Seven Stars Insider – May 2011 [Also featuring information/commentary on MGM’s M life and Trump’s Signature Card]
NOTE: While this newsletter was originally designed exclusively for Seven Stars members, there is useful information for anyone who has a Total Rewards® player’s card and/or plays/stays at a Caesars property. Please feel free to pass this on to your friends. Back issues of the Seven Stars Insider newsletter are available online.
Those of you participating in the Mother’s Day Spa Giveaway May 6-8 in Las Vegas should note that gratuities are included “compliments of Caesars Entertainment”. I’m not suggesting you leave nothing additional – or that you should, but, considering that most of these packages (such as some of the Signature Experiences) do not include gratuities, I just wanted to be sure you were aware of this.
Start with any Cirque du Soleil show on the Strip, eliminate the theme (water, circus, Elvis, the Beatles, magic, etc.), drop the “filler” (the clowns and other esoteric diversions) and put it on a typical old-fashioned casino showroom stage – one that doesn’t rise and fall or twist and turn. What you get is Matsuri at the Imperial Palace – a nonstop 70 minutes of acrobatics, tumbling. juggling, dance and other displays of athletic prowess. It’s not without production values; there are hundreds of light and sound cues, as well as ever-changing colorful animated projections. And who knew jump ropes, hula hoops, batons and yoyos could serve as the basis for so many acts? The relatively small cast is also one of the hardest working in Las Vegas. Plus, it’s perfect for all ages. Shows are Saturdays through Wednesdays at 4 p.m., though the 8 p.m. starting time on Fridays will still get the kids in bed by 9:30. If you don’t qualify for free tickets, discount options abound, so even the cost of admission is family-friendly. Matsuri is one of the best kept secrets and most under-rated shows in Las Vegas. Do yourself a favor and enjoy it while it lasts. (Maybe the powers-that-be would see fit to bring it to Atlantic City for a run?)
Burger Bar A Whopping Success
According to Gaming Wire, the Whopper Bar which opened at the Rio last month is an “unqualified success”. The Whopper Bar concept blends the traditional Burger King menu with an upscale hamburger bar. Customers choose from among 30 toppings and sauces.
Free Dessert At Serendipity 3
With purchase of an entrée or sandwich, Seven Stars cardholders can get a free cheesecake bites dessert at Serendipity 3 on the Strip in front of Caesars Palace. [Formerly, the “freebie” was its famous frozen hot chocolate.] Act quickly, though, because the last time I reported about a free food offer for Seven Stars cardholders, management eliminated the perk quicker than $100 disappears in a $5 slot machine.
Cascata Golf Course Sold?
According to several employees familiar with the deal, but who would speak only off-the-record, Cascata Golf Course is in the process of being sold. One person said the sale shouldn’t make any difference for those players who like to golf there; another said he wasn’t sure what the new owners’ plan will be. Stay tuned.
It happened to me on my last trip – and I know it’s happened to others because you’ve e-mailed me. I was staying at Caesars Palace – by myself – and decided to take advantage of the free show ticket offer for Seven Stars and Diamond cardholders. Since eligible players get two complimentary tickets once each month, I figured I could get one ticket to two different shows. No! That’s what Manny at Total Rewards told me. He also said that others have asked, so that’s why he was aware of the policy. Short of finding another single to share two pairs of tickets, you’re stuck seeing just one show, with the other ticket going to waste.
Harrah’s Charging For Drinks On The Casino Floor
Well, sort of. . . . I haven’t seen it anywhere else, but if you want an “ultra premium” cocktail (Belvedere, Grey Goose, Patron, Bombay Sapphire, 10 Cane, Glenfiddich, Gentleman Jack or Maker’s Mark) you can pay $3 to your server. (14 Hands wine – cabernet, chardonnay and merlot – costs $5 a glass.) Apparently, even flashing a Seven Stars card won’t exempt you from the charge. (Several years ago this worked at Harrah’s Resort in Atlantic City and I was able to get premium drinks on the floor – and even “doubles”, but I don’t know if that policy still exists.) Frankly, if someone would assure me that those “ultra premium” liquors are coming directly from the bottle (and not one of those “guns”), I’d probably spring for the extra three bucks, but I don’t play at Harrah’s anyway.
False Advertising At Harrah’s Café
I wish I’d had my camera, because here’s one for Consumer Reports’ inside back cover. There are posters throughout Harrah’s promoting “Italian Night” at its Café. The signs say:
3 Courses for $14.99*
*dessert available for $3.99
Huh? By my calculation, it looks like we’re talking two courses for $14.99 and three courses for $18.98.
Diamond Lounge Guest Limits/Rankings
During my trip last month, if there was one single complaint I heard from Seven Stars cardholders, it was the “one guest limit” at the Diamond Lounges. Noting that this is the same limit as Diamond cardholders, Seven Stars cardholders feel they deserve a little more. (Interestingly, they also pointed out that they rarely bring anyone other than their spouse or partner, but it’s just the idea that they can’t bring in a second or third guest.) So, Caesars management, listen to your customers. It’s Marketing 101, won’t cost you any money and, apparently, has great importance to your top customers. As it is, if the lounge isn’t that busy, a good door “guardian” will allow the extra guest(s), but why not make it official and end the complaints?
Speaking of Las Vegas Diamond Lounges, someone asked me to “rank” them, so, at the risk of going out on a limb – it won’t be the first time – here is my personal opinion (on a scale of 1-5, with 5 being the top score):
Ambience Bar Seating Food* Service
Caesars Palace 4/Yes/5/5
Planet Hollywood 3/No/3/3
*all menus are basically the same; scoring is based on variety, quality, quantity and presentation
My visit to Planet Hollywood’s lounge last month was a disaster. It was a Wednesday night around 7 and the place was practically empty. I waited nearly 10 minutes before anyone stopped by to take my drink order. Then, I didn’t get exactly what I ordered, but the drink was so tiny, I finished it rather quickly, and, again, 10 minutes passed, and no one returned to ask if I wanted a refill. I rarely “stiff” servers, but, in this case, I just walked out, and had a better (and bigger!) drink on the floor over at the Bellagio. (In fairness, www.casinocenter.com called the club “the best on the Strip” – noting “the small number of players” in the club.) I’ve stopped going to the Rio lounge for the same reason – poor service. Things may have changed there, but I haven’t returned in several years. The Flamingo Lounge is way too small for a casino that large. Located in a former Chinese restaurant, the lounge has limited seating which often forces you to share tables. Eliminate all those clunky leather easy chairs, and they’d be able to increase seating. Also, don’t expect too much from the bar. Drinks are made by the same bartender who works at the burger joint next door and he/she can’t seem to make anything more complex than a vodka and tonic. That said, considering the limitations on the menu, Flamingo ranks right up there with Caesars, Harrah’s and Paris in terms of offering a varied selection of crudités, dips and other snacks. Frankly, all the lounges in Vegas have turned into nothing more than private sports bars. There are too many televisions, and too much tolerance by the staff of loud and obnoxious behavior. The night I was there, though, Ray at Harrah’s deserves credit for tactfully and politely quieting down a slightly inebriated customer and making him drink a bottle of water before granting him a refill.
Signature Event: Choose Your Weekend
Since there is a choice of two weekends for the New Orleans Signature Event later this year, if you have a preference, book early to be sure you get the weekend you want.
Bye, Bye, Jay!
Jay Snowden, formerly senior vice president and general manager of both Harrah’s Resort and Caesars, resigned last month and in October will become senior vice president of regional operations at Penn National Gaming near Harrisburg, Pa. He will remain a Margate, N.J., resident. Read the news release here.
June Signature Event Details
Details are now online, but, as reported earlier the Signature event in Atlantic City June 23-26 will feature a welcome party at the The Pool at Harrah’s Resort, Saturday night concerts by Lionel Richie at Caesars or “Straight, No Chaser” at Harrah’s, the House of Blues Gospel Brunch at Showboat on Sunday morning, 7X multiplier during the weekend, slot and blackjack tournaments, and an Apple Gift card promotion ($25 card for every 1,500 base rewards credits earned).
You Say ‘Mammels’; I Say ‘Mammals’
Not to diminish Caesars generosity, but a sign, reproduced below, informing guests that all coins from its second floor fountain were donated last month to the Marine Mammals Stranding Center, misspelled “mammals”. It would have been nice if someone had proofread it.
Table Games Supervisors Laid Off
An undisclosed number of table games supervisors at the four Caesars-owned casinos have been laid off in the first round of personnel cuts related to New Jersey’s deregulation of the gaming industry. New Jersey has adopted a less expensive and looser system of casino regulations similar to the Las Vegas model. No word on whether the other seven Atlantic City casinos will follow suit.
Pier Shops Foreclosure Sale To Be Scheduled
Bank of America has been granted final court approval to foreclose on The Pier Shops at Caesars after the mall owner, Taubman Centers Inc., defaulted on the mortgage. The next step is for Bank of America to schedule a foreclosure sale.
Showboat Parking Lot Theft
Police are searching for a man who stole two cartons of cigarettes from a vehicle at the Showboat casino April 10. According to the Atlantic City Police Department, the man – identified either as white or Hispanic – is approximately 50 years old and was wearing a grey hooded sweatshirt and beige pants. The victim was a 73-year-old Cherry Hill, N.J., woman who told police her car was broken into at the casino’s self-parking lot at 8:15 p.m. The cigarettes were stolen from the back seat and trunk.
Vrrroooom For Improvement At Caesars Parking Garage
As I’ve written before, the self-parking garage at Caesars is an accident scene waiting to happen. (Who knows? There may already have been several.) Drivers race through the levels as though it’s a NASCAR track, many not realizing that they’re driving on a two-way stretch. The signage is pathetic and it’s rare to see any security patrolling the lot. As if the speeding problem is not enough, no one seems to be policing the cars and trucks parked in “Small Cars Only” or “Compact Cars Only” spaces, or the yellow-lined no-parking areas near the entrances to the casino. Between the pedestrians who tend to walk down the middle of the road, as well as the rear ends of trucks and SUVs that stick out into the roadway, parking is always a challenge. Stick with valet – just make sure you know which location your car will be returned: “H” means the front entrance (“Porte Cochere”) where you dropped it off; all others (marked “C”) are delivered to the second level of the Temple parking garage across the skybridge from the Valet office. In any event, you first need to swipe your parking ticket outside the Valet office next to the Bell Desk on the second floor just past the front desk.
Beer Garden Opens At Caesars
The owners of Dusk have opened the Boardwalk Beer Garden in the space formerly occupied by Planet Hollywood (and most recently, Dawn). The beer garden has a wood bar inside, plus tables that can seat about 80. When the weather is nice – as it was last weekend, the action moves outdoors, where picnic tables and other seating with umbrellas lines Caesars frontage and offers seating for about 200.
Don’t Get Cornered In Caesars Corner Rooms
After overnighting in one, I have serious reservations about again staying in one of those corner rooms in the Centurion Tower (XX18 and XX20, with “XX” standing for the floor number, e.g., 2018 and 2020). They’re the ones which require entry through an unlocked door off the hallway. Who knows if someone is waiting inside since the fire department won’t allow the door to be locked? And don’t be fooled by the false security of needing to insert your room key in the elevator. Since I tried it once when I was staying in the Ocean Tower, as long as one person enters the elevator and inserts his/her key card, everyone else can just “piggy-back” on this swipe and get to any floor. [The same works for the Ocean Tower and most hotel elevators that require key cards, so it’s not just Caesars.] I’m sure that’s how those pizza menus found their way inside that anteroom leading to my room and other next to it. If the fire department won’t allow the doors to be locked, then they should be removed for everyone’s safety.
Think ‘Twice’ Before Using Comp Dollars
It’s a disturbing trend that just continues with the opening of the new Caffe Tazza at Caesars. Yes, it accepts Total Rewards credits – but on a 2:1 basis. That means your $2.50 cup of coffee will cost you five comp dollars. While most casino-owned restaurants, as well as many shops and spas, accept comps on a 1:1 basis, i.e., one comp dollar equals US$1, others accept them on a 2:1 basis. Unfortunately, this comp policy is not always clearly indicated, so there is a bit of “sticker shock” when that $150 dinner at The Pier ends up costing 300 hard-earned comp dollars. While there has been a lot of discussion about restaurants in New Orleans, I’m most familiar with Atlantic City, so here is a list of restaurants, shops and other places that accept casino comp dollars, but at a 2:1 ratio:
· Bally’s/Wild Wild West – Johnny Rockets, Ben & Jerry’s, M Star Mart, Macy’s gift cards, tobacco products at casino-owned retail stores.
· Caesars – Morton’s The Steakhouse, Dusk (and, presumably, its new Beer Garden – see below), the aforementioned Caffe Tazza, tobacco products at casino-owned retail stores. (For Pier Shops’ restaurants that accept comp dollars, see below.)
· Harrah’s Resort – McCormick & Schmick’s Seafood Restaurant, Viking Cooking School, tobacco products at casino-owned retail stores.
· Showboat – Johnny Rockets, tobacco products at casino-owned retail stores.
(Interestingly, the Johnny Rockets and other outlets at the Food Court in the Flamingo Las Vegas accept comp dollars on a 1:1 basis.)
In addition, the following restaurants at the Pier Shops accept Total Rewards® comp dollars: Phillips Seafood, Sonsie, Game On!, The Trinity and Souzai. (Check at a Caesars casino kiosk first, sometimes these restaurants offer specials, accepting comps on a 1:1 basis.) You also can purchase gift cards – accepted at all Pier Shops outlets – on a 2:1 basis.
Smoking Ban Goes Unenforced
If you don’t smoke, head over to Bally’s because it’s the only one of four Caesars-owned casinos where The Press of Atlantic City didn’t observe anyone smoking in non-smoking sections. The Borgata and Hilton got a similar clean bill of health, based on the newspaper’s observation of floor activity last month. City officials claim they don’t have the staff to enforce Atlantic City’s partial smoking ban, and casino managers say they’re complying to the best of their ability.
Seven Stars Renewal Dinners
Depending on whom you talk to – and where you went – the April 16 dinners were either awful or fabulous. The Caesars dinner got a “thumbs down” and the Bally’s dinner was a “thumbs up”. No word on similar events at Harrah’s or Showboat. Anyone have thoughts to share? Are these dinners held just in Atlantic City or do other casinos around the country hold them?
Le Ombré – with its combination of acrobatics, contemporary dance and other theatrics – is returning to Harrah’s Resort this month, beginning May 21 and continuing until June 1. I highly recommend you attend.
Caesars Evacuated; Prompts Safety, Security Concerns
A short in the alarm system when Caesars computer room flooded due to torrential downpours set off an evacuation alarm around 11:30 p.m. April 16. “At first, everyone ignored the sirens,” according to someone who was there. “[T]hey have gone off several times and are usually announced as false alarms, or they just stop. This time an announcement followed that everyone should evacuate, due to an emergency in the building. After arriving outside, I texted my husband to see where he was, and he replied ‘in the room’. When I called, he hadn’t heard any alarms or announcements. Only when he went to the stairwell and opened the door, could he hear the alarms somewhat faintly. With the elevators off, he walked down 11 flights. On the way, he met an elderly, very heavy woman, who was barely moving. (She had also received a phone call from family.) After being sent back into the building, we were evacuated again.”
“Why no alarms in the rooms?” she asked. “Why no Security to clear the floors? I’m sure that many people prefer the higher floors for the view, but those not capable of walking the stairs may want to think twice about this. Had it been a real emergency, many people just wouldn’t be able to make the climb. Perhaps the folks doing room assignments should consider steering the infirm to lower floors for their own safety.”
Here’s a link to a YouTube video.
Caesars Forfeits Some Winnings
Caesars was among four casinos the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement ordered to forfeit a total of $12,204 that they won from people who were not legally permitted to gamble. The action also was taken against Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa, Resorts Casino Hotel and Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort. The casinos had won the money from people who were either under the legal gambling age of 21 or had placed themselves on a “self-exclusion” list that bars them from entering Atlantic City’s gaming halls.
About Other ‘Premium’ Player’s Cards
Since many of you also have “premium” cards from other casinos’ player’s clubs, if news warrants, periodically, I’ll publish information (and my thoughts!) about programs such as MGM’s M life and Trump Entertainment’s Signature Card.
M life – I must admit that I was a bit surprised to be upgraded to this program’s top Platinum card. The lower tiers, in ascending order, are Sapphire, Pearl and Gold. (I understand there is a little-publicized higher-level Noir card, as well.) My first experience with M life took place at the Bellagio last month during a three-night visit prior to my stay at Caesars Palace. Expecting to find different check-in lines at the front desk – similar to Caesars Platinum, Diamond and Seven Stars – I was surprised to see nothing of the kind. Ditto at the Player’s Club (where there always are long lines). Café Bellagio (adjacent to the Conservatory) and the Buffet have separate lines for M life cardholders, but there is no priority line for Platinum (or any level) cardholders. Presumably, anyone with even the most basic player’s club card could use this line, but there was rarely anyone taking advantage of this option. Instead, even at non-peak dining hours, many times lines at the Buffet were out the door into the casino and back almost to the lobby leading to the guest rooms. Same at the Café. Either no one knows about the separate line, or all these people are in the casino without player’s cards. Even a request for late check-out was not honored, and don’t even think of looking for a lounge similar to Caesars Diamond Lounges. While M life touts its Express Comps program, it’s not exactly groundbreaking. Caesars/Harrah’s has been doing this for years. What I do like about the new program is its transparency, but, again Caesars/Harrah’s Total Rewards program always has let you know where you stand tier-wise and how many comp dollars you’ve earned. Previously, when staying at an MGM property, I always hated the “confrontation” with a host to determine what was going to be comped “based on my play that trip”.
UPDATE – I just received a promotional mailing from the Bellagio. There is some interesting and – again – somewhat disturbing small print regarding M life:
· Enjoy three complimentary nights in a luxurious Room
· $150 in FREEPLAY®
· Earn Express Comps™ as you play
· Play the same way you did last time and you’ll earn $300* in Express Comps
*This offer is not a promise of complimentaries and is meant only as illustration. Express Comps will be. . .used with your permission to fulfill components of this offer.
What? Does this mean the Bellagio is going to use my Express Comps to pay for those three “complimentary nights in a luxurious Room”? Or to pay for that $150 in FREEPLAY®? At least when a Caesars property sends you an offer for a free room, some free play, and maybe some food and beverage comps, your Rewards Credits remain untouched.
Trump Signature – Trump Entertainment Resorts’ new management team shot itself in the foot last month when it sent an e-mail (reproduced below) to certain current and wannabe Signature cardholders. The “bombshell” was the line, “You must maintain Signature level play throughout the year to retain status.” A request to Trump’s new owner asking for clarification so far has gone unanswered, and two long-time hosts were unaware of the e-mail. This is like Caesars sending an e-mail to Seven Stars cardholders telling them they must maintain “Seven Stars play” (without defining what “Seven Stars play” is) throughout the year to retain status. Can you imagine what an uproar that would cause? First, you spend a year earning enough tier points to qualify for Seven Stars (or Signature), then you’re told it will be taken away if your play throughout the year is not sufficient. There are precious few benefits to the Signature card anyway – compared with Caesars Seven Stars card – and soon only two casinos to use them in. Already, many long-time Trump players are jumping ship and playing at Resorts, and they and others are eagerly waiting for the rebranding of the Marina as the Golden Nugget, and the opening next year of Revel. Trump’s executives need to up the ante if they’re going to retain their top players.
Using Your Annual Trip For Signature Events
Those who don’t want to spend their own money to travel to Signature Events should consider making the event their annual trip. Just be sure to make your plans early enough.
[A Not So] Happy Birthday To You!
One Seven Stars cardholder, used to getting a generous [cash] birthday gift each year, complained that she received a mere $50 in free play this year. Based on responses to last month’s question, this is pretty typical, though many reported they got an offer that essentially doubled whatever Rewards Credits they earned on a given day. That’s like a friend asking you to go out and buy your own birthday present, but he/she will gift wrap it for you – using your own gift wrapping paper.
Discretionary Comps vs. Total Rewards Credits
I wasn’t gambling at Harrah’s (now Caesars) when its Total Rewards program came into being, but my understanding was that Total Rewards Credits (RCs) were supposed to replace the discretionary comps given out by hosts to their best players. In other words, in the “old days” if you wanted to have a nice meal in the casino’s “gourmet restaurant” or even two admissions to the buffet, you’d have to contact a host who would review your play and issue or deny your comps. Total Rewards was supposed to take this decision-making out of the hands of hosts and let players earn comps, much the same way they earn frequent flyer miles. Everyone would be treated equally and you always would know where you stood in terms of perks available to you. Apparently, if I can believe what I hear from a lot of people, that’s not the case – especially outside the major markets (Atlantic City, Las Vegas) and in casinos in the Midwest. Either they don’t keep track of their RCs and don’t realize their meals are being taken out of their accounts, or they’re getting twice the benefits the rest of us are. Message boards are full of stories from folks who stop in St. Louis (or Council Bluffs or Joliet), get a comp suite, dinners at the steakhouse, breakfast buffets, and more, all without losing any of their earned RCs. My understanding was that discretionary comps come into play only when a player exhausts all of his/her RCs and a host can comp a meal based on that person’s play. So what about it? Do you get meals and others things comped without dipping into your RC account? Send me an e-mail (email@example.com) and I’ll share your thoughts – anonymously, of course.
Darryl D. McEwen, Publisher
Seven Stars Insider