going habits, how I feel about casinos/gaming, my sexual orientation, my annual income, my race and gender, my age, my feelings on paying to upgrade to a higher tier level, whether I belong to any hotel, airline or dining loyalty programs, would I like to convert my Total Rewards credits into airline miles, and have I ever posted to a blog or written a restaurant, hotel or product review. Those of you who signed up, if you’re willing, please share your experiences – oh, I forgot, you can’t because of the rules and regulations you agreed to.

Host Chat
Last month I gained a much greater appreciation for the life of a casino host – er, excuse me, player development executive. While visiting my host in his office at a competing Atlantic City casino, in less than 10 minutes his phones (office and cell) rang no less than 10 times. He apologized and took a couple of the calls, but most went to voicemail. (And, who knows how many emails and texts he may have received in that same time frame?) After watching him in action, it’s amazing more doesn’t fall through the cracks. It’s an incredible balancing act, so I hope you’ll keep that in mind next time you contact your host with some special request.

Tier Ducked
Total Rewards is missing a real educational and promotional opportunity by not recognizing players as they pass through the various tier levels. So many people are confused by the benefits at each level – check out this video as a prime example that a simple email or letter needs to come from Joshua Kanter, Gary Loveman or someone of that status not only recognizing each achievement (Platinum, Diamond, etc.), explaining the benefits and how to collect them, and then encouraging players to advance to the next level. [“You only need only ‘X-number’ of additional tier credits to attain ‘X-status’ where you then will receive. . . .”]

Maybe if Total Rewards would focus more on its base program instead of trying to partner with floral delivery services, energy providers and other non-gaming activities, it could provide some real service to its loyal players rather than inundating and confusing them with so many offers and opportunities that have nothing to do with Caesars Entertainment’s primary reason for being.

Value-Subtracted Benefits
Is it just me, but, in terms of dollar value, doesn’t the Level I Experience seem to be worth more than some of the later ones?

Churning Earnings
The more I thought about Caesars new policy of not awarding cashback and tier credits on free play – still to be implemented in Atlantic City and other locations, the more I realized that, indeed, a certain group of people are going to be more affected than others. Frequently, I hear from individuals who wait for multiplier days, then cash in their Reward Credits for free play rather than using them for food, spa treatments, etc. (The new conversion benefit – especially for Seven Stars – makes this even more appealing.) They then use this free play to earn more comps and tier credits, achieving status levels with a smaller outlay of cash than others. Pretty tricky. . .and pretty smart!

Seven Brides For One Brother
Someone on one of the many Internet message boards out there posed the question, “Why is it called Seven Stars?” According to Wikipedia – and we all know how much we can trust that information, “[William] Harrah had seven wives in his lifetime. The highest Total Rewards card tier ‘Seven Stars’ was named after his seven wives.” My guess is that it goes back to the Harrah’s logo with its seven stars, but, perhaps, it’s those stars that represent Harrah’s wives. In any event, last month I contacted Total Rewards for an explanation, but, so far, no one has bothered to respond.

Question Of The Month
You’ve referred to it, and I’ve heard others: What’s RFB? Good question. Originally, I was going to define it, but figured everyone knew. Lesson learned. Don’t assume. RFB is room, food and beverage. Others sometimes are coded LFB – “limited food and beverage”. As a convenience to players of a certain level staying in the hotel, Total Rewards casinos will just automatically deduct directly from your Reward Credits any eligible room charges. With LFB, that limitation refers just to “casual restaurants” (like Café Roma at Caesars in Atlantic City), as opposed to the “fine dining” or “gourmet” restaurants (like The Reserve at Bally’s Atlantic City). A lot of people think this means that the casino will comp these charges, but, actually, they’re just taking comp dollars you’ve already earned and applying them to your bill. It’s no different than if you give your player’s card directly to your server (or a cashier). They first use what you’ve already earned, then when that’s gone, it’s up to a host to decide if they will further comp your charges. Also, where applicable, the RFB designation means you may not be charged taxes and other fees, or the taxes and fees will be picked up with your Reward Credits. (Note, comp dollars cannot be used for gratuities or, where applicable, taxes – which in most jurisdictions are waived when you use comp dollars.) Check your monthly eStatements to see what’s been taken out of your account. I also make a note of my Total Rewards balance when I begin a trip, retain all my receipts, then check my new balance at the conclusion of a trip – just to see how much I’ve earned (both tier credits and comp dollars).

Survey Says. . .
I was lucky enough to attend two Seven Stars Renewal events last month, so I asked you to tell us about your experiences. Apparently, the only events took place in Atlantic City, Philadelphia and Laughlin, because I heard from no one outside those areas.

“The party [at Harrah’s] was awful! I was able to bring two guests because of all the empty seats. Food – ugh! Band – ugh! Prizes – ugh! I was sorry I wasted a weekend this way.”

“We thought the dinner [at Bally’s] was very good, but we also had many no shows. Our table had only two other people. The table next to us had two people total. We had Robin Leach, not Mario Lopez.”

“I attended the Seven Stars Renewal at Showboat. It was OK, but nothing that special, though I think they made an effort. The band was fine and the food was OK for me too. They had filet mignon and shrimp for an entree. All steaks were cooked the same – it was actually the way I like it. Baked Alaska was good. Robin Leach gave out 10 $1,000 cash prizes. Soon after the drawing pretty much people started to leave, as did I. I was, however, surprised at how some people dress, while I did wear jeans and a nice shirt, I was surprised that I saw only one man wearing a jacket, other than the Caesars staff. I guess I should get used to everyone dressing down. One would think that people who can spend at least $1 million could up their attire for a couple hours.”

“The Showboat Seven Stars dinner was actually one of their best events. The food was very good. Robin Leach was the surprise guest.”

“I attended both [Harrah’s Resort in Atlantic City and Harrah’s Philadelphia].and the Philadelphia event was much better. Also, those Diamond coupon books are much better than what we got.”

“Harrah’s Laughlin gave you a choice of two bags by Cutter and Buck. My wife loved hers. At dinner, the appetizer was some type of salmon that I found a little spicy. Next was spinach salad with hot bacon dressing. The main course was a nice sized filet with a very large lobster tail – this was great. The dessert was bananas foster (very, very good). For me everything was great with the exception of the salmon. My wife loved the whole dinner. It was a very nice weekend!”

This Month’s Survey
If someone asked you to recommend the best place to take their annual Seven Stars retreat, what would you recommend? Why? Send me an e-mail (sevenstarsinsider@gmail.com) and I’ll share your thoughts – anonymously, of course.

Darryl D. McEwen, Publisher
Seven Stars Insider

Neither Seven Stars Insider nor http://www.sevenstarsinsider.com is affiliated in any way with Caesars Entertainment or Total Rewards®

Photo: Zimbio

Best Luxury Hotel Bargain In Vegas

The Venetian Las Vegas
The Venetian

Hotel rooms at The Venetian and The Palazzo offer the best prices among luxury hotels in Las Vegas according to the most recent Average Daily Room (ADR) information.

The property’s (Cosmopolitan) average daily room rate of $273 topped other high-end properties. For example, Wynn Las Vegas and Encore reported ADR of $258, while The Venetian and the Palazzo reported a combined ADR of $211.

Hotel room prices in Vegas are very flexible because they fluctuate between prices being advertised to the public and what’s offered to existing customers through players clubs. So you’ll see a wide range of prices for any hotel room in Vegas.

The order of these hotels makes sense if you look at their popularity by younger customers who are a little less discerning when it comes to price. If you’re dropping $1,000 for a bottle of Grey Goose at XS or Marquee why not spend the extra money to crash at those hotels too.

This is good news to me because The Palazzo is one of my favorite places to stay in Vegas for a lot of reasons.

  1. Suites – I love that all the rooms are suites. When I’m on vacation I love the extra room. I feel like I can actually sit in the room and relax as opposed to most hotel rooms which are about half the size. Also, 3 TV’s.
  2. Lagasse’s Stadium – Easily the best sportsbook in the world.
  3. Dining – The options for fine or casual dining are great and between The Venetian and The Palazzo there are almost 10 coffee places.
  4. Casino – The Palazzo isn’t the most popular casino so it’s usually not very crowded. Much like my hotel room, I like having space in the casino.
  5. Atmosphere – While The Venetian is overrun with families The Palazzo isn’t as crowded and there’s enough space where you never feel cramped. It’s one of the most relaxing hotel casino combinations.

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

Gold Coast Renovations

I have a soft spot in my heart for the Gold Coast. The Gold Coast was one of the first casinos I stayed at when visiting Las Vegas and it’s still one of the places I recommend people stay when looking for a cheap hotel rooms near the strip. Gold Coast is about to become a better bargain with new hotel and casino renovations.

Contractors are putting the finishing touches on 400 refurbished hotel rooms at the Gold Coast.

The rooms, which are expected to reopen in the next two weeks, feature new wall coverings, carpets, blackout drapes and furniture, including armoires, dressers and desks.

The next phase of the renovation, scheduled to begin this summer, will include installing new carpeting in Gold Coast’s 87,000-square-foot casino and replacing all of its slot stands and chairs.

Gold Coast has cheap gambling with quick drink service and the renovations to make the hotel rooms more modern and clean this is definitely a great place to crash. There is nothing fancy about the Gold Coast casino but it’s a fun place to play with decent food options.

Gold Coast is owned by Boyd Gaming and its B Connected players club is connected with 6 other Las Vegas hotels and 7 others across the country so playing at Gold Coast will earn comps to use at a lot of different casinos. The B Connected app is an excellent combination of players club and hotel information.

I can smell a low limit Pai-Gow night coming up soon!

Photo: Wikimedia