Seven Stars Insider – October 2012 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 Ins Continue reading “Seven Stars Insider – October 2012 Edition”

Seven Stars Insider – September 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.

NEW ORLEANS

What’s New At Harrah’s

  • Thanks to a reader who just returned, here are some updates on the casino: The buffet is being remodeled, but remains open during construction. (Let’s hope they fix the food, not just the décor!)
  • Bambu has closed, but no word on what will replace it.
  • Le Royal Rouge Show – a Parisian-themed variety show consisting of a comedian, six beautiful dancers, illusionist Rob Lake, crossbow act Ben Blaque and local comedian Jodi Borrello who also acts as host – is currently playing at Harrah’s Theatre through October 28. Performances are at 8 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays. Tickets are $37 and $47 and can be comped by hosts, but the comped tickets go fast, he said.

LAS VEGAS

Great Gift Mess Up

Apparently, it’s too early to start making plans for the Great Gift Wrap Up. If you try to find information on the website, you’ll get nothing but frustration:

First, the dates of the event(s) – there are two sessions November 8-12 at the Flamingo and November 29 to December 3 at Caesars Palace – are not listed on the site. Well, they are, but first you have to sit through a “slide show” promoting the Total Rewards Visa card and watch pretty pictures of some of the items to be available. Once the slide with the dates appears, click quickly, or it’s back to the slide show. These dates should be prominently displayed on every page of this site.

Like with the mobile app, you can’t sign in with your Total Rewards username; you have to use your actual account number. Also, if you registered on the site during a previous event, I hope you remember your “old” password because that’s what you need to access your Great Gift Wrap Up account. Why were all of us forced to choose a username and new password when it can’t be used throughout the system? Same thing happens if you click on the “My Account” tab.

SIGNATURE EVENT

‘I’ll Pass, Thank You’

For many of the same reasons cited by others in last month’s newsletter, I will not be making the trip to Las Vegas this month. At a minimum, I figure it would cost me about $1,000 to attend (local airport parking, airfare, cabs to and from Planet Hollywood, meals not part of the event, and miscellaneous tips). Not including my hotel room (which I can get complimentary any time), the retail value of the weekend [a dessert reception, two meals (Saturday brunch and a BBQ), free play, concert ticket and behind-the scenes tour] amounts to less than $500. Considering I have no plans to consume caffeine, e.g., chocolate, after 9 p.m. or attend the Don Henley concert, that knocks off about $150, leaving me with $100 in free play, a “free” brunch and BBQ (ho-hum!), and a tour of the Jubilee! theater (which I could do on any trip to Las Vegas – it’s available for a nominal fee to the public on most days). I have “regular” offers from Las Vegas that are far more generous – and are available on my schedule (and without a bunch of other Seven Stars cardholders clamoring for special attention).

‘Abundant Free Play’?

I guess my definition of “abundant free play” is different from Caesars. According to my invitation, I have a choice of $100 in free play or a $100 shopping certificate. If I choose the shopping certificate, the invitation suggests I “bring plenty of empty of suitcases to fill with items [I’ve] picked up during [my] shopping spree at the Forum Shops.” I could put $100 of Forum Shop purchases in my gym bag – and still have plenty of space left over.

Henley Concert Not So Exclusive

As opposed to the Diana Ross concert in Atlantic City, the Don Henley concert on Saturday is open to other than Seven Stars cardholders. Several friends who have Diamond cards – and don’t even play frequently in Las Vegas – received invitations to the concert, as well as complimentary accommodations for three nights at any of Caesars hotels (except Caesars Palace).

CAESARS PALACE

Talk About A Buffet Of Buffets!

This month Caesars Palace will unveil its new $17 million 590-seat Bacchanal Buffet, calling it “the most colossal on the Vegas Strip”. According to a report in USA Today, offerings will include made-to-order soufflés, home-smoked ribs, and red velvet pancakes with sweet cream cheese. And up to 90 percent of the 524 items on the buffet will be made in front of the customer. All this doesn’t come cheap: breakfast will be $19.99, lunch will be $24.99 and dinner will be $39.99.

Rough In The Diamond

With all the noise I heard last month as I walked toward the entrance to the Diamond Lounge – er, excuse me, Seven Stars & Diamond Lounge – I expected not to get in. Turns out it was just a boisterous group of guys sitting at the bar and in the area near the bar. Loud I can take – well, not really – but I don’t appreciate listening to racial slurs and other insults directed toward people who happen to enjoy watching cars being driven around a racetrack. It shouldn’t be up to a bartender; these lounges need a full-time manager present who can exercise a little control over patrons. I’ve seen the bartenders at Harrah’s Diamond Lounge take charge when someone is a little loud or has a bit too much to drink, but, at the risk of sounding sexist, it’s a little easier when the bartenders are a couple of burly guys, and not a petite young woman.

Celine Will Go On. . .and On. . .and On

Knowledgeable sources are reporting that Celine Dion will extend her current three-year contract – she’s into her second year already – for a “very long term”.

‘Batman’ Flies Into Caesars

Actor Christian Bale filmed scenes for his upcoming Knight of Cups at a poker table in Caesars Palace last month.

FLAMINGO

Girl Is A Diamond’s Best Friend

She’s not a girl, but “Woman Is A Diamond’s Best Friend” just wouldn’t have cut it. However, Gwen, who greeted me (and others) at the Diamond Lounge last month is certainly a great example of outstanding customer relations. She made me feel so welcome, we spent about five minutes chatting at the podium before I even took a seat. Just watching her interact with customers put a smile on my face. I was sorry I was leaving the next morning. . .I definitely would have returned.

Adios, Carlos’n Charlie’s

I was really looking forward to my first meal at Carlos’n Charlie’s. Traveling by myself, I didn’t want a big fancy dinner; I was in the mood for some tacos or fajitas. Imagine my surprise when I walked into a half-empty restaurant at 9 o’clock on a Saturday night in August. Maybe it was the overly loud music, the average (and over-priced) food, and poor service. Admittedly, this is based on one visit, but, with all the options in Las Vegas, why return to possibly have the same experience? What’s that old expression? “You only get one chance to make a good first impression.”

PARIS

Gordon Ramsey Steak: Not So Well Done

While she praised the food as “perfection itself”, Las Vegas Review-Journal dining critic Heidi Knapp Rinella had beefs with the service and other aspects of her experience at the new Gordon Ramsey Steak. Read the entire review here.

PLANET HOLLYWOOD

NoShow CeeLo

For now, you’ll have to watch him on TV’s “The Voice”. CeeLo Green’s “Loberace” – scheduled to open at Planet Hollywood – is being postponed until February. Officials cited contractual commitments for the popular TV show, as well as the need for more time to assemble the elaborate staging for a “dazzling production that is said to be a nod to the garish staging of Liberace’s performances in Las Vegas,” according to Las Vegas magazine.

ATLANTIC CITY

Lounge Hours Change

Effective September 6 – and until further notice, the following are the new hours for the Seven Stars Lounges:

Going Into Labor Day

  • Atlantic City’s Seven Stars Lounges will be open September 3 (Labor Day) from noon to 8 p.m.
  • Caesars Thursdays – 5 to 9 p.m. Fridays – 1 p.m. to midnight Saturdays – 1 p.m. to midnight Sundays – 1 to 8 p.m.
  • Harrah’s Thursdays – 5 to 9 p.m. Fridays – 3 p.m. to 1 a.m. Saturdays – 1 p.m. to 1 a.m. Sundays – Noon to 8 p.m.

I don’t have a problem with the reduced hours, but – like the Atlantic City Diamond Lounges – wouldn’t it have been easier to make them consistent?

Dining Options Narrow — Again

In the wake of closing the Virginia City Buffet at Bally’s Wild Wild West, Sunday brunch no longer will be served at the Reserve (Bally’s) or Scarduzio’s (Showboat), leaving your only option the Atlantic Grill at Caesars. While the Waterfront and Mardi Gras buffets serve brunch, there’s really no comparison between Atlantic Grill and the Showboat and Harrah’s buffets. In addition, the ill-fated lunch service at Caesars Mia has been discontinued. Despite the great food, this was never much of a success. While excellent quality, the food was a bit pricy for the average diner looking for a quick lunch, and Caesars really didn’t do a very good job of promoting it. Last year when Il Mulino at Trump Taj Mahal began lunch service, players received discount coupons and the restaurant offered several affordable specials. At a minimum, Caesars players who regularly received monthly food coupons good at the buffet, Café Roma, Kwi or room service should have been given the option of using them at Mia for lunch. (As it turned out, if you asked, those coupons were accepted, but it’s too late now.) Watch for more seasonal closings and – if rumors are correct – the possible closing (and rebranding) of another Caesars-owned restaurant.

Shopping For Answers

If there were two questions I was asked most frequently during the past month, they were: “What are we going to be able to buy at the October Holiday Shopping Spree?” and “How much is a Shopping Credit worth?” I can’t answer them, and neither can anyone at Total Rewards. “Oh, they don’t tell us things like that,” one woman at Harrah’s told me. I got a similar response from a woman at Bally’s. Why the big secret? The program has been underway for two months now, and it ends this month. Between last minute changes to the program when it was introduced, and frequently malfunctioning kiosks with inaccurate point totals, this seems to be one of the least thought-out programs Caesars marketing team has come up with. Even the Total Rewards Web site has misleading and misinformation. When I clicked on “Earn Shopping Credits” under “My Offers” it says, “Get 10 Shopping Credits for every Tier Credit earned Jun 15-Sep 30, 2012 at Caesars, Harrah’s Resort, Showboat and Bally’s. Redeem in Oct at Bally’s. See your mailed offer for details!” [The program began July 1, not June 15, but I’ll be happy to take Shopping Credits for my tier credits earned starting June 15.] Even more confusing is what comes up on the Web page when you click “Learn More”: It looks like the event is at Caesars on August 28 (or whatever date you happen to be on the site), along with upcoming dates.

Spa-Tacular Returns

Five spas are participating in this year’s Spa-Tacular, September 23-28: Qua at Caesars, Red Door at Harrah’s, Vive at Showboat, the Spa at Bally’s and Bellezza Salon at Caesars. Treatments are $60 and include your choice of facial, massage, body treatment or manicure/pedicure. With the exception of Vive, most of the treatments are 25 minutes, so Vive offers you the best deals with its 50-minute treatments. For instance, at the Red Door, its Web site lists 25-minute facials and massages for $80 (a 50-minute facial or massage is $135), so you’re saving $20, but, at Vive, those same 50-minute services go for $115, so you’re saving $55. However, once again, there seems to be little promotion of this event. Yes, it’s on the Total Rewards Web site under “Atlantic City”, but clicking on each spa’s “Learn More” button simply takes you to its Web site.

CAESARS

Roma Rebellion

It was 11:15 p.m. on August 30 at Café Roma. From the long lines – both the Seven Stars/Diamond line and the “regular” line – you would have thought you were at Dusk downstairs. Customer tempers were flaring because a) previously seated customers who had ordered food were complaining that it was taking too long to be served, b) no one came to their tables to take their orders or c) no one in either line was being seated. Four individuals who were directed to the counter were sent back to the line when it turned out no one was working the counter. The problem was that there simply were not enough employees. [It was a similar situation at the Boardwalk Buffet earlier in the day.] I’m sure there are plenty of unemployed servers and kitchen workers who would love a job, but Caesars seems to be cutting staff faster than $100 bills disappear in the slot machines. It’s not going unnoticed by customers.

Sign Of The Times

After more than a year you’d think the sign with such a glaring spelling error – “Centrurion Tower” instead of “Centurion Tower” – would have been replaced. Nope, it’s still there. I guess the current economic slowdown means there’s no money in the budget to correct such things.

Big Bang Theory

SHOWBOAT Watch Your Purse!

No one was injured when an electrical fire led to a brief evacuation at Caesars last month. Fire Chief Dennis Brooks told The Press of Atlantic City that the fire began in a second-floor electrical room. Brooks says there was a bang when a worker turned on a switch. Power was turned off and firefighters got the smoke out of the casino. Police arrested an Atlantic City man at Showboat last month and charged him with snatching purses in three casinos. Allegedly, he used a jacket to hide the removal of a purse from a pile of luggage in the lobby. The purse belonged to an 80-year-old woman who was staying at the Showboat with her sister-in-law. The other purse snatches occurred at the Borgata and Tropicana.

HARRAHS PHILADELPHIA

Salad Daze

‘Its’ Isn’t What It’s Supposed To Be

Speaking Of Change. . .

‘Will Caesars Entertainment Ever Stop Falling?’

That’s the title of an online article on The Motley Fool Web site August 30.

The Rest Of Us Have To Earn Our Tier Credits

Thanks to an alert employee, a reader learned about a complimentary salad at the Cove. The couple had earlier eaten in the dining room, but their server never mentioned it. It wasn’t until a few days later when they had dinner at the bar that a bartender told them they could save money by taking the complimentary salad available to Seven Stars cardholders rather than ordering

Video Poker in Supermarkets Now Giving Comps

When you live in Vegas, you see video poker everywhere. There are tiny “casinos” like Dotty’s. Restaurant/Bars like Buffalo Wild Wings have video poker. They’re also open 24 hours a day. Kinda cool, kinda strange but very Vegas.

When I moved I found it strange to see video poker in gas stations. I found it even more strange to see people playing video poker in gas stations. Last year I saw a guy hit a royal flush. He was jumping up and down and for a moment I was stoked for him. Then I got sad, when I wondered if he was there every other week using his paycheck to gamble. Once I realized that there are plenty people like this in casinos I was fine and enjoyed my 99 cent soda.

Probably the strangest place I’ve seen video poker is at the supermarket. Supermarkets in Vegas are bigger than I’m used to back east. There is one across the street from me with a Starbucks (complete with seating) AND Panda Express (no seating) as well as all the fresh counters you’d expect to see. There’s also video poker and slots where I rarely see people playing. That might change soon.

Golden Gaming is about to make that possible by giving grocery store slot players their own rewards club.

One of the business units acquired by Golden covers the roughly 2,200 slot machines operated in large grocery store chains statewide. The games in some 151 stores account for almost 25 percent of Golden Gaming overall route of 8,500 slot machines.

On Tuesday the company will launch Checkout Rewards, a players club dedicated to grocery shoppers. Part of the launch includes a giveaway of $100,000 in cash and prizes over the summer. Plus, three people will win a year’s supply of groceries when the promotion concludes Labor Day weekend.

“This is the first time that someone with the responsibility for our gaming route has created something of value for our customers,” said Chris Middleton, area vice president of operations for Albertsons, one of three Southern Nevada grocery chains that will participate in the promotion along with Smith’s and Vons.

It’s an interesting idea that seems to be a long time coming. There are players clubs for everything and it was surprising that there was no players club involvement in the supermarkets. Since the supermarkets don’t own or maintain the machines they wouldn’t provide rewards, although that would be cool.

I don’t see myself ever having the urge to play video poker in a supermarket, but at least the people that play in supermarkets now can get some rewards.

Escape to (No) Total Rewards

If you are into to casinos and gambling like me, then I’m sure you have heard of the Caesars Escape to Total Rewards Promotion Game that they are running to celebrate the new branding and features of Total Rewards. If you haven’t, then I will give you a brief synopsis.

Basically you are given a slot-machine type spin and get a gaming piece. You can win three ways, you can be entered into the long-term sweepstakes, you can get an instant win, or you can get a game board piece. If you get a game board piece, it’s in one of six categories. Fill up 8 pieces from any given category and you win a prize.

Something happened with the game a few weeks ago, however, and it appeared that no one was winning any instant-wins or game board categories. No matter how many spins you tried a day (your max is 11, using codes), everyone was getting 11 entries into the long term sweepstakes. A click on the Recent Winners link showed that there were no recent winners.

This changed again last week as it appears that some people are now winning Instant Wins and are allowed to complete the Dining category, but no other prizes are showing in the Recent Wins area of the site. So what’s the point of me telling you all this?

I got into the game early enough that I was able to complete three categories before the well went dry: Dining, Entertainment, and Hotels. For Dining I was given $25 in food and beverage to use at any Caesars property. Since I was already planning on going to the Horseshoe in Hammond, Indiana, I decided I would use some of my credit on a drink while I was there.

There was one major flaw in my logic. In the Midwest, most states don’t allow the casinos to comp alcohol for play. This includes the Total Rewards points. I didn’t think of that wrinkle, so when I went to the bar they could put the money towards non-alcoholic drinks or food, but not a beer. It’s not the casino’s fault, but it’s something that people should be aware of.

At any rate, I keep playing the Escape to Total Rewards game every day, hoping to finish my last few lines. We will see if they release any more prizes in the near future. For now I’ll pile up Sweepstakes entries and hope to hit it big. After all, if I’ll gamble to win big, why not try for free?

Jimmy Kimmel Talks Total Rewards

Jimmy Kimmel did a promotional video for Total Rewards the players club for Caesars Entertainment. It’s cute, but so what?

As someone that has been a customer of Caesars Entertainment for years and gambles and stays at their properties I’m not impressed with their money going towards relaunching Total Rewards. I’d much rather see Caesars use the money they paid to Jimmy Kimmel or the artists that performed for the Escape to Total Rewards Concerts spent on upgrading their hotels or upgrading my casino experience.

Call me crazy, but I’d rather see housekeeping that actually cleans the room not just makes the beds. I’d also like complementary wifi. They could upgrade their email system to be as efficient as snail mail and not kill thousands of trees a week. Maybe Diamond Lounges could serve a better grade of vodka. I’m sure I could spend this money many different ways.

This campaign geared towards generating new customers, not for current customers. However, any business should be spending as much time, effort and money keeping their current customers happy as they are looking to acquire new customers.

When it’s all said and done, how does this make Total Rewards better? It doesn’t.

Cosmopolitan Video Poker: There’s Nothing To See Here

I stopped off at Cosmopolitan for the first time since the summer to upgrade my Identity status and to see if my Identity Play was still there from a promotion I did in July. It was. The money was there – it stays on the account for 1 year. Since I had money on my card to use on a machine I went right to the vpFREE2 mobile site on my phone to see what video poker games were available to me.

I knew that the games were downgraded, but I found only one game under $5 to play.

98.01%
BP (Bonus Poker) 1-2-3-4-5-7-25-40-80-50-800
25¢ – 1 Slant-top – 50 Play – just to the left of the high limit room
$1, $2 – 1 Play – scattered throughout casino

I know the Las Vegas strip doesn’t have the best video poker pay tables in town and this is what I expected after reading that the video poker machines were recently downgraded. Playing $1 machines that pay out 98% isn’t great. The quarter machines paid back at a 6/5 rate, which (I think) is about 96%.  Thankfully, I was lucky enough to win my Identity play back in cash then I left to play some quarter and penny slots that eventually took most of my winnings.

I normally play Jacks of Better (8/5 @ Cosmo) which pays back about 99+% (at full pay) so the 1 percent difference isn’t much on $100, but in time it adds up and most people prefer to play games that have better payouts. The way it looks is that slot machine payouts (~92%) aren’t much worse that video poker so I took my money and decided to have a little fun playing Top Dollar slots, which I’m a sucker for and will play again.

I believe that the quarter Bonus Poker paid out 8/6 when Cosmo opened, so this isn’t much of a change but this isn’t a reason to visit the Cosmo. If you’re a video poker player you can find some better games on the strip at lower denominations on the strip. Cosmo remains a place to go to eat, drink and be merry, but not necessarily a place to visit if you want to gamble. That said, I can get Kettle One when gambling, so that’s a plus on that side.

 

Palazzo and Venetian Video Poker

A couple years ago I put where I would stay on my trip to Vegas up to vote and the you chose Palazzo. Since then I’ve returned to Palazzo for a couple of trips. My friends and I really enjoy having suites and newness of the rooms and casino. This year our choices came down to Cosmopolitan and Palazzo which were available for the same price. Since I live in Vegas now, I let the other guys choose and they decided on a return to Palazzo instead of exploring a new place.

I was going to be stoked with either selection so this is cool and now that I’m upgraded to a platinum Identity member, I get a free terrace suite upgrade at Cosmo, so I can buy a cheap room and get a sweet suite in the future.

As I did before I lived in Vegas, I checked the video poker offerings on vpFree at the casino I was staying. In the past year, I don’t think there is anything new at Palazzo or Venetian. I found no surprises. Take a look:

Palazzo

98.91% Deuces Wild
1-2-3-4-4-9-15-25-200-800
$5, $10, $25 – 1 Play – high limit room – Slant-tops

98.45% Jacks or Better
1-2-3-4-5-9-25-50-800
$1, $2, $5 – 1 Play – inside & outside high limit room – Slant-tops
$5, $10, $25 – 1 Play – high limit room – Slant-tops

98.44% 1 Pair (Kings or Better) Joker Wild
1-1-2-3-5-7-17-50-100-200-940
25¢, 50¢, $1 – 1 Play – near slot club – 8 Slant-tops

98.01% Bonus Poker
1-2-3-4-5-7-25-40-80-50-800
25¢ – 3/5/10 Play – STP – between slot club and Grand Lux Cafe – 4 Slant-tops
25¢, 50¢, $1 – 1 Play – SP – several banks
25¢, 50¢, $1 1/3/5/10 Play – several banks

97.87% Double Double Bonus
1-1-3-4-5-9-50-80-160-160-400-50-800
5¢, 10¢, 25¢, 50¢, $1 – 3/5/10 Play – QQ – near Grand Lux Cafe – 4 Slant-tops
25¢ – 1 Play – Prog – between slot club and Grand Lux Cafe – 10 Uprights

Venetian

98.45% Jacks or Better
1-2-3-4-5-9-25-50-800
$1 – 3 Play – STP – high limit room – 1 Slant-top
$1, $2, $5 – 1 Play – SP – inside and outside the high limit room – Slant-tops

98.44% 1 Pair (Kings or Better) Joker Wild
1-1-2-3-5-7-17-50-100-200-940
25¢, 50¢, $1 – 1 Play – near La Scena Lounge – 8 Slant-tops

98.01% Bonus Poker
1-2-3-4-5-7-25-40-80-50-800
25¢, 50¢, $1 – 1/3/5 Play – several banks
$5 – 1 Play – Prog – high limit room – 4 Slant-tops

97.87% Double Double Bonus
5¢, 10¢, 25¢, 50¢, $1 – 3/5/10 Play – QQ – near center bar – 4 Slant-tops
25¢ – 1 Play – Prog – outside high limit room – 12 Slant-tops

97.81% Double Bonus
1-1-3-5-6-9-50-80-160-50-800
25¢ – 1 Play – near the escalator – Slant-tops

Seven Stars Insider – September Edition

Here is the latest Seven Stars Insider newsletter.  This is good information if you are a Harrah’s player and a Total Rewards card holder and has now been tailored for all levels of card holders.

The newsletter doesn’t teach you how to “game” the system, but rather how to maximize your comps.  Sign up for the newsletter here.

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.  You will need Adobe Acrobat to view them, but this is a free program available at www.adobe.com.

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

 >> www.sevenstarsinsider.com <<

 Las Vegas

Restaurant Week

If you’re in Las Vegas between now and September 11, you’ll not only have the opportunity to get some good dining bargains, but help out some needy charities, as well.  With three-course breakfast, lunch and dinner specials running $20.11, $30.11 and $50.11, respectively, participating restaurants include Serendipity3, KGB, Hyakumi, The Range, Eiffel Tower, Bill’s Steakhouse, Payard, Beijing Noodle No. 9, Martorano’s, Rao’s, Mesa, Toby Keith’s I ♥ This Bar & Grill, and Empress Court.

Fast Cash Available Longer

I haven’t independently verified this, but a reader writes that those Fast Cash tickets the slot machines spit out with your winnings are now valid for 180 days, two months longer than previous.  It’s still a good idea to go home with your cash, so take those slips to the cashier before you leave Las Vegas.

 

Lake Tahoe

 Signature Event

My e-mail in-box was strangely empty concerning last month’s event at Lake Tahoe.  Let’s hope that no news is good news.

 

Atlantic City

Hurricane Irene: More Than Storm Damage

It certainly was no fault of the casinos, but the closure of the four Caesars-owned casinos (as well as all of the casinos in Atlantic City) left many players with hundreds of dollars’ worth of free play coupons and other offers they were unable to use.  According to a host, “corporate” made the decision not to honor them now that the casinos are back open.  Big PR blunder, in my humble opinion (and many others who have written me).  [While Harrah’s Chester in Pennsylvania was closed only from 8 p.m. Saturday through noon on Sunday, they are not honoring free play coupons either.  Borgata is honoring its “Hurricane Sunday” free play offer September 25.  I didn’t survey the other AC casinos.  Dover Downs in Delaware, however, is honoring its promotions from the hurricane weekend during Labor Day weekend.]

‘We’ll Buy The Food If You Buy The Drinks’

Once again, you gotta read the fine print in your offers.  I booked a two-night stay at Caesars that included – what I thought was – a $150 food and beverage credit.  As instructed, I charged dinner and lunch from two of the participating restaurants, but when I checked my bill on the TV set, it showed two charges which I thought should have been picked up by the offer.  Turns out, the offer was only for food.  My bottle of wine at dinner and two iced teas at lunch were at my own expense.  No big deal, but it seemed a little odd.  Apparently, I wasn’t the only one to question this, according to the folks at VIP Check-In.  [Cheapskate that I am, before checking out, I went next door to Harry’s Oyster House and got 2½ pounds of “peel-and-eat” shrimp to go – worth about $40.  I wasn’t about to give back any of the $150!]  Related to this, similar promotions were offered in different denominations, but some also included restrictions regarding which hotels were available on certain days.  Also, remember that, in order to use an offer like this, your hotel stay must be booked under a specific offer code.  Just because you are staying at a participating casino hotel during the time the free deal is offered doesn’t automatically allow you to take advantage of the promotion.

Cash Banks To Close Early

Now, in the category of “What are they thinking?”  First, actual cash back was changed to free slot play which is good for up to 90 days after you earn it.  Now that three-month deadline has been reduced to 60 days.  Fine for those of us who frequent Atlantic City to take advantage of it, but not so good for those who make the trek perhaps once a quarter.  I’ve heard from several people in the latter category, and they are not happy.  With Borgata, Resorts, Trump and Golden Nugget – and perhaps Tropicana and Hilton (I’m not familiar with their player’s card programs) – all allowing 90 days, this puts Caesars casinos at a severe disadvantage when it comes to attracting big-time players who don’t have the time or the inclination to travel to Atlantic City on a more frequent basis.  Whether they will follow-through or not, several have written to me and said “this is the last straw” and the final incentive they need to switch allegiances.

Seven Stars Benefits – That Don’t Exist

If you want to know what special benefits exist at the four Caesars Atlantic City casinos, don’t depend on the Total Rewards Web site.  According to the site:

Bally’s

  • Access to SEV lounge Thursday – Sunday (Available at Harrah’s Only)  [My guess is that “SEV” refers to the Seven Stars Lounge which is available also at Caesars.  And what about “exclusive access” to Bally’s Diamond Pointe area?  See more on this below.]

Caesars

  • Access to SEV lounge Thursday – Sunday (Available at Caesars Only)  [See comment above regarding Bally’s.]
  • Access to our exclusive slot room, Diamond Cove, Mondays – Thursdays  [Ah, but see the next “benefit”!]
  • Access to our exclusive slot room, Diamond Cove every day, including weekends and holidays  [So, if it’s available to you every day – “including weekends and holidays” (what other choices are there?) – why list as a “benefit” that it’s accessible Mondays – Thursdays?  But, wait, there is no Diamond Cove at Caesars!  The “exclusive slot room” is called Palace Court.]

Harrah’s Resort

  • Access to our exclusive slot room, Diamond Cove, Mondays – Thursdays  [See comments above regarding Caesars.]
  • Access to our exclusive slot room, Diamond Cove every day, including weekends and holidays  [See comments above regarding Caesars, but note that there is a Diamond Cove at Harrah’s.]
  • [Why is there no reference to the Seven Stars Lounge?]

Showboat

  • Access to our exclusive slot room, Diamond Cove, Mondays – Thursdays
  • Access to our exclusive slot room, Diamond Cove every day, including weekends and holidays  [Uh, it’s called “Jackson Square” at Showboat.  See comments above regarding these other “exclusive slot rooms”.]
  • [Why is there no reference to the complimentary Sunday brunch from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.?]

And, what’s the big deal about access to these “exclusive slot rooms”?  Most of the time there is no one standing guard to check player’s cards, and I find it hard to believe that someone showing up with a wad of $100s and no Diamond or Seven Stars card is going to be denied access.

Bally’s

Goodbye, Red Pearl; Hello, Nanking

When Mr. Ming’s reopened as Red Pearl, I was sadly disappointed at the interior design, as well as the food.  The sign now reads, Nanking – Asian Fusion, but it doesn’t seem to be open yet.  Let’s hope for some improvements.

Caesars

Seven Stars Lounge Needs Some Direction

While I’m flattered that my opinion seems to be important to a lot of people who play in Atlantic City and want to know what I think of the new Seven Stars Lounge, I wanted to hold off making comments until it had been open a while.  However, after three months and five personal visits (three for cocktails – twice on weeknights, once on a Friday; once for lunch; and once for late-night dessert and after-dinner drink on a Saturday) – and many, many negative e-mails from Seven Stars cardholders, I feel compelled to raise some issues that someone needs to address.  The biggest problem is the room itself, but, hey, you work with what you’ve got, and there wasn’t much you could do with that big box of a room, formerly housing the Bacchanal.  The décor and furnishings are another story.  The style certainly isn’t to my taste, but you’re never going to please everyone.  What the room does need is more tables.  It shouldn’t take a rocket scientist to notice that the first seats to go are those surrounding tables.  Those long lavender sofas may look nice around the perimeter of the room, but try setting your drink down – or, worse, try to balance a bowl of soup or a plate of food – on those tufted leather (faux leather?) “cocktail ‘tables’”.  When a server brought my iced tea at lunch, she offered to leave behind her tray so I would have something solid to put my drink on.  Why go to all that expense to create a fancy atmosphere, then leave a beat-up serving tray behind so your guest has some place to rest his food and drink?  Come on, now.  And, speaking of food, for weeks I had been salivating over the sweet corn bisque and crab fritter I spotted on the menu.  When I finally got a chance to order it, it tasted like a bowl of warm milk into which kernels of raw corn had been scraped.  I barely had two spoonsful, and pushed it aside.  It was tasteless, and the undercooked corn was bitter.  God knows what that light green “oil slick” floating on top was!  Worse, the server never even questioned why I would leave almost a whole bowl of “soup” practically untouched.  That evening, a gentleman sitting next to me at the bar ordered the “Filet Mignon”.  The meat was about the size of a silver dollar and was artfully balanced on about two tablespoons of mashed potatoes.  He admitted he didn’t expect a full dinner, but this was ridiculous, he said – especially when he could have gotten all the prime rib he could handle by heading downstairs to the Diamond Lounge.  And, for those of us who just want a couple pre-dinner cocktails, is it too much to ask for the availability of some mixed nuts, or a nice cheese plate (as they have at the Harrah’s lounge)?  I even hinted to the server that maybe he could “borrow” some nuts from the Diamond Lounge downstairs, but the thought went totally over his head.  Oh, and don’t even think about ordering any food from the bartenders.  If you’re sitting at the bar, they’ll hand you a menu, but it’s up to you to track down a server (or hope one stops by) to place your order.  Considering that the bartenders are rarely that busy, and spend most of their time watching TV or talking to their colleagues, isn’t it too much to ask that guests deal with two different employees just to get a shrimp cocktail?  Again, the bartenders at Harrah’s take orders, as do the bartenders at the Diamond Lounges.  (On my last visit for a late-night after-dinner drink and some ice cream, I sat at the bar for five minutes before someone came to take my drink order – in the scheme of things not that long, but when you’re sitting alone watching the bartender glued to a soccer match on TV and chatting with the other servers, it seems like an eternity.)  When she finally spotted me, she asked, “Is this your first time here?”  “No, actually, you made a drink for me about 30 hours earlier,” I replied.  When she asked if I wanted some food, I said, “Just a little dessert.”  She brought me the menu (which I didn’t need), and when no one came to take my order, gently chided me for not propping the menu upright on the bar.  I apologized for not knowing the “secret code” necessary to get served.  Enough already!  Just take my order and relay it to a server.  Finally, how about a friendly greeting when you enter?  Unlike Harrah’s (and I hate to keep making comparisons to such an established operation, but maybe the folks at Caesars could learn something instead of going out of their way to be “different”), a revolving door of the same folks who work at VIP Check-In, as well as the Diamond Lounge, swipe your player’s card as you enter.  It’s fine if you know the person, but, usually, the individual sitting there is busy checking personal e-mails and barely gives you the time of day.  He or she is probably bored due to the fact that so few people are frequenting the lounge.  In addition, management needs to be more visible – and shouldn’t be wasting time bringing food orders to tables when there appears to be plenty of servers.  If the rumor is true about the high level of staff turnover – and I’ve heard it from a number of sources – someone in charge needs to step up and fix a very broken situation.  I’ll stick to the Caesars Diamond Lounge where I feel I’m treated more like a real VIP.

Parking Garage Reminder

Have you ever self-parked somewhere, only to return later and forget where you parked?  Caesars offers “memory joggers” in the form of little cards near the elevator that read:

 

WELCOME TO CAESARS

YOU ARE PARKED ON

FLOOR

X

COLOSSEUM GARAGE

 

Nice touch!

Nero’s: Two Thumbs Down!

Maybe it’s because I had just seen Spartacus a few days earlier on TCM, but the first thing I did after finishing dinner at Nero’s last month was make a fist and point my thumb downward.  After a three-year absence (I’d had a succession of less-than-desirable experiences there, including a disastrous Seven Stars “Celebratory Dinner”), I returned reluctantly, but expecting some improvements.  Rebranded Nero’s Tuscan Steakhouse (which seems to mean that you add some cheap white bean side dishes to entrees), dinner was “OK” but nothing extraordinary.  “Steak-ed out” following dinner the previous evening at the fabulous new Vic & Anthony’s over at the Golden Nugget, my guest and I wanted something a little lighter.  I thought I found it in the swordfish special ($42), and my friend had the pressed chicken.  Both were perfectly cooked:  The fish was not overly done and had the requisite grill marks; the chicken was crispy on the outside, moist on the inside.  However, both entrees were just bland, both in taste and presentation. My fish came with a few stalks of broccoli raab, some potato puree and a big glob of what I would best describe as fig chutney.  Now, I love figs, but this stuff would have been more appropriate slathered on toast at breakfast.  It was cloyingly sweet, and there was so much of it, it dominated the plate – and not in a good way.  And, what about that special treatment for Seven Stars cardholders?  Nothing – not even the chocolate-covered strawberries which the table next to us received.  (Even Reflections over at Harrah’s Resort was giving complimentary mimosas at breakfast – and, not only to Seven Stars cardholders, but to Diamond, as well.)  In summary, Nero’s is just a little “tired” and could use a makeover.  With its dark paneling and subdued lighting, what once seemed clubby and elegant, now just seems dated and claustrophobic.  When Caesars closed Primavera, it should have shuttered Nero’s as well, and made the entire floor the Atlantic Grill.  I haven’t tried it, but I plan to write a full report next month.

Harrah’s Resort

Dos Caminos

Be sure to bring your flashlight if you dine at Dos Caminos.  While I enjoyed my dinner there last month, it was almost impossible to read the menu due to the low light level.  Even the servers used flashlights to confirm who-ordered-what before bringing it to the table.  The food was delicious, but don’t expect Taco Bell – or that fast food chain’s low prices.  Three tacos (made with high-quality and perfectly grilled beef – not ground beef with “fillers”) will set you back about $17, as will a modest-sized serving of chicken enchiladas.  Two entrees also included a coffee-cup sized bowl of rice and another of saucy beans, i.e., one bowl of each to share.  And, yes, the food’s a bit on the spicy side – not overwhelming, but be forewarned.  Back to the pricing:  The least expensive bottle of red wine hovers in the mid-$30 range.  Also, unlike most Mexican restaurants, there are no baskets of complimentary tortilla chips and salsa.  As a matter of fact, be prepared for the “upsell” as your server enthuses over your choice of several handmade guacamoles – all at an extra charge, of course.  In a world of casino dining that seems to focus on steakhouses and Italian eateries, it’s nice to have the option of “Modern Mexican”.  I just hope there is more demand – and Harrah’s does more to promote it.  Unless you know those restaurants upstairs exist, it’s easier to grab a quick meal at Bob’s Bar & Burger (as awful as their burgers are) and Reflections, or something more substantial at McCormick & Schmick’s.  Despite what the ad for Dos Camino touts, it was a Friday night around 11 p.m. and I didn’t see anyone “shaking their maracas to the hottest DJs on the Shore”.  The music was a little on the loud side, but the place was practically empty.

General

Seven Stars Countdown

Following up on an item from last month, for the benefit of those Diamond cardholders who aspire to Seven Stars status – and those former Seven Stars cardholders who may be returning to the fold this year – let’s track how long it takes.  As I wrote in August, I know someone who topped 100,000 tier points July 29.  Here’s a chronology of “events” leading to receiving the actual card – just a week later!:

  • July 29 – Player earns 100,000+ tier points.
  • August 1 (or could have been July 31) – Both Total Rewards Web site and myTR app show not only up-to-date tier score, but indicate player’s “Current Tier” as Seven Stars.
  • August 4 – Player receives Total Rewards statement via e-mail which also indicates Seven Stars status.  Local host at Harrah’s Chester prints new cards.  Player takes cards to Atlantic City to add photograph.
  • August 5 – Player receives e-mail confirmation from Total Rewards.
  • August 12 – Player receives official Seven Stars welcome package and booklet

Not bad, considering some folks have complained that it took weeks – which is what this player was told.

Extra Credit

Many restaurants in Caesars casinos around the country participate in Open Table (http://www.OpenTable.com).  It’s a quick and easy way to make a dining reservation and you can earn Dining Reward Points for OpenTable Dining Cheques which can be used at any participating OpenTable restaurant.  Most restaurants earn you 100 points per reservation, but many offer “specials” that earn 1,000 points for dining on a certain day and at a select time.  You need a minimum of 2,000 points to redeem a Dining Cheque, issued in three denominations, with the following point values:

United States:
2,000 OpenTable Points = $20 OpenTable Dining Cheque
5,000 OpenTable Points = $50 OpenTable Dining Cheque
10,000 OpenTable Points = $100 OpenTable Dining Cheque

Canada
Redeem 2,000 points and get a $26 OpenTable Dining Cheque
Redeem 5,000 points and get a $65 OpenTable Dining Cheque
Redeem 10,000 points and get a $130 OpenTable Dining Cheque

United Kingdom
Redeem 2,000 points and get a £15 OpenTable Dining Cheque
Redeem 5,000 points and get a £37.50 OpenTable Dining Cheque
Redeem 10,000 points and get a £75 OpenTable Dining Cheque

Ignorance Is Not Always Bliss

I met a very charming couple from Pennsylvania at the Caesars Seven Stars Lounge.  They had been Seven Stars cardholders for more than three years and never knew about the Seven Stars Lounge at Harrah’s Resort – despite the fact that they stayed and played there almost exclusively (often in the shadow of the lounge at Diamond Cove).  As we talked longer, it was clear that – other than the “basics” – they knew very little about all the benefits they were due.  Part of the problem, we surmised, is that their host is a “freelancer” (based in Pennsylvania) who represents a number of casinos and probably isn’t aware herself.  The couple also confided that her service has deteriorated over the years, but they’re embarrassed to complain and feel awkward expressing their frustration because they’ve become so “close” to her.  Lesson #1 folks, if your host isn’t doing his/her job, ask for someone else.  Directly and indirectly, you’re paying this host’s salary.  If you owned a business, you’d fire an employee who wasn’t performing; it’s the same with your host.

Tipping Tips

On the Seven Stars Insider Web site, I note that the staff at the Seven Stars Lounge at Harrah’s Resort in Atlantic City treats its customers very well, and that customers should do likewise, i.e., be sure to leave a gratuity.  From what I – and several others – have observed, too many people are simply walking out of the Diamond and Seven Stars Lounges and not leaving tips (or modest ones, at best).  For years I have been advocating that guests should receive an itemized “bill” with all their drinks and food.  It would be stamped with a big “Complimentary” but also, in large letters, it would say, “Gratuity Not Included”.  People don’t realize the value of what they are receiving, for one thing, and others are just plain cheap.  They figure they dropped a bundle in the casino and are “owed” all this free food and drink (and, apparently, service).  Caesars could do its wait staff in these lounges and clubs a great service by taking my advice and presenting “checks” to everyone before they leave.  Not only might it increase gratuities for the servers, but it would educate players what they’re getting in return for their play on the casino floor.

‘Bait and Switch’?

Speaking of new cardholders, since it appears that a number of players are just starting to qualify for Seven Stars for the first time, they may be disappointed to learn that the gifts listed in the descriptive copy on the Web site – “We’ve chosen a wide range of items that will apply to even the most discriminate of tastes.  From a Garmin Nuvi to a set of Reed & Barton wine glasses, no object will disappoint.” – are not even being offered.  The only “choices” – if you can call them that – available this year are one of two digital cameras, a 3D Blu-Ray player, an Apple 8GB iPod Nano or a Kindle.  Nice gifts, but if you’re a “techie” you probably already have any of these items you’d be interested in.  You’ve either purchased them, or gotten them through some other casino giveaway.  Hopefully, next year, there will be more to select from.

Time For More Spelling, Grammar and Punctuation Lessons?

A sharp-eyed newcomer to Seven Stars found yet another error in the fancy book everyone gets:  On page 45, the “Unforgettable Trip to Chicago. . .must be taken in it’s [sic] entirety during one trip.”  Then there’s the Contact page on the Total Rewards Web site.  One of the FAQs is “How do I get in touch with Caesars’s [sic]?”  Perhaps the writer wasn’t sure which form to you, so he/she used several to cover all bases.

General Manager’s Clubs

Seven Stars cardholders (and Diamond cardholders with 30,000 or more tier points) have a nice benefit in the General Manager’s Clubs at several casinos in the Midwest.  Each Club is a little different in what it offers, according to those who have visited.  For instance, while the Diamond Lounge in Kansas City charges for alcoholic beverages, the GM Club doesn’t.  There is more limited food service than in the Diamond Lounge, but the quality is higher, e.g., prime rib, shrimp.  There also are iPads to use, a massage chair, Wii and other “toys” (as someone described them).  At the Horseshoe in Council Bluffs the food offerings are a little more extensive, but not by much, report others.  In addition, the GM Clubs hold special events and promotions.  Some of the GM Clubs, in Joliet, for instance, are “virtual”, i.e., there is no physical GM Club, but perhaps just a kiosk in the Diamond Lounge to swipe your player’s card for some special drawing or event.  After an overnight stay in Joliet a couple months ago, I have been bombarded by special offers, free play, dinners, etc., all part of my membership in the GM Club.

Don’t Believe Everything You Read In The Papers (or Magazines)

The editors of Total Rewards Magazine need a geography lesson.  Harrah’s Resort in Atlantic City is not located on the Boardwalk, and the Atlantic Grill is open at Caesars (which is on the Boardwalk), not Harrah’s.  According to the Fall 2011 edition, “Harrah’s [Resort] already had a baker’s dozen of delectable restaurants, but four new eateries have made this casino the culinary king of the Boardwalk. . . .Atlantic Grill, run by Food Network veteran chef Anthony Amoroso, offers organic freshwater and seafood delights along with spectacular views of the ocean.”

Updates

  • Caesars Atlantic City – Just when I thought it safe to enter my room and not slip on menus from local restaurants, there it was again!  A.C. Pizza Palace II is back!  (At least the elevator that wasn’t recognizing key cards is working again!  As a matter of fact, a couple weekends ago, you didn’t even need to insert your key; just push a button and up you went.)
  • Harrah’s Chester – I guess we’re all going to have gamble a little more there.  A much-needed paint job in the self-parking garage started, but it seems to have stalled at the first level.  I’d be happy to pitch in a few bucks; it would be cheaper than recovering from several near collisions in the garage due to the poor signage and worn-off markings on the garage floor.
  • Harrah’s Resort Atlantic City – They actually reprinted the Straight No Chaser posters with the misspelling of Harrah’s; however, someone forgot to replace the one out front at the Brigantine entrance.

Let’s Try This Again. . .

More than a year ago I made a couple suggestions which, I think, are worth restating:

  • Toll-Free “Hotline”- Major airlines and hotels have them for their “elite” customers, why can’t Caesars have a dedicated Seven Stars toll-free number where cardholders can call to get answers to their questions?  Too many times, you ask someone a question and he/either doesn’t know, or gives you the wrong answer.  One definitive source would make life a lot easier.
  • Advisory Board – Several years ago I was honored to be part of an advisory board for Starwood Hotels & Resorts.  There were 30 us serving staggered three-year terms, i.e., there were 10 new members joining the board each year, as 10 others “retired”.  All of us booked a considerable number of hotel room nights each year and planned a wide variety of events including annual conventions, incentive trips, etc.  We met over weekends three times a year at various properties around the country.  Couldn’t Caesars benefit from the ideas and thoughts of its “best” customers?

Question Of The Month

My husband and I have to be in Los Angeles the weekend before Thanksgiving.  We thought it would be great if we took a nonstop flight from there to Philadelphia (there are no nonstops from our home airport near San Diego), spend a few nights in Atlantic City, take the train (at our expense) to a nearby town in New Jersey to spend Thanksgiving weekend with our kids, then fly back to San Diego from Philadelphia.  My host tells me my annual Seven Stars trip has to be a round-trip ticket from my home airport to the casino’s local airport.  That just doesn’t seem right.  Any suggestions which might be beneficial to me?  My understanding is that you have a $600 per person coach airfare credit, and you can use it practically any way you want.  Your request seems extremely logical, and should not be a problem.  Give your host this example:  My “home casino city” is Atlantic City/Philadelphia.  I spend spring, summer and fall there.  However, in the winter, I travel to my second home in Florida.  I decide to take my Seven Stars trip to Las Vegas in mid-April, and return not to Miami, but Philadelphia.  Do you think Caesars is going to make me travel back to Philadelphia (at my own expense) just to start the trip from my “home” city?  Or make me fly back to Miami, when it’s more convenient for me to return to Philadelphia?  If your host won’t book it, speak to her supervisor – usually the casino’s director of marketing.  Your host is ill-informed and not very accommodating.  I’d also ask for a new host.

Great Race Giveaway

I’m not sure who came up with this promo, but someone should have thought it through a little better.  I know too many people who are sending their Total Rewards cards to their friends around the country and asking them to swipe in at their nearest Caesars casino and play the requisite one tier point.  [Of course, I’m not suggesting you do this!]  Considering how cautious Caesars and many other casinos are when it comes to requiring identification for most transactions, I would have thought that this would have been the first requirement, i.e., physically presenting your card with ID at a Total Rewards Center.  Too late now!

Darryl D. McEwen, Publisher

Seven Stars Insider

Seven Stars Insider – August Edition

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

Seven Stars Insider – August 2011

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

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

Lake Tahoe

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

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

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

Las Vegas

Harrah’s

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

New Orleans

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

Harrah’s Cherokee  (North Carolina)

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

Harrah’s Chester  (Pennsylvania)

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

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

Bally’s

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

Caesars

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

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

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

Harrah’s Resort

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

10.  Play is downloaded.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

At least they used the correct “complimentary”!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Darryl D. McEwen, Publisher
Seven Stars Insider

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

Cosmopolitan: Where $100 goes further than you think

Let me ask you a few questions:

  • Are you in Las Vegas?
  • Do you want to kill a couple hours gambling with little risk?
  • Would you like free booze?
  • Do you still want the chance to win big?

If you answered yes to all four questions, then do I have the deal for you!  The Cosmopolitan is currently offering a promotion that if you lose $100 anywhere in the casino during the day, they will give you another $100 in Identity play (Identity is their players club).  At first this doesn’t sound spectacular until you understand how it works.

When you play with Identity play, you have to run through all the Identity play before it starts taking money away from your machine credits.  That’s a key piece.  So here’s how I played and what I recommend you do.  Drop $100 in a video poker machine (try to find 8/5 or better)(ED: Check vpFREE).  I was playing with people on a budget, so we played $.25 VP and max betting at $1.25.  I eventually lost my $100, but after about 90 minutes of steady play and plenty of comped drinks.  After I received my $100 in identity play, I went back to the video poker machines.  Since Identity play must run out before credits are used, every credit I won was money back from my $100 I lost.  After another 45 minutes or so, and several more comped drinks, I had run out of my identity play and was sitting with $85 in machine credit.

So that’s right.  I played video poker for over 2 hours, had plenty of free cocktails, and ended up only $15 down.  That’s not bad, especially when you consider that even with Identity play, you still have the chance to hit that one big hand… like my friend did.  He lost that first $100, but hit a straight flush on the Identity play.  Now that’s winning.  So what are you waiting for?  Head over to the Cosmo and take advantage of this while you can!

UPDATE: This is only available on machines – not table games. Just making sure we pass this on since it may not be obvious to all.