Seven Stars Insider – March Edition

Katherine McPhee Total Rewards Concert
Katherine McPhee

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


Sorry About That. . .

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

Harrah’s Rincon North San Diego

Updates

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

Harrah’s New Orleans

Diamond Lounge Relocated

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

Harrah’s North Kansas City

Everything’s Up-To-Date In Kansas City

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

Las Vegas

Hype, Hype, Hurrah!

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

Useless Surveys

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

Rio All-Suites Hotel & Casino

Before The Parade Passes By

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

Atlantic City

Seven Stars ‘Renewal Weekend’

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

1+1+1+1=1?

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

Food, Glorious Food – and Wine

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

Room Service

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

Wynn Loss Statement

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

Caesars

Boardwalk Buffet Still Open

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

Harrah’s Resort

Sounds Like. . .

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

New Menu At Seven Stars Lounge

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

Harrah’s Lights Up Your Life

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

Quote Of The Month

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

Harrah’s Philadelphia

Two Hours Every Week Have Just Become Happier

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

Third Time’s A Charm?

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

Senior Days

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

General

More Questions Than Answers

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

Question Of The Month

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

Yes, Resort Fees

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

 

Caesars Palace – $25

Paris and Planet Hollywood – $20

Rio, Harrah’s and Flamingo – $18

Bally’s – $15

The Quad – $10

 

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

Great Gift Wrap Up

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

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

 

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

‘Communication, Communication, Communication’

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

Belated Happy Birthday

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

Survey Says. . .

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

  • playing more to reach the next “milestone”?
  • playing more, but just to maintain your current tier?
  • playing at your current level and “letting the chips fall where they may”?
  • switching to another casino’s player loyalty program?

 Here’s a cross-section of responses:

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

This Month’s Survey

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

Darryl D. McEwen, Publisher

Seven Stars Insider

Photo: Fabbz.com

Seven Stars Insider – February Edition

Katrina Bowden Total Rewards Concert
Katrina Bowden

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

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

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

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

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

‘Convenience’ Fees

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

Caesars Windsor (Ontario)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Photo – Fabzz

Rocking The Vegas Strip With Clutch & MyVegas

I have pretty strange taste when it comes to music. If you follow me on twitter you get a sample of those tastes every now and again but my love of Britney Spears and Queens of the Stoneage should give you a pretty good idea of where my tastes lie. A few weeks ago I received a press release that one of my favorite bands of all time, Clutch, would be playing the Hard Rock Cafe (on the strip, not the casino) March 23rd  and I nearly lost my mind (in a good way). I was told that they wouldn’t be playing Las Vegas any time soon. Thankfully, that changed.

Seeing Clutch live isn’t complete without a few beers so I’ll probably stay somewhere on the strip that night because even buzzed driving is drunk driving. Unfortunately, I’m losing my Total Rewards Diamond Status this year and my room offers show it. There’s not a comp to be found at any Caesars Entertainment property. I don’t mind paying for a crash pad but I like when they’re free. 🙂

A few people recently mentioned that they’re playing the MyVegas game on Facebook to get a variety of freebies to use at MGM properties. I decided that since I can’t get a freebie from Caesars, I’ll see what the MGM Resorts properties can offer.

MyVegas is a (very addictive) game on Facebook where you earn points playing casino games that can be redeemed for a wide array of prizes from MGM Resorts. After a few days playing MyVegas I have it to the point where I can leave slot machine games on autospin and do something else on my computer while the game plays and earns points in the background. Sweet!

If I end up staying at a new hotel you’ll see a link to a review on one of the various social media sites I have. In the meantime enjoy the new song from Clutch. “Earth Rocker” is the title track from Clutch’s new album.

You can buy all Clutch music on iTunes (They have a large catalogue. Feel free tweet me for recommendations). If you plan on being in Vegas March 23rd you can buy tickets to see Clutch at the Hard Rock Cafe on the Strip on TicketWeb.

Seven Stars Insider – January Edition

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

Blood, Sweat and Tiers

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

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

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

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

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

500 Tier Credits                                                    +125 Tier Credit Bonus

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

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

  • Things to know

o   Guests can only earn one bonus level per day.

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

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

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

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

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

o   Tier Credit bonuses do not apply to daily criteria.

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

  • Gold (0-4,999 Tier Credits)

o   Gold status is still free for all guests.

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

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

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

§  Tier Credit bonuses do not apply.

§  Only valid in 2013.

Daily Criteria

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

 

Las Vegas

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

Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall & Saloon

Bye, Bye, Bill’s

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

Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino

‘The Price Is Not Right’

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

Atlantic City

Tax Dodging

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

BYOC

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

What The Doctor Didn’t Order

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

Good News For PNC Customers

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

Harrah’s Resort

Exclusive: They’re Not Exclusive

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

Harrah’s Philadelphia

Buffetmania

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

General

Caesars Bathrooms: Did They Blow It?

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

Survey Says. . .

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

This Month’s Survey

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

Darryl D. McEwen, Publisher

Seven Stars Insider

Photo – DJVice

Details On Total Rewards Changes

There has been a lot talk around the internets about the changes to Caesars Total Rewards players club. Here is a .pdf of the new Total Rewards brochure so you can read the changes yourself if you haven’t received it yet.

Hat tip to Seven Stars Insider for making the file.

Photo: Hawt Celebs

Tweet me @eastcoastgamblr

 

Baccarat: Casinos Best Friend and Worst Enemy

Monthly casino gaming revenues take into account baccarat along with all other games you’ll find on the casino floor. Baccarat is a high roller game and wins and losses for players and casinos are drastic.

baccarat is showing the greatest strength in the casinos. “Baccarat figures are volatile,” said Lawton, who predicts baccarat win will increase 5 percent this fiscal year and increase an estimated 3 to 4 percent in the coming biennium.

Maddox said the Wynn properties market to the high-end players. He said the casinos “overly rely on 150 international customers willing to wager millions of dollars.”

I don’t write, or talk, about baccarat much because 1) I find the game boring and 2) when I was learning how to play the game in Atlantic City a friend and I were called Gweilo (AKA “White Devil”) by one of the Asian players at my table. I don’t need that in my life.

High rollers play baccarat since it has such great odds and fair returns on their money spent. Since big baccarat games (the game held in their own room and not mini baccarat on the casino floor) have such an impact on casino and overall state gaming revenue it comes as no surprise that casinos would focus on bringing in baccarat players.

Baccarat is basically an even odds game so the hefty wagers can swing casino revenue one way or the other in a day, let alone a quarter or year. Since the game is essentially a coin flip it’s no surprise that it’s expected to continue to grow in popularity.

Even though most baccarat players are high(er) rollers it’s interesting that Wynn Las Vegas only focuses on 150 players to make satisfy their baccarat income for any given month. These are the highest of the high rollers.

This is something to take into account when you’re a medium roller (like me) wondering why your $25 blackjack or $1 video poker play isn’t gaining much in return from the players clubs at casinos have baccarat (Not all casinos have big baccarat games). If casinos lose a few medium rollers it doesn’t directly effect their bottom line. It’s another story if they lose one of these 150 big baccarat players gambling millions of dollars on a weekend.

This is simply common sense but the reminder of how significant your play is to a casino allows you to manage your expectations and keep things fun at the casino. I know I can use the reminder after a bad weekend of gambling at Encore and Wynn.

Seven Stars Insider – December Edition

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

Seven Stars Insider – December 2012

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

 

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

Simply go to: 

>> www.sevenstarsinsider.com <<

 

Hollywood Casino St. Louis

Answers To Your Questions

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

Las Vegas

SlotZilla

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

Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall & Saloon

Bye, Bye, Bill’s

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

Flamingo

Great Great Gift Wrap Up!

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

Paris

Evening In Paris

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

The Quad

It’s Official!

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

[Human] Nature Calls For Last Time

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

Atlantic City

Advertising Hope and Appreciation

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

Cool Treat

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

The Early Bird. . .Gets Charged Extra

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

More Name Changes?

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

Borgota Hotel Casino

Harrah’s Restort Atlantic City

Buffets On Holiday Schedules

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

Climb and Dine

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

Bally’s

Diamond Lounge December Hours

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

Holiday Cheer

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

Gift Shop Sells $1M Powerball Ticket

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

Caesars

December Seven Stars Lounge Hours

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

December Diamond Lounge Hours

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

Chef Shuffle

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

Harrah’s Resort

Seven Stars Hours To Change

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

Diamond Lounge December Hours

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

Up All Night – Not

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

You Need To Get Out More, Mr. Reservationist

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

You Also Need To Get Out More, Mr. Smith

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

From Dust To More Dust

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

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

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

False Sense Of Security

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

Showboat

Diamond Lounge December Hours

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

Harrah’s Philadelphia

BarleyQue Finally Gets It Right

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

General

Tier Jerker

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

Insider Out?

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

 Great Race Point Discrepancies

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

Some Seven Stars Benefits Are Not The Same Everywhere

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

Total Rewards Rewarded

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

Question Of The Month

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

Dress Code

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

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

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

Holiday Hours

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

Leaving Macau

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

Caesars Financial Report

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

Survey Says. . .

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

 This Month’s Survey

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

Darryl D. McEwen, Publisher

Seven Stars Insider

Photo – Got Celeb

 

Hilton Honors Coming To Tropicana

My friends and I stayed at Planet Hollywood on one of my first trips to Las Vegas mostly for one reason. At the time Planet Hollywood was a Starwood Property. Not only could some of us use Starwood points and status from work travel, but the lesser travelers could earn points towards free hotels anywhere in the country.

Vegas may be the greatest travel destination in the world, but it’s not the only place to visit. Having a partnership with a national hotel chain is a nice perk for travelers even if people in this town (like me) don’t believe it there are people that want to travel places besides Las Vegas.

Planet Hollywood is now a Caesars Total Rewards property. While that’s not as cool for the world-wide traveler at least they offer discounts to locations outside of Las Vegas. Tropicana is the latest casino to jump on board the national hotel program.

Four days after telling you about a Vegas rumor that DoubleTree was taking over the Tropicana‘s hotel, it’s now official…

Hilton HHonors members will both be able to use and earn points with stays at the Trop.

While partnering with a national hotel chain isn’t an exciting marketing move it’s a nice perk for the traveler. Tropicana may not be the most exciting place but it’s not embarrassing property at all and is not the worst way to introduce new visitors to Las Vegas.

If I wasn’t so familiar with Vegas and have so much “equity” in Total Rewards properties I think this might attract me to staying at Tropicana at least once to see what it’s like.

Seven Stars Insider – November 2012

Total Rewards Cards
Total Rewards Cards

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

Harrah’s Baltimore (Maryland)

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

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

Harrah’s Hollywood Casino St. Louis

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

Las Vegas

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

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

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

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

Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall & Saloon

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

Flamingo

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

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

Caesars Palace

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

Harrah’s

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

Paris

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

Harrah’s Reno

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

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

Atlantic City

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sincerely,

Matt Heiskell
Assistant General Manager – Bally’s Atlantic City

Others received this in the mail:

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

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

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

Sincerely,

Don Marrandino
Eastern Division President

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bally’s

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

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

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

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

Caesars

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

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

Harrah’s Resort

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

Harrah’s Cherokee (North Carolina)

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

Harrah’s Philadelphia

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

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

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

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

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

General

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

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

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

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

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

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

Odds Are. . .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Darryl D. McEwen, Publisher
Seven Stars Insider

Photo: Pulse of Vegas Blog

Favorite Downtown Vegas Casinos (2012)

I’ve been asked why I talking about downtown so much. There are a lot of reasons, but a few are good gambling, cheap food and drink and it’s relaxed atmosphere.

I like going downtown for a day/night to do some low brow eating, drinking and gambling. Nothing fancy is happening and I probably didn’t shower. You know, so I fit in. I don’t always want to gamble this way, but when I do these are the casinos I frequent downtown.

GOLDEN GATE
First and foremost the Golden Gate Casino has 10x craps. Craps is my favorite game to play and 10x odds lower the house edge to almost .001 according to Wizard of Odds.

The Golden Gate casino is the oldest casino in Vegas and was recently renovated and while the casino floor is more cramped then most in Vegas, it’s decor is warm and it feels clean and is comfortable. It doesn’t hurt that the dealers are also go-go dancers, many of which aren’t ugly. The dealers are also the dancers and many of them are featured on the chips. On my last visit I was playing blackjack and noticed I kept losing when a specific dealer was on top of my chip stack. After telling the dealer to get rid of all chips with that girl she revealed that the girl on the chip was her best friend in the casino. We laughed, we both made money because doubled my buy in and I tip when I win. A good time was had by all.

DuPars Pancakes

Golden Gate is also home to DuPar’s Bakery and home of the best pancakes I’ve ever had. The drawn butter helps. A lot. A short stack is $6 and these make for a perfect late night snack. Just stay away from the coffee. It’s awful.

All of these reasons, make the Golden Gate one of my favorite casinos downtown.