Planet Hollywood – A Tale of Two Rooms (Part 1)

In addition to my stay at Palazzo, I took a night to explore Planet Hollywood.  I love the casino, but haven’t stayed there in a few years.  I had similar offers to stay at each casino but after your votes I decided to make my home at Palazzo.

My stay at Planet Hollywood was a tale of two rooms.  Check in was packed.  It’s a small area, but there seemed to be hundreds of people.  Luckily for me there was a fast quiet room for diamond total rewards members to check in.

In minutes I received my keys to my first room.  I’m going to guess I had a basic “Hollywood Hip” room, but I’m not sure so I’ll just call it “Room 1.”

Room one wasn’t cleaned from the previous guests and the TV didn’t work.  Additionally, the room was one of the smallest I’ve seen in Vegas.  I can’t imagine how two queen beds could fit in this space and I don’t know that I want to find out.  Of course, I love the casino so I’ll fight with myself about this in the future.

My trusty iPhone charger was the only item that made the trip down the strip with me.  I figured that I’d wake up and head right over to Palazzo whenever I woke up the next day.

Unfortunately, the way the room was laid out there was no obvious place to set my phone for a charge outside of the bathroom.  The work space was a little tight and just about up against the bed.  It’s not easy to see, but there’s a half finished iced coffee by the lamp.

One nice feature is that each room had a newspaper delivered each morning.  The night/morning I stayed at Planet Hollywood I ran into delivery.

The bed itself looked nice.  The bed had cream coverings with dark trim.  I didn’t bother trying out the mattress or coverings, but at least it looked good.

I was standing next to an awkwardly placed chair when I took the picture above.  This was pretty much the only place there was room for a sitting area in the room.  This was the only place someone could sit and watch TV if the TV worked.  The TV didn’t work.  Leftover item #2, a Mountain Dew bottle, is to the left of the TV.

Looking the other direction from the chair was the view outside.  The room had a nice view of the pool.  The pool area isn’t very big, but it looks nice.

More pictures and room information after the jump

Continue reading “Planet Hollywood – A Tale of Two Rooms (Part 1)”

Seven Stars Insider – May

Here is the Seven Stars Insider for May.  There are a few interesting notes here.  I’ve read that Atlantic City is no longer giving cash back, but I received a nice sum when I made my last minute trip last week.  Perhaps that’s just leftover from last year.   Go to Seven Stars Insider to sign up for the newsletter.  Enjoy the Insider.

Seven Stars Insider – May 2010

NOTE: While this newsletter was originally designed exclusively for Seven Stars members, there is useful information for anyone who has a Total Rewards® player’s card and/or plays/stays at a Harrah’s property.  Please feel free to pass this on to your friends.  Back issues of the Seven Stars Insider newsletter are available online at http://sites.google.com/site/sevenstarsinsider/.  You will need Adobe Acrobat to view them, but this is a free program available at www.adobe.com.

Seven Stars Brochure Online

For those of you receiving this newsletter who no longer have Seven Stars status or are interested in attaining it, a copy of the brochure outlining all of the current Seven Stars benefits is now online.  Click here.  New benefits this year include a complimentary cruise on Norwegian Cruise Lines (from Miami to the Eastern or Western Caribbean, New York to the Bahamas or Bermuda, or Seattle to Alaska), discounts on private jet services through XOJET, and – after you earn 125,000 or more tier points between January 1, 2010, and December 31, 2010 – the opportunity to participate in a Seven Stars “Signature Experience”.  (“Level I” experiences start at 125,000 points; “Level V” experiences max out at three million points.)  Follow this link for complete details.  You must book your experience at least 30 days in advance, and it must be redeemed and used by March 31, 2011.

Fall Signature Event

The fall Signature Event has been scheduled for Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas.

Property Updates

Pooling Caesars Resources – Caesars Palace has opened its new Garden of the Gods pool collection, debuting five new pools that join the hotel’s three existing pools.  The five-acre Garden features an 18-foot waterfall, swim-up gaming and 45 “technologically advanced” cabanas.

Rincon Upgrades – Harrah’s Rincon Casino & Resort has revamped its 24-hour Café, but has closed its buffet for a $6.2 million renovation.  It’s scheduled to reopen later this summer.

Margaritaville Still On Hold – A planned spring opening of Harrah’s Entertainment’s Margaritaville Casino Resort has been derailed by the poor economy and remains in limbo.  The Grand Biloxi Web site contains this statement: “The Margaritaville Casino Resort project in Biloxi is currently on hold. Harrah’s Entertainment remains committed to the project, but at this time, we do not have a date for when construction will resume.  Please check back for further updates.”

Email Promotions

More and more casinos (and other businesses, e.g., banks, airlines, etc.) are going this route, but, according to one reader, Showboat has formally announced a policy to no longer send promotional offers by mail – only email.  It’s not clear what happens to folks who don’t have a computer, or don’t want to give their email addresses.  Hopefully, there will be some exceptions.  (Again, look for similar policies from other Harrah’s casinos.)

Question of the MonthI designated my boyfriend for my Companion Card.  He wants to join some of his buddies on a golfing trip to Las Vegas next month.  Can he take advantage of my free room and other offers? He can use the Diamond Lounge, check-in at the Seven Stars reception desk, and go to the head of the line at a buffet, but unless you accompany him, your boyfriend – Companion Card not withstanding – cannot take advantage of your comp room and other offers.  He has to have his own Total Rewards account and offers of his own.  (Companions who have their own Platinum or Diamond cards will have their cards “upgraded” to Companion Cards, but the account number will be theirs.)

Bye-Bye ‘Cashback’

Frankly, it’s not surprising because they don’t want you just to walk away with the money, but all four Harrah’s properties in Atlantic City (Harrah’s Resort, Showboat, Caesars and Bally’s) no longer issue “cashback” slips from its kiosks.  Approximately two weeks after your latest visit you will receive “Express Play” coupons (similar to what they currently send).  Trump and Borgata have similar policies, but with Trump you can take all your cash out from any slot machine (no need for a paper coupon) and with Borgata you can just download your FreePlay/cashback (in increments as little as $1), and keep whatever you win.  (The money appears approximately 48 hours after your trip, and you have three months to use it or lose it.)  Apparently, Harrah’s machines are not set-up to do something similar, because those coupons are a real nuisance.  If you forget them, you’re out of luck; and many times they don’t work and you have to get a replacement.  Also, when they run certain kiosk promotions (as they are did for some players every Sunday in April), you have to get a coupon from the kiosk and then trade it in at the Main Cashier for Express Play coupons.  It’s not that big a deal, but it’s an extra unnecessary step.

Using Comps For Airfare

When you travel to a Harrah’s casino, before you check out, ask a host about using your comp dollars to reimburse you for your airfare.  Not every casino will do this, and decisions are made on an individual basis.  Several Seven Stars cardholders have reported success with this.

Parking At Caesars – Valet Confusing

Several readers report confusion over valet parking procedures at Caesars in Atlantic City.  Both hotel guests and casino visitors drop off their cars at the main entrance, but retrieval locations are different.  At the second floor valet cashier (moved from its former location near the main entrance), once you scan your parking ticket – a service available only to Seven Stars and Diamond players, if you were a hotel guest, return downstairs where you dropped off your car. . .don’t follow the large sign on the second floor near the cashier that shows an arrow pointing toward the garage.  This is strictly for casino visitors.  The problem is that no one tells hotel guests this, and you’re liable to be waiting quite a while for your car up on the second floor of the parking garage.

Nero’s Grill: Organic, Local and Cheaper

Nero’s Grill at Caesars in Atlantic City is trying to purchase as much local organic produce and locally harvested seafood as possible – plus it has reduced menu prices.  Sounds like a winning combination.  The problem with Nero’s – as well as many of Harrah’s casinos’ restaurants – is inconsistency.  Sometimes it’s a totally satisfying experience.  Other times food is excellent and service is bad, the next time service is excellent and food is marginal, and – occasionally – both are bad.

What’s Cooking At Harrah’s

The end of this month, a Viking Cooking School is expected to open at Harrah’s Resort in Atlantic City.  Located in the former Innovations space in the Waterfront expansion, the school will feature four complete kitchens, including stoves and prep areas, as well as a retail section where students and visitors can buy Viking and other kitchen products.  The school will offer various theme nights, and will appeal to all skill levels, according to Harrah’s Director of Food Service and Executive Chef Edward Batten.  The goal, he added, is to completely prepare a three-course meal from start to finish, and then be able to replicate that meal at home.  Class prices range from $99 to $139, and the fee includes the meal the class created.  Comp dollars cannot be used to pay for these classes – though this policy may change.  (You may be able to get your host to make some sort of special arrangements for you.)

Vegas ‘Buffet Of Buffets’ More Expensive Now

Introduced last month, the 24-hour pass for all of Harrah’s buffets in Las Vegas is already more expensive.  For Total Rewards members it now costs $5 more ($34.99).  Without a player’s card, it’s $39.99 per person.  Harrah’s claims the increase was necessary because response was so great, it was creating long lines, further justifying the increase as a way to “maintain. . .standards of service”.  Comp dollars are accepted for this; however, there are two separate lines at the buffets – one for those paying full price and the other for those who bought the 24-hour pass.  If you’re Seven Stars, you’ll jump to the head of the line in either case, but, if not, be prepared for long waits, according to those who’ve experienced it.

Travel Deals Between New York and Atlantic City

Other than the ACES train (co-owned by Harrah’s and Borgata) where fares start at $29 each way, through May 28 you can ride the Hampton Luxury Liner from Long Island and Manhattan stops to Harrah’s Resort and Caesars in Atlantic City for $50 round-trip.  For $25 more (except on Saturday) you can get a complimentary room at Harrah’s.  Details are at http://hamptonluxuryliner.com/harrahs.html.

New Air Service To Tunica

Starting May 6, Air Tran is beginning direct flights from Atlanta to Tunica.

‘Are You Exclusively A Harrah’s Player?’

Response to this was pretty even.  About one third of the respondents wouldn’t play anywhere but one Harrah’s casino.  These people play primarily in Las Vegas and Atlantic City where there is a choice of Harrah’s properties.  Another third stick exclusively to Harrah’s, even though they have a choice of local casinos – or, again, in the case of Las Vegas and Atlantic City players – other major “chains” (like MGM-Mirage properties in Vegas; Hilton and Resorts, or the three Trump casinos, in Atlantic City).  The rest of the respondents “play around” depending on where they get the best offers.  Several claimed they qualify for two or three top-tier cards (Borgata’s Titanium, Resorts and Hilton’s Ultra, Trump’s Signature) nearly every year.

‘Did You Attend The Signature Event In New Orleans?’

Choosing probably the second largest annual event – after Mardi Gras – JazzFest, Harrah’s hosted its annual Seven Stars Club Signature Event in New Orleans last month (and part of this month).  Did you attend?  What did you think?  Send me an email (sevenstarsinsider@gmail.com) and I’ll share your thoughts – anonymously, of course – with everyone in a future newsletter.

Darryl D. McEwen, Publisher

Seven Stars Insider

Complimentary Doesn’t Mean Free at The Palazzo

I always went by the assumption that a comp room meant that the room was free.  After all, one of the definitions for “complimentary” is free.  Maybe there would be taxes, but that isn’t always the case.  On my last trip to Las Vegas I found that comps aren’t treated the same at all casinos.

PALAZZO – MANDATORY RESORT FEE

I had 3 complimentary nights at Palazzo and one that I would pay for.  While checking in the prices were $0/$0/$0/$149.  I forgot about those damn mandatory resort fees.  Palazzo has a $15 resort fee per day which is taxed for a total of $16.80.  I didn’t expect that comp rooms would have this tacked on to the bill so I was a surprised when I checked out.

Here’s what I go for my $16.80:

  • In-room internet access
  • unlimited local calls
  • domestic long distance and 800 calls
  • fitness center access for two
  • daily local newspaper (I didn’t even see a newspaper)

Here’s what I used:

  • In-room internet access

I didn’t like the fact that the resort fee was never mentioned at check in.  Thinking back, it was never mentioned when I stayed at Palazzo in December.  There’s enough free wi-fi in the hotel that I would not have chosen to pay for the service. Over the stay these fees were almost $80.

A cynic might also think that the reason there was such poor cell phone service in the rooms is so that it would force guests to use the house phones for calls and wi-fi for mobile data service so they think that they’re getting something from the resort fees.

PLANET HOLLYWOOD – NO RESORT FEES

I also had a comp night at Planet Hollywood.  Harrah’s properties are proud not to have resort fees.  I was happy not to pay a resort fee nor tax for my complimentary night at Planet Hollywood.  Total bill from Planet Hollywood = $0.

BOTTOM LINE

I had 3 comp nights at Palazzo, a hotel I really like, so I’m not sweating it.  At the same time, I feel my opinion is changing from moderately not liking resort fees to strongly not liking resort fees.  Additionally, there should be full disclosure of these fees at check in.

Check Vegas Chatter for a constantly updated list of Las Vegas hotel resort fees.

Seven Stars Insider – April

Seven Stars Insider is back with more information for Harrah’s, Total Rewards, players. Of the subjects covered in this edition, I’m most curious about texpress at Ceasars Palace.  I’m into technology stuff like that.  On to the newsletter.

Seven Stars Insider – April 2010

NOTE: While this newsletter was originally designed exclusively for Seven Stars Club members, there is useful information for anyone who has a Total Rewards® player’s card and/or plays/stays at a Harrah’s property.  Please feel free to pass this on to your friends.  Back issues of the Seven Stars Insider newsletter are available online at http://sites.google.com/site/sevenstarsinsider/.  You will need Adobe Acrobat to view them, but this is a free program available at www.adobe.com.

Signature Event Scheduled For New Orleans

Choose the weekend of April 22 – 25 or April 29 – May 2 and journey to Harrah’s New Orleans.  The weekend includes cocktail parties, dinners, local tours and the annual Jazz Fest.  Click here for a copy of the invitation.  If you haven’t received information, contact your host.

Harrah’s Resort Offers Dedicated Self-Parking

Harrah’s Resort in Atlantic City now has a dedicated Seven Stars self-parking area.  You’ll need to use a valid player’s card to access the gated area; however, several visits found the gate open so anyone could park there.  When leaving the garage, there is a special Seven Stars Club/Diamond express lane which allows you to bypass the booth attendant by swiping your player’s card to open the gate.  Caesars, Showboat and Bally’s all have similar express lanes, and Caesars has a gated Seven Stars Club parking area on the seventh floor of its self-park garage.

$500 FreePlay, 3 Nights In A Suite, $100 Dining Credit

The Atlantis Casino Resort and Spa in Reno is offering $500 in FreePlay, three nights in a luxurious suite and a $100 dining credit to all current Seven Stars Club members, as well as those who were Seven Stars Club members last year (April 1, 2009, to March 31, 2010).  For details, go to www.atlantiscasino.com/insider.

Caesars Palace Goes High-Tech

Texpress – At check-in opt in for Texpress at Caesars Palace and you can do everything from find your Total Rewards balance, check any special offers you might have, get hours of operation and menus for Caesars 12+ restaurants, and more.  Simply go to any one of the 14 Total Connect 42” digital screens located throughout the casino.  Tap your special room key on the sign and your personalized messages will appear.  If you have a special restaurant offer, take your key to that location, give it to an associate and your offer will be activated – no vouchers or promotional codes needed.  While at this point Texpress is just a test program, you will have access to this at least through the end of June.

Yes, There’s An Ap For That! – Dubbed a “virtual concierge,” a new iPhone ap is being called the “ultimate electronic pocket guide” offering things to do, as well as famous features and tidbits on Caesars Palace’s history.  You can take a virtual tour of hotel rooms, review dining options and menus, and view a map of the casino floor.  The Special Offers function will alert you to offers just for you, and you can send an e-postcard where your picture appears on the Caesars Palace marquee.  Download the ap through the iTunes App store or call **7777 on your iPhone.

Upgrade To My Sands Preferred Card

The Sands Casino Resort in Bethlehem, Pa., will upgrade new My Sands player’s card members to its blue Preferred card.  Simply show your Seven Stars Club (or Trump Signature) player’s card when you sign-up.  In addition to the standard benefits – same-day comps, free alcoholic beverages on the casino floor, etc., players earn comps at a higher rate, get free valet parking or special Preferred-Level parking in the self-park garage, priority access at the My Sands Card Center, and access to a small private section of the High Limit area which serves hot and cold hors d’ouevres, cookies and other treats.  This area also has a small bar, but drinks are not complimentary; though you can use your comp dollars, and prices are extremely reasonable.  Visit www.pasands.com for more information.

Buffet For A Day

If you like casino buffets, the Las Vegas Harrah’s properties have a special combo offer that’s hard to resist.  For $29.99 during one 24-hour period you can sample the following buffets: Flavors at Harrah’s, Le Village at Paris, Carnival Word at Rio, Paradise Garden at Flamingo, Lago at Caesars Palace, Emperor’s at Imperial Palace and the Spice Market at Planet Hollywood.  Luxor has been offering something similar, but just at its own buffet, and Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City has an all-day buffet offer, as well.  The Taj deal is scheduled to end April 30, but may be extended.

What’s Your Recommendation For The Annual Seven Stars Trip?

Lots of people reported poor or marginal experiences on their trips.  Some loved Caesars Palace, others hated it.  The Grand Biloxi had several negative reviews, as did Rincon and Ak-Chin (mainly because of their “isolated” locations – especially Rincon where the individuals felt a bit misled in terms of its distance from San Diego and area attractions).  Harrah’s New Orleans got unanimous raves.  However, one reader was so impressed with her trip to the Flamingo in Las Vegas, she wrote a four-page trip summary.  “Overall, the Flamingo made this feel like my first REAL Seven Stars trip, and is definitely the property I’ll return to!”  You can view her full report by clicking here.

Are You Exclusively A Harrah’s Player?

Some people are so loyal, they won’t even play anywhere other than their favorite Harrah’s casino; others “play around” at a number of Harrah’s casinos, but wouldn’t even consider playing at another chain’s casinos.  What about you?  Are you also a “regular” at any non-Harrah’s casino?  Do you hold another casino’s premium (similar to Diamond level) or ultra-premium (similar to Seven Stars) card?  Send me an email (sevenstarsinsider@gmail.com) and I’ll share your thoughts – anonymously, of course – with everyone in a future newsletter.

Total Rewards 1 – Players Club 0

This morning I saw that BlogWorld was announced for October in Las Vegas.  I’m not sure that I’ll be able to make the expo, but I figured I’d see if there were any comp rooms available in case I could make it.

Players Club

Since BlogWorld will be at Mandalay Bay I looked at my Players Club account to see if there were rooms at an MGM property.  Not a bad site, but not very functional.  Rooms cannot be booked through the site.  You’re just given the information for your comps.

I saw that I had 3 comp nights at Luxor, but the offer only went to June.  I called Luxor VIP services to see if they could offer the same in October and was told they would charge me (and my credit card) full rate and adjust if offers come through.  Offers are only made available once a quarter.  I thanked the woman and told her I’d probably go elsewhere if I can get an offer today.

Total Rewards

After that call I went to check my Total Rewards (TR) account to see if there were any comps available at the Harrah’s properties.  My TR account showed me that I had comps available at 4 properties.  Not too shabby.  Since the offer was available I booked at Bally’s since I’ve never been there and it was the closest comp room to BlogWorld.  It was easy as pie and done in about 5 minutes.

Conclusion

Harrah’s Total Reward program is the grand daddy of all comp programs.  I’ve read multiple articles that say it is the best.  MGM’s Players Club is still, relatively, new and developing. In fact, I recently posted an article how MGM is trying to improve Players Club

Nothing done here was wrong here as most casino offers only come out quarterly.  For a person like me, that plans almost everything in life well in advance, the ability to book a comp room 6 months out is great.

There may be plenty of things Harrah’s doesn’t do well (6:5 blackjack, poor video poker pay tables and mediocre customer service) but Total Rewards shows comp offers and easily makes them available.  That gives Harrah’s a big edge on the competition and gives them my business again.

MGM is trying to improve Players Club and a great place to start would be linking all of their properties reservation systems together and making offers available more in advance.  I’m looking forward to seeing if Players Club can catch up with Total Rewards.  They have a big hill to climb.

Seven Stars Insider – Feb March

Seven Stars Insider is a great resource for Harrah’s players looking for information and ways to possibly improve their Total Rewards experience.  The Total Rewards system is a little confusing so the more info the merrier.  As the disclaimer says in the newsletter this info isn’t only for Harrah’s top tier players.

Sign up for Seven Stars Insider on their site.

Seven Stars Insider – February/March 2010

[NOTE: While this newsletter was originally designed exclusively for Seven Stars Club members, there is useful information for anyone who has a Total Rewards® player’s card and/or plays/stays at a Harrah’s property.  Please feel free to pass this on to your friends.]

Planet Hollywood Becomes Part Of Total Rewards April 1

By now you probably know that a subsidiary of Harrah’s Entertainment Inc. has assumed ownership of the Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino in Las Vegas.  As of April 1, Harrah’s Total Rewards program should be fully integrated, enabling guests to earn and redeem Reward and Tier Credits every time they play at the casino.  Points earned in Planet Hollywood’s loyalty program, A-List, will automatically convert into Total Rewards credits at the time of the Total Rewards integration.  This is similar to what happened when Harrah’s purchased Caesars several years ago.

Harrah’s Cherokee Now Serving Alcohol On Limited Basis

Alcohol is now being served at Harrah’s Cherokee from 7 a.m. to 2 a.m. Monday through Saturday and from noon until 2 a.m. on Sundays. Note, though, that only non-alcoholic beverages are complimentary and you cannot use comp dollars to purchase alcohol.

Aces Closes

In preparation for recently approved table games in Pennsylvania, Aces Diner at Harrah’s Chester closed in mid-February.  Not a big loss, in many guests’ opinions.

Snow Days In Atlantic City

Once again, Harrah’s angered its most valued customers by closing its Diamond Clubs the last Thursday and Friday of February “due to inclement weather.”  Meanwhile, the bars at Showboat Thursday night were packed to capacity, and most other Harrah’s food and beverage outlets around the city were open for business.  By Friday, there were no significant weather problems that should have delayed most guests or employees from getting to Atlantic City.  As a matter of fact, Trump Marina’s Chairman’s Club was open both Thursday and Friday, as was the Borgata’s Amphora Lounge.  Trump Taj Mahal’s Chairman’s Club was closed Thursday, but offered eligible players coupons for the buffet at a reduced rate (10 comp dollars for a lunch or dinner valued at $21).

Seven Stars Insider Site Updated

Google did a wholesale conversion of all its Web sites, and caused a number of sites – including Seven Stars Insider – to lose much of its original formatting.  This has since been fixed, some factual errors corrected, and information on several properties updated.  If you visit a Harrah’s property and find incorrect information on the site – or information that needs to be updated, please send an email to sevenstarsinsider@gmail.com.  In addition, as always, we are looking for reports on properties currently not represented on the site.  If you can provide any insights, again, please send an email to sevenstarsinsider@gmail.com.

Did You Attend A New Year’s Eve Celebration?

Not a big response to this question, but everyone who commented had “raves” (especially for the events at Harrah’s Resort and Bally’s in Atlantic City).  See specific comments below:

  • “My husband and I attended the party at Harrah’s Resort in Atlantic City.  It had a Moulin Rouge theme in one of the upstairs ballrooms.  The dinner was wonderful – an ‘11’out of ‘10’.”
  • “We attended the party at Bally’s in Atlantic City.  It was an excellent event, just as good as previous years’.  [The 12-piece band] played and sang everything from the ’40s through ’90s rap music.  The meal was lobster, shrimp and filet mignon.  We did not expect it to be that good.  Recent events at Bally’s had been very disappointing.  One previous dinner featured a chicken cutlet and one stuffed shrimp.”

What’s Your Recommendation For The Annual Seven Stars Trip?

A lot of new members, in particular, would appreciate your thoughts on where to take the annual trip.  Did you have an outstanding experience somewhere, or, conversely, is there some property you wouldn’t send your worst enemy?  Send me an email (sevenstarsinsider@gmail.com) and I’ll share your thoughts – anonymously, of course – with everyone in a future newsletter.  (Be sure to check out some tips for your annual trip by going to http://sites.google.com/site/sevenstarsinsider/yourannualsevenstarstrip.)

~Darryl

P.S.  Back issues of the Seven Stars Insider newsletter are available online at http://sites.google.com/site/sevenstarsinsider/.  You will need Adobe Acrobat to view them, but this is a free program available at www.adobe.com.

Darryl D. McEwen, Publisher

Seven Stars Insider

Planet Hollywood Starts Total Rewards April 1

Maybe it’s an April fools joke.  Maybe it’s not.  According to @PHVegas on twitter Planet Hollywood will begin using the Total Rewards system on April 1.

We’re rolling out Total Rewards on April 1, so there are plenty of new perks and privileges coming to make our guests feel like celebrities!

Harrahs.com shows Planet Hollywood, but redirects you to the old reservation system and website for Planet Hollywood.  Unfortunately, this may take Planet Hollywood out of my plans for my next Vegas trip.  Oh well.

MGM Looking To Improve Players Club

MGM has decided to hire two companies to help in improving their comp club, Players Club.

The move may improve MGM Mirage’s competitive position against industry leader Harrah’s Entertainment Inc., which is known for mining its own databases with scientific formulas to produced personalized offers to customers through its Total Rewards Program, which launched in 2000 and now has some 40 million members.

MGM’s Players Club is an improvement of the non-system that they used to have.  I like the direction Players Club is going and found the website easy to navigate and find offers.  Their offers seems to be in line with the amount I play at MGM casinos.  Not great, but something.

Harrah’s Total Rewards get’s a lot of praise in the media, but I don’t think there’s many customers that understand how it works.  I don’t completely understand how Total Rewards works, but I’ve changed how I gamble to get better comps.  I play much more video poker and slots than I used to because that gets recorded more accurately than playing at the tables.

MGM’s Players Club seems to be on the right path with a simple web design and easy to find offers.  I’m looking forward to seeing how this improves their marketing.

Seven Stars Insider

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 Club members, there is useful for anyone who has a Total Rewards® player’s card and/or plays/stays at a Harrah’s property. Please feel free to pass this on to your friends.]


Free Showboat Sunday Seven Stars Brunch

Probably the best kept secret in Atlantic City is the Seven Stars Sunday Brunch at the Showboat. From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., the room adjacent to the main buffet at Showboat is home to a private – and complimentary – brunch for Seven Stars Club members and one guest. There is a private chef preparing foods to order and/or you can also partake from the regular Showboat buffet. Call ahead before showing up, though, since this may disappear as quickly as it appeared in June.


McCormick & Schmick’s Comps

Sometime in July, Harrah’s management in Atlantic City told McCormick and Schmick’s they no longer could accept comps on a 1:1 basis. Consequently, that $36 entrée now costs you $72 in comp dollars – assuming you don’t choose to pay cash rather than use Reward Credits. This arrangement is similar to Morton’s at Caesars and the restaurants at The Pier.


Harrah’s Cherokee Now Serves Alcohol

The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians has voted to allow the sale of alcohol at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino in Cherokee, N.C. The referendum passed, 1,847-1,301. Nearly 50 percent of the tribe’s 6,489 voters went to the polls. The tribe voted on the question after supporters got 25 percent of registered voters to sign a petition calling for a referendum. The referendum was the second time in 29 years the tribe has taken up alcohol sales. In addition, a similar referendum in 1980 failed by a 2-1 margin. A $633 million expansion, doubling the size of the casino’s floor space, is currently under construction.


Las Vegas Diamond Clubs – Again!

The most reaction I have received to any newsletter item recently was regarding my comments about the “quality” of the crowds in the Las Vegas Diamond Clubs. Descriptions like “bottom feeders” and “low lifes” were among the “kindest” (and printable!). Many, like me, advocated that Harrah’s increase the tier score for Diamond status and/or impose a per person comp charge for admission – Seven Stars Club members exempted, of course. The other comment/question was why the hours in Las Vegas are so short. Currently, clubs are open Sunday through Thursday from 4 to 9 p.m., and Fridays and Saturdays from noon to 9 p.m. The 9 p.m. closings on weekends were particularly annoying, especially to those players from Atlantic City who are used to later hours, i.e., midnight.


Credit Card? Check! ID? Check!

Registration clerks (who can’t express their irritation to guests) and others checking in (who can) wish that players would have the courtesy of having their Total Rewards card, a valid credit card and a valid ID ready to present when they check in. Even if the clerk knows you personally, and even if you think you have a credit card on file with the property, regulations require that employees verify these documents each time you stay. Please do everyone a favor and have these ready so you don’t waste everyone’s time fumbling through your personal belongings to dig them out. (And don’t be offended when someone asks for an ID at a restaurant or a shop when you are using Total Rewards points or charging something to your room; this is for your own protection.)


Question Of The Month

I’ve spoken to a couple people who earned less than 100,000 tier points last year, but still got Seven Stars Club status. Did Harrah’s reduce the number of points required? According to a highly placed corporate executive, who wishes to remain anonymous, the 100,000-point threshold still exists, but some long-time Seven Stars Club members were granted an exception this year “due to the economy.” “This was done on a casino-by-casino basis and very few exceptions were granted,” my source told me. “This will be a one-time-only exception,” my source said, “and the players will need to requalify in 2009 for status in 2010.


All Aboard. . .First!

Another benefit of Seven Stars is priority boarding on the Harrah’s shuttles operating among their casinos in Las Vegas and Atlantic City. Since the shuttles often can become crowded quickly, don’t forget to take advantage of this.


Atlantic City Taxes

While room and tourism taxes often are “forgiven,” Harrah’s sometimes takes your comp dollars to pay this $13 nightly fee. It’s always a good idea to find out in advance how the tax portion of your final bill is being settled. I’m still trying to find out why Harrah’s charges $13, yet Borgata and Trump charge $5.98 and $5, respectively, per night.


Total Rewards Points Accepted At Atlantic City Country Club

For a change of pace from casino dining, don’t forget you can use your comp dollars – on a 1:1 basis – at the Atlantic City Country Club (ACCC). The Tap Room Bar & Grille serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, as well as an elaborate Sunday brunch. All you need is your player’s card and a valid ID. The club is located about 20 minutes from the Boardwalk. Check out their Web site at: http://www.harrahs.com/golf/atlantic-city-country-club/dining.html. Since its founding in 1897, ACCC has been at the forefront of the sport, both nationally and internationally. The prestigious and historic ACCC proudly carries the distinctions of “The Birthplace of the Birdie,” as well as being the site where the term “Eagle” was coined. Many legendary names have played the course, including Sam Snead and Howard Everitt. Bob Hope was an ACCC “regular,” first becoming acquainted with the club when he worked on the vaudeville circuit.


Keeping Score

While it doesn’t happen often, mistakes do occur when it comes to your comp dollars. Before any trip to a Harrah’s casino I always check the Web site and write down my current tier score and comp dollars. I also keep all my receipts to know how my comp dollars have been used. After I get home, I again check the site, write down my then current points and calculate how much I’ve earned, plus what I’ve spent. If nothing else, it gives you a sense of how much you played and earned.


Do You Do Anything To Recognize Your Host and His/Her Services?

According to our May/June informal survey, most players who actively use the services of a host give an end-of-year gift valued at approximately $150 (average). This recognition may take the form of a gift card, a gift basket or some other gift which the player knows his/her host might appreciate. In addition or in lieu of a holiday gift, some players send flowers or give a gift to their hosts on their birthdays – assuming they can find out the date. (It might take a little effort, but usually a colleague in VIP Services can get this information for you.) Only a couple players admitted they didn’t see the need to give a gift since they felt their hosts already were “profiting” from their play.


What Incentives Will Get You To Play More Frequently?

If you live on the East Coast, as I do, a $75 Pottery Barn gift card is not enough incentive to get me on a plane to Las Vegas. Two tickets to a Bette Midler show, maybe. Recently, though, Harrah’s has been sending some pretty piddling offers valued at around $100 (gift cards, cash, designer T-shirts, etc.). Its competitors, on the other hand, are sending offers valued at three, four or five times that amount. (All of these offers are over and above the standard complimentary rooms.) Assuming you had the time and other necessary resources, what sorts of incentives would get you to make an extra long-distance – or even short-distance – trip? And, if applicable, in your opinion, how do Harrah’s offers compare with its competitors’? Drop me an email (sevenstarsinsider@gmail.com) and I’ll share your thoughts – anonymously – with everyone in a future newsletter.


I Can’t Be The Only One This Is Happening To!

Caesars Atlantic City – On a recent Monday night in July, the second floor casino seemed to be running on auto-pilot. Two kids were stealing coins out of the fountain, and there was not a security guard in sight. Shortly after I spotted the little thieves, my machine jammed as I was cashing out. After 20 minutes, I started hitting the “Service” lights on 50+ machines surrounding mine. Still no response. Finally, I asked a friend to watch my machine, and I went searching for a Harrah’s employee. I literally walked half the upstairs casino, and no one! Ultimately, I saw a gentleman in a suit who had a Caesars’ nametag. He called a slot attendant, but when all was said and done, it took an hour to collect my $300. (See below for more on this.)

Harrah’s Resort Atlantic City – On a recent Saturday night in August, the casino – just like Caesars – seemed to be running on auto-pilot. Twice I asked a [homeless?] person – who was sound asleep at a slot machine I wanted to play – to please move. She moved, but continued her reverie at another machine. Once again, no security guards or other Harrah’s employees – other than cocktail servers who were too busy to even stop. Finally, I went to the front desk and one of the managers helped me find a guard. He talked to the woman, but made no attempt to escort her out of the casino, or ensure that she moved. Consequently, once again she fell asleep. Another guest wanted to play the machine where she slumbered, but told me he was “afraid” to disturb her.


Waterfront Tower – Going The Way Of Showboat’s New Orleans Tower?

It had been awhile since I stayed in the “new” Harrah’s Waterfront Tower in Atlantic City. How disappointing it was to find large chunks of my dresser missing, seriously scratched end tables on either side of the bed, a make-up mirror dangling from the wall in the bathroom, pillowcases inside out, no bath mat, and a missing ice bucket. And while a call to Housekeeping promised me a replacement bucket, none showed up; however, an accommodating housekeeper gave me one from a vacant room – so now that guest will find his bucket missing. Even a little touch-up paint or stain would help the unsightly appearance of the damaged dresser and end tables – at least until they can be repaired properly. And the reason I compare this situation to Showboat is the horrible condition of the New Orleans Tower. Ironically, I was in the same room in July as I was a little more than a year ago. The furniture was so scratched and damaged, it literally had less stained wood than bare wood (or, probably, more accurately, particle board). Plus, there were only four hangers in the closet and the shelves in the bathroom looked like they hadn’t been dusted in months.


Which Brings Me To Employee Morale. . .

Maybe it’s because I come across as a concerned guest (which I am) who is supportive of Harrah’s (which I am) and concerned about what I see happening (which I am), but in the last 45 days, more employees than I can count – bartenders, slot attendants, slot managers, security guards, front desk employees, etc. – have confided in me how overworked they are due to understaffing. And more than a few feel the cutbacks are a direct result of huge salary and benefit packages going to Harrah’s senior management. [Perception is reality for some people, a wise man once told me.] Compare this to Trump’s employees who proudly wear promotional “campaign-style” buttons touting their commitment to customer service – unlike that ill-conceived and insensitive DIANA campaign that went on far too long at Showboat. Trump’s employees are upbeat, almost anticipate guests’ needs, and seem proud to be working for “The Donald.”

~Darryl

P.S. Back issues of the Seven Stars Insider newsletter are available online at http://sevenstarsinsider.googlepages.com. You will need Adobe Acrobat to view them, but this is a free program available at www.adobe.com.

Darryl D. McEwen, Publisher

Seven Stars Insider