Seven Stars Insider – September Edition

Maroon 5 Total Rewards Concert
Maroon 5 at Total Rewards Concert

Here are highlights from the latest edition of Seven Stars Insider. As always it has 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 still long but full of information. Head over to Seven Stars Insider to sign up for the newsletter.

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

LAS VEGAS

‘Book Me On The Next Flight To LAS!’
Once again Caesars marketing folks have outdone themselves in the “dumb offers” department. Why would they offer complimentary accommodations and show tickets as a special incentive to travel to Las Vegas when, as a Seven Stars cardholder, I’m entitled to these benefits anyway?

LAUGHLIN

‘Toys’ Aren’t Us
Justifying the request by citing the increasing popularity of bachelor and bachelorette parties, inspired perhaps by such films as “The Hangover”, Caesars has petitioned Clark County to allow casino gift shops to sell a limited inventory of sex toys and other “marital aids”. However, members of the Laughlin Town Advisory sent a strong message to county commissioners by voting to deny the request. The issue will go before the Board of County Commissioners on September 18.

ATLANTIC CITY

Dream On
The fourth – and final – planned installment of the popular nightly light show at Boardwalk Hall is now on display. Titled “AC Dreamin’”, it features two people who, after taking a train ride to Atlantic City, discover a variety of things the city has to offer. It features the same assortment of animation, music, video and 3-D lighting as the three other shows that have been produced over the past year, but this time there is a story with people and narration. In the eight-minute video the two people stay in a luxurious hotel, enjoy rides and games on the Boardwalk, and observe an underwater beach.

Go East, Young Man
The “mystery man” I chose not to identify last month is Rick Mazer, a top Las Vegas gambling executive, who started his career 30 years ago as a craps dealer. According to several published reports, in a filing last month with the New Jersey Casino Control Commission, Mazer applied for licensing as a key employee, senior vice president and general manager of Harrah’s Resort.

In addition, Caesars spokesman Gary Thompson said Mazer will oversee the $125.8 million convention center expansion at Harrah’s and the company’s proposed $1 billion hotel-casino development Suffolk Downs Race Track in East Boston, Mass. He comes to Atlantic City after serving as president of Harrah’s, Flamingo and The Quad in Las Vegas, as well as overseeing the $550 million Linq project that will include retail shops, restaurants and a 550-foot “High Roller” observation wheel. Prior to his Las Vegas tenure, Mazer was general manager of the Horseshoe Hammond in Indiana.

No word on what role, if any, Mazer will have in the management of Bally’s, Caesars and Showboat, as well as Harrah’s Philadelphia in Chester, Pa.

Was It Something I Said?
The Boardwalk Buffet at Caesars will close September 16 for much needed improvements. In the meantime, those who crave a breakfast buffet will have to settle for the tasteless, rubbery pre-made omelets, greasy bacon and other abominations at Café Roma.

PHILADELPHIA

Get Into The Kitchen
If you’re in the Philadelphia area – or plan to travel there, Harrah’s has a unique venue to hold your annual Seven Stars celebration dinner. Its Chef’s Table in the kitchen at The Cove will dazzle you and your guests, and make the evening a truly special occasion.

The Chef’s Table can accommodate up to 10 people, and the menu can be tailored just about any way you want. Do you prefer an Asian or Italian-themed meal? No problem. Have a certain budget in mind? They’ll work with you. Have a particular entrée in mind? Chef Erick will prepare it to your specifications. Want to just order off the regular menu, but watch how your meal is prepared? Done!

If you’ve never witnessed a professional restaurant kitchen in action – short of “Top Chef” or one of those television reality shows – this is your opportunity.

You just need to give them advance notice so they can work out the menu and other details with you. Contact your host to get things started.

Special Seven Stars Benefits
Harrah’s knows how to treat its Seven Stars
cardholders:

  •  Look for the special Seven Stars-only cashier at the main cage. You can’t miss the sign over the entrance to two dedicated windows. You may have to ring the bell to get some service because they’re not always staffed, but, while you’re waiting, you can always enjoy a delicious piece of wrapped chocolate with the Seven Stars logo. You might even want to slip a couple pieces of the delicious morsels in your pocket – just don’t forget or you’ll find a gooey mess once you return home. Yep, I’ll admit it, I did just that! What a mess!
  • To check into the Diamond Lounge, look for the dedicated path leading to the desk where you’ll be the next person called if there’s a line. (I’ve heard staff members warning of up to 45-minute – or longer – waits to get in on a busy weekend night.) Someone also comes to greet and escort you to special reserved tables by the windows overlooking the racetrack.
  • The Seven Stars Happy Hour is still held on Fridays, but the time has changed. It’s now from 5 to 7 p.m. in the lounge at the Cove. In addition to complimentary cocktails for the Seven Stars cardholder and a guest, passed hors d’ouevre are served.

AND IN OTHER INSIDER NEWS. . . .

Love Boat
With few exceptions, nearly everyone I heard from raved about their Signature Experience cruise to Bermuda last month. There was some minor quibbling about an overly crowded cocktail reception at the hotel in New York the night before the cruise, but, overall, it sounds like Caesars earned its “A+” on this one. A second and third cruise have been scheduled for this month and next, respectively.

Getting To Know You – Part One
If there is one question I get most often, it’s: “Why can’t casinos better tailor their offers to my schedule?”

Players frequently complain that their mailboxes are filled with offers of free food and bonus slot play, but they’re valid on days when they never travel to their favorite casinos. “I get offers for $50 in food and $150 in free play all the time, but they’re good only Monday through Thursday,” one person told me. “Can’t they tell by my play that I only travel here on weekends? It’s like they know I can’t use these offers, but they think I’ll be impressed just by receiving them. Guess what? It just angers me and makes me
want to play someplace else.”

Getting To Know You – Part Two
Speaking of tailoring offers to customers, one Seven Stars cardholder sent me his offer of a comp room in Atlantic City, as well as the chance to convert Reward Credits into free slot play. “Considering that, with 48 hours’ notice, I’m supposed to be able to get comp rooms anywhere – OK, I know there are some exceptions – why can’t my mailer from Harrah’s Resort recognize my Seven Stars status and include some other sort of promotion or ad?” he writes. “Also, as a Seven Stars cardholder I’m supposed to be able to convert my Reward Credits for slot play at a discount – $5 for 675 Reward Credits (a ‘retail value’ of $6.75), yet my mailer is telling me it’s $5 for 1,000 credits (a ‘retail value’ of $10’).”

Door Stop
Companion cardholders who have access to a Diamond Lounge based on their own play should show their Diamond cards when they check-in. I’ve heard several reports of players being embarrassed when they were told they couldn’t bring a guest into the lounge. The person at the door just didn’t pay attention and assumed that these Companion cardholders weren’t eligible for entry based on their own play.

Gifts That Keep On Giving
How many more sets of luggage, pots and pans, or manufacturers’ close-outs do we really need? Last month, for example, Bally’s and Harrah’s Resort in Atlantic City gave out pancake makers and breakfast sandwich makers. Do any of us really need these? I don’t know about you, but I’m trying to reduce clutter in my kitchen. If the casinos are going to continue to dole out gifts, how about something useful like the ubiquitous gas cards or Visa gift cards?

At least these don’t have to be shipped across country, warehoused and delivered to ballrooms for distribution – and then schlepped home by us. Code Green, anyone?

Hold On
Apparently no one from Total Rewards has been subjected to the monotonous – and out-of-date – “on hold” message you get while you’re waiting to make a reservation or calling with a question. For approximately three minutes – and then it repeats – you hear blurbs about Lake Tahoe, Atlantic City, Tunica, etc., as well as the newest addition to Total Rewards, Horseshoe Casino in Cincinnati “which will open this spring”

Survey Says. . .
Last month I asked you whether you preferred attending city- or casino-specific events open to all Seven Stars cardholders, e.g., the events in 2012 held in Atlantic City and Las Vegas, or having your choice of several different types of events. The responses fell into two categories: those who were able to reserve space on the August cruise to Bermuda and those who didn’t. Those who went on the cruise hope another one is scheduled next year, not only because they really enjoyed themselves, but because they also felt the entire package had a much greater monetary value than any of the other choices. The rest preferred the types of weekend events which were held in the past.

This Month’s Survey
My guess is that the staff at Total Rewards is already working on the details of next year’s Seven Stars (and Diamond and Platinum) program, hopefully tweaking some rules and considering suggestions from its many surveys. Here is a portion of my “wish list”:

  • For the annual retreat and Level I Signature Experience, allow the $500 folio credit to be used for food and beverage, as well as other charges such as spa treatments, in-house show tickets, etc. Many of us travel alone and cannot possibly use that amount of money on meals. Plus, if you’re staying at a casino that does not allow Reward Credits to be used for alcoholic beverages, or you don’t drink alcoholic beverages, that makes it all the more difficult to spend the $500.
  • Offer an option or some sort of alternative for those who don’t like to travel or travel by air. The annual retreat and the Level I Signature Experience each currently includes up to a $1,200 airfare reimbursement. While I know that concessions have been made “privately” for some customers, why not codify this “officially” with some alternatives that might include a mileage reimbursement for those who prefer to drive or offer some variation of the popular “stay-cation” where someone can choose a retreat at his/her “home” casino and get the transportation credit in the form of free play or a gift card?
  • For those who are comfortable making their own travel arrangements, let us skip the “middleman” [a casino host] and make our own travel arrangements with Passport? And, while you’re at it, waive that $10 per ticket charge that Passport imposes. After all, you’re forcing us to use Caesars own travel agency, then you take $10 per ticket off whatever amount you’re giving us as a reward for our play.
  • Don’t force us to have that one-time $500 celebration dinner. Many of us have a difficult time organizing a group for dinner, or don’t live near a local casino where we can invite our friends and family to dine. Just add extra Reward Credits to our account, and let us spend them as we choose.
  • We all have different “needs” and tastes, so offer free play or a gift card as one of the options for the annual gift. I know you’re trying to give Seven Stars cardholders a variety of benefits, e.g., a trip, a dinner, a gift, etc., but, at this stage in our lives, most of have just about everything we want or have the ability to purchase it.

I could go on and on, but I’d like to hear from you. What changes would you make to the 2014-2015 Seven Stars program? Send me an email and I’ll share your thoughts – anonymously, of course.

 

Seven Stars Insider – March Edition

Katherine McPhee Total Rewards Concert
Katherine McPhee

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


Sorry About That. . .

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

Harrah’s Rincon North San Diego

Updates

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

Harrah’s New Orleans

Diamond Lounge Relocated

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

Harrah’s North Kansas City

Everything’s Up-To-Date In Kansas City

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

Las Vegas

Hype, Hype, Hurrah!

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

Useless Surveys

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

Rio All-Suites Hotel & Casino

Before The Parade Passes By

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

Atlantic City

Seven Stars ‘Renewal Weekend’

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

1+1+1+1=1?

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

Food, Glorious Food – and Wine

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

Room Service

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

Wynn Loss Statement

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

Caesars

Boardwalk Buffet Still Open

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

Harrah’s Resort

Sounds Like. . .

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

New Menu At Seven Stars Lounge

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

Harrah’s Lights Up Your Life

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

Quote Of The Month

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

Harrah’s Philadelphia

Two Hours Every Week Have Just Become Happier

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

Third Time’s A Charm?

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

Senior Days

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

General

More Questions Than Answers

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

Question Of The Month

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

Yes, Resort Fees

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

 

Caesars Palace – $25

Paris and Planet Hollywood – $20

Rio, Harrah’s and Flamingo – $18

Bally’s – $15

The Quad – $10

 

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

Great Gift Wrap Up

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

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

 

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

‘Communication, Communication, Communication’

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

Belated Happy Birthday

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

Survey Says. . .

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

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

 Here’s a cross-section of responses:

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

This Month’s Survey

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

Darryl D. McEwen, Publisher

Seven Stars Insider

Photo: Fabbz.com

Seven Stars Insider – December Edition

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

Seven Stars Insider – December 2012

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

 

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

Simply go to: 

>> www.sevenstarsinsider.com <<

 

Hollywood Casino St. Louis

Answers To Your Questions

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

Las Vegas

SlotZilla

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

Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall & Saloon

Bye, Bye, Bill’s

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

Flamingo

Great Great Gift Wrap Up!

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

Paris

Evening In Paris

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

The Quad

It’s Official!

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

[Human] Nature Calls For Last Time

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

Atlantic City

Advertising Hope and Appreciation

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

Cool Treat

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

The Early Bird. . .Gets Charged Extra

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

More Name Changes?

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

Borgota Hotel Casino

Harrah’s Restort Atlantic City

Buffets On Holiday Schedules

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

Climb and Dine

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

Bally’s

Diamond Lounge December Hours

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

Holiday Cheer

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

Gift Shop Sells $1M Powerball Ticket

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

Caesars

December Seven Stars Lounge Hours

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

December Diamond Lounge Hours

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

Chef Shuffle

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

Harrah’s Resort

Seven Stars Hours To Change

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

Diamond Lounge December Hours

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

Up All Night – Not

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

You Need To Get Out More, Mr. Reservationist

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

You Also Need To Get Out More, Mr. Smith

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

From Dust To More Dust

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

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

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

False Sense Of Security

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

Showboat

Diamond Lounge December Hours

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

Harrah’s Philadelphia

BarleyQue Finally Gets It Right

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

General

Tier Jerker

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

Insider Out?

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

 Great Race Point Discrepancies

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

Some Seven Stars Benefits Are Not The Same Everywhere

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

Total Rewards Rewarded

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

Question Of The Month

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

Dress Code

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

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

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

Holiday Hours

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

Leaving Macau

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

Caesars Financial Report

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

Survey Says. . .

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

 This Month’s Survey

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

Darryl D. McEwen, Publisher

Seven Stars Insider

Photo – Got Celeb

 

Seven Stars Insider – September Edition

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

NEW ORLEANS

What’s New At Harrah’s

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

LAS VEGAS

Great Gift Mess Up

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

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

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

SIGNATURE EVENT

‘I’ll Pass, Thank You’

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

‘Abundant Free Play’?

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

Henley Concert Not So Exclusive

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

CAESARS PALACE

Talk About A Buffet Of Buffets!

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

Rough In The Diamond

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

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

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

‘Batman’ Flies Into Caesars

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

FLAMINGO

Girl Is A Diamond’s Best Friend

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

Adios, Carlos’n Charlie’s

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

PARIS

Gordon Ramsey Steak: Not So Well Done

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

PLANET HOLLYWOOD

NoShow CeeLo

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

ATLANTIC CITY

Lounge Hours Change

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

Going Into Labor Day

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

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

Dining Options Narrow — Again

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

Shopping For Answers

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

Spa-Tacular Returns

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

CAESARS

Roma Rebellion

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

Sign Of The Times

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

Big Bang Theory

SHOWBOAT Watch Your Purse!

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

HARRAHS PHILADELPHIA

Salad Daze

‘Its’ Isn’t What It’s Supposed To Be

Speaking Of Change. . .

‘Will Caesars Entertainment Ever Stop Falling?’

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

The Rest Of Us Have To Earn Our Tier Credits

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

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

Seven Stars Insider – February Edition

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

Tunica

Mississippi, Here I Come
I’m making my first trip to Tunica this month, and will give you a full report in the March issue. Anyone have any suggestions or tips to make my visit more enjoyable?

Las Vegas

Caesars Palace

One Restaurant Opens, Another Closes – Temporarily
Old Homestead has opened (in the location formerly occupied by Neros), but Café Lago and its buffet are closed for renovations. That also means you have one less buffet to choose from if you purchase the Buffet of Buffets.

Paris

Chef From Hell To Open Paris Steakhouse
Gordon Ramsay, star of TV’s Hell’s Kitchen, will open Gordon Ramsay Steak in the space formerly occupied by Les Artistes Steakhouse. The restaurant is expected to open next month.

Speaking Of March Openings. . .
The Broadway hit Jersey Boys will move from the Palazzo Theatre to Paris’ Les Theatre des Arts.

Atlantic City

Turns Out You Did Hear It Here First!
An item in the October 2011 issue [“Hide and Go Shrimp (and other rumors)”] reported:

· Shrimp cocktail is going to disappear from the menu at the Diamond Lounges – at least during the week and continuing through Memorial Day weekend.

Turns out that in mid-January, this is exactly what happened – at least at Bally’s. All is not lost, though. From what I can gather, the other three Diamond Lounges are still serving shrimp, but at Bally’s one Tuesday last month servers and bartenders were instead offering bruschetta to customers. In addition, the buffet included a nice selection of cheeses and gourmet crackers. Other options may also be tested. For those who are allergic to shellfish, or simply don’t like shrimp, this is a welcome alternative. That said, I’m not sure that all customers will agree (or approve) – especially when those shrimp were the centerpiece of Caesars justification for charging some Diamond cardholders $10 to use the lounges – and the fact that the Borgata and Golden Nugget offer bowls of chilled shrimp as a regular part of the buffets at their player’s lounges.

Think ‘Twice’ Before Using Comps
While most casino-owned restaurants, as well as many shops and spas, accept Rewards Credits (comps) on a 1:1 basis, i.e., one comp dollar equals $1, others accept them on a 2:1 basis. In other words, a $50 meal costs $100 in comps. Unfortunately, this comp policy is not always clearly indicated, so there is a bit of “sticker shock” when that $3 cup of coffee ends up costing $6 in comps. Here is a partial list of restaurants, bars, clubs and other places that accept 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, Harry’s Oyster Bar, Taste of the Shore outlets, tobacco products at casino-owned retail stores

Caesars – Morton’s The Steakhouse, Dusk, Tazza, Boardwalk Beer Garden (seasonal), 21 Bar @ Dusk, tobacco products at casino-owned retail stores (for Pier Shops gift cards and Pier Shops restaurants that accept comp dollars, see below.)

Harrah’s – McCormick & Schmick’s Seafood Restaurant, Taste of the Shore outlets, tobacco products at casino-owned retail stores

Showboat – Johnny Rockets, tobacco products at casino-owned retail stores

In addition, the following restaurants at the Pier Shops accept Total Rewards comp dollars: Phillips Seafood, Sonsie, Buddakan, Piazza di Georgio and Souzai. (Check at a Caesars casino kiosk first, sometimes these restaurants offer specials, accepting comps on a 1:1 basis.) In addition, a Pier Shops gift card may be purchased at the Total Rewards desk in Caesars, but, again, at a 2:1 ratio, e.g., a $100 gift card will cost $200 in comps. [Purchases at the Total Rewards Store in the Pier Shops should be made directly with Reward Credits; using a gift card “bought” with Rewards Credits will amount to paying double for purchases.]

AC Country Club
Only because I’ve run into several players who were not aware of this, allow me to remind you that, not only is the Atlantic City Country Club open to the public, but you can use your comp dollars (Rewards Credits) to pay for meals and greens fees. Sometimes it takes a couple of swipes for all of your comp dollars to show up in your account. I had this happen at lunch one day, but, knowing I had plenty of comps, I asked the server to swipe again and, voila, there they were.

Call First, Eat Later (but maybe somewhere else)
As some folks discovered January 31, you can’t always trust the posted opening hours of Caesars restaurants. Scheduled to be open from 4 to 9 p.m., the Waterfront Buffet at Harrah’s was closed that night, as well as on February 1. Those who had coupons for free buffets were offered a $15 per person credit at Sammy D’s or Bill’s Bar and Burger.

Bally’s

The Good. . .
Not two hours before a wonderful dinner at Arturo’s last month I was bemoaning the fact that I am rarely offered the complimentary amuse-bouche, mini-dessert sample and/or after-dinner cordial anymore. What a nice surprise to receive all three! They were the proverbial “icing on the cake”! Kudos to Arturo’s kitchen staff, as well as servers Jay and Jose (and their assistant whose name I forget) for a great meal.

The Bad. . .
Actually, it’s not their fault, probably just some quirk in New Jersey law, but my original plan to dine at Nanking was thwarted when my guest and I were told we had to finish our cocktails before we could enter the restaurant. Since we had just left the Diamond Lounge with two perfectly good drinks, we weren’t about to dump them down the drain, nor were we going to guzzle them cooling our heels outside the restaurant. Instead, we cancelled our reservation and opted for dinner at Arturo’s. While I’m sure Nanking is very nice – and I plan to return (lesson learned regarding cocktails!) – everything turned out fine (see above).

The Ugly. . .
Who designed the new L | Lounge in Bally’s lobby – a former Viet Cong prison guard? With its perimeter surrounded by various lengths of bamboo, it looks like a prisoner-of-war camp. And that name? A female friend thought that Bally’s was going after the lesbian market to compete with Resorts’ Pro Bar [formerly Prohibition Bar], a bar that caters mostly to gay men. Hasn’t anyone at Bally’s heard of Showtime’s The L Word? [Hint: “L” doesn’t stand for “Lobby”.]

Text For Your Car
With the removal of the self-scan valet parking kiosk, hotel and casino guests who have either a Diamond or Seven Stars card can text their valet ticket number. Hotel guests should use (609) 705-4886; casino guests, (609) 350-0955. Allow about five minutes when requesting your car.

Wild Wild West Table Games Closed
It’s probably just for the slower winter months, but, according to a sign in the casino, table games are “currently unavailable” at the Wild Wild West.

$100,000 Hidden Free Play
Don’t forget to swipe your player’s card everyday this month between 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. to see if you’ve won your share of $100,000 in hidden free play.

Goodbye, Gertie
Gold Tooth Gertie’s, at the base of the escalator from Caesars to the Wild Wild West, is history. It’s a shame, because I used to enjoy popping down there to grab a quick light breakfast if I was staying in the Centurion Tower at Caesars. The nearest option is the Corner Café at the end of the corridor leading from Bally’s to the Claridge.

Caesars

Fusion Cuisine Without Knowing It
I was surprised when I got home to find that my takeout order from Kwi was in an Olive Garden container. Caesars is really taking this recycling thing seriously!

Watch Those Logos
While it was a popular giveaway – after all, it was “free”, those watches last month would have been even more appealing had they not been cheapened (in my opinion) by the Caesars logo – no matter how small. I don’t mind a jacket or T-shirt, but why spoil a nice watch? You can’t “re-gift” it, donate it to a charity or even sell it at a yard sale – which is what I (and many others) usually do with a lot of these giveaways.

Chinese Bad Year?
Last year’s Lunar New Year Marketplace was really great – terrific entertainment and interesting, inexpensive things to buy with “shopping dollars” provided to many of Caesars better customers. I didn’t attend this year, but many told me they were disappointed by this year’s vendors and what they felt were prices not commensurate with the quality of the goods, i.e., overpriced.

Harrah’s Resort

‘Two Eggs Over Easy With A Side Of Cleaning Solution, Please’
Sammy D’s is finally open for business. At first glance there doesn’t appear to me too much different, with the major exception of a large oval bar and some high-top tables that replaced a section of “regular” dining tables when Sammy’s was Reflections. Open less than a week when I had breakfast – er, “Brunch” (more on that later), the large staff was really hustling, with servers, bussers and even managers racing around taking orders, delivering food and cleaning tables (more on that later too). While some might say it isn’t fair to criticize a place so new, if it’s open for business and charging full price, then I think it’s OK to make a few “observations”: First, the good news. The room looks great, the service is efficient and professional, and the food is fine. However, like Bill’s Bar and Burger, it’s going to be awfully hard to live up to all that hype about a “coffee shop on steroids”. Granted, the menu is a huge spiral-bound volume of offerings, but many are listed several times in different sections so there aren’t really as many choices as you’d think. The problem, though, is that not everything on the menu is available 24 hours a day – or even seven days a week. It’s like having your cable company offer you 400 channels, but allowing you to watch some of them only from midnight to 6 a.m., or just on Saturdays and Sundays. Case in point: It’s 10 a.m. on Saturday (or Sunday), but you can’t order from the “Breakfast” section of the menu; you have to order from the two-page “Brunch” section (to which the person who seats you conveniently opens the menu). Not knowing this in advance, and temptation being what it is, you start thumbing through all the other pages – as I and just about everyone around me did – and you land on the “Breakfast” section and make your mental selection. Unless it’s listed on the “Brunch” menu, though, you won’t be able to order it (at least between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays). Chances are, it will be, but if customers are going to be allowed to order only from a limited selection, why give everyone the entire menu? Some other comments:
Ditch the cheap pre-packaged “breakfast syrup” and serve real maple syrup or even a high quality “blend”.
If you’re going to charge me $4 for a glass of orange juice, I don’t want something made from a concentrate. It doesn’t have to be “freshly squeezed” (as at Café Roma over at Caesars), but Tropicana and other brands have some pretty good quality products and, last time I checked, you can buy a 59 ounce carton for around $3 (even less when it’s on sale).
Find a new cleaning solution. The smell of that “industrial strength Windex” they’re using is enough to take away someone’s breath (and appetite!). If you’re about to be seated next to a party that looks like it’s ready to leave, ask for another table. The fumes from the solution they’ll use to clean that table are overwhelming.
If you’re going to continue to limit your offerings to certain days of the week and specific times, please order some new separate menus for those occasions – and don’t print some of the type in light pink or yellow (it’s unreadable).

Dishing Another Giveaway
I felt sorry for some of the folks who were wrestling with their heavy sets of dishes at a giveaway one Saturday last month. Even though the boxes were thoughtfully attached to lightweight handcarts, trying to get them up and down escalators (and stairs) was obviously a chore – especially for some of the older guests. One woman was so fatigued simply pulling her cart from the ballroom to the elevator that I thought she was going to have a heart attack. Then there were all those extra security guards needed to limit the number of people on the escalators from the ballroom level to the casino level. And there were other minor “traffic jams” caused by people trying to get their carts up the steps leading to the self-parking garage (after awkwardly getting them up the escalator to the overhead walkway). Next time, Harrah’s, before you pick an item to give, think about the consequences, not only for your guests, but also the extra labor it must have taken to get all those boxes into the ballroom, attach them to handcarts (another extra expense), and the additional personnel needed to monitor the escalators.

Showboat

Sunday Brunch May Be History
I received several e-mails from Seven Stars cardholders claiming that the complimentary brunch may soon serve – or already may have served – its last omelet. The little-publicized Seven Stars benefit regularly drew small crowds, but mostly the same people every week, according to some observers. Over the past six months I went twice to check it out, but found it disappointing – not so much from the standpoint of the food, but the caliber of the patrons. Several people brought their young children and too many were sneaking out food in everything from ladies’ purses to large shopping bags. If you can afford to play enough to earn a Seven Stars card, you shouldn’t have to depend on a complimentary buffet to pad your groceries for the following week.

Harrah’s Chester (Pennsylvania)

Changes At The Cove
Manager Michael DiTomassi will be sorely missed at the Cove. He made a real effort to know his customers and, through his professionalism and experience, made vast improvements in the overall atmosphere and service. That said, the latest menu (which dumps an earlier Tuscan concept) now offers discounts not only to Diamond and Seven Stars cardholders, but any “Total Rewards Member”. What was once a nice perk for top tier players is currently available to anyone who takes five minutes to sign up for a player’s card. Seven Stars cardholders, though, can get a free cocktail at the bar from 7 to 9 p.m. on Fridays, and there are other drink and appetizer specials. (The C-Bar also is running drink specials: $2 each for selected wines, beer and cocktails.)

Caffe Napoli To Open
Pizza, pastas and desserts will soon be available at Caffe Napoli, to be located in the area formerly occupied by Café Cappuccino. A temporary food cart with sandwiches and desserts has been set-up outside the construction wall.

General

‘Big Game’ Sunday
Since, legally, you can’t use “S—- B—” (it’s trademarked), several casinos are having viewing parties under various names. If you weren’t invited to a party, check with your local Seven Stars or Diamond Lounge to see if it might be open later than regular hours – especially if you’re in the Eastern or Central time zone. Several lounges that normally close at 8 or 9 p.m. will remain open through the game; they’re just not publicizing it.

The Agony Of The Feet
Whatever happened to “No Shoes, No Service”? I was having drinks on a Friday in the Seven Stars Lounge at Harrah’s last month when a woman sitting near me hardly let her backside hit the sofa before she kicked off her shoes and put her bare feet up on the cocktail table in front of her. An hour or so later I was having dinner at the Borgata’s SeaBlue and a woman sitting across from me had her shoes off and one leg tucked up under her behind. The next morning a woman was having coffee at Sammy D’s with her bare feet propped up in front of her on the bar stool seat. Leaving Sammy D’s I spotted another woman – again, barefoot – seated on a stool at Temptations, her shoes on the floor. I don’t mean to sound sexist – I’m just as appalled at men who insist on wearing baseball caps inside restaurants, lounges and bars (or worse, when they’re also wearing shorts and flip flops in the middle of winter). Enough already. If you want to dress (or undress) that way, stay home! (And, servers and managers, if you see this sort of behavior, please say something. It’s not only unsanitary, but disgusting to your other customers who are forced to see this.)

The End Is Near
While the calendar says “February” it’s nearly the end of the year in terms of using many of your Seven Stars benefits, e.g., annual trip, celebration dinner, gift, Signature Experience, etc. All benefits must be used by March 31, and certain trips can require up to 30 days to schedule. In particular, be sure to arrange your celebration dinner in advance through a host. I know of too many people who didn’t do that, only to finish their dinner and tell the server to charge it against their “Seven Stars Celebration Dinner”. It doesn’t work that way. What may happen is that the restaurant will use your comp dollars in the interim, but it can take months for those comps to be returned to your account. Please follow the rules. (And, by the way, whatever portion of the $500 you don’t spend, will no longer be available to you – and you can’t use the “leftover” for – or towards – your gratuity. However, if you dine at the Eiffel Tower restaurant in Las Vegas, you may be able to use any excess in their gift shop to purchase a cookbook or apron. Someone else told me he used his $500 comp for room service and worked out the total bill in advance so he spent exactly $500 by including a couple of bottles of liquor with his order. I haven’t confirmed this, but it might be something worth checking out.)

Survey Says: New Year’s Eve
I didn’t get a whole lot of feedback, but, based on comments regarding the Atlantic City celebrations, Caesars was the place to be. Rather than take up a lot of space in the newsletter, I am going to post a separate New Year’s Eve document on the Web site. Keep in mind that these are just some individual opinions of the various parties held at Harrah’s Resort in Atlantic City (as well as a “review” of the Don Rickles show), Showboat in Atlantic City, Bally’s in Atlantic City and Caesars in Windsor, Ontario. (Plus, there is a “bonus” report about the Golden Nugget dinner in Atlantic City.)

Survey: Vive La Différence!
What are you doing differently – if anything – in terms of your play this year? Being more conscious to space out your play throughout the year? Playing less because you don’t feel the Seven Stars (or Diamond) card is worth it? Trying other casinos, i.e., playing at non-Total Rewards casinos? Send me an e-mail (sevenstarsinsider@gmail.com) and I’ll share your thoughts – anonymously, of course.

Photo: Pulse of Las Vegas Blog

Rumor: Caesars and MGM Merging?

The Seven Stars Insider newsletter is always chock full of interesting information. In the December edition posted last week there was a particularly interesting nugget of information that you may have missed.

MGM-Caesars Merger?
My e-mail receipt from a late-October stay at Caesars Palace came from “MGM Caesars”:
Could this be a hint of what’s to come?

I haven’t heard or read about a potential merger between MGM Resorts International and Caesars Entertainment anywhere, so I’m not sure there’s much smoke to this rumor but it’s certainly interesting to think about.

I’m not even sure that the government would allow this merger because, essentially, it would create a monopoly on the Las Vegas casino market with about 90% of the strip being owned by one company. It would also probably be considered a national monopoly, but I’m not sure of that.

It’s interesting to ponder a merger of this size, even if it may never happen.

Seven Stars Insider – October Edition

Here’s the latest edition of Seven Stars Insider.  This is an easy read and an excellent resource for Harrah’s players.  Head over to Seven Stars Insider to sign up for the newsletter.  There is lots of information in this edition, as usual, so read on for all the goods.

Harrah’s Ak-Chin (Phoenix)

Free Food and Drinks
Seven Stars cardholders get two free buffets every day, as well as additional complimentary cocktails and appetizers in the Diamond Lounge. There is no Seven Stars Lounge, but the Diamond Lounge opens at 2:30 p.m. daily. Sunday through Thursday, the lounge is open until 9 p.m., on Fridays and Saturdays it remains open until 11. Seven Stars cardholders may bring up to three guests and get up to eight free drinks and two appetizers daily; Diamond cardholders may bring just one guest and get four drinks and one appetizer daily. According to Ak-Chin’s Web site, the appetizers are large enough for two to share.

Harrah’s New Orleans

Signature Event Web Site
With the first weekend event beginning October 6, someone should check out the website . It’s nearly impossible to read. The color needs to be darker. It’s the same with the Seven Stars Signature Experiences online booklet:

Tunica

Buffet of Buffets Concept Expands
Joining Las Vegas and Atlantic City, the Buffet of Buffets in Tunica includes the Paula Deen Buffet at Harrah’s, the Village Square Buffet at the Horseshoe and the Big Kitchen Buffet at the Roadhouse. I’ve gained five pounds just writing this paragraph!
Lake Tahoe

Signature Event Gets Rave
I’m always pleased to publish positive feedback, so I was happy to receive this e-mail from a couple who attended the Seven Stars Signature Event in Lake Tahoe: “This was our first Seven Stars Event and it was thoroughly enjoyable. Everybody bent over backward to see to our needs. Even when there was some confusion (poor signage, conflicting directions, lack of sufficient limos) upon arrival at the Reno airport, it was more than made up for by the hospitality of the hosts and the beverages and snacks on the bus to Lake Tahoe. We stayed at Harrah’s Lake Tahoe and the room was very good, the hotel clean, and the service superb. Meals were superior and the lounge provided an out of the way escape from the hustle and bustle of the casino. We took the cruise on the lake and it was a delightful afternoon. All in all, this experience provided incentive for us to maintain our Seven Stars status. Kudos to the Harrah’s/Harvey’s staffs at Lake Tahoe for a great job.”

Las Vegas

Linq To Link Imperial Palace and Flamingo
Work has begun on The Linq, a $550 million outdoor retail, dining and entertainment district patterned after The Grove in Los Angeles and anchored by the world’s tallest observation wheel. In addition, the Imperial Palace will be rethemed and renovated with a new facade, porte cochere, and hotel reception area. The casino also will be renamed; Caesars is currently leasing that name, and the lease expires next year. The project will 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, which will be converted from public to private streets. The Linq’s centerpiece is the 550-foot observation wheel, dubbed the Las Vegas High Roller. The structure is nine feet taller than the Singapore Flyer and 107 feet taller than the London Eye. With 28 enclosed transparent sphere cabins that hold up to 40 passengers each, the wheel can transport an estimated 2,240 passenger per hour. It will take 30 minutes to make one revolution on the wheel. Caesars executives say they anticipate charging less than $20 per person to ride the observation wheel, and the first riders are expected to board sometime in 2013. In addition, the Linq will have 30 to 40 retail, dining and entertainment attractions in a 200,000 square foot open-air marketplace. About 70 percent of the mix will be restaurants and bars. As part of the project, the Flamingo will receive a new pedestrian entrance that connects the casino with The Linq and the current O’Shea’s will be demolished, with a new location to be rebuilt about 150 feet to the east within the rebranded Imperial Palace.

Fast Cash Math Error
Maybe I’m the one who should go back to school! At least for some math lessons. Last month I noted that Fast Cash tickets are now valid for 180 days – “two months longer than before”. Make that five months. Previously, tickets expired after 30 days; you now have six months. Sorry for the confusion!

What’s Next? Unlimited Purchases In Caesars Gift Shops?
After binging at the buffets and being entertained by your fill of shows, now you can party like a reality star. Skip those long lines with the new All Night Pass that gets you into Pure Nightclub at Caesars Palace, Chateau Nightclub at Paris, Gallery Nightclub and Pussycat Dolls Burlesque Saloon at Planet Hollywood, Crown Nightclub and VooDoo Rooftop Nightclub at Rio, and Carnaval Court at Harrah’s. Price is $44.99 for Total Rewards cardholders ($49.99 without the card). Blackout dates apply and there are other restrictions – like being young, thin, gorgeous and well dressed (just kidding about those, but there are “other restrictions”).

Caesars Palace

Video Poker vs. Penny Slots
I’m not a video poker player, but one reader reports that the casino seems to have replaced a number of $1-$2-$5 VP machines with penny slots. The 20-year Caesars Palace veteran writes that, if the trend continues, he’ll take his Seven Stars card – and his play – elsewhere.

Flamingo

Buffett of Buffetts: Slot Machines In Paradise (or is that, ‘Pair Of Dice’?)
The new “Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville Casino” inside the Flamingo is scheduled to be open by the time you see this. You can read all about it, and view some artist renderings. Grand opening events (in the form of street parties) will be held October 15 and 22 – coincidentally, the same dates Buffett is performing at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. (By the way, this cleverly disguised “Pulse of Las Vegas Blog” is produced by Caesars Entertainment. At first glance, you’d think it was written by some opinionated self-appointed “hack” – like me! – but it’s actually a great promotional tool for the Caesars properties in Las Vegas.)

Atlantic City

Hide and Go Shrimp (and other rumors)
In any environment where stakeholders aren’t kept up-to-date, rumors become rampant. [If either of these rumors turns out to be true, you heard it here first (or second).]

For example:

· Shrimp cocktail is going to disappear from the menu at the Diamond Lounges – at least during the week and continuing through Memorial Day weekend. Considering that those shrimp are the centerpiece of the promotional campaign justifying the 10 comp dollar per person charge for certain players, it would seem like an unwise decision.
· The charge for Diamond Lounge admission is going to increase to 15 comp dollars per person. Doubtful. That said, in my opinion, the food quality in the lounges continues to deteriorate – or, at the very least, is inconsistent. Yes, there are more entrée choices, but nothing very interesting or well prepared. A lunch last month at Caesars was practically inedible. Grilled chicken breasts were overcooked and dry, “pizza” was topped with an overwhelmingly strong barbecue sauce instead of tomatoes, and an interesting individual serving of eggplant parmesan would have been fine if it had been hot. Then, a week or so later, they were carving the juiciest, most tender turkey breast I’ve ever had. Go figure! [By the way, my offer to host any Caesars executive for a free meal at the Borgata’s Amphora Lounge still stands. Now that’s a player’s lounge that knows how to treat its customers!]

TR Insider Insight
Caesars seems to be suffering from a multiple-personality disorder. . .and it’s passing it on to some of its customers. I guess it’s not enough that I am a Seven Stars cardholder and – after one overnight visit to the casino – a member of the Harrah’s Joliet General Manager’s Club. According to an invitation I received, I now have “The Exclusive Access Of A TR Insider”. To maintain this status, all I have to do is earn a minimum of 7,500 Base Reward Credits® every quarter. How am I going to benefit from this? “From October to December [I’ll] have access to special events at Caesars, Harrah’s Resort, Showboat and Bally’s Atlantic City. [Caesars has] created private sweepstakes, unique parties, select promotions and tournaments for our TR Insiders.” Gosh, sort of sounds like what I’m getting with my Seven Stars card. In all seriousness, this TR Insider is just another variation of the General Manager Clubs I wrote about last month. It’s a way for Caesars to recognize those players who earn more than the 11,000 tier points required for Diamond, but not enough for Seven Stars – yet, apparently, Seven Stars cardholders are included in the fun. To get an initial invitation, players had to have earned 7,500 tier points from April 1 through June 30. But, back to that invitation, why did everyone receive it just about a week prior to the Welcome Reception? Even several hosts I spoke with weren’t aware of this program until they received an e-mail around September 10 – again, just a week before the inaugural event on September 17. And, while it’s pretty obvious that the “TR” refers to Total Rewards, a Google search on “TR Insider” brings up articles on insider trading within Tootsie Roll Industries. [TR is the New York Stock Exchange trading symbol for Tootsie Roll Industries.] And, finally, there’s that pesky grammar problem Caesars has. It reared its ugly head in the invitation’s message from Regional President Don Marrandino: “As a member of our brand new TR INSIDER loyalty club, I personally invite you to indulge in the many exciting and exclusive events we have planned for you.” I think he meant to say something like, “Welcome to our brand new TR INSIDER loyalty club. I personally invite you to indulge in the many exciting and exclusive events we have planned for you.” [It’s not Mr. Marrandino who’s a member of the club.] It’s a common error, but I expect better from Caesars.

So, how was the Welcoming Reception? Those who attended the 5 p.m. dinner reported extraordinarily long lines to register, to get a cocktail and even to enter the ballrooms. [The event was so well attended, it had to be moved from its original location in Bally’s Traymore Ballroom to separate concurrent dinners in the Ocean and Grand Ballrooms.] I inadvertently avoided the long registration line by meeting some friends who attended the early dinner. Registration remained open after the 5 o’clock dinner commenced, and continued through the start of the second, 8 p.m., dinner. I also avoided the long lines at the bars during the cocktail hour by having drinks in the nearby Diamond Lounge – at least it offered a place to sit down, and some pretzels and shrimp to nibble on. And, while a lot of folks were not happy with fish as one of the entrées, I thought the sea bass and its accompanying petite filet mignon were perfectly cooked. As a matter of fact, the staff at Bally’s needs to be commended for serving nearly 3,000 people in two back-to-back seatings. What the folks at Caesars missed, though, was the opportunity to fully explain the benefits of this new loyalty program. Guests to whom I spoke did not seem impressed with what they would get for their play; many of them said they weren’t really sure why they were there because they rarely earn more tier points than the basic 11, 000 to qualify for Diamond. It will be interesting to see what this first quarter offers us new TR Insiders. Also, don’t be surprised if this isn’t the first step to qualifying (and requalifying) on a semi-annual basis, i.e., every six months, for tier status. Caesars executives have discussed this in the past; Golden Nugget and Resorts already operate on this system.

Diamond Lounge Passes
There was lots of head-scratching last month when many Seven Stars and high-level Diamond cardholders received coupons for free admission to the Diamond Lounges at any of the Atlantic City casinos. Since they receive free admission by virtue of their level of play, why waste money printing and mailing the coupons? Many of those who don’t qualify for free admission were surprised to learn that the coupon was good for just one person, and not the cardholder and a guest. All in all, a little confusing.

Buffet Of Buffets Policy Change
You may not have noticed the small print addition to the signs, but you now can use comp dollars to pay for the Buffet of Buffets. Previously, this was an all-cash deal.

Mail Pattern Boldness
It makes no sense: Early in September I received my booklet of October offers from Bally’s, but on September 14 I received an offer for a giveaway three days later at Caesars on the 17th. It turned out that I already would be there because of the TR Insider dinner (see above), but it seems like Caesars is cutting it close with their mailings. Considering the huge attendance at the TR Insider dinner, apparently, short notice is not a problem for lots of people. A week later, though, I noticed an invitation on my Total Rewards Web site for a Boardwalk Empire dinner (see below). That invitation never arrived in the mail. Lesson: Check the Web site periodically.

Free Parking – ID May Be Required
The Seven Stars/Diamond Express lanes seem to be closed more frequently at Caesars self-parking lots. As a matter of fact, be prepared (but not always!) to show ID when you exit. I’ve also heard reports about ID checks at Harrah’s valet. In fairness to Caesars, my guess is that too many people are “sharing” their player’s cards, or players (and employees) trying to save a few bucks are savvy enough to pick-up discarded cards in the casino, realizing the monetary value of the complimentary parking. ID is required for practically every other transaction involving your player’s card, so why not parking? Caesars, just be consistent, so we all can be prepared. For us guys, it can take a while to unbuckle our seatbelts, fish out our wallets and take out our driver’s licenses – further slowing the exit process. (Borgata and Taj Mahal often require ID, too, but, like Caesars, they are not consistent.)

Police Patrolling Parking Garages
Police are now patrolling casino parking garages after a carjacking last month left a man dead and a woman injured. The announcement was made shortly before the last of the three suspects in the carjacking at Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort’s parking garage made his first appearance in court. The attack was the second at the Taj Mahal garage in 16 months. It brought the issue of casino parking garage safety to the forefront.

Bally’s

Photo-Op-Oly
Despite all the warning signs, lots of children (and adults!) are climbing all over the giant Monopoly game pieces at the Boardwalk entrance to Bally’s. If this display really does pose a danger, then Bally’s needs to put some sort of fence around it or post a security guard out there to monitor it. All the disclaimers in the world aren’t going to stop some angry parents from filing a lawsuit when their kid falls and breaks an arm.

Nanking Opens Seventh Location
Formerly Red Pearl (and formerly Mr. Ming’s), Nanking is now open and offers a unique fusion of Indian, Thai and Chinese cuisines. Another “non-chain” chain, Nanking also has locations in Jersey City, as well as Times Square and Long Island.

Caesars

Sound Decisions Mar Otherwise Flawless Evening
For a party celebrating the premier of the second season of HBO’s Boardwalk Empire, the Palladium Ballroom could not have looked lovelier – hundreds, no make that thousands, of red carnations punctuated the room in arrangements high and low, and in “kissing balls” suspended from elaborate candelabra. Complementing the elegant florals were rich red and gold fabric panels suspended around the perimeter, as well as other large set pieces – all contributing to the look of a 1920s supper club. The menu, while simple, included “classics” like Waldorf salad, and filet mignon “Oscar” (crabmeat, asparagus and hollandaise sauce). The chocolate dessert was so rich, all I could handle was a couple bites. But the music! Does Caesars employee health plan not cover hearing tests? Since everyone else at my table was too embarrassed to say anything, I spoke to no less than three people – including the woman who supposedly was in charge of the event. I even followed her as she talked to the sound engineer, but, still, the music was deafening. You couldn’t hold a conversation with the person sitting next to you, let alone anyone else at your table. Even the bartenders were complaining because they couldn’t hear anyone’s order. And why a band – excellent as they were – playing all contemporary music? How much more appropriate it would have been to feature music from the period. Ironically, as I was leaving the casino, I spotted that perfect band, playing to passers-by in Caesars lobby. Sadly, no one could have cared less.

Wipe Out
Someone is spending way too much time watching TV. When I went to check-out of my room last month, I noticed that there were no numbers on the remote:

Chew The Fat – Or The Nonfat – With A Chef
It would have been nice had someone told us in advance, but from 6 to 7 p.m. on Friday nights the Seven Stars Lounge has been featuring – and will continue to feature for the first two Fridays this month – celebrity chefs mixing and mingling with customers, as well as preparing special dishes. From 6 to 11, the kitchen also serves menu items selected by the chef du jour. On October 7, you can meet Chris Scarduzio (of his namesake restaurant at Showboat, as well as Mia at Caesars and Table 31 in Philadelphia); October 14, Chef Jerry [Longo] from Café Longo in Providence, R.I., will appear. There’s a large sign around the corner from the Diamond Lounge near the circular elevator leading to the top floor, but, unless you happened to be walking that way, you’d never know it was there.
And, Speaking Of The Seven Stars Lounge. . .

I’m happy to report that things have improved immensely at the Seven Stars Lounge. Maybe it was because it was Friday night, maybe it was because of the aforementioned celebrity chef feature, but the place had a certain vibe it had been missing. My server Chris was as professional as anyone working at a first-class gourmet restaurant and, I understand you can finally get a bowl of mixed nuts at the bar! The seating situation is still the same, and I didn’t get to check if the bartenders are now serving food. And, yes, and there are still those tiny portions, but, folks, these Seven Stars Lounges were never meant to be a substitute for a “real dinner”. If you want a more substantial meal, head down to the Diamond Lounge or go to a restaurant.

‘R’ You Seeing What I’m Seeing?
Either they changed the name of the Centurion Tower, or someone in Caesars sign department doesn’t know how to spell. (This is a two-sided sign, and it’s the same on the other side.)

Up, Up and Aware – Not!
The last weekend in September only three of the six elevators in the Centurion Tower required a room key to access a guestroom floor. I’m still not convinced that requiring a room key does anything to improve security – especially since, as long as one person inserts his/her key, everyone else can punch away at the floor buttons. It’s especially annoying if you have a bunch of packages in your arms and can’t get to your key – and that’s always when you’re the only one in the elevator!

Harrah’s Resort

No Longer Seeing Reflections
By the end of the year, the BR Guest Hospitality folks will gobble up yet another dining area in a Caesars-owned casino. Promising a quick turnaround during the month of December, Sammy D’s – I hope I got that correct – will open in the space currently occupied by Reflections. Watch for more details.
Harrah’s Chester (Pennsylvania)

‘Royalty’ For Loyalty
A mailing announcing this month’s “King and Queen of Chester” promotion begins with, “Here Ye, Here Ye”. I think the writer meant, “Hear Ye, Hear Ye”. Also, despite the concluding well wishes for “Maidens”, I assume the promotion is open to married ladies, as well.

Bring Your Coupons!
You no longer can use the excuse that your free play coupons got lost in the mail, your dog ate them, or you forgot to bring them. To its credit, Harrah’s won’t issue replacements. Apparently, too many people were taking advantage of the previous system (including a former employee – see below), frequently causing long lines at the Total Rewards desk.

Watch Your Coupons!
An employee allegedly rewarded himself with more than $20,000 in free play coupons, according to Pennsylvania State Police. The suspect was caught stealing $4,320 in coupons, and later admitted to stealing about $16,000 more since February, according to a state police press release. The incident occurred one Saturday last month about 1 a.m. and was captured on surveillance video. The suspect reportedly told authorities he gave the coupons to another, unidentified person. He was arrested and charged with theft and related offenses. An investigation by Trooper Christian Picard is continuing.

Here Yesterday, Gone Today
The complimentary appetizer for Seven Stars cardholders and their guest(s) is no longer being served at Temptations Buffet; however, certain eligible purchases at Club Cappuccino entitle cardholders to a complimentary non-alcoholic beverage. Also, End Zone is currently offering Seven Stars and Diamond cardholders a chance to play “Plinko”. You may get $1, $5 or $10 off your check – then, again, you may get nothing, but it’s a fun way to begin your meal.

General
That’s Harrah’s – With Two Rs
Browsing through the Total Rewards online catalog, I discovered this little blunder:

Maybe they could use that extra ‘R’ from the misspelled Centurion Tower sign at Caesars in Atlantic City.

Hats Off. . .
It’s happening everywhere, but I am tired of seeing gentlemen (and I use that term very loosely) wearing hats and baseball caps indoors – particularly in restaurants. Caesars could do all of us a big favor by posting signs at the entrances to its restaurants, buffets, and Diamond and Seven Stars Lounges telling men that hats must be removed before entering. And, while they’re at it, ban cellphone use – or at least ask that they be set on “vibrate”; then require guests to take their calls outside. It’s unlikely that this will happen, but we can hope.

Playing A Round
The complimentary quarterly rounds of golf at the Atlantic City Country Club are only for Seven Stars cardholders whose “home casino” is located in Atlantic City or Harrah’s Chester. Those Seven Stars cardholders from outside that area who might be planning a trip to Atlantic City should contact a host, though. Especially if it’s off-season, a complimentary golf outing may be arranged. And, unlike the monthly spa credit at the Grand in Biloxi, Miss., the quarterly spa credit in Atlantic City is available only to “locals”.

David Norton Update
According to LinkedIn.com , David Norton, former senior vice president and chief marketing officer at Caesars Entertainment, is now managing director of David Norton Consulting in Las Vegas. The company is “[e]ngaging with several world class clients on marketing activities including loyalty, CRM, technology, org design and performance management, sales teams, Branding and digital and emerging channels.” CRM is “customer relationship management”; “org design” refers, I assume, to organizations; but “Branding” has nothing to do with cattle.

Harrah’s Message Board
Not sure how many of you are aware of this message board:

harrahscasinos@yahoogroups.com. (ED: This is not a URL)

Several months ago I signed up just to monitor what folks are saying and to pick up a tip or two. Last month I responded to the group when someone asked details about cruise certificates he wanted to “purchase” with Reward Credits from the Total Rewards Catalog. The poster said he couldn’t get the details he required either by asking his host, the Total Rewards Center at his home casino or casino marketing. Here’s an excerpt:

Maybe I am not aggressive enough, but I have asked more than one host at more than one property. They refer me to Total Rewards who then refers me to casino marketing who then refers me to either NCL or back to the host. At the end of day no one seems to be able to tell me anything and I am tired of going in circles. I am not sure how I can force my host to investigate. The one host who offered something up framed it in “my understanding is” which does not help at all. I’ve lost a decent chunk of change to [Caesars] earning my Rewards Credits. It is really frustrating that it is so difficult to find out what I am actually purchasing with those credits. Computers lack a lot of the specs I am interested in. I have no idea what I get with the cruise certificates and what the restrictions are. Please, find a way to provide more information about the items in the catalog. At least having an Internet portal with more information would be very helpful.

While I didn’t mean to be rude, I politely suggested that these message boards [or this newsletter, or the Seven Stars Insider Web site, for that matter] are not the place to get “official” answers to questions about Total Rewards, Rewards Credit purchases, rules for the Great Race, etc. I further suggested that players need to tell their hosts that “I don’t know” is not an acceptable answer. “Rather than use hosts as glorified secretaries to book your hotel and dining reservations,” I wrote, “let them do the legwork and research, then get you an answer in writing.” Once again, as I’ve written in the past, Caesars needs a dedicated toll-free phone line for its Seven Stars (and Diamond) cardholders.

Survey: Old vs New Slots?
Slot players, are you “addicted” to one or two machines, or do you get bored after a while and search out the latest additions to the casino floor? I had an interesting discussion on this topic recently, and thought I would informally poll readers. 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 Las Vegas Blog

Seven Stars Insider – August Edition

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

Seven Stars Insider – August 2011

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

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

Lake Tahoe

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

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

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

Las Vegas

Harrah’s

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

New Orleans

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

Harrah’s Cherokee  (North Carolina)

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

Harrah’s Chester  (Pennsylvania)

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

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

Bally’s

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

Caesars

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

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

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

Harrah’s Resort

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

10.  Play is downloaded.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

At least they used the correct “complimentary”!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Darryl D. McEwen, Publisher
Seven Stars Insider

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

Seven Stars Newsletter – May Edition

Here’s the latest edition of Seven Stars Insider.  Wow, there is more good info than usual.  I will break it out later, but wanted to get this up ASAP.  This is an easy read and an excellent resource for Caesars players – especially in Atlantic City this month.  Head over to Seven Stars Insider to sign up for the newsletter.

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.

Las Vegas

Gratuity Tip
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.

Show Recommendation
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.

Single Discrimination?
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*
Soup/Salad, Pasta/Pizza
*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
Harrah’s 5/Yes/5/5
Caesars Palace 4/Yes/5/5
Paris 5/Yes/5/4
Flamingo 2/No/5/5
Rio 3/No/4/3
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.

New Orleans

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.

Atlantic City

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
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.

General

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 (sevenstarsinsider@gmail.com) and I’ll share your thoughts – anonymously, of course.

Darryl D. McEwen, Publisher
Seven Stars Insider