Your Top 5 From AC2LV

It’s the end of the year so let’s look back at the most viewed posts of the year on AC2LV.

  1. Blackjack Myths – This is a timeless blog. I hear these at the table all the time.
  2. Best Video Poker On The Las Vegas Strip – I usually do a video poker check on vpFREE before a long stay at a casino. This was before last December’s vacation.
  3. Interview With A Casino Host – This is 4 years old. I’m amazed how many people want to know about life as a casino host.
  4. Revel To Be Sold In Next 6 Months – The New York Post was a little off with timing but it looks as if Revel will be sold soon.
  5. Best Downtown Las Vegas Video Poker – People love Downtown Vegas!

Tweet me with your favorite blog from the year.

Seven Stars Insider – July 2013 Edition

Maria Menounos Total Rewards
Maria Menounos

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GENERAL

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo: Hawt Celebrities

Seven Stars Insider – June Edition

Alyssa Campanella at Escape Total Rewards Concert
Alyssa Campanella

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

HARRAH’S PHOENIX AK-CHIN

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

LAS VEGAS

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

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

FLAMINGO

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

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

ATLANTIC CITY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BALLY’S

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

CAESARS

Promotions Supervisor

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

HARRAH’S RESORT

Developing Executive

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

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

Earl Of Sand-Bitch

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

HARRAH’S PHILADELPHIA

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

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

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

CAESARS WINDSOR

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

GENERAL

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Darryl D. McEwen, Publisher
Seven Stars Insider

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

Photo: Zimbio

Seven Stars Insider – November 2012

Total Rewards Cards
Total Rewards Cards

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

Harrah’s Baltimore (Maryland)

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

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

Harrah’s Hollywood Casino St. Louis

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

Las Vegas

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

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

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

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

Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall & Saloon

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

Flamingo

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

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

Caesars Palace

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

Harrah’s

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

Paris

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

Harrah’s Reno

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

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

Atlantic City

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sincerely,

Matt Heiskell
Assistant General Manager – Bally’s Atlantic City

Others received this in the mail:

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

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

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

Sincerely,

Don Marrandino
Eastern Division President

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bally’s

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

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

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

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

Caesars

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

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

Harrah’s Resort

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

Harrah’s Cherokee (North Carolina)

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

Harrah’s Philadelphia

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

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

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

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

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

General

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

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

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

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

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

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

Odds Are. . .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Darryl D. McEwen, Publisher
Seven Stars Insider

Photo: Pulse of Vegas Blog

Seven Stars Insider – 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 – April 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.

Happy New Year!
I know this is April, but for Total Rewards it’s a brand new year of benefits. The next 12 months will go fast, so consider making your plans early for the annual trip and celebration dinner. While you’re at it, go ahead and select your annual gift – you’ll notice that the selection is much greater this year. However, who decided to arbitrarily categorize the gifts as “For Her” and “For Him”? Aren’t we well past the days when kitchen appliances are considered “feminine” and sports equipment and electronics are dubbed “masculine”?

Harrah’s New Orleans

Diamond LoungeChanges
A reader who just returned from New Orleans reports that there have been changes – for the better! – at the Diamond Lounge. The buffet has been replaced with a long couch, chair and coffee table, and there is now a printed menu. Choices included shrimp and prosciutto bruschetta, a red bean onion dip, alligator, crawfish and andouille sausage, international cheeses and prosciutto, mini muffaletta sandwiches, and fresh fruit with berries. In addition there are a few desserts. She also tried the new restaurant, Manning’s, across the street from the Grand Isle. Two standouts on the menu, she said, were the Gris Gris Duck Wings and the chicken and andouille sausage gumbo. Service was excellent, she added. Manning’s accepts Quick Rewards on a 1:1 basis, or you can charge meals to your room and settle the bill with your Total Rewards credits upon check-out.

Harrah’s St. Louis

Level II Experience Report
I thought you might enjoy this report from Seven Stars cardholder Tom Valledolmo. Overall, he and his wife had a very positive experience which he details in this report downloadable from his Web site: http://www.tomthebombpicks.com/uploads/St._Louis_Harrah_s_Trip_Report_3-27-12.pdf.

Lake Tahoe

Updates At Harrah’s and Harvey’s
Seven Stars cardholders who frequent Lake Tahoe were kind enough to send me these updates:
Harrah’s no longer has the Summit Restaurant on the 16th floor. There is now “The President’s Lounge at the Summit” – open to Diamond and Seven Stars cardholders from 4 to 7:30 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. There are two levels of seating with beautiful views of the lake. Between 4 and 6, there is a carving station (usually roast beef and ham), with breads, chips, soup, etc.; the Diamond Lounge off the casino floor serves only finger foods from 4 to 6. Also, unlike the Diamond Lounge, which is self-service, there are several servers to take drink orders.
Harvey’s Diamond Lounge is more seasonal. Open on Thursday or Friday through Sunday from 4 to 9 p.m., the Lounge serves food from 4 to 6 p.m. There is a little better selection than Harrah’s Diamond Lounge – usually hot dogs and sandwich type food.
There are a couple new food outlets at Harvey’s: Straw Hat Pizza (with free WiFi) has pizza, burgers and salads, and opens at 11 a.m. Sierra Deli also opens at 11. Both accept Total Rewards credits, but at a 2:1 ratio.
Free lift tickets for Seven Stars cardholders are no longer monthly, but are now limited to four per season.

Las Vegas

No More ‘Two For The Show’
Those free and discounted show tickets for Diamond, Platinum and Seven Stars cardholders are no longer available. Apparently this is just another “enhancement” to the “new” Total Rewards.

Caesars Palace

Seven Stars Registration ‘Down-Sized’
Like the lounge it shares with Diamond cardholders, the formerly exclusive Seven Stars Registration is now a Seven Stars/Diamond Registration. Inside there is a small office with two desks and a sign that says, “Seven Stars”. When it’s not busy, and there’s no need for a dedicated check-in area, that office is empty. The former Diamond Registration is now registration for guests booked in the Augustus or Octavius Towers. Hopefully, guests who don’t have Seven Stars or Diamond cards are alerted to this in advance – both to avoid frequent long lines at the main registration area and also to take advantage of the close-by valet parking (see below).

Octavius Tower Now Open
Though I was originally booked in the Augustus Tower for my annual Seven Stars trip last month, I asked for a room in the new Octavius Tower that opened in January. [According to promotional copy provided by Caesars (which I didn’t see until my return), the Tower is a “668-room exhibition in excess. Let us apologize in advance for ruining other hotels for you. Each and every room brings new definitions to the words extravagance and comfort. It is modern beauty, timeless luxury and boastful amenity all rolled into one. Rooms also feature. . .your very own iPad® or iPod Touch® application which allows you to communicate with hotel services.”] In hindsight, I should have stuck with my original reservation. Probably because it faced the Garden of the Gods pool complex, the room was very dark and seemed smaller than rooms I’ve had in the Augustus which looked out over the Bellagio fountains and Paris’ Eiffel Tower. Also, it would have been nice if someone had told me about those apps. And, while staying in any of Caesars’ towers requires a considerable bit of walking from check-in – even using the dedicated Seven Stars/Diamond registration in the Augustus Tower, it’s a hike to get back to the Octavius Tower. If you’re driving, and know in advance you’ll be staying in the Octavius (or Augustus) Tower, be sure to take advantage of the special VIP Valet on Flamingo Road. Those who need an early morning cup of coffee to get them started will have to pre-order the night before from Room Service. Unlike the Augustus Tower, there are no coffeemakers in the rooms and, while there is complimentary coffee at the Seven Stars/Diamond Registration (along with free newspapers), I’m not sure it’s worth the walk. The other alternative is to take the interior walkway that skirts the pool area and grab a light breakfast at Rao’s or Payard Patisserie & Bistro. Finally (as always seems to be my “luck”), I had a room with a broken toilet seat which was never repaired during my entire four-night stay, despite a call to Guest Services shortly after I checked in; in addition, the stopper was broken in one of the bathroom sinks. Also, I don’t think anyone has ever dusted the tops of the wall-mounted room number blocks or cleaned the vents in the bathrooms. Both were covered with dust. High marks, though, go to the bright lighting in the bathroom. As to all those other “luxuries” in the promos, it all seemed pretty standard to me. If you find yourself booked into the Octavius Tower I would ask for a low floor overlooking the pool area, or a high floor overlooking the Bellagio. Better yet, stick with the Augustus Tower, and leave the Octavius for those conventioneers who will have closer access to the meeting space.

Lost: Lost and Found
It took nearly three weeks and four phone calls, but I finally got back the electric toothbrush I inadvertently left behind in my room. I realized my goof about halfway back to the airport, and called Seven Stars registration once I cleared Security – about an hour after I had checked out. Within a few minutes, the clerk confirmed with Housekeeping that the toothbrush was there, and he transferred me to Lost and Found to make arrangements for its return – at no charge, he said, because I was a Seven Stars cardholder. No one answered the call, so I left the detailed message a recording requested. More calls, and more voicemails, and still no returned messages (or my toothbrush). Reluctant to get him involved – after all, it was my own stupidity that created this situation, I e-mailed my host with all the details and asked him to forward it to the appropriate department head. Less than 24 hours later, an administrative assistant to the Vice President of Security called me, apologizing for the lack of response and promising me the toothbrush would be shipped overnight. When I sent a thank you note to my host confirming that all was in order, he replied that – while not making excuses – Lost and Found is “swamped” with inquiries. Isn’t this a sign that some additional staffing might be necessary? I know every company is trying to save money by operating as lean and efficiently as possible, but when customer service suffers, it might be time to reassess those cutbacks.

O’Shea’s

Slán leat, O’Shea’s [Good Bye, O’Shea’s]
O’Shea’s will close next month and be demolished as part of the $550 million Project Linq development. Space currently occupied by O’Shea’s will become part of the reconfigured Imperial Palace, which will be given a new name and theme. As previously announced, Project Linq is an outdoor retail, dining and entertainment district to be built along a private street that separates the Flamingo and Imperial Palace, starting at the Strip and heading back to Audrie Street and Ida Avenue. The two streets will be converted from public to private streets. The centerpiece of Project Linq is a 550-foot-tall observation wheel. It’s expected to open next year.

Atlantic City

Insider Outsider
Even though I qualified as a TR Insider for the first quarter of 2012, I seemed to be the only one among a group of friends who wasn’t invited to a number of monthly Friday evening cocktail parties at Bally’s, Caesars and Harrah’s. Last month, since I was staying at Bally’s the evening of one of the parties – billed as “Cocktails and Conversation” – even though I wasn’t invited, I walked up to the registration table, gave the clerk my Seven Stars card and waited to see what would happen. After all, there was a big sign out front of the Blue Martini Bar indicating there was a TR Insider Party, I was an “Insider”, so how could they turn me away? Well, their computer was down so she just handed me a wristband and told me to come in and enjoy myself. I had only about 15 minutes before I was meeting friends at the Caesars Seven Stars Lounge, but I counted approximately 50 people at the party, and there was an open bar, some lovely passed hors d’ouevres, a carving station and some pasta on a small buffet. A week later I knew there was a similar party at Harrah’s. Again, since I was staying there (and, at the base of the escalator leading up to the ballroom, there was a similar sign about a TR Insider Party), I tried the same trick. No dice. “You’re not invited,” I was politely informed, and none of the three women was going to let me in. I explained that I had friends inside who were expecting me and that I had not been invited to any of these Friday night parties in January, February or March. The woman in charge of the event checked my record, verified that I was, indeed, an Insider, but couldn’t explain why I wasn’t getting the invitations. She agreed to do some research into why I wasn’t receiving them, finally (and reluctantly), giving me a wristband. Was it worth all the trouble? Not really. Sure, there were open bars, pasta and garlic bread, General Tso’s Chicken and fried rice, and a dessert station, but I could get all the free food and drink I wanted in the Seven Stars Lounge downstairs. What I did get was – I think – an explanation of what this whole TR Insiders thing is (at least in Atlantic City). If you qualify, you should be invited to a monthly cocktail reception at your “dominant casino” (the one you play at most frequently); in addition, there is a quarterly party at each of the four Caesars-owned casinos. During the first quarter of 2012, Caesars and Bally’s hosted slot and blackjack tournaments, there was a Carnival-themed party (as in those pre-Lenten festivals held in Rio and New Orleans) at Showboat, and an Olympics-themed party at Harrah’s. No word yet on what’s in store for April, May and June.

Light [No] Show
A news release touting its participation in Earth Hour – a “symbolic act [that] represents Caesars Entertainment’s commitment to reducing its carbon footprint on a global scale” – promised that all of its casinos would turn off exterior lighting Saturday evening. Showboat shut off its giant red marquees, but lights remained on at Caesars and Bally’s. I was inside Harrah’s so I don’t know whether its lights were on or off.

Don’t Expect A Revel-ution
Despite lots of threats from players – many who are dissatisfied Seven Stars cardholders, unless Revel makes changes to its player’s card program, I don’t expect much in the way of defection. Already, folks are grumbling over the fact that – like Wynn in Las Vegas – there will be only one level of player’s card. In other words, nothing like Caesars Gold, Platinum, Diamond and Seven Stars cards or Borgata’s Red Label, Black Label and Titanium cards. [“Everyone will be treated like a VIP,” said one Revel executive.] Also, Revel will have no dedicated player’s lounge like Caesars Diamond and Seven Stars Lounges, Trump’s and Golden Nugget’s Chairman’s Clubs, or Borgata’s Amphora Lounge and Society Club. Revel’s officials claim a lounge is unnecessary because of the casino’s generous comp policy, and the fact that all food and beverage outlets, the spa, etc., will be on a 1:1 basis, i.e., one comp dollar equals US$1. However, unless players are treated to some upfront “signing bonuses” or hosts divvy out lots of “discretionary comps”, I don’t see many players bellying up to the bar for premium cocktails and paying cash for them, let alone using their comp dollars. However, time will tell. After all, MGM’s casinos in Las Vegas don’t have anything like Caesars Diamond Lounges and it doesn’t seem to be hurting their business.

So, What’s It Like?
I had a tour of the Revel March 30, and it’s spectacular. The views alone from the large expanses of glass overlooking the ocean are worth the trip, as is the “sky garden” and just about every aspect of the hotel, casino, spa, restaurants and night club. Your Seven Stars (or Borgata Titanium) card will get you a host immediately and expedited service when it comes to signing up for a Revel player’s card, but that’s about it. There isn’t even a brochure detailing any benefits from the player’s card – which has no name, just “Revel” printed in black on a plain white card. I put more than $1,000 through a variety of slots at levels ranging from a penny to $1. After an hour of play, I walked away with $7 in “Resort Credits” [comp dollars] – not even enough to buy a decent drink at one of the bars.

‘Welcome Celebration’
The annual Seven Stars “Welcome Celebration” has been scheduled for April 27 and 28 – ironically, the same weekend as the Golden Nugget’s Grand Opening. Friday night each of the four Caesars casinos will give its Seven Stars cardholders a seven times Tier Credit multiplier, but the big event of the weekend is a 90-minute cocktail “soiree” Saturday. Invited guests also will receive a “commemorative bottle” of Belvedere® vodka. (A competing casino down the street gave out bottles of Belvedere a couple months ago as one of their standard weekly gifts – no major play required.) At each soiree, seven two-year leases on a 2012 Cadillac® CTS – along with additional cash prizes – will be given away. Aside from the tax implications – and, if I won, not even factoring in how much more I would spend on gas (I drive a Kia), my insurance would increase, and I’d be scared to death I’d cause some damage or exceed the maximum annual mileage. If Caesars is so committed to the environment (see above), why not give leases on a Prius or a Volt?

Diamond (and Platinum) Books Are A Player’s Best Friend
One of the more popular benefits for players in Atlantic City, these valuable coupon books will be distributed to Diamond cardholders on April 14 and 15 between noon and 6 p.m. Platinum cardholders can pick up their books from April 2 to 6; however, many of my Jewish friends – especially those who work fulltime and are unable to travel to Atlantic City during the week – feel that Caesars has been a bit insensitive to the fact that Passover begins at sunset on April 6, so they are unable to take advantage of a benefit they’ve earned. Since most Platinum cardholders probably don’t have a host, I would hope that Caesars makes some sort of special accommodation for those unable to pick up their books during the designated distribution dates.

ACES Not So Wild
The non-stop train service between Manhattan and Atlantic City – ACES (Atlantic City Express Service) – is no longer. Several factors led to the decision.

Marketing Test
I didn’t hear it personally – because I wasn’t invited, but at least three readers who attended a reception at One Atlantic told me that someone from Marketing said Caesars was purposely reducing offers to a “test group” of players to see if they would still come to Atlantic City and play. I think I must be part of the group because my “offers” have been reduced to practically nothing. And, yes, it’s affecting my play at Caesars casinos. But does it take a fancy marketing study to prove that?

Resorting To Additional Fees
How can Caesars casino hotels continue to say on their Web sites that they don’t have Resort Fees (see below) when – other than the Tropicana – they are the only hotels to charge more than the mandatory $5 per room night New Jersey State Occupancy Fee?

Call it what you will, but Caesars, Bally’s, Showboat and Harrah’s all are charging guests an additional $8 per room night (a $5 “Room Assessment Fee” and a $3 “Comp Room Fee”) — see below.

At least in Las Vegas when a hotel charges a Resort Fee it generally includes free Internet service, a free daily newspaper and even admission to the hotel’s fitness center. (And those staying in comped rooms generally have the resort fee waived, so it’s not an issue.) In Atlantic City Caesars is giving its guests nothing in return for this $8 additional charge – whether it’s paid in cash or taken out of comp dollars.

Bally’s

Clue®-less
Originally scheduled to promote the new Clue® slot machine (which still isn’t in operation yet at Bally’s or Caesars), the Murder Mystery Dinner Theater last month probably sounded like a good idea on paper. The Traymore Ballroom was cleverly decorated to evoke the interior of an English manor house; however, after about 20 minutes, the “theater” part just didn’t seem like it was going anywhere. Guests at our table were starting to talk among themselves, as were others in the room, so it was difficult to hear. Though we ate the salad (which was very good!), my friends and I left after about 20 minutes and ended up at The Reserve for an excellent dinner. “All’s Well That Ends Well!” Also, if Bally’s is going to use tickets under saucers to distribute a giveaway, make sure everyone understands that coffee cups are placed to the right of a diner. The man next to me grabbed the ticket under my coffee cup and claimed a Clue® board game for himself. It wasn’t worth arguing over, but had there been a more substantial prize, I might have become more contentious. In the future, Bally’s should consider a better system.

Wild Wild Guess
Just based on what I – and others – have been told by several Bally’s employees, look for a Dave & Buster’s, some retail shops, and maybe some additional food and beverage outlets to replace the slot machines currently “quarantined” behind temporary walls in the Wild Wild West.

Legends – Worth A Look
Though I’m not generally a fan of “tribute” shows, I must admit I was pleasantly surprised at the quality of both the performances and the production at Legends last month. The line-up of acts may change this month and next, but the cast I saw did an outstanding job, and the back-up dancers/singers deserve special credit for their enormous contribution. When they weren’t onstage dancing and singing their hearts out, they were backstage changing into yet another costume. Considering – other than comedy clubs at Tropicana and Borgata – there are so few shows during the week in Atlantic City, this is definitely one to check out.

Caesars

Friday Afternoon Meltdown
Be glad if you weren’t playing at Caesars the last Friday in March. Around 2 p.m. a “system” went down. Video poker and slot machines would not accept Fast Cash Tickets or Express Pay Coupons, and anyone cashing out from a machine had to wait for a hand pay – whether they were owed $500 or 15 cents. The lines at the main cashier were so long, I thought they were selling Mega Millions lottery tickets.

Harrah’s Resort

Difficult High Heels To Fill
While we’re happy about her promotion, we’ll miss Seven Stars Lounge Supervisor Alisa Hammill. During her years working in the lounge, she made it a point to get to know her customers, and treated everyone with dignity and respect. When the lounge was particularly busy, it was never beneath her to clean a table, take a cocktail order or deliver a plate of food. She also inspired great teamwork among her staff. Fortunately, she’ll remain at Harrah’s in another capacity, so let’s hope she won’t be a stranger.

Tipping Point
Unbelievable! That’s the only way I can describe my shock when a fellow Seven Stars cardholder grabbed a $5 tip from the bar at the lounge on a recent Friday night. The couple next to her had left and, when she thought I wasn’t looking, she took the bill and threw it in her purse. I told her what I saw, but she denied it. In an attempt to give her a chance to redeem herself, when Lou, the bartender, came to take my drink order, I said, “This nice lady was kind enough to take your tip so no one would steal it.” She just stared blankly ahead. A few minutes later she walked out, leaving her uneaten lobster roll and bowl of soup.

Sign Of The Times
Have you seen the sign on the casino floor promoting the American Idol slot machine? “The Vote’s Are In. This game is a winner!” Obviously, whoever designed – and approved – this never won any awards for punctuation. (The plural of the word “vote” does not require an apostrophe.)

Harrah’s Chester (Pennsylvania)

Name That Town
Could there be a name change in Harrah’s future? Will it be renamed Harrah’s Philadelphia? Makes a lot of sense. Harrah’s is practically ”a stone’s throw” from Philadelphia International Airport, and the Philly city limits are only about 15 minutes away. Most people don’t have a clue where Chester is, or, worse, think that Chester is the name of the man who owns the casino.

Declaring Bank-ruptcy
The “Bank” feature which is part of Total Touch® is nice, but downloaded free play expires with no warning. I had $155 in free play which I forfeited by forgetting to play it. I wouldn’t even have known, except for the fact that Pennsylvania requires its casinos to send reports to players detailing the amount of “slot cash” they offered, how much was played and how much expired. Even worse happened to a friend of mine. Saving up free play for an afternoon in the High Limits Slots, he hit the wrong button and mistakenly downloaded $500 while playing a penny slot in the C-Bar. Related to this is the fact that you can download only one of two smaller amounts or the entire balance of your bank. The system needs more options, or the ability to allow the player to choose a specific amount by punching numbers into a keyboard.

Caffe Napoli To Open This Month
Located on the former site of Café Cappuccio, the new Caffe Napoli is expected to open April 6. One employee described it as something similar to Sbarro’s, i.e., there will be seating to enjoy your food, but no servers.

The End Of End Zone
End Zone is closing to reinvent itself as a microbrew/barbeque pub. Renovations are expected to be completed – and a grand reopening is scheduled – next month. In the meantime, The Cove will be open extended hours Tuesday through Saturday and is introducing a new spring menu. (Don’t forget to update your Web site, Harrah’s It still has outdated information, not only about the Cove, but other details.)

General

The ‘New’ Total Rewards
While it’s evident a lot of time and money went into the new look of Total Rewards, the focus seems more on obtaining new cardholders than rewarding and retaining current cardholders. Sure, there a few new “benefits” – advance ticket sales for some events, discounted pricing at participating casino restaurants and buffets, the ability to transfer Reward Credits to another account-holder, and exchanging Rewards Credits for slot play (at a 2:1 ratio); however, I haven’t spoken to anyone who finds these that valuable. Many long-time Caesars players felt “blind-sided” when they heard about the four concerts that kicked off the brand re-launch March 1, wondering why more players weren’t invited to attend, why there wasn’t more advance notice, and the most vocal wondered what in the world P. Diddy, Cee Lo Green, Lil Wayne and others had to do with their favorite casino’s player loyalty program. Those who were aware of the concerts and tried to watch them online were frequently greeted by the equivalent of those “stand-by” signs reminiscent of the early days of television. At other times, portions of a concert were repeated, perhaps while “technical difficulties” were being corrected. “Commercials” for Total Rewards were greeted by cyber-boos in the form of negative tweets and Facebook postings (“This is the [sic] wurst!”) running continuously on the right side of the screen. As a matter of fact, about the only things positive being broadcast were obviously “planted” tweets from Caesars employees (“Heard about the new Escape To Total Rewards game? Can’t wait to play!”), or fan shout-outs to Mariah Carey and some of the other performers (“We luv u Mimi!”).

Atlantic City Signature Event
Add June 15-17 to your calendar if you plan to attend the first 2012 Signature Event in Atlantic City. There’s been no official announcement, but, assuming he wasn’t trying to throw me off, a Caesars executive let the dates slip during an informal conversation in the Seven Stars Lounge at Harrah’s Resort. Why keep the dates a secret? People like to make plans, and June 15 is only 2½ months away.

Signature Experiences: Deadline Extended (continued)
When someone tried to book her Level II experience for a date after March 31, she learned that some of the contracts with outside vendors expired March 31, and no replacement options were offered. In other words, it wasn’t going to be the experience she expected, so she opted for something else. If you’re going to take advantage of this extension, be sure to check in advance that you’ll get everything promised – or at least the equivalent.

Movie Mania
If you’re a fan of the free in-room movie benefit, when you check-in be sure to ask at the front desk what the policy is. Some casino hotels now limit the movies to one or two per day, and, in some cases, the limitation is per stay.

Play To Stay
When one player questioned why the Level I Tunica Basketball Experience no longer included a $1,500 airfare credit, and was reduced from four to two tickets, four to two rooms and one dinner for two (from four), he was told that too many players were coming to Tunica and not playing, or not playing enough. Excuse me, but aren’t these trips supposed to be a reward for past play? Plus, from my experience in Tunica too many machines wouldn’t accept my Total Rewards card, were out of order or were being reserved for other players. Also, unless you’re going to return to one of these casinos, what’s the point in playing a lot? As a result of that trip to Tunica I’m now getting invited to slot tournaments and other events, plus I am receiving free slot play offers, as well as food and beverage credits that I’ll never use – offers, I might add, that are more generous than the ones I receive from my “local” casinos in Atlantic City. Why would I travel 1,000 miles for $50 off my meal at Binion’s and $100 in free slot play? Similarly, why would I drive 90 miles [to Atlantic City] for $10 in free slot play and a $20 food credit (that’s good only Monday through Thursday)? I’m not even going to drive 15 minutes to Chester for a lousy $5 in slot play. I’d rather receive nothing than be insulted by these piddly “incentives” to play. It’s costing Caesars more to print and mail these silly offers than they’re worth.

Pick One: $500 Hotel Credit or 50,000 Reward Credits
When scheduling your annual trip, check to be sure if your $500 is in the form of a credit against your hotel room folio or whether 50,000 Reward Credits are going to be added to your Total Rewards account. If it’s a $500 credit on your hotel folio, you’ll need to use it before you check-out or you lose any remaining balance. Those who get the 50,000 RCs can use them anytime and anywhere – even after they return home. How about a little consistency, folks?

Mirror, Mirror
If you’ve already received one of the new Seven Stars cards, keep it somewhere safe. It may become a collector’s item. While replacement cards are on the way, the current cards are hard to read, the type (your name and TR number) scratches off easily, and – if you’re in the sun or under a bright light – you’re liable to temporarily blind someone. I actually saw a woman in Las Vegas using the card to check her make-up.

English Grammar 101
Apparently the copywriters at Total Rewards don’t have access to a basic grammar-checking program. I see this same type of error time after time in correspondence, promotional mailings and e-mails. “Total Rewards” is not the “valued Total Rewards Member”. Try this instead: “Total Rewards is pleased to provide you – our valued member – with this E-Statement. . . .” Also, in one 21-word sentence, “Total Rewards” is repeated three times. We get it. . .we get it!

A similar example arrived in the mail about a week later [emphasis added]: “As someone who knows about all the great luxury, amenities and beauty of our Las Vegas Total Rewards resorts, we don’t have to tell you that this is the perfect time of year to start planning your next Las Vegas getaway.” Huh? Try this instead: “For someone who knows about all the great luxury, amenities and beauty of our Las Vegas Total Rewards resorts, this is the perfect time of year to start planning your next Las Vegas getaway.”

Seven Stars-Specific Benefits
Notice anything missing from the Seven Stars benefits section of the Total Rewards Web site? Casino-specific benefits like the “Day at the Races” at Harrah’s Chester are currently being “vetted” by the TR execs in Las Vegas. Once the process is complete, the list will be posted again. Already dropped, according to the VIP Desk at Harrah’s New Orleans, are the Mardi Gras World tour, the carriage ride through the French Quarter and the paddleboat ride. Once each year cardholders visiting New Orleans were able to choose one of these as a special Seven Stars benefit. Between the loss of free show tickets in Las Vegas (see above) and this, it’s not looking good for the other benefits.

My TR: Not App-licable
With the additional layers of security required to log-on to the Total Rewards site, signing on to the My TR mobile app on my iPhone® is still not possible. The program needs a different “keyboard” that allows for upper case letters, as well as separate keys for letters and numbers. Supposedly, this was fixed a couple weeks ago, but it still doesn’t work.

A Not-So-Happy Birthday Offer
I was hoping it would change, but some with birthdays in the first quarter of 2012 are still getting the “earn up to 5,000 tier points in one day and we’ll match it” offer. At least in Atlantic City, every other non-Total Rewards casino offers free play, comp dollars or an actual gift. If you’ve already singled us out for some sort of birthday recognition, then don’t expect us to invest more money in slot machines or table games in order to get something in return.

Survey Results: The ‘New’ Total Rewards
So, what are players saying about the “rebranding” and new look of the Total Rewards program, as well as some of the enhancements, e.g., reduced prices at some food outlets, first choice to purchase tickets for concerts and shows? Unfortunately, complimentary responses are rare (it’s always more fun to trash something). I’d like to assume that someone has positive things to say about the new program, but I can’t prove it by the e-mails I received:
“Why spend all this money on new [player’s] cards? Diamond cards no longer look like Diamond cards and the Seven Stars cards are horrible. The cards all look alike, and they’re downright ugly!”
“They need to do more to reward their top players. They took away 12 trips from Level I last year. We did not even try to reach it. What’s the use?”
“Do they really think I am going to fly across country for $65 of free play in Lake Tahoe? Why do they send these ridiculous offers? It’s an insult. Surely, with Caesars sophisticated computer system, it should be able to better target players and offer more meaningful incentives.”
“If Caesars wants their continued support, Caesars needs to be talking to its players to see what they want. I don’t know anyone who wants to transfer their Reward Credits to someone else, or buy concert tickets in advance.”

Speaking of the new cards, I actually know people who are retaining their 2011-12 Seven Stars cards because they’re more distinctive and better differentiate them from Diamond and other lower-level cardholders.

Photo: Pulse of Las Vegas Blog