Reach Total Rewards Platinum, Diamond And Seven Stars Quicker

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Old School Total Rewards Cards – Pulse of Vegas Blog

Caesars Entertainment is a mess with this whole bankruptcy thing. They claim everything will “be business as usual”. We’ll see about that. Caesars’ players club, Total Rewards, will likely change at some point but in theory it should remain in tact through bankruptcy.

In an effort keep customers flowing into its casinos Caesars is offering a pretty sweet Tier Credit promotion. Most players club promotions offer Reward Credits only. Those are the credit which that you use on goods like meals. Extra tier credits are a little more difficult to come by.

Tier credits are the credits that allow you to ascend to higher players club tiers like Platinum, Diamond And Seven Stars. The higher your tier status, the better the benefits you’ll receive from Total Rewards. Here’s an overview of those benefits. Note, if you’re Diamond or Seven Stars your resort fees will be waived.

Here are details on the promotion:

Through March 31st, 2015, we are giving you a 50% bonus on the first 50,000 Tier Credits you earn! So, you could walk away with up to 25,000 EXTRA Tier Credits to count towards your Tier Status, and we even started counting on January 1st.*

*Member must earn at least 1,000 Tier Credits by March 31, 2015 to be eligible for the promotion. 50% Tier Credit Bonus will be awarded on up to the first 50,000 Tier Credits earned from January 1, 2015 through March 31, 2015, for a maximum total bonus of 25,000 Tier Credits. Daily Tier Credit Bonuses will count toward the 50,000 Tier Credits maximum. Loyalty bonuses are not earned Tier Credits and thus, are not eligible for this promotion. Tier Credit Bonuses, including this promotion, do not count toward Reward Credit balance, promotional Tier Credit earnings, or qualifying for another daily bonus. Total Tier Credit Bonus amount awarded through this promotion will be calculated after March 31st, 2015 and will be posted to the Total Rewards account on April 15, 2015.

I wouldn’t gamble or spend more than normal to get the bump in tier status. VIP check-in, Diamond Lounges and waived resort fees are nice benefits but I don’t think they’re worth spending extra for.

That said, this is a useful promotion if you’re closing in on one of the upper tiers.

Seven Stars Insider – August Edition

Penn jillette Total Rewards
Penn jillette

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 long, but full of information. Head over to Seven Stars Insider to sign up for the newsletter.

ATLANTIC CITY

‘Do I Hear $30?’
Video poker messages boards are buzzing about some machines in Las Vegas that require $25 “coin in” to earn one tier credit. VP players have always needed to play twice as much as us slot machine players ($10 coinin for one tier credit), and the fear is that this policy will start finding its way into other markets where Caesars has casinos.

Eat Your Pickles – or No Dessert!
Bally’s held a pickle-eating contest on the Boardwalk last month to promote the re-opening of Pickles Deli and its new self-service ordering system.

Belt and Suspenders
Why is Caesars sending an email to alert customers they will be getting offers in the mail? Also, what’s with that first sentence? Who writes this stuff? What does “Iconic as Caesars is” have to do with the rest of the sentence – or, for that matter, the entire paragraph?

Bored-walk Buffet
Customers at Caesars Boardwalk Buffet were a little taken by surprise last month when the venue changed its schedule to offer only brunch for $25 (beginning at 9 a.m.) and dinner for $32 (from 2 p.m. to closing). I was there for lunch one weekday around 1:30, and heard lots of grousing over the price – plus the fact that there were no longer breakfast and lunch options at a price point less than $25, and that dinner prices kicked in as early as 2.

Even worse was the fact that half the buffet contained heaping piles of dried up pancakes, waffles and French toast, along with overcooked bacon and sausage that hardly anyone was eating at that hour. An egg/omelet station attendant was basically standing around waiting for the changeover to “dinner” service when it would become a pasta station.

The other additions to the menu – pizza, grilled “steaks” and more vegetable choices – didn’t seem to justify the $7 premium, especially when compared to the more creative and upscale fare across town at the Borgata where the dinner buffet is $31.95 (but only $10 each for a Borgata Black Label cardholder and a guest).

A week or so later I returned for breakfast when the buffet opened at 9 and found the opposite situation. Lots of unappealing “lunch” items (mussels, clams, turkey breast, sliced carrots, broccoli and several Chinese specialties) that already looked “tired” even though the buffet had just opened – and which hardly anyone was eating.

Notably missing from the brunch menu, though, were bananas, fresh strawberries, bagels and smoked salmon, though there were plenty of canned pears, peaches and stewed prunes.

Looking for toast? It’s back by the desserts, along with an assortment of pastries and made-to-order waffles.

Apparently, the $25 brunch price includes a mimosa or bloody mary, yet during neither visit did my server offer these. Why not delegate this to the hostess who takes your order for other beverages?

Food and Whine
I attended the Kick Off Party for the Atlantic City Food and Wine Festival last month at The Pool at Harrah’s Resort. I got there about 10 o’clock – three hours after it started and an hour before it ended. There was one long line that extended from halfway on one side of the pool to halfway around the other.

While I think the line was actually for the free Absolut vodka cocktails being served, anyone interested in trying some of the food on that side of the pool couldn’t get to it without standing in line for 30 minutes. Figuring I’d just get a drink and skip the food, I ordered my favorite alcoholic beverage at the bar, only to be handed a bill: “Cash or credit card, no room charges.” Huh? This event doesn’t have an open bar?

When have you been invited to a party hosted by a casino and then asked to pay for a cocktail? [Retail price on the ticket was $55, but I had been comped by my host.] I took my drink and left.

Ever since I attended the opening night pool party at last year’s Seven Stars Signature Event, I’m convinced this is not the venue to hold one of these “Taste of. . .” parties. There’s just not enough room to arrange the various food booths to avoid the inevitable traffic jams. People instinctively form one big line rather than visit each restaurant’s booth individually. Plus, I’m amazed no one fell into the water!

Oh, by the way, I never got to rub elbows with Rocco DiSpirito.

Food and ‘Wow!’
Imagine receiving this invitation: Join us in the Paladium Ballroom at Caesars for a wonderful low-calorie, low-fat, low-sodium, low-sugar dinner. “Uh, thank you, but I’ll pass,” you say. “I’ll just take another slice of pizza with extra cheese.”

Fortunately, the folks at Caesars didn’t show their cards in advance, and everyone sitting in the elegantly decorated ballroom had no clue that the delicious meal they were about to enjoy was just that – a typical casino dinner of salad, surf and turf, and dessert, but with a fraction of the fat, calories, sodium and sugar usually associated with these affairs.

Sitting on each table was a beautiful “relish tray” – when was the last time you saw one of those? – with a variety of heirloom cherry tomatoes, small raw beet quarters, baby carrots, and an assortment of colorful orange, green and purple cauliflower florets. (Did you even know cauliflower came in colors?)

The meal began with a lightly dressed salad of assorted greens, fennel, orange sections and lima beans included several slices
of beautifully seared rare tuna.

The combination entrée featured a perfectly grilled filet – pizzzaiola-style – and a crab and cod cake, along with thin spears of crisp-tender asparagus.

Dessert was a silky smooth panna cotta with sugar-free chocolate and caramel sauces, garnished with fresh blueberries, blackberries and raspberries.

The menu was devised by celebrity chef Rocco DiSpirito and his team, and prepared by Caesars Banquet Chef Tim Davis and his crew.

Just before dessert was served, DiSpirito made a brief appearance to explain how he cut the calories and reduced the fat, plus demonstrated how to make the dessert and its accompanying sauces.

I understand that the following night’s Beach Soirée at Caesars attracted 1,100 guests and was equally successful.

Congratulations!

Under Construction
Construction is underway at Harrah’s Resort on a conference center, billed as the largest of its type in the Northeast. Cost to build the facility is estimated to be $126 million. The project, designed to host corporate meetings complementing the conventions and trade shows at the Atlantic City Convention Center, will include 250,000 square feet of space. In addition, there also will be two ballrooms, each featuring 50,000 square feet of space.

HARRAH’S PHILADELPHIA

Construction Zone
Work is underway to construct new high limit slots and table games areas on the casino floor. There are temporary areas set-up, so you won’t be stuck playing pennies, nickels and quarters while you wait for work to be completed.

Color Blind
Remember this joke when you were a kid: “What’s black and white and ‘red’ all over?” The monthly mailers that Harrah’s Philadelphia sends to its Seven Stars cardholders are black, white, red and grey, and generally look pretty nice. However, when it comes to readability, any Graphics 101 student will tell you not to print red ink on a black background – it’s nearly impossible to read. Add to that the advancing age of many of us Seven Stars cardholders, and it makes it even more difficult to decipher the special code Harrah’s prints for collecting bonus free play on certain days.

No More Temptations
Temptations Buffet is history, but no one is disclosing what will replace it. Several options, some of which include entertainment along with food, are under consideration. Watch this space.

AND IN OTHER INSIDER NEWS…

Companion-ship Does Not Have Its Privileges
Many Seven Stars cardholders became extremely upset last month when “new” rules regarding entry to the Seven Stars and Diamond Lounges, as well as use of the Companion card, became effective – supposedly with no notice – at Harrah’s Resort in Atlantic City. Among these rules:

-Seven Stars cardholders may bring up to only three guests into the lounges. If the Seven Stars cardholder has to leave the lounge for any reason, his/her guests must also leave. And, unless the Companion cardholder checks in first as an individual, if one of the three guests holds the cardholder’s Companion
card, he/she is considered one of the three guests.

– The Companion cardholder may use the lounges only if the primary cardholder is “in the market” – but may not bring any guests. In other words, say you’re in Atlantic City or Las Vegas. The primary cardholder must be a registered hotel guest and/or be showing play in any of the Total Rewards casinos in that
city.

Actually, it turns out that these are not new rules at all. They always have been in place. It’s just that no one ever told anybody, and not every casino was enforcing them. Frankly, with two exceptions, I agree with these rules.

For example, what’s to stop someone from bringing his/her three guests to the Seven Stars Lounge, leaving for 30 minutes, then returning with three more guests? Why should someone be allowed to bring in six guests when I play by the rules and bring no more than three?

And, yes, the Companion cardholder should be counted among the primary cardholder’s three guests. None of the Seven Stars lounges in the country are that large, so there is good reason for these limitations. To put things in perspective, at The Borgata in Atlantic City, the Society Club – Borgata’s equivalent to a Seven Stars lounge – allows Titanium cardholders only three guests. The cardholder and one guest are admitted free of charge. For the other two cardholders, the Titanium cardholder’s comp account is charged $20 each. The Society Club is more than twice the size of either of Atlantic City’s Seven Stars lounges, it is much more elegant (think high ceilings, crystal chandeliers, grand piano), and the food makes what’s served at the Seven Stars lounges seem like high school cafeteria fare. [I’m not being critical of the
lounges or what they serve – particularly at Caesars – but, in comparison to The Borgata, well, there is no comparison.]

What I don’t agree with is the rule that says the primary cardholder must be “in the market” in order for the Companion cardholder to use the Seven Stars or Diamond Lounge. I also think a Companion cardholder visiting the lounge solo should be allowed one guest. (Then if the primary cardholder shows up, he/she should be able to bring just one guest.)

Plus, it turns out, Caesars has a totally different definition of a Companion cardholder than a lot of us do – but never bothered to define it clearly. Here’s the difference between how Caesars and I interpret this benefit:

Basically, Caesars is saying that the “companion” part of Companion card means that this person is accompanying – being a companion to – the primary cardholder, and only benefits when they are traveling together, or are in the same city.

To me and many others, the “companion” part of Companion card referred to the primary cardholder’s relationship – legal or otherwise – to the individual with whom he/she shared this card. I know any number of people who have assigned their Companion cards not necessarily to spouses or “significant others” with whom they live (or don’t live), but to relatives and friends across the country. The reason? They rarely travel together, but wanted to extend some special privileges to these individuals when they’re not together. For example, I know a father who lives in Phoenix and is not a huge gambler, but enjoys occasional excursions to Ak-Chin, Laughlin and Las Vegas. His single son, a Seven Stars cardholder who lives in Ohio, assigned his Companion card to dear old dad. Other than possibly receiving some expedited attention at check-in, preferred seating at dinner or use of a special line at the buffet, he now will receive little benefit from the card. Another person I know lives in Boston, travels frequently and plays all over the country. Not knowing “the rules” he assigned his Companion card to a friend in California who’s not a big player, but travels frequently to Las Vegas and San Diego. Under this new strict enforcement policy, his friend no longer will be able to drop by the Diamond Lounge when he’s playing out there.

Or, what about a situation where a Seven Stars cardholder travels to Tunica, but stays and plays exclusively at the Gold Strike? Not being a gambler, her husband – the Companion cardholder – decides to visit theDiamond Lounge next door at the Horseshoe. Technically, unless she accompanied him, he would be denied admission.

So, what’s the point of having a Companion card if the primary cardholder has to be there? Let’s say a Seven Stars cardholder is traveling with his buddies to Las Vegas for a long weekend. His wife, the Companion cardholder, decides to go to Atlantic City over that same weekend. Following a strict interpretation of these rules, she wouldn’t be allowed in either of the Seven Stars Lounges. This dilutes the value of the Companion card by requiring both parties to be “in the same market”.

Regarding guest privileges, even if the Companion cardholder is traveling with the primary cardholder, perhaps that companion is not a gambler and would just like to enjoy a snack or beverage in the Seven Stars Lounge.

Why not extend the courtesy of allowing those persons someone to enjoy their company so they don’t have to be by themselves? Like the American Express card, membership has its privileges, but not companionship.

Cruise Control
Since I’ve never used my Seven Stars NCL cruise, a reader (who wishes to remain anonymous) wrote an excellent guide to getting the most out of this benefit. I’ve posted it on the Seven Stars Insider Website.

Giving Credit Where Credit Is Due
If you’re playing in a city with two or more Total Rewards casinos – and you play at more than one, good luck finding out how many tier credits you’ve earned that day. I’ve personally experienced this in Atlantic City and Lake Tahoe, and I know others who’ve experienced it in Las Vegas. In Atlantic City, play some at Caesars, then at Showboat, and no one can tell you your total daily tier credits. Check your daily play through Total Touch at Bally’s or Harrah’s, and neither that Caesars nor Showboat play will show up in your Total Daily Tier Credits. Same thing happened to me at Harveys and Harrah’s in Lake Tahoe.

The only way around this is to carry a pad and pen, write down the number of credits earned as you leave each casino, then total them manually. Very frustrating.

Balancing Act
Just as you – hopefully! – balance your checkbook each month, be sure to review your monthly eStatement from Total Rewards. Both my May and June statements had duplicate charges. Kind of makes me wonder how many mistakes I never knew about before these electronic statements. It’s gotten to the point where I now keep copies of my charges – just as I do with American Express.

Now You See It, Now You Don’t
If the Total Rewards app on your smartphone isn’t working, don’t complain to the manufacturer. The app is being revamped and should be back online by the end of the year.

Darryl D. McEwen, Publisher

Photo: Aceshowbiz

Seven Stars Insider – July 2013 Edition

Maria Menounos Total Rewards
Maria Menounos

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GENERAL

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo: Hawt Celebrities

Seven Stars Insider – June Edition

Alyssa Campanella at Escape Total Rewards Concert
Alyssa Campanella

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

HARRAH’S PHOENIX AK-CHIN

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

LAS VEGAS

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

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

FLAMINGO

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

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

ATLANTIC CITY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BALLY’S

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

CAESARS

Promotions Supervisor

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

HARRAH’S RESORT

Developing Executive

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

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

Earl Of Sand-Bitch

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

HARRAH’S PHILADELPHIA

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

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

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

CAESARS WINDSOR

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

GENERAL

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Darryl D. McEwen, Publisher
Seven Stars Insider

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

Photo: Zimbio

Seven Stars Insider – May Edition

Tyson Chandler Total Rewards Concert
Tyson Chandler at Total Rewards Concert

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

My Mistake. . .

Apparently only one person (other than me) noticed, but I erred when I wrote that the Diamond Celebration Dinner required 40,000 tier credits. . .it’s only 15,000.  Once you qualify, go to a designated kiosk to print your credit – or if your casino doesn’t have one, to the Total Rewards Desk.  You have until March 31, 2014 to use it, but I wouldn’t print the coupon until you’re ready.  Also, remember that you have to use it all at one time, and only at Caesars-owned restaurants.  If there’s a question, always ask first if the coupon will be accepted.

No Fooling!

Thanks, everyone, for your kind responses to the special April Fools’ edition.  I was overwhelmed by the nearly 150 emails I received – including some from top Caesars Entertainment executives (and even a phone call from a reader in Kansas!).  It was all meant in good fun and I’m glad you enjoyed it.

Harrah’s Phoenix Ak-Chin

Stocking Down

According to a reader, Ak-Chin has stopped the practice of decking out rooms for Seven Stars with a gift basket, soft drinks, water, juices and extra personal toiletry items.  “Too bad,” he writes.  “That was one of the nicest things about Ak-Chin, and they don’t have that much going for them.  They do have a nice pool area, but nice pool areas aren’t all that hard to find out here in Arizona.”

Las Vegas

Tickets To Nowhere

Once again, Caesars marketing folks are sending out senseless offers.  Why offer two free tickets to Jubilee! or Penn & Teller, and two complimentary nights at my choice of Bally’s Flamingo, Harrah’s, The Quad or Rio when, as part of my Seven Stars benefits, I can generally get these tickets (along with up to four nights in my choice of property)  any time I am in Las Vegas?  Do they really think I’m going to book a trip to Las Vegas to take advantage of this?  Another East Coast reader got an offer for two free nights and a $50 gas card.  Are they serious?  What a waste of paper and postage.

Atlantic City

‘If A Tree Falls In The Forest. . .’

Why offer special perks for Seven Stars cardholders if you’re not going to tell anyone?  It was only after I finished my breakfast at Caesars Café Roma that someone told me I could have gotten a complimentary mimosa. In honor of the Seven Stars Renewal Weekend, all Seven Stars cardholders were eligible for the free drinks that Friday, Saturday and Sunday.  Meanwhile, over at Bally’s Diamond Lounge, there was a special section reserved for Seven Stars cardholders.  Friday night a chef was carving prime rib to order, Saturday there was chef preparing omelets to order, and that evening the menu featured roasted salmon with Israeli couscous.  Who knows what else may have been available that weekend?  How nice it would have been to receive an email a few days before the event with the message: “Looking forward to seeing you this weekend.  In honor of our Seven Stars guests, the following special perks will be available to you. . . .”  Or, perhaps at check-in, we could have received a small card with a list of special benefits available over that weekend.

Open and Shut Case

It’s no wonder Caesars restaurants so often are empty and under-utilized.  No one knows when they’re going to be open.  On the Friday of the Seven Stars Renewal Weekend my first choice for dinner was Arturo’s at Bally’s. According to its Web site, though, Arturo’s is open only on Saturdays and Sundays (but “Closed on May 7, 21 and 21” – huh?), so I made a reservation at Morton’s (my second choice).  Figuring the Seven Stars Lounge at Caesars would be mobbed – it wasn’t, apparently – a friend and I walked over to the Diamond Lounge to see one of our favorite bartenders, John, and have a couple of pre-dinner cocktails.  Turns out Arturo’s was open (and practically empty!), so I canceled Morton’s, and we had an outstanding meal there.  Other friends went to Nero’s and Atlantic Grill that night, and said they were pretty empty as well.  There’s got to be a better system of letting customers know what’s open and what’s not.  When you checked-in, Caesars and Harrah’s used to give you a two-sided sheet which listed operating hours for the lounges, bars and restaurants, as well as any entertainment scheduled.  It might be time to resurrect this idea.

Read The Fine Print – I

Once again Caesars is running two confusing promotions.  Maybe instead of just having attorneys review the rules, some actual customers should get in on the act.  In other words, be sure to read the fine print.

Wheel of Fortune Millionaire Maker Sweepstakes – Everybody gets one free entry daily and can earn up to 10 additional entries for every 25 Tier Credits earned from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.  However, be sure you claim those extra daily entries before 8 p.m. or they’re lost.  (Yes, the rules are pretty clear on this, but, if you’re busy playing and haven’t studied the rules carefully, the time can get away from you – as it did for me the first time I played while the promotion was running.  I lost my 10 additional entries because I tried to claim them after 8 p.m.)  Between trying to remember to bring my 3-digit codes for free slot play, swiping to opt in on a daily Reward Credit multiplier (which I also forgot one night last month and lost a bunch of Reward Credits), keeping track of my daily Tier Credits to get Bonus Tier Credits (and make sure they’re being accurately credited!), and now this, it’s just too much work.  With all its complicated promotions, Caesars has taken the fun out of playing.

$1 Million Giveaway – Similarly, with the drawings May 25 and 26, you receive entries for each 10 Tier Credits earned between May 12 and 26.  However, the rules state, “Activate your entries each day [emphasis added] by swiping your Total Rewards card at a designated Promotional Kiosk. . .between 11 a.m. and 7:30 p.m.”  Does this mean you have to activate your earned entries each day between May 12 and 26, or only on the drawing days?  The first time I read it, I thought it meant each day I earned entries – similar to the Wheel of Fortune Sweepstakes.  What I think the rule means is only on the two days of drawings, May 25 and 26.

Swipe Out

Related to the above, here’s a perfect example of the antics players have to go through to participate in multiple promotions, all running on the same day this month, May 19:

  • ·         To activate a progressive multiplier on my play that day, I have to swipe at the appropriate Promotional Kiosk between 9 a.m. and 11 p.m., but this will multiply my play from 6 a.m. that day through 5:59 a.m. May 20.
  • ·         To participate in the Wheel of Fortune Millionaire Maker Sweepstakes, I have to swipe somewhere else between noon and 8 p.m.
  • ·         To participate in “Super Spin Sunday” I have to swipe somewhere else between noon and 8 p.m.

To complicate matters further. . .

  • ·         I can swipe at all four Total Rewards casinos – Bally’s Caesars, Harrah’s and Showboat – to get entries in the Wheel of Fortune Millionaire Maker Sweepstakes and “Super Spin Sunday”.
  • ·         I have to swipe only at one casino in order for my play at all four to count for the multiplier.

If I do all that, I won’t have time to play enough to make my multiplier worth anything, earn entries (up to 10 before 8 p.m. for the Wheel of Fortune sweepstakes; unlimited for the $1 Million Giveaway) or qualify for Bonus Tier Credits.  In case you’re not keeping track, that’s four separate promotions going on in one day, not even counting those daily Bonus Tier Credits, or any coupons you might have for free slot play and food.

Free Play Offers Reduced

Whenever slot players get together, one of the topics of conversation is generally, “I’m just not getting the free play offers I used to.”  Statistics released by the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement would seem to confirm this.  Comparing March 2012 with March 2013, while the Atlantic Club increased its “promotional gaming credits” by 51 percent, Bally’s reduced them by 37 percent, Caesars by 32 percent, Harrah’s by 40 percent and Showboat by 45 percent.  However, there’s an interesting explanation behind all this, detailed in an excellent article published last month in the Press of Atlantic City.

Going Online

Caesars Interactive Entertainment, operator of the World Series of Poker and online gambling sites overseas, has applied for a casino license in New Jersey, signaling its intention to enter the state’s Internet gambling market. Majority owner Caesars Entertainment already operates four Atlantic City properties, so the casino license petition would allow Caesars Interactive to operate Internet gambling on behalf of Bally’s, Caesars, Harrah’s and Showboat.  Meanwhile, the Borgata also has announced its intentions to enter the Internet gambling business, as well.

Ride ’Em, Cowboy!

Tickets go on sale May 20 for the third annual City Boardwalk Rodeo, October 5 and 6 at Boardwalk Hall.  The past two years, the rodeo was held in late March/early April, but organizers were up against Easter this year, and fall always had been their first choice.

Bally’s

Read The Fine Print – II

I’m not a video poker player, but I’ve heard from several who are not happy that some of the single line machines at Bally’s have a small plaque underneath the bill acceptor stating “This machine awards one point for every $20 played.”  Other single line machines are all still one point for $10.  If this is happening at Bally’s, is it happening elsewhere?

Caesars

Empty Chairs At Empty Tables

That popular song from the musical Les Misérables pretty much describes the ballroom at Caesars for the Seven Stars Renewal Weekend dinner April 27.  With the room set for 600, I’d guess at least 15-20 percent of the seats were vacant, maybe more.  After the salad course, I ate my shrimp and some asparagus spears, leaving what others at my table described as an inedible filet.  While it looked nice on the plate, the entrée was bland, boring and pretty tasteless – kind of like the event itself.  I gave up waiting for dessert (Baked Alaska) – which some later described as the best part of the meal.  To make matters worse, the volume on the post-dinner music was turned up as high as the heat.  “Celebrity” Mario Lopez made a brief appearance, but, like so much else that Caesars does, it set us up for disappointment.  A lucky few actually met Lopez and got a photograph, but, after some silly remarks standing next to Caesars-Bally’s-Showboat General Manager Kevin Ortzman, Lopez was whisked away, presumably to make the same stupid presentation elsewhere in town.  (I found out later that he was at Harrah’s, but the folks at Bally’s got Robin Leach.)  Plus, either no one coached him well enough, or he just couldn’t remember his lines.  He forgot Ortzman’s name, and when he put in a plug for Caesars latest promotion, he mistakenly called it “Millionaire Matchmaker”.  Why even bother to have Lopez there if he’s going stay less than 10 minutes?  People were expecting him to walk from table to table, others hoped for a dance later.  (And, OK, some just wanted him to take off his shirt.)  When is Caesars going to learn?  The attendance at these weekends has been dwindling for years.  (I remember when it was so popular, they actually had to schedule two weekends.)  There’s little incentive to attend when the only “activities” are a 7X Reward Credit multiplier on Friday, and a dinner-dance (where hardly anyone danced) on Saturday.  Even with the chance to win one of 10 $1,000 cash prizes, the $100 in free play, match play or comps we were given at registration, and the post-dinner “hot seat” from 9 to 11, it’s not worth all the time, effort and expense Caesars puts into this.  If they want to feed us, give us a $200 gift card good at any Caesars-owned restaurant.  That way we can eat when we want – and what we want.  (With the exception of Mia, most of the restaurants at Caesars and Bally’s were pretty empty Friday, so they could use the business.)  Even the Seven Stars Lounge was quiet most of the weekend, and Bally’s Diamond Lounge Friday night was like a ghost town.  Instead of last month’s dinner, I’ll take one of those Diamond coupons books any day.  When you add up the value of those coupons, it’s a much better deal than what Seven Stars cardholders got.

Morton’s Continues 1:1 Policy

Morton’s Steakhouse continues to accept Total Rewards credits on a 1:1 basis – at least through June 30.  This is negotiated quarterly, so I’ll check back near the end of June to see if the policy will continue throughout the summer.

Speed Traps

I’m glad to see that Caesars has installed some speed strips in the self-park garage.  They still don’t seem to be enough to slow down the excessive speed at which drivers maneuver the facility, especially when turning corners to get to the next floor.  Better signage (“Two-Way Traffic”, “Yield” signs, etc.) and lighting are still necessary.

To The Egress

When Diamond cardholders going to pick-up their coupon booklets last month followed signage at the base of the second floor casino stairs/escalator, they were directed to the top, and then were greeted by a security guard and another sign directing them to an entrance around to the left. . .despite the fact there was a door into that room at the top of the stairs/escalator.  Wouldn’t it have made more sense to make that “exit” the “entrance” rather than wasting an employee’s time directing players to a door 100 or so feet away?

Harrah’s Resort

Bathroom Humor

It’s not just the men’s rooms at Harrah’s that have problems.  Here’s a first-hand report:

On April 5 about noon the Diamond Cove ladies room faucet would not turn off.  There was a constant flow of water for at least 15 minutes.  Maintenance stopped the running water – I mean they stopped the water to never run.  In fact, the soap dispenser was removed and on the counter was a box of 80 wet wipes, which didn’t last through the evening.  They hung this sign on the faucet:

I am out of commission but my neighbors here are happy to be of assistance.  Maintenance has been notified.  This unit will be back in service shortly.

This sign was in the fashion of a Do Not Disturb door knob sign that was professionally printed with purple background, white lettering with some words in dark purple as noted above.  How many calls for this message is required that it was actually an official printing project?  I think if someone hand-wrote OUT OF ORDER the women would catch on to the lack of water.  The neighbors wording must have referred to the wet wipes, which were gone before Saturday morning, and women were asking the cashiers if they had any.  By the way, I left April 9 about noon and there wasn’t any running water then when I went to check the status.  Four days!

Bad Wrap

Those ugly building wraps at Harrah’s have finally been removed.  Lady Bird Johnson can now rest in peace. [Only someone as old as I will understand that last reference.]

Showboat

Leaving The Dock Without Caesar?

Penn National’s Tim Wilmott and Jay Snowden, both former Caesars Entertainment employees, were in Atlantic City last month.  According to “Pinky’s Corner”, a column in the Press of Atlantic City, they are looking to possibly purchase Showboat.  (Caesars CEO Gary Loveman was in town for a couple of days, as well, Pinky reported.)  Several bartenders, other employees and even some players say they’re “in the know”.  They claim the deal is done and will be announced this month.  Don’t believe anything until you see the official announcement. A deal this big can’t fly under the radar without public documents being filed.

Smoke Gets In Your Eyes

A small fire in room 544 at Showboat forced customers staying on the fourth, fifth and sixth floors to evacuate for about an hour April 24.  No one was injured, but the floor sustained some smoke and water damage, according to the Atlantic City fire chief.

Harrah’s Philadelphia

Four Stars For Seven Stars Event

While Atlantic City may have blown it (see above), Harrah’s Philadelphia stepped up to the dinner plate two weeks earlier with a classy cocktail reception, a delicious three-course dinner featuring filet mignon Oscar, and an 11-piece orchestra (with a sound technician who knew how to keep the volume at just the right level). Throughout the evening, guests could get their photos taken for new player cards (and, note this, Caesars Atlantic City, they actually work in the machines, kiosks and at restaurants!).  The event was capped by a drawing for several thousands of dollars in free play and a private fireworks show.  In addition, all Seven Stars cardholders got $100 in free play and a polo shirt.  [Kudos, too, for including a dress code on the invitation.  Most guests actually dressed up for the occasion, though there were a handful of jerks who refused to remove their baseball caps during dinner.]

Was It Real Tar?  I Thought They Cleaned Up The Gulf

One of the appetizers on the menu for the Seven Stars Renewal Dinner last month was “Tuna Tar Tar” but I think they meant Tuna Tartare.  Whoever wrote that is probably responsible for the new Philly Tap & Tavern menu with its “Corn Beef”.  Unless this is some new veggie version of a hamburger made out of corn, I think they mean Corned Beef.

Suspect Sought

Police are looking for a suspect wanted in connection with the assault and robbery of a 69-year-old woman at Harrah’s April 24.  The victim was walking to her car just after midnight.  According to police, the suspect tackled her and knocked her on the ground, rendering her unconscious.  The suspect fled with her purse and other personal belongings.  The victim was later treated at a local hospital for minor injuries.

General

Not-So-Secret Circle

Several readers got a “top secret” survey and invitation to join the Caesars’ Circle Community (or Caesars without the apostrophe, depending on the source).  They were asked not to forward it to friends.  (Sure, as ifthat’s going to happen!  People couldn’t wait to send this to me; I must have received 10 copies.)  One woman stopped after 13 pages when the survey asked for her birthdate.  The Circle is not exactly top secret and it’s not new.  Here’s a link to the site, but you can’t access it unless you are a member, and you can’t join unless you’re invited.  Not that I was invited, but, frankly, after reading the rules and regulations, I don’t think I want to have anything to do with it.  Anybody read Doctor Faustus?

Here’s a portion of the email:

Help us create a better casino experiences [sic] for you.  Your opinion is valued!  Caesars Entertainment is inviting select Total Rewards members to form the Caesars’ Circle Community, which will serve as a team of special advisors to us as we seek to improve the services and experiences that we provide our guests.  We have limited spots available, so if you’d like to join the Caesars’ Circle Community, please share some information about yourself in a brief survey; it should only take about 10 minutes.  We’re trying to get a good representation of people who love entertainment, including but not limited to gaming.

So what will you be doing if you are selected?

  • Participating in surveys and discussion forums (when you can)
  • Helping us solve specific challenges
  • Teaching us more about customers like yourself!

What you’ll get:

  • Exclusive sneak peeks behind the scenes at Caesars Entertainment
  • Opportunity to influence direction of Caesars Entertainment and Total Rewards
  • Opportunity to participate in contests

Our promise to you

  • We will listen to what you have to say
  • We will share back with you what we’ve learned
  • We will never sell your information to a third party

We’d also appreciate it if you don’t forward this invitation to your friends – this is a personalized invitation that will work only for you.

Food Fight

Up until last month, players with those $100 Diamond Celebration Dinner certificates (or any other coupon) could not take advantage of special Total Rewards pricing in any of the restaurants either at Harrah’s or Horseshoe in Council Bluffs, Iowa, at the Horseshoe in Hammond, Ind. (and, possibly, others).  The restaurants called it “double-dipping” – citing the “cannot be combined with other offers” disclaimer.  Sorry, but this didn’t make sense, and I wasn’t aware of any other casino restaurants that operated this way.  It’s like shopping at a grocery store where you have a loyalty card and being told you can’t use a manufacturer’s coupon off anything but the full price of the item.  In Atlantic City and Philadelphia, I use coupons all the time and the amount is taken off the Total Rewards pricing, not the “regular” prices.  (Talk about double-dipping, at Harrah’s Philadelphia I not only got a 30 percent “senior discount” – on the Total Rewards price, but also used a $30 coupon.  My $47 order ended up costing me $2.20 in comps.)  Since I felt Caesars needed to have a consistent policy across the country, and the restaurants in Council Bluffs and Hammond were not abiding by the spirit or intent of Total Rewards and its benefits, I contacted officials in Las Vegas.  Long story short, all Caesars-owned casino restaurants have been directed to charge special Total Rewards pricing to eligible customers – coupons/certificates or not.  Thanks, Caesars and Total Rewards!

End Of The Race

According to a posting on the Total Rewards by Caesars Facebook page last month, there will be no “Great Race To Rewards” this year.  More shocking to me – someone who does not “do” Facebook – were all the negative comments from customers.  As I’ve written many times in the past, customers are more likely to focus on the negatives rather than the positives, but if I were a corporation I think I’d rather pass on some of this social media rather than air such “dirty laundry” in public.
No More Comps Or Free Play On Free Play
It’s being phased in slowly company-wide, but you’ll no longer earn Reward Credits and cashback on free slot play.  To be honest, most casino companies’ systems preclude you from this, so it was just a matter of time before Casears execs figured this out.  Frankly, it’s not that big of a deal when you do the math, but,, again, it would have been nice if someone had told us.

Phone Home

Contrary to popular belief, local and toll-free phone calls are not always complimentary for Seven Stars cardholders.  If this is a concern, check with the front desk first – though you might not always get the correct answer.  That’s why it’s a good idea to review your bill before you check-out.  If you find errors, or you have a question, settle this before you leave.  In the event you are charged for something you had been told was complimentary, e.g., local phone calls, all you have to do is request a credit.

On The Level

Isn’t the Level I Experience worth more than any of the Level II Experiences?
Tea For To
The description of the Level II Memphis Basketball Experience on the Total Rewards Web site says it includes: “…dinner for to at Jack Binion’s Steak House of ’37.”  [Oddly, it’s correct in the printed booklet we received.]
Desperately Seeking Cruisin’
I knew Carnival was having problems, but what’s with Norwegian Cruise Line?  This past month alone I received 15 emails (practically one every other day) plus several offers to pick up free cruise certificates at Atlantic City, Philadelphia and Las Vegas casinos.

Question Of The Month

I’m totally confused!  Just when I thought I understood the “new” Total Rewards program, I see another email from a player and I get even more exasperated.  What’s the story?  There has been so much “back-and-forth” regarding the annual retreat (formerly “annual getaway”), the Diamond Aspiration $750 airfare credit (available at 80,000 tier credits), and the Level I Experience (available at 150,000 tier credits), I’ve tried to summarize the benefits using two different examples.  I hope I have this correct (and don’t confuse things even more!), but here goes. . .

  • I achieve Seven Stars status with 150,000 tier credits on June 1, 2013. I must take my annual retreat by March 31, 2014, and I must take my Level I Signature Experience by June 30, 2014.  That gives me 13 months to take two trips.  I then get another annual retreat which I must take between April 1, 2014, and March 31, 2015.  I also get a $100 Celebration Dinner which I can use at any Caesars-owned restaurant before March 31, 2014.  To obtain this certificate, I go either to the Total Rewards desk or, if available, the specially-marked kiosk in the casino.  In addition, I get a $750 airfare credit which I can use to fly to any Total Rewards casino-hotel in the United States or Canada.  This benefit is available through March 31, 2014, and restrictions apply.
  • I achieved Seven Stars status with 102,000 tier credits on November 15, 2012.  If I didn’t take it, I lost an annual retreat because I had to take it before March 31, 2013.  Now I have an annual retreat I must take before March 31, 2014, so I have about 11 months (from May 1, 2013) to complete this trip.  If I earn 150,000 tier credits at any point during 2013, I then get a Level I Signature Experience which I have to use by June 30, 2014, but only after I take the annual retreat I earned from my play in 2012.  The earlier I earn 150,000 tier credits in 2013, the more time I will have to use the two trips.  Even if I earn 150,000 tier credits as late as December 31, 2013, I’ll still have six months to use the Level I Experience I will have earned.  Worst case scenario is that I have not taken my annual retreat by December 31, 2013, and I must complete my annual retreat by March 31, 2014, but still have three more months to complete my Level I trip.  I also get a $100 Celebration Dinner which I can use at any Caesars-owned restaurant before March 31, 2014.  To obtain this certificate, I go either to the Total Rewards desk or, if available, the specially-marked kiosk in the casino.  In addition, I get a $750 airfare credit which I can use to fly to any Total Rewards casino-hotel in the United States or Canada.  This benefit is available through March 31, 2014, and restrictions apply.

Survey Says. . .

I got lots of great tips from readers, but few wanted me to share them because they were afraid they’d get their host in trouble, or worse, the little glitch in the system they discovered might be corrected.  However, here are tips some readers swear are true.  No promises if they’ll work for you.

  • If you are RFB and use all your Reward Credits, you can still get comped at least $100 per night automatically.  It appears to vary by property, but in Atlantic City it is $160.  (Above and beyond how many Reward Credits you may have earned on your trip, more may be considered.)
  • You have to ask, but the Atlantic City properties will offer rebates based on cumulative loss over a calendar quarter for all the properties, not just per trip or per casino: 10 percent of losses over $100,000, 15 or 20 percent over $250,000.
  • If you receive DirectBet, Bally’s Atlantic City allows you to hedge it in some games.  For example, in roulette bet half a $100 DirectBet on red, bet the remaining $50 on black.  If either color hits, you walk with $50.  If 0 or 00 hits, you get half the bets back on red and black, yet still walk away with a net gain of $25.  This is useful when cashing a coupon just before hitting the road.

This Month’s Survey

I was lucky enough to attend two Seven Stars Renewal events, a dinner at Harrah’s Philadelphia and another at Caesars in Atlantic City.  How about you?  Did you attend an event?  How was it?  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: Zimbio

Seven Stars Insider April Edition

Cat Deeley at Escape to Total Rewards
Cat Deeley

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

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, oh, excuse me, “Retreat” (see more on this below) and celebration dinner (or dinners – yes, you’ll get a second valued at $100 once you earn 40,000 tier credits this year).  While you’re at it, go ahead and select your annual gift.

Benefits?

Spending 125 comp dollars for $1 of free play is great if you use your Reward Credits that way, but some of the other benefits being touted are a little pathetic:

  • In order to offer complimentary early check-in (which was never a problem as long as a room was clean), Caesars instituted a charge for everyone but its best players.  That’s like adding an extra charge for daily housekeeping, but telling Seven Stars and Diamond cardholders they get it for free.
  • Advance notice and the ability to purchase tickets for certain concerts and shows?  Just about any casino, stadium, theater, arena or similar venue offers that – all you have to do is give them your email.

Signature Events

While it’s a nice change from the past, the first word that came to mind as I was reading the list of options was “leftovers”.  Jazz Fest, the 4th of July Celebration and a Forum Shops shopping spree were – and still are – among the Signature Experiences Caesars offers.  Plus, a lot of Seven Stars cardholders can probably get their hands on complimentary tickets to the Vegas Uncork’d event or Shania Twain without “wasting” their Signature Event.  And getting complimentary rooms shouldn’t be a problem.  In addition. . .

  •  Anyone who wants to go to Jazz Fest will hopefully be within driving distance.  With such short notice, airfares – which already are inflated during this time – are through the roof.
  • The Fashion Weekend is over Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year and the first of the High Holy Days.  Rosh Hashanah begins at sunset Wednesday, September 4, and ends at nightfall Friday, September 6.
  • I can’t blame Caesars for this, but it seems a little insensitive of the Miss America Organization to schedule this year’s pageant over Yom Kippur, considered by many as the holiest day of the year.  Yom Kippur begins at sunset Friday, September 13, and ends at nightfall Saturday, September 14.  Friday is the first of two rehearsal days and Saturday is the “Show Us Your Shoes Parade” (not “Parade of Shoes” as Caesars calls it) on the Atlantic City Boardwalk.

By the way, you won’t find the Signature Events on the Total Rewards Web site yet, but you can access them by clicking here. 

Retreating From A ‘Getaway’

One change from last year’s Seven Stars program is that the “Annual Getaway To Any TR Resort or Casino” has been renamed “Annual Retreat To Any TR Resort or Casino”.  Did anyone bother to look up the definition of the word “retreat”?  Among them are “a movement away from danger or a confrontation, back along the original route”, “a withdrawal from a position or point of view to one intended to lessen conflict”, “a period of quiet rest and contemplation in a secluded place”, and “a quiet secluded place where people go for rest and privacy”.  Not sure any of those accurately describes a trip to a casino.  Or is Caesars suggesting we retreat from its casinos and play/stay elsewhere?  In any event, it’s an unfortunate choice of words.

The Fine Print

Among the “Rules & Regulations” – printed in a typeface about half the size of the rest of the book, is “Movie benefit is available at participating Total Rewards casinos only.  Please check with your host or Total Rewards for more details.”  This is the first and only reference I could find to movies.  Seasoned Seven Stars cardholders will be familiar with this, but those new to the program may be scratching their heads.  Related to this, there is no mention of complimentary Internet access or boarding pass printing – benefits which Seven Stars cardholders have come to expect.  Some properties, but not all, also provide complimentary local and toll-free calls.  Word to the wise: If any of these benefits/services is important to you, ask at the front desk when you check-in.

A Little More Notice, Please

In addition to learning about the Jazz Fest Signature Event about a month before it begins, my invitation to a Seven Stars Renewal Event at Harrah’s Philadelphia arrived a little more than two weeks prior to the dinner. (The return address was Total Rewards in Las Vegas, but it’s not unusual to get invitations from Harrah’s Philadelphia as little as two or three days before an event.  Kind of makes you feel like not enough people responded and you were an after-thought to help fill the room.)  In Atlantic City, many Platinum cardholders got a similar two-week notice for a coupon book giveaway.  We all know that these events are planned far in advance.  At a minimum, Caesars should consider a “Save The Date” email.  Contrary to what it may appear, some of us do have “a life” that includes weekend activities other than gambling.

Left Hand, Meet Right Hand – Part I

I probably received more than 30 emails from readers who called last month to book one of the 2013 Signature Events, only to get what was essentially a verbal “deer in the headlights” reaction at the other end of the telephone.  Here’s a good example:

“I called the toll-free number and the operator didn’t seem to know anything about these.  She asked me for an offer code (I assume she means on an invitation she thought I received in the mail) which I do not have.”

When I called to inquire about the cruise, I was put on hold for about seven minutes, only to be told that no one knew anything about it, that “it hasn’t been loaded into our system yet”, and “a host or someone from Marketing will get in touch with you.”  (Someone did call me back four days later.)

Left Hand, Meet Right Hand – Part II

In addition to the emails from players, I received several more from Caesars employees – especially those who work at properties where the Seven Stars Signature Events are being held.  None of them was aware of any of these and added that, more often or not, they learn about what’s going on in the company from my newsletters and emails.  What was it I wrote about last month?  Communication, communication, communication.

In Memoriam

Since it’s the beginning of a new year for Total Rewards, like the Oscars, the Grammys and other awards programs, it’s time to look back on some of the things we’ve lost over the past 12 or so months.  (I’m sure you can think of more!)

  •          The Range at Harrah’s Las Vegas (now a Ruth’s Chris Steak House)
  •          BarleyQue at Harrah’s Philadelphia (now Philly Tap and Tavern)
  •          Don Marrandino (formerly Eastern Division president of Caesars Entertainment)
  •          Canal Street Bread & Sandwich Co. (now Earl of Sandwich) and the Mansion Café (now banquet and meeting space) at Showboat Atlantic City
  •          Food and beverage outlets that accept comps on a 1:1 basis (too many to mention)
  •          Show in the Sky and Lucky Strike Bowling Lanes at Rio
  •          Café Cappuccino (now Café Tazza – where comps are accepted, but at 2:1) and Temptations at Harrah’s Resort Atlantic City
  •          The Imperial Palace (now The Quad)
  •          Human Nature at the Imperial Palace (now at the Venetian)
  •          Being able to purchase the Press of Atlantic City at any Atlantic City casino gift shop
  •          The Virginia City Buffet at Wild Wild West in Atlantic City
  •          PNC ATMs in all Atlantic City casinos
  •          Bradley Ogden’s (now Gordon Ramsay Pub & Grill) and Nero’s Steakhouse (now The Old Homestead) at Caesars Palace
  •          The President’s Lounge at the Summit at Harrah’s Lake Tahoe
  •          Complimentary early check-in (all Caesars casino hotels)
  •          An extra hour (from 11 p.m. to midnight on Fridays and Saturdays) at the four Diamond Lounges in Atlantic City
  •          Shrimp served Sundays through Thursdays in Atlantic City Diamond Lounges
  •          Monday and Tuesday opening of Bally’s Atlantic City’s Diamond Lounge
  •          Thursday opening of Harrah’s Resorts Atlantic City Seven Stars Lounge
  •          The TR Insider program
  •          Complimentary soft drink refills at 6ix a Bistro (Bally’s Atlantic City)
  •          “No Resort Fees” at select Caesars Nevada casino hotels.
  •          Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall & Saloon (to become next year the Gansevoort Las Vegas)
  •          The Bank of America Total Rewards Visa credit card (now issued by Comenity Bank)
  •          Most of the Wild Wild West at Bally’s in Atlantic City

Ak Chin

Drinks On The House

A reader reports that Seven Stars cardholders may now get coupons for free drinks to be used while actively playing in the casino.

 

Harrah’s New Orleans

Diamond Lounge Returns To Original Location

It was nice while it lasted.  The way-too-small Diamond Lounge at Harrah’s has returned to its original location in the High Limits area.  The move to what was formerly Bambu restaurant was only temporary due to the anticipated larger crowds in town for Super Bowl and Mardi Gras.  During Jazz Fest, which begins later this month and continues through the first weekend in May, a special Seven Stars Hospitality Lounge will be set-up.

Las Vegas

Gansevoort Las Vegas (formerly Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall & Saloon)

Movin’ On Up

The Las Vegas Strip will join the Caribbean resort islands of the Turks and Caicos, as well as Park Avenue in New York and that city’s Meatpacking District when a $185 million redevelopment will transform Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall & Saloon into the Gandesvoort Las Vegas.  Expected to open in early 2014, the hotel will have 188 “Parisian apartment-style rooms” – including 19 suites.  The building is being remodeled to include a new lobby area, a redesigned lobby bar, ultra-lounge, retail outlets and a 40,000 square-foot casino.  A restaurant overlooking the Strip also will be developed, as well as Drai’s Beach Club and Nightclub, a 65,000 square-foot indoor-outdoor nightclub and rooftop pool area overlooking the Strip.

Atlantic City

No Sale

The Pier Shops at Caesars thought they found a buyer in Michael Kohan, a New York real estate investor who specializes in taking over distressed shopping centers.  However, the deal fell through, according to an internal memo from mall General Manager Harry Geety.  Kohan said he wanted to keep the mall’s upscale appearance, but would add more lower-priced stores to make shopping more affordable for Atlantic City tourists.  According to an article in the Press of Atlantic City, Kohan said he remains “ready, willing and able” to close a deal.  But Geety’s memo indicates that the mall has ended negotiations.

The Unfairness Doctrine

It seems a little unfair considering it happened in Las Vegas – and in 2007, but New Jersey has fined Caesars Entertainment $225,000 for a drugs, sex and gambling scandal at Caesars Palace and Rio.  The New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement claims that the company’s alleged misconduct in Las Vegas had the potential to harm the reputation of the casino industry across the country.  The case involved a Nebraska businessman who gambled away millions of dollars and was indicted by a grand jury for failing to pay $14.7 million in gambling debts.  The charges were later dropped in a settlement with Caesars.  The high-roller then filed a civil lawsuit alleging that Caesars allowed him to gamble even though it knew he was incapacitated by drugs and alcohol, further alleging that Caesars Entertainment personnel plied him with alcohol and repeatedly gave him pain killers without a doctor’s diagnosis or a prescription.

Throwing The Book At Them. . .If They Can Be There To Catch It

Those annual coupon booklets, so popular with new and renewing Diamond cardholders, are being given out this year April 19 and 20 (April 12 and 13 for Platinum cardholders).  Several Diamond and Platinum cardholders have contacted me to express their disappointment because they’ve already made plans and can’t change them – one couple has booked a cruise through an offer from Caesars.  I agree. . .it doesn’t seem fair.  You spend all year earning this benefit, then Caesars gives you a few weeks’ notice and eight hours over two days to claim it.  (Also, the Friday giveaway times are 2 to 6 p.m. – difficult for most “working people” who have a 9-5 job Monday through Friday.)  In my opinion, it’s one of the best Diamond and Platinum card benefits.  I wish there was something similar for Seven Stars cardholders.

R.I.P. TR Insiders

The final Insiders event took place March 15 to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.  Aside from the deafening music – when is Caesars going to wise-up and turn down the volume at its events? – the staff at Showboat got it right. The promised cocktails and hors d’ouevres turned out to be a complete dinner buffet that was frequently refreshed and looked extremely appetizing.  (Because I expected only cocktails, I made other dinner plans, so I didn’t get to sample anything.)  And there was plenty of seating.  I was a little put-off by the “little person” dressed as a leprechaun who greeted guests at the door, but if he didn’t object, why should I?

Is Anyone Out There Listening?

A reader got a “Host Survey” from Caesars Atlantic City casinos only to be surprised when the questions centered on a host he never knew he had.  He made it clear he was pretty unhappy that this person had never contacted him, and expected someone from the casino would have responded to his concerns.  He’s still waiting. Another reader sent me an email describing a similar experience.  Kind of makes you wonder if anyone ever reads these surveys.

Ban The Scan

Depending on the day of the week and where you park, Seven Stars and Diamond cardholders may no longer be able to scan their valet parking tickets to retrieve their vehicles.  The scanner was working at Harrah’s on a Monday morning, but the cashiers at Caesars and Showboat told me that so many players were giving their Total Rewards cards to friends that cashiers were told to check IDs and manually process the tickets.  While it really doesn’t delay things that much, it was a nice convenience.  Be prepared to show ID at the self-parking garages too – again, these generally are spot checks, but it’s happening more and more often.

Diamond Lounge Hours

Don’t count on the Total Rewards Web site for accurate information on the hours for the Diamond Lounges in Atlantic City.  The actual hours are

Sunday: Noon to 8 p.m.

Monday – Thursday: 2 to 8 p.m. (Bally’s is closed Mondays and Tuesdays)

Friday: 2 to 11 p.m.

Saturday: Noon to 11 p.m.

Last admittance is a half hour before posted closing; last call is approximately 20 minutes before posted closing. Food service on Fridays and Saturdays ends at 10 p.m.

Disappearing Act

Magician Steve Wyrick may be making things disappear over at the Golden Nugget, but I’m pretty sure he had nothing to do with the fact that the local Press of Atlantic City newspaper has disappeared from the shelves of Caesars four casino gift shops, and you no longer can pick up a complimentary copy of the weekly At The Shore– also published by the Press.  [Full disclosure: I write a biweekly column for At The Shore.]  According to one employee who wished to remain anonymous, this is “retaliation” for the unflattering article the Press published last month about Bally’s (see below).  How childish and unprofessional!  Didn’t anyone consider how this might inconvenience hotel guests who would enjoy reading the morning paper over breakfast?  Caesars also has cancelled its advertising in the daily newspaper.  Caesars pulled a similar stunt at its Las Vegas hotels a few years ago when the Review-Journal published something it didn’t like.  The ban lasted about a year, as I recall.

Bally’s

‘Casual Dining’

While the list of “casual dining” outlets on the back of a promotional mailing from Bally’s lists Nanking, Primo Pizza, Harry’s Oyster Bar, Noodle Village, Wild Wings, Johnny Rockets, Corner Café and Sack O’ Subs, don’t try to use the coupons in that same mailing at any of those places.

 The coupons say “Select Caesars, Harrah’s Resort, Showboat or Bally’s casual dining outlets”.  For the record, the coupons are good at the following places:

Bally’s – Preview and 6ix a Bistro

Caesars – Café Roma and Kwi

Harrah’s – Sammy D’s, Bill’s Bar and Burger, and Waterfront Buffet

Showboat – Crossroads and French Quarter Buffet 

According to Mary at Harrah’s Room Service, the coupons also are good for Room Service at any of the four properties.  As always, check to be sure the listed outlets or Room Service will accept the coupons before placing your order.

Not Much Ballyhoo Over Bally’s

Bally’s doesn’t fare so well in an article published last month in the Press of Atlantic City.  “It’s an eyesore.  It’s a shame,” the article quotes a Maryland tourist.  The article relates how Caesars Entertainment began sealing off parts of the Wild Wild West last year to replace some of the casino space with new retail and entertainment attractions.  To date nothing has been built, and Caesars says it has no updates to announce on any redevelopment.  I receive several emails every month about conditions at Bally’s, and I experienced the less-than-standard accommodations myself earlier this year.  Though The Reserve and Arturo’s still are among my favorite Atlantic City casino restaurants, I won’t be back for any more overnight stays.

Just Change SAMM To BALL

This summer it will just be Bally’s Beach Bar, not Sammy’s – as in Sammy Hagar.  Hagar and Caesars could not reach an agreement over the Hurricane Sandy-damaged bar.

Crummy Deal At Sammy D’s

At breakfast, Seven Stars cardholders get a complimentary half of one of those wonderful “Extra Crummy Coffee Cakes” Sammy D’s serves – a whole one if you have a party of four.  If your server doesn’t offer it, be sure to ask.  Another tip, if you order the Complete Continental, select the muffin or bagel, since the coffee cake comes free.

Bill’s Bar, Burger. . .& Breakfast

Bill’s Bar & Burger is now serving breakfast on Saturdays from 8:30 to 11 a.m.  For those staying in the Atrium Suites and the Harbour Tower, it’s a long walk to Sammy D’s.  Plus, during construction of Sammy D’s, Bill’s proved it could serve a mean breakfast.  (By the way, maybe it was “new restaurant” jitters, but the hamburgers at Bill’s have improved immensely since the place opened.)

Going, Going, Gone

For the third time now, my host has left and no one bothered to alert her customers.  Because I was suspicious that two emails were returned with the message, “Your message can’t be delivered because delivery to this address is restricted”, I picked up the phone and Harrah’s operator gave me the news.  In the past, emails went through as if the person were still working there, so at least there’s some improvement in the system.  But, how difficult is it to send a quick email advising customers their host has left, that someone new will be assigned shortly, and here is an interim contact until that happens?  This happened at Caesars a few years ago, as well, and probably at Bally’s and Showboat too.

Showboat 

Welcome Back, Carl!

Popular Diamond Lounge bartender Carl is back after an extended medical leave.

Rocket Fuel

Johnny Rockets has the best deal in town for casino breakfasts: $6.59 three-ingredient omelets (including bagel, English muffin or toast and potatoes), three pancakes and breakfast meat for $5.99, four strips of bacon for $2.49, and $5.99 for two eggs any style, bagel, English muffin or toast, and potatoes and breakfast meat.  Compare that to prices across the way at Crossroads where you’ll pay $13 for that same omelet, $6 for a side of bacon, and $10 for three pancakes (with no breakfast meat).  Plus, if you’re lucky you might snare one of the tables up front that looks out over the beach and the ocean.  Johnny Rockets accepts comps on a 1:1 basis, but unlike other casino outlets, the sales tax will not be waived.  It’s still a bargain.  [NOTE: Johnny Rockets at Bally’s accepts comps, but at a 2:1 ratio, but the basic pricing is the same.]

Horseshoe Casino Cincinnati

Pitching Horseshoe

Horseshoe Casino Cincinnati has opened.  The $450 million casino features 2,000 slot machines, 87 gambling tables and a 31-table World Series of Poker Room.  The complex has six sit-down restaurants with a seventh on the way.  Click this link for a variety of local articles relating to the casino.  In addition, here’s the link to a video about the casino.

Thistledown Racino 

Racino To Open

Located in the Cleveland suburb of North Randall, Thistledown – which originally opened in 1925 – is one of seven horse-racing tracks in Ohio, and the second to open as a “racino”.  It’s expected to open this month as a new Total Rewards casino – minus any name (Caesars, Harrah’s, Horseshoe) that would indicate so.  Rock Ohio Gaming, a joint venture between Rock Gaming and Caesars Entertainment (which also operates the Horseshoe Cleveland) spent $88 million on renovations and additions.  The racino is limited to video lottery terminals (1,145 of them), which to the average gambler look and play like slots.

Harrah’s Philadelphia

General 

Wheel Of Misfortune

If you’re a “Wheel of Fortune” fan, wouldn’t it be fun to attend a live taping in New York City?  Certain Total Rewards players got that opportunity last month, but, according to one person who accepted the offer, it wasn’t exactly what she expected.   “We stood on the ‘VIP’ line for over an hour with our heavy coats, not being able to leave to get food because there were no concessions open, and no ‘re-entry’ allowed anyway.  Our seats were so bad, we couldn’t even see the board. . .we were too far to the left.  We walked out before the second show taped (forfeiting the ‘gift’ which we heard was a sparkly Wheel pen) and just felt foolish for believing (or hoping) that Caesars might actually offer something special!  All in all, between transportation to and from Madison Square Garden, and two drinks and two mini-sliders at a nearby pub, I spent $90 to take advantage of this silly free offer.  I don’t know why Caesars runs such dumb promotions that only aggravate me more than make me feel appreciated being a ‘valued customer’.”

Total Rewards Web Site 6.2

I’ve lost track of the number of times the Total Rewards Web site has been revamped.  While there’s much to like about the latest version – particularly the consistent look of each casino’s individual Web page, isn’t it time to retire that lame Jimmy Kimmel video?  For one thing, it’s out of date – at the end it says to play the “Escape To Total Rewards Game” which ended last year.  For another, it’s just a stupid premise, having Kimmel inside a prison talking about Total Rewards benefits to a bunch of inmates – not to mention the unsafe driving practices at the beginning where Kimmel takes his hands off the wheel to thumb through cards in his wallet.

Question Of The Month

If a player new to Total Rewards (or even a current Seven Stars cardholder) reaches 150,000 tier points any time before December 31, 2013, will he/she get all the benefits of Diamond Aspiration Level 1 ($100 celebration dinner), as well as 2 and 3 (trip with $750 airfare and four nights’ accommodations, a Diamond companion card, etc.), AND the two retreats, the Seven Stars companion card, etc., etc., that he/she gets as a Seven Stars cardholder?  Excellent question. . .I didn’t know, so I went right to the “top” at Total Rewards for an answer: All players will achieve a Diamond Aspiration and/or Seven Stars Signature Experience as they pass each tier threshold.  In the example below, players will receive all Diamond Aspirations and the Level I Seven Stars Signature Experience, in addition to the Diamond and Seven Stars benefits that come along with tier status. Privileges associated with Aspirations and Experiences are made available to players as they achieve the tier threshold, as outlined below:

  • At 15,000 tier credits, players receive the $100 celebration dinner.
  • At 40,000 tier credits, players receive the complimentary stay.
  • At 80,000 tier credits, players receive a trip with $750 in airfare credit, a Diamond companion card, early check-in/late-check out, etc.
  • At 150,000 tier credits, players have reached Seven Stars Signature Experience Level I, which provides access to a trip, including a $1,200 airfare credit.  Since these players have also achieved Seven Stars status, they also get the “retreat” benefit.  That gives Seven Stars players two trips.
  • If players are already Seven Stars cardholders, but did not achieve the 150,000 tier credits this year, they would still receive the retreat benefit, but would not receive the additional trip.
  • Once players achieve 150,000 tier credits, they would also receive a Seven Stars Companion card, but this companion would be the same companion they’ve selected as their Diamond Companion.

Survey Says. . .

Last month I asked a question regarding the contents of this newsletter: “Should I stick to the facts, and stop editorializing?”  Thanks for the vote of confidence.  Everyone who wrote me – and there were many more than usually respond to these mini-surveys – said to keep calling it as I see it.  Typical of the emails I received: “Don’t question what you are doing or saying, and continue as always!  You are our voice and doing a terrific job of speaking!”

This Month’s Survey

I realize this particular example applies only to those of us whose “dominant casino” is in Atlantic City, but I just learned from another player that I could use my quarterly $100 spa credit to purchase items like shampoo, hand creams, or anything sold in the retail section of the four casino spas.  You just ask your host for a “shopping certificate” instead of a regular spa credit.  How about you?  Do you have an “inside tip” like this that you’d be willing to share with others?  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: Hawt Celebs

Tweet me @eastcoastgamblr

Seven Stars Insider – February Edition

Katrina Bowden Total Rewards Concert
Katrina Bowden

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

Harrah’s Rincon (San Diego)
Meet and Greet
I’ll be at Harrah’s February 6-10 for my annual Seven Stars trip.  If any of you are going to be there during that time and would like to get together, send me an email and we’ll figure out a time to meet.
Spa Discounts
While doing some research for my trip I discovered that Seven Stars cardholders get a 25 percent discount on spa services.  (Diamond cardholders get 20 percent; Platinum, 15 percent; and Gold, 10 percent.)
Harrah’s New Orleans
Spoken Like A True Politician
While I always encourage readers to use the “Contact Us” feature on the Total Rewards Web site, it’s responses like this that discourage people from writing.  Here’s an actual question submitted to Total Rewards and the response.  (I’ve deleted the name of the Harrah’s employee who wrote the response.)

I have friends who just returned from NOLA on their annual 7* trip. They were offered a complimentary carriage ride/tour that I understood was no longer offered as a property-specific 7* benefit.  Has this changed, or was this just an extra annual trip benefit?

Thank you for contacting Caesars Entertainment.  The complimentary carriage ride is still offered at our property, if you receive that offer.  They would have to email us if they have any questions about the offer.  Let the good times roll!!!

Uh, let me repeat, 1) has the policy regarding the carriage ride/tour changed? and 2) is this just an extra annual trip benefit?  Neither question was answered.
Las Vegas
MGM Offers Free Wi-Fi
MGM Resorts International will be offering free Wi-Fi at eight of its resorts.  There will be no fee or password required to access the wireless local area network via smart phones, laptops and tablets.  Installation has been completed at the Bellagio, MGM Grand, Mandalay Bay and Mirage.  Excalibur, Luxor, Monte Carlo and New York-New York will be completed by the end of the year.  The system will make each resort a wireless hotspot with access available in the casino, at the pool, in the lobby and in restaurants.  In addition, MGM Grand expects to have free Wi-Fi in all of its rooms by next month.
Entertainment/Dining Updates*
  • ·         “Recycled Percussion” opened last month at The Quad.  They perform at 7 every night but Friday in The Showroom.
  • ·         Donny and Marie extended their contract through 2013 and will begin their new season February 12. They perform at 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays in the Flamingo Showroom.
  • ·         American Idol winner Taylor Hicks moved next door from Bally’s to Napoleon’s at Paris.  He performs every night but Sunday and Wednesday at 8.
  • ·         Carnaval Court at Harrah’s is closed for renovations.  It is expected to reopen March 1.
  • ·         Celebrity Chef Gordon Ramsay has opened his second and third restaurants in Las Vegas.  Already ensconced in Planet Hollywood, Gordon Ramsay Steak is now joined by BurGR.  (Get it?  GR – Gordon Ramsay.)  Over at Caesars Palace is Gordon Ramsay Pub & Grill.
  • ·         With the February 4 opening of Nobu Restaurant and Lounge at Caesars Palace, Hyakumi now serves only lunch.
  • ·         Ruth’s Chris Steak House has opened in the location formerly occupied by The Range at Harrah’s.
  • ·         Chairman’s Club (Atlantic Club) – Exclusive to Ultra cardholders (the Atlantic Club’s highest tier, probably closest to Total Rewards Diamond in terms of play required), the lounge is located inside what was once one of Atlantic City’s best “fine dining” restaurants, Peregrine’s, and formerly a player’s lounge both for Ultra and Elite cardholders.  Admission was free for Ultra cardholders and up to three guests, and 10 comp dollars each for Elite cardholders and one guest.  I had lunch there once, and it was pretty dismal – the décor, the food and the “clientele”.  Consequently, I had high hopes when I learned the lounge was being temporarily closed to reopen in late December, exclusive to Ultra cardholders with, according to COO Michael Frawley, “an all-new menu brimming with upscale choices like sliced filet mignon, lobster ravioli, New Zealand lamb chops, crabmeat stuffed shrimp and pistachio-crusted Chilean sea bass.”  Admission still remains free, but there is now a limit of one guest, and the hours have been substantially reduced (noon to midnight on Fridays and Saturdays, and noon to 8 p.m. on Sundays).  Eager to try the new menu, I went for lunch last month.  Disappointing is probably not strong enough to describe my impression.  First, nothing had been done to refresh or enhance the décor.  The room is dark and filled with tightly spaced cheap-looking tables.  There are two mini-“buffets”.  One had two hot entrees – swordfish in a tomato sauce with black olives, and sliced sirloin with a mushroom sauce. The swordfish was pretty good, but the sirloin was as tough as shoe leather – totally inedible.  (What happened to the filet mignon?)  The rest of the menu consisted of chicken salad, shrimp salad, some cheese, crackers and bread, and sliced roasted red peppers.  In addition, there were some fruit salads, cookies and mini-desserts.  And the guests?  At the risk of sounding snobby and judgmental, I swear if you ran into many of these people on the street, you’d think they were homeless and about to ask you for a handout.   They were poorly dressed, and devouring food like there was no tomorrow.  Some piled plates – which were the size of saucers – with so much food, I thought it would fall on the floor; others were filling shopping bags with cookies, crackers and cheese.
  • ·         Paramount and Epic Clubs (Resorts) – While they share the same check-in area, these two lounges are totally separate.  Paramount is Resorts highest level player’s card – again, probably closer to Diamond in terms of play; Epic is Resorts mid-level card.  The new clubs occupy the area formerly home to Resorts “high limit slots” called Hollywood Hills, and they are both stunning.  Even though there are no windows, they are brightly lit – but not too bright – and beautifully furnished.  The Paramount Club is smaller, but both offer you a choice of table or bar seating.  There is a charge of 12 comp dollars per person for admission, and each cardholder may bring one guest.  The biggest difference between the two clubs is the menu.  Both serve buffet-style, but the food in the Paramount Club is definitely higher quality, e.g., crab cakes, sliced-to-order prime rib.  At the Epic Club one Sunday night, the menu included sliced to order roast beef (not prime rib), fried flounder, tortellini, chicken wings, hot dogs, chili, soft pretzels with mustard, tortilla chips with salsa and guacamole, sliced fresh fruit, and assorted mini-desserts.  [What I particularly appreciated was the fact that you could have cocktails at the bar and the bartender served pretzels (plus the “snack food” at the buffet).  With all the cutbacks, you can’t even get a peanut at any of the Diamond Lounges.]  Also, even Resorts “lower level” club had “top shelf” liquors (Johnny Walker Black, Maker’s Mark, etc.), and drinks were served from the bottle, not a “gun”.  The Paramount Club is open only on Fridays (from 5 p.m. to 1 a.m.) and Saturdays (from 2 p.m. to 1 a.m.); Epic is open Monday through Thursday from 1 to 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday from noon until 1 a.m., and Sunday from noon to 8 p.m.
*performance dates and times subject to change or cancellation
Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall & Saloon
You Won’t Be Able To Drop Your Bills At Bill’s Anymore
On February 4, Bill’s will officially close its doors for renovations.  Look for a reopening date – with a new name – next year.
Caesars Palace
Honey, Nobu!
The former Centurion Tower officially opens February 4 as Nobu Hotel – a hotel within a hotel at Caesars Palace.  Guest perks will include complimentary VIP access to Pure Nightclub and the Qua Baths and Spa fitness center, as well as private pool access.  Other exclusive benefits include priority reservations at the hotel’s Nobu Restaurant and Lounge, as well as the services of a private Nobu concierge and a signature Nobu green tea welcome gift.  In February and March, nightly rates start at $249, plus applicable taxes and fees.
The Quad
It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like. . .
Renovations and enhancements to the former Imperial Palace are starting to be unveiled.  First, there’s the spiffy new porte-cochere, as well as a fancy new bathroom across from Fat Tuesday.  They’ve still got a long way to go, in my opinion.
Lake Tahoe
Harrah’s
President’s Lounge Closes
“The President’s Lounge at the Summit” on the 16th floor of Harrah’s has closed.
Atlantic City
Don, But Not Forgotten
I was as shocked as anyone to learn last month that Don Marrandino was no longer working for Caesars Entertainment.  For those of us who are “regulars” in Atlantic City, particularly at Caesars, Don was like the mayor of our small town and we were the residents.  Don was generally at every casino event, always accessible, often stopped just to chat and see how we were doing, responded to emails and returned phone calls, and, basically, was an excellent representative of Caesars Entertainment in Atlantic City.  Certainly, he had his critics – we all do, but Don will be missed by many of us.
Where Are Those Scrubbing Bubbles When You Need Them?
Until they start getting better maintenance, stay away from the men’s rooms back by the Credit Office at Bally’s and near the Poker Room at Harrah’s.
Sticker Shock
I wish Caesars would take a cue from Revel and start enforcing parking regulations in their self-park garages in Atlantic City.  All too frequently I see vehicles that make their own parking spaces where none exists, cars taking up more than one space, and huge trucks and vans parked in spaces clearly marked “Small Car Parking Only”. Do that at Revel and you get a fluorescent orange sticker – which is solidly “glued” to your driver’s side window.  Not only are your violations checked off, e.g., parked in two spaces, parked in Motorcycle Only parking, parked in a handicapped zone without proper documentation, etc., but your license plate number is recorded and next violation your vehicle is towed.  Good for them!
Lounging Around
Two new player’s lounges have opened in Atlantic City, one has been “re-booted” and another is scheduled to open shortly – none, though, is located inside a Caesars-owned casino.  Here’s a peek inside of three of the lounges (the new Pearl Lounge at Revel is still under construction):
The best player’s lounge in town remains Borgata’s Amphora Lounge.  It’s open to all Black Label cardholders and one guest for 10 comp dollars each; Titanium cardholders go to the head of the line and are not charged. Every evening there is always chilled shrimp and prime rib, as well as at least four or five creative hot entrees, two soups, several interesting side dishes (vegetables and starches), and a beautiful display of desserts.  Caesars Diamond Lounges, Trump’s Chairman’s Clubs and Golden Nugget’s Chairman’s Club are widely inconsistent, and don’t even come close in a head-to-head comparison.  I haven’t been to Tropicana’s player’s lounge in years, so I can’t really comment on food, service or atmosphere there.
Bally’s
Diamond Lounge Closing
Until further notice, the Diamond Lounge is no longer open Mondays and Tuesdays.  Your closest option is next door at Caesars.
Caesars
Seven Stars Lounge Has New Menu
The Seven Stars Lounge introduced a new menu last month.  The only thing I tried was the tuna tacos, and they were delicious.
A Whole New Meaning To ‘Hours Subject To Change’
Apparently, someone doesn’t know the difference between a.m. and p.m. Here’s a screen shot of the Boardwalk Buffet Web site:
It may not make any difference.  The buffet is about to close for renovations after the Presidents Day Weekend.
Gone Fishing
The Atlantic Grill will be closed on Fridays during February.
Steaking Its Reputation
As my mother used to say, “Things happen for a reason.”  While I think she had something a bit more spiritual in mind, I thought of that when I found myself at Caesars on a Thursday night last month and the only “fine dining” restaurant open was Morton’s Steakhouse.  I had been wanting to try Morton’s for years and – now that the restaurant is accepting comp dollars on a 1:1 basis through March 31 (call first to verify this because policies often change) – I had my chance.  It was one of the best steak dinners I have ever had in Atlantic City.  The service was friendly and exceptionally efficient, without the pretentiousness I’ve frequently experienced at Harrah’s Steakhouse and other restaurants in town.  I’ll be back.
Harrah’s Resort
Seven Stars Lounge Thursday Closing
With the exception of Valentine’s Day (February 14), until further notice, the Seven Stars Lounge remains closed on Thursdays.  The Caesars Seven Stars Lounge is open from 5 to 9 p.m. on Thursdays.  Last admittance is 8:30; last call is 8:40.

‘Convenience’ Fees

How nice that Dos Caminos and McCormick & Schmick’s accept comps 2:1 “for your convenience”.  At least they post this information on their menus.  Last time I checked, Nanking at Bally’s still keeps you in the dark about its 2:1 comp policy.
Insider Out
Let’s see, after I earned 10,000+ tier credits during October, November and December last year, my “reward” this month for becoming a TR Insider is the chance to win my share of $25,000 in slot play. . .by playing even more – and, then only at Harrah’s!  [On February 22 – a Friday (which is a workday for most people, so it might even be difficult for a lot of folks to get to Atlantic City much before 6 or 7), Insiders will earn one drawing entry for every 50 tier credits earned between 6 a.m. and 7:45 p.m.  Then at 8 p.m. there will be drawings for free slot play.  Oh, and read the fine print, winnings not claimed by midnight will be forfeited.]  There were no events in January (or, for that matter, in October or December last year for those who earned TR Insider status for the quarter ending September 2012), and this is how you recognize my “exclusive” status?  I don’t think so.  The Insider program lost steam over the summer, and never recovered.  It was another example of layer after layer of complicated promotions that really produced no benefits for the players. . .only the casinos.
Harrah’s Philadelphia
Sounds A Little Flaky
I didn’t get to try one, but the latest menu at BarleyQue features “Homemade Buttermilk Buscuits”.

Caesars Windsor (Ontario)

Play For Pay
We’ve all come to expect to receive gifts at casinos, but now Caesars Windsor is requiring “rated play” (one tier credit) on the day of the giveaway – granted, a small amount.  [Seven Stars cardholders are excluded from this requirement.]  In Atlantic City, Golden Nugget, Trump Plaza and Taj Mahal, Resorts, and the Atlantic Club (formerly Hilton) all do this – but at much greater levels, and I recall the Total Rewards casinos doing it once or twice. . .and I hate it!  You’ve either earned access to the gift or not.  What irritates me is that you could have earned 2,000 tier points the day before, but the next day before you return home, if you want the gift, you’ve got to play even more.  Either give the gift based on previous play, or don’t offer it at all.
General
Last-Minute Reminders
If you haven’t already done so, don’t forget to select your annual gift, and schedule your annual trip and dinner. Remember, that annual trip must be completed by March 31, and requires a minimum of 30 days advance notice to your host.  You cannot book the trip – or your annual dinner – yourself; these must be booked by a host.  Also, if you achieved Seven Stars status for the first time during 2012, you’re still eligible for these benefits, and you’ll receive them once again beginning April 1 through March 31, 2014.
Question Of The Month
I finally achieved Seven Stars at the end of 2012.  I play mostly at Harrah’s Philadelphia.  I’ve been disappointed not to stay in suites when I visit Atlantic City, and having my requests to obtain multiple rooms denied.  I thought this would be easier once I had a Seven Stars card.  What’s the deal?  Everything is based on play (“What have you done for me lately?”).  Just because you have a Seven Stars card, all you’re guaranteed are the “basics” (trip, dinner, gift, etc.).  Everything else (giveaways, free play, party invitations, room upgrades, multiple rooms, etc.) is based on your play at that particular casino.  I’ve said this before, but “high Diamonds” get better treatment at their “home” casinos than a Seven Stars cardholder who has never played there, or played very little.
‘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 – or choose not to attend, check with your local Seven Stars or Diamond Lounge to see if it might be open later than regular hours.  Several lounges that normally close earlier may remain open through the game.
Presidents Day Weekend
Be sure to check with your local Seven Stars or Diamond Lounge to see if they will be open extended hours for this three-day weekend.
Secure Emails
Learn from my mistake.  When sending my host details for my annual trip I included a credit card number in the attachment.  Who knew that Caesars email system could “read” the contents of an attachment (a .pdf)?  Because “Harrahs [sic] Entertainment will no longer accept this data sent in normal email,” my email was not delivered and plans for my trip were delayed.
Putting Seven Stars On The Map
Who knew?  There is a Seven Stars, N.J., right off Route 9.
Advantage Players
If anyone ever wanted a reason why Caesars increased the tier score for Seven Stars – and instituted those bonus tier credits – read the following story about my encounter with “Oliver” (not his real name).  I was playing at Harrah’s Philadelphia one evening and I noticed that the gentleman sitting next to me was a Seven Stars cardholder.  We both were playing the same type of penny machine, but I was playing the $2 max and he was playing the 40-cent minimum.  I jokingly said, “It must take a lot of 40-cent bets to get Seven Stars.”  He took it from there.  “Oh, I’m retired,” he said.  “My wife died a few years ago and I live nearby and, so I come over every day about 3, have a couple free beers in the casino, go upstairs to the Diamond Lounge, have my supper, play a little more and have another beer before going home.  Sometimes I take my buddies up there since we can go to the head of the line with my card.” About then a server brought him another beer.  Noticing he didn’t tip, I said, “Isn’t that a little risky not giving her a tip?  You’re going to get a bad reputation around here.”  “Are you kidding?” he retorted.  “I never tip.  Let some other jackasses tip.  She does OK without my money.”  “What about upstairs in the Diamond Lounge?” I pursued.  “No way, Harrah’s gives those girls enough money,” he countered.  “I’ve already ‘paid’ for those free meals and I’m not about to spend a nickel more.”  When I asked him about earning the additional 50,000 tier credits it would take to renew his Seven Stars card during 2013, he said he didn’t know anything about that, but that he just barely made 100,000 in 2012.  While I certainly wouldn’t want to make a steady daily diet of the crappy food they serve in Harrah’s Diamond Lounge, I guess if I were in my late 70s/early 80s, lived nearby, and had limited income, it’s not a bad life.
Fueling Controversy
Some Total Rewards cardholders in Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Texas may have received an email about Energy Plus, and the opportunity to earn bonus Rewards Credits.  Should you choose to do this, you might want to check out the company’s Web site –http://www.energypluscompany.com/index.php – to see if other “rewards” (like airline miles, retail gift cards, cash, etc.) might be a better deal.  However, before you do that, you may want to read some of the online “reviews” of Energy Plus.  Check out www.complaintsboard.comwww.electricrates.com orwww.consumeraffairs.com/homeowners/energy-plus-company.html.  Here’s a sampling of some of the comments:

“Like everyone else, I fell for the bait – 2 months reasonable cost, then absolutely outrageous overcharging.”

“It’s short and simple.  My electric bill went from $150/$170 monthly to $300/$350 monthly.  When I signed up with them, I was promised the same rates, or even lower than Con Edison would provide me, plus miles credited to my SkyMiles account every month.  That is simply not true!  I must say they were very polite when I called to cancel my account. . . .”

“It was offered through United Airlines and with a sweet looking promo.  I fell for it.  Huge mistake. They charge three times the market price and hope you won’t notice.”

“Energy Plus will raise your rates almost 80% right after first bill.  This is what they did to me.  They prey on us not checking our bills right away.  They rely on loopholes in the industry.”

Why is Caesars Entertainment even getting involved with an energy company?  Why not work on getting the “new” Total Rewards program in order before venturing into this sort of thing?
Price Line
First there was Overstock.com.  Perhaps Total Rewards should call its merchandise catalog Overpriced.com. Hopefully, those of you redeeming your comp dollars are also doing the math.  I just took a couple sample items and found that – using 1,000 RCs = $10 – prices were 20 to 40 percent higher than I could buy the products online or at a local retail store.  (Gift cards demand a 100 percent premium, i.e., a $25 gift card will cost $50 worth of RCs.)  Also, be sure to check the details of the products you’re ordering.  Get a model number, for instance.  One item I ordered at last year’s gift giveaway in Atlantic City turned out to be a refurbished product no longer available for purchase or service.
Cruising Along With MGM
MGM Resorts International’s M life is now offering an annual complimentary cruise to its top-tier players.  Noir cardholders (the highest level) get a seven-night Caribbean cruise in a balcony stateroom; Platinum cardholders get a three-, four- or five-night Bahamas or Caribbean cruise in an oceanview stateroom.  Additional benefits include onboard drink vouchers, departure lounge access, priority onboard check-in, onboard welcome amenity, and complimentary onboard specialty dinner.
Survey Says. . .
Last month I asked, “What do you think about the increases in tier credits to achieve or maintain Platinum, Diamond and Seven Stars?”  I received the largest response ever, with additional feedback about other changes to the program.  I’ll try to summarize as best I can the overall mood of players, with the addition of some personal comments:
The initial reaction regarding the bonus tier credits and the higher tier scores was not very positive – at least from Seven Stars cardholders.  However, as folks started to work the numbers they began to see some real plusses. One problem, though, especially, for those who might play at multiple casinos in one “day” (such as can be the case in Tunica, Lake Tahoe, Las Vegas, or in Atlantic City and nearby Harrah’s Philadelphia) is that the system frequently does not register play fast enough, or even accurately.  For example, in the Eastern Division, the tier score you see at the kiosks is different from what you see on the Total Rewards Web site; is different from the score on the Total Touch screens at Harrah’s Resort and Bally’s in Atlantic City, and Harrah’s Philadelphia; is different from the information you get from the Total Rewards Desk (which on weeknights in Atlantic City closes at 9); and is different from the score on the read-outs on slot machines that are not part of the Total Touch system (Caesars and Showboat).  You get the picture.  At Harrah’s Philadelphia one night, once I reached 1,000 tier credits, the counter went to 1 and, no matter how much more I played, it never increased.  I actually saw a woman with a hand-held calculator sitting on her lap.  I’ve gotten to the point that I write down my tier score before playing so I can keep track on my own.  (I’m not the only one doing it, and I’d recommend you do likewise.  Some people even take a picture of their final tier score before leaving the casino.)  Caesars has taken the “fun” out of playing since no one wants to be so close to a bonus and not reach that milestone.  For Caesars, it’s win-win.  They get more play out of someone trying to reach that next tier level, yet they don’t have to pay up with bonus credits if someone just misses a level.  In terms of the increased tier levels, nearly every Seven Stars cardholder agreed that Caesars had been “giving away” Diamond and Platinum, and the majority wished that Caesars had increased the required points even more.  The biggest complaint, though, was not hearing about these changes earlier – and hearing it from a source other than Caesars.  There were lots of rumors floating around toward the end of 2012 – and lots of misinformation and/or incomplete information (most of it coming from hosts and other Caesars employees who were in on the discussions and plans, and then blabbed to their buddies).  Folks are still waiting for more details about the new benefits at the various levels – effective April 1, e.g., the $100 Appreciation Dinner for Diamond cardholders, the Diamond Companion Card, the Preferred Reward Credits-to-free play exchange ratio (1.25:1 for Seven Stars, 1.75:1 for Diamond), the annual getaways for Diamond and Seven Stars cardholders, etc.  If there’s any word – OK, two words – I hear more about Total Rewards is that it’s “overly complicated”.  While none of the other casino loyalty programs is as large as TR, most are pretty simple and straight-forward.  I think people would prefer a more generous comp dollar and/or free play component to TR rather than all these trips, Signature Events, dinners, gifts, bonus tier credits, etc.  “The last thing I need is more Omaha steaks – I already have a freezer full of them, courtesy of the casinos.”  That’s how one person put it.  Another frequent complaint was about the $500 folio credit for the annual trip.  “I’m not a big fancy eater when I go to a casino, but I do like shows, massages, facials, etc.  This money should be available for tickets and spa treatments too.”  I believe it used to be that way, and some casinos are pretty liberal about how you spend that money – especially those that don’t allow you to use the money for alcoholic beverages.  Others have no interest in traveling outside their home area, and don’t use the annual trip (or the cruise).   There also needs to be more consistency.  As of last month, at least in New Orleans, instead of a $500 folio credit, one player’s TR account was credited with the equivalent of $500 to be used any time – even after he returned from his trip.  I’m afraid we’re going to be stuck with this new program for some time to come, but let’s hope that next time Caesars puts a little more effort into consulting with its customers.  Caesars is never going to please everyone, but with so many common threads among the feedback after announcing the initial phase of the program, if Caesars did talk with its players, it’s apparent they may have been listening to the wrong people.
This Month’s Survey
Now that you know more about the “new” Total Rewards, will you be
  • playing more to reach the next “milestone” (Gold to Platinum, Platinum to Diamond I, Diamond I to Diamond II, Diamond II to Diamond III, Diamond III to Seven Stars)?
  • 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?

Send me an e-mail (sevenstarsinsider@gmail.com) and I’ll share your thoughts – anonymously, of course.

 Photo – Fabzz

Seven Stars Insider – January 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 with a major heads up on the new Total Rewards tier requirements. Head over to Seven Stars Insider to sign up for the newsletter.

Blood, Sweat and Tiers

It was probably the worst-kept secret since Katie Couric announced on the Today Show that she was leaving to anchor the CBS Evening News.  By now, it’s no surprise to anyone that the number of Tier Credits required to attain Platinum, Diamond and Seven Stars status starting April 1, 2014, will increase, effective January 1, 2013. In November word about this began circulating through the Internet (on message boards such asharrahscasinos@yahoogroups.com and on the Web site, www.vegastripping.com).  In December the discussion intensified, and I began to get daily emails – sometimes as many as 10 per day – questioning rumors or passing on “inside knowledge” about changes to the Total Rewards program.  Most of the information that was published – or questioned – was incorrect or incomplete.

The following (sloppy writing, syntax errors and all!) is from an internal memo distributed to certain Caesars employees:

In 2013, guests are able to earn Tier Credits at a faster than ever before.  For the first time ever, we are offering Tier Credit bonuses.  All day, every day.

  • Bonus Levels – There are three bonus levels a guest can reach.  The more Tier Credits they earn in one day, the more Tier Credits they will receive.

Earn this many Tier Credits in a day. . .               . . .Get this many more Tier Credits

500 Tier Credits                                                    +125 Tier Credit Bonus

1,000 Tier Credits                                                 +1,000 Tier Credit Bonus

2,500 Tier Credits                                                 +5,000 Tier Credit Bonus

  • Things to know

o   Guests can only earn one bonus level per day.

o   Tier Credit bonuses are based on play within a single day.

o   Tier Credit bonuses are awarded based on Tier Credits earned in a promotional day (not a calendar day).

o   Tier Credit bonuses will post to the guest’s account the following day.

o   Bonuses will be added to the guest’s Tier Score only (RCs will not be added).

o   Tier Credit bonuses do not count toward Reward Credit Multipliers and other Earn & Get Promotions.

o   Tier Credit bonuses do not apply to daily criteria.

Since guests will earn Tier Credit bonuses based on their daily play, allowing guests to earn Tier Credits faster, we have increased the number of Tier Credits required to achieve each Tier.

  • Gold (0-4,999 Tier Credits)

o   Gold status is still free for all guests.

  • Platinum (5,000-14,999 Tier Credits)
  • Diamond (15,000-149,999 Tier Credits)
  • Seven Stars (150,000+ Tier Credits to qualify)

o   Membership in Seven Stars will remain by invitation only.  Once a guest has earned 150,000 Tier Credits, their account will be reviewed for approval for Seven Stars.

§  Any guest who is Seven Stars in 2013 (based on their 2012 Tier Score) will be able to maintain their Seven Stars status if they earn 100,000 Tier Credits in 2013.

§  Tier Credit bonuses do not apply.

§  Only valid in 2013.

Daily Criteria

  • Diamond (5,000)
    • Guests who earn 5,000 Tier Credits at one property, in one day, will qualify for “Diamond in a Day.”
    • “Diamond in a Day” is only valid for the current year.
    • Tier Credit bonuses do not count toward “Diamond in a Day.”
  • Platinum – there will no longer be Daily Criteria for Platinum status.
    • Guests who earn 2,500 Tier Credits in a day will be awarded an additional 5,000 Tier Credits. This will give them a total of 7,500 Tier Credits, which qualifies them for Platinum.

 

Las Vegas

Fans of Human Nature and Legends in Concert will still find them performing on the Strip this year, but at different venues – one of which is not owned by Caesars Entertainment.  After touring a bit since the act left the former Imperial Palace (now The Quad), Human Nature puts down its roots at The Venetian January 19. Meanwhile, Legends not only moves to the Flamingo next month, but the long-running celebrity tribute show will now perform six weekly shows at 4 p.m., with the optional ability to add evening shows should the Flamingo’s showroom need a filler for Donny and Marie Osmond or George Wallace.

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.

Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino

‘The Price Is Not Right’

A “local” who plays at Rio shared an email she wrote to Caesars.  Apparently, she was offered two free tickets to “The Price Is Right, Live!” at Bally’s December 1-30.  Problem was, the show was dark the month of December.

Atlantic City

Tax Dodging

With the advent of the My TR eStatements, many players are just now seeing that Caesars casinos in Atlantic City have been taking 1,300 Reward Credits ($13 in comps) to cover the mandatory $5 tax and Caesars own $8 in “convenience fees” for every night of their “complimentary stays”.  (Check your My TR eStatement and you will see it broken down into four separate items listed as “Hotel Room Charge” at 200, 500, 300 and 300 Reward Credits, respectively.)  Nearly every other casino in Atlantic City charges only the required $5 tax; Borgata lets players use comp dollars to pay it, and Trump Plaza pays the tax for its Signature cardholders.)  The problem is that not everyone wants to use their comp dollars for these taxes and fees, and some would prefer to pay by cash or credit card; however, they’re never given that option, and many assume the tax and fees are being absorbed by the casino.  (On the other hand, some would love to use their comp dollars to pay this, but are not allowed.) Taking comp dollars without a guest’s knowledge is particularly troublesome to those who are visiting Atlantic City for the first time, perhaps on a Seven Stars-related trip.  Caesars needs to be upfront and more transparent with its customers on this issue.

BYOC

First it was a “nominal fee” to check-in to your room before 4 p.m.  Now we’re being told to enjoy the complimentary coffee in our rooms, but if we want additional cups – and how’s this for a poorly worded sentence? – “. . .they are conveniently located at the vending machine located on your floor for a nominal charge.”  (The “nominal charge” is $2 per coffee packet.)  Once again, this just seems a little cheap.  Of course, I have no idea of knowing, but I can’t imagine so many people are drinking that much in-room coffee.  If you’ve ever used those packets, you learn quickly to pour only about half a cup of water in order to get something that tastes even remotely like decent coffee. 

What The Doctor Didn’t Order

Was I the only person a bit taken aback by Caesars promoting a 10X Reward Credit multiplier on Martin Luther King Jr. Day?  What does one have to do with the other?  Sure, it’s a national holiday and lots of people have the day off (and the opportunity to hit the casinos), but why not just offer the promotion on January 21 without reference to Dr. King’s birthday?  It seems a bit disrespectful.

Good News For PNC Customers

A sharp-eyed reader found a PNC ATM on the first floor of the Pier Shops near the entrance to the restrooms. For PNC customers, short of hitting the nearest branch at Atlantic and Boston Avenues, this is one way to avoid the $5.99 fee at the ATMs in Bally’s and Caesars.

Harrah’s Resort

Exclusive: They’re Not Exclusive

Those ugly full-building “ads” on Harrah’s Waterfront Tower are currently displaying the message that Atlantic City’s four Total Rewards casinos have the “exclusive” when it comes to such slot machines as Gone With The Wind, Michael Jackson, Elvis and Grease.  Not only is this incorrect, but Gone With The Wind and Michael Jackson actually debuted at the Borgata.

Harrah’s Philadelphia

Buffetmania

Harrah’s disappointed a number of players in early December by refusing to give them a free buffet after playing 30 minutes (and earning 10 Tier Credits).  Granted, the promotion ended November 30 (and there was a small sign at the two entrances to the casino), but there were still billboards up advertising the giveaway as late as December 2.  Who can read the fine print when driving 55 mph?

General

Caesars Bathrooms: Did They Blow It?

Before Caesars rushes to replace all its bathroom paper towel dispensers with blowers, they might want to check out an article last month in the Wall Street Journal.  “The trouble with blowers is that they take so long,” says Dr. Rodney Lee Thompson, a hospital epidemiologist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.  “Most people dry their hands for a bit, then wipe them on their dirty jeans, or open the door with their still-wet hands.”  [Maybe they even decide not to wash altogether to save time.]  Meanwhile, time-consuming, loud “blowers turn people off,” he says.  “But there is no downside to the paper towel, psychologically.”  Even environmental concerns, Thompson says, are eradicated by the paper towel.  “The electric blower uses more energy than making a paper towel,” he says.  Last June, the Mayo Clinic published a comprehensive study of every known hand-washing study done since 1970.  The authors concluded that drying skin is essential to staving off bacteria, and that paper towels are superior to driers: They’re more efficient, they don’t spatter germs, they won’t dry out hands and most people prefer them.

Survey Says. . .

In the November newsletter I wrote :  “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?”  While some people claim they have trouble determining their offers, most everyone who responded said they liked the new look and the functionality.

This Month’s Survey

So, what do you think about the increases in Tier Credits to achieve or maintain Platinum, Diamond and Seven Stars?  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 – DJVice

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 – November 2012

Total Rewards Cards
Total Rewards Cards

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

Harrah’s Baltimore (Maryland)

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

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

Harrah’s Hollywood Casino St. Louis

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

Las Vegas

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

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

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

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

Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall & Saloon

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

Flamingo

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

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

Caesars Palace

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

Harrah’s

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

Paris

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

Harrah’s Reno

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

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

Atlantic City

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sincerely,

Matt Heiskell
Assistant General Manager – Bally’s Atlantic City

Others received this in the mail:

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

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

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

Sincerely,

Don Marrandino
Eastern Division President

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bally’s

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

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

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

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

Caesars

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

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

Harrah’s Resort

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

Harrah’s Cherokee (North Carolina)

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

Harrah’s Philadelphia

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

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

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

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

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

General

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

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

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

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

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

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

Odds Are. . .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Darryl D. McEwen, Publisher
Seven Stars Insider

Photo: Pulse of Vegas Blog