Why Tipping The Dealer Matters

3 Card Poker Bonus Bet At Caesars Casinos
3 Card Poker

To a fault I’m probably an over-tipper. Not everyone tips as freely as me and that’s fine. We can all spend our money however we feel comfortable. I look at tips as tokens of appreciation that will come back to me with some form of positive karma in the future. It’s a win-win for me and the people I’m tipping.

I’ve written about why tipping dealers in a casino matters before (See Gaming Today article) but I had a great, real life experience last week in Atlantic City that I want to share.

When I arrived at Showboat in Atlantic City I met up with some friends for a drink at the bar and to catch up with each other. Shortly after a little video poker and BSing we decided to hit the tables. We approached an open Pai Gow table and told the pit boss that our group would play the entire table if they lowered the limits. The pit boss “called his supervisor” to ask permission to lower the limits. In a call that seemed like a scene from Seinfeld our request was denied. That’s cool, the table remained empty until 7am when I called it quits and headed back to the room.

The casino actually made the right business move as we went on to play a game with a larger house advantage. There was an open 3 card poker table across from Pai Gow where we ran into one of the most fun dealers I’ve ever had, Billy.

3 Card Poker is a game of minimal skill and perfect for a bunch of friends to catch up, drink and have a little gambling action. Billy was our dealer all night/morning – from 1am-6:30am. Billy knew that we were looking for a good time and helped stoke the flames by giving us all nicknames (I was “The Attorney“) and constantly encouraging us to “Take a Siiiiiiip“. He was very loud and we obliged and took many sips.

He kept reminding us that 3 Card Poker was an “Easy Game” by yelling it all night. Billy was louder than any dealer I’ve had but he was  perfect for our group on this night. He was the conductor to a great night/morning in the casino. He would be rewarded with tips all night for helping us steer towards a fun time.

The nature of playing low limits 3 Card Poker is that you’ll win a few big hands, lose a bunch and repeat. Ultimately the low limits don’t really ever dent the bankroll when you hit a bad run. I tipped Billy every time I got a straight or better. A straight pays 6-1 on the pair plus line and I’d tip a unit each win. He always played with me instead of keeping the tips and we won pretty quite a few hands playing together. Billy’s largest tip was when my $5 bet paid him $150. I played the Caesars bonus and he gave me 4 of a kind for a cool $1,000! It was awesome for both of us.

When you tip craps or blackjack dealers they can remind you to place the bets you want, offer simple strategy and generally keep an eye on you. There really isn’t much assistance a 3 Card Poker dealer can offer besides a good time. I wasn’t winning because I tipped. Or was I? I wasn’t getting any strategic advantage. So, why tip?

Billy is a working stiff like most of us and his level of service was fantastic. He was providing a great time for everyone that came to the table. As long as I’m winning why not share some of the money with the person helping create a great memory? He deserved it and now I have a great memory that will last forever.

Photo: Vegas Chatter

How Caesars Bankruptcy Can Benefit Everyone

Caesars Entertainment Chapter 11
Caesars Entertainment Chapter 11?

Rumors about Caesars Entertainment filing for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection gets louder every day. It’s easy to poke fun at a business failing but the ramifications from filing for bankruptcy can be good for both Caesars and casino customers. Read chapter 11 details here, you can read about more debt restructuring here and you can read about their unrealistic projections for Suffolk Downs here.

I want to look at the day-to-day operations that affect me and people like me. When/If Caesars files for bankruptcy they’ll be forced to deal with their outstanding debt problems. The easiest way for them to pay down their debt will be to sell off some of their assets.

Some of the assets that may be sold include Bally’s and Showboat in Atlantic City. These properties have long been rumored to be on the market for years but they may have to finally pull the plug to get some quick cash.

Las Vegas may see Caesars shed a combination of Bally’sParis and Rio. I’d be surprised if Paris was a sold but it’s one of Caesars most valuable non-core Las Vegas hotels and they need cash. I think Flamingo and Harrah’s are too close to The Linq and The Quad to be shed. These properties give Caesars a great chance of capitalizing on the traffic in the area.

I’m not sure about Caesars properties in other markets but you’d have to imagine a few of those will go too. I’m more focused on AC and LV but you probably know that already.

By shedding some properties in AC and LV Caesars will be able to focus on creating a better value for their customers at the properties they still own. In theory a leaner staff would focus on housekeeping and maintenance while corporate focused on creating a better product for the customer.

Additionally by selling properties in each market Caesars will bring in more competition. Competition always benefits the customer. Increased competition will force all hotel operators in each city to be on their toes to stay ahead. Again, that’s theory.

Not only will increased competition in Atlantic City and Las Vegas provide better casinos and hotel experiences but they will also add new players clubs that would link other cities and casinos throughout the United States with Atlantic City and Las Vegas. The new customers will benefit all casino operators – not just the property owners bringing in the customers.

When all is said and done I envision Caesars having the potential to come out of bankruptcy a tighter company able to provide more value for their casino customers. I also envision increased competition in Atlantic City and Las Vegas which will benefit casino customers by cleaning up old properties and offering new players club reward opportunities.

Even though it’s embarrassing it looks like Caesars filing for bankruptcy may be a win-win.

Note: Caesars hasn’t filed for bankruptcy, this is just speculation for when/if they do.

Big Fish In Small Casino Pond Or Small Fish In Big Casino Pond

7:30am Showboat Atlantic City Balcony Suite
7:30am Showboat Balcony Suite

Photo above from a comped Showboat balcony suite with an ocean view 

I talk about gaming often and the subject of players clubs and comps almost always comes up. I shy away from talking about comps because you shouldn’t play for comps. Comps are great to receive but retail price for whatever the freebie is usually comes in at a lower price than you’re risking.

That said, I’m not afraid of taking or asking for comps. I’ve gotten some great comps from my spending in a casino. Not all comps, like this sick suite at Showboat in Atlantic City, were because of my players club activity. I happened to be visiting Showboat on a warmish winter weekday and this was available to me since it wasn’t busy. I’m sure I played enough to get this suite again…but only on a slow midweek winter’s night.

I didn’t get this ocean view balcony suite because I’m a high roller but I’m a medium roller and it was available when I asked if there were any upgrades. For what it’s worth my friend upgraded to a normal suite at Showboat that same day. This isn’t meant as a humble brag but more of a personal lesson. If I’d gone to Caesars or Borgata I probably wouldn’t have received such a nice upgrade. Why? Because that’s where the to big dawgs roll.

I used to stay at Showboat because it was the Caesars Entertainment hotel on the bottom of the totem pole. Showboat isn’t the best hotel and casino in Atlantic City but they had a very nice staff, recently renovated Bourbon Tower and I was able to get more mileage with my comps.

I was lucky to get free rooms at the other casinos so I focused my spending where I got the best bang for my buck. Besides getting suites I used to be able to get meals and drinks comped. It was a good deal even if their dining options were limited.

I like being the big fish in the little casino pond

This topic came to mind a few weeks ago when I listened to, independent Las Vegas casino host Steve Cyr, on the Gambling With An Edge podcast and discussing what he can offer his clients.

One specific item that stood out was that he couldn’t get a client in the door at Cosmopolitan with $10,000 guaranteed in play. Meanwhile, that person could go elsewhere and be treated like a king. That client may have to stay and play in a Downtown Vegas casino but they’d get all the great amenities you’d want when staying at a casino.

This is nothing new but something not everyone thinks of when they spend their money at a casino. I love the luxury hotels and casinos but I also like being treated as if I have some value so I enjoy the best of both world when I can.

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 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 – May 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.

Las Vegas

Show Ticket Update
In response to his inquiry about why free show tickets no longer were being distributed to eligible players in Las Vegas, one reader received a response from Total Rewards claiming that ticket offers now would be based on play, and sent directly to individual players. Other than the tickets offered under the former system, this always has been the case. Problem is that many times the show ticket offers are for dates when you aren’t in town. In March I had an offer for Jersey Boys tickets, but it didn’t go into effect until three days after my already previously scheduled departure. I asked my host for an exception, but he wouldn’t budge – despite the fact that it was opening night and there were plenty of available seats when I went to the box office. I just refused to pay the ridiculously inflated ticket prices when I can see the same show on Broadway for one fourth the cost.

Atlantic City

Mea Culpa: I’ve Seen The Light
I’ve been en-light-ened. Last month I erroneously reported that the lights remained on at Caesars and Bally’s after a news release touted that the casinos would participate in Earth Hour. Turns out the lights I saw were necessary for safety and security reasons, and all four of Caesars casinos in Atlantic City participated to the best of their ability. I thought my observation had been confirmed by a front page story in the Press of Atlantic City, but that article was incorrect, as well. I guess you can’t always believe everything you read in the papers! My apologies to Caesars executives – and especially the hard-working Facilities Engineers who made it happen.

June Signature Event
Considering this event is scheduled to begin June 14, it’s not yet been “officially” announced. What is everyone waiting for? [There is still nothing on the Total Rewards Web site other than June 2012 and the fact that it will be held in Atlantic City.] West Coast players already are complaining that airfare prices continue to climb, but they’re uncomfortable making firm plans until they see something in writing. In terms of specific events, there will be an opening night party June 14 at The Pool over at Harrah’s, Bally’s will host parties on its deck Friday and Saturday, and Diana Ross will be the featured entertainment for your choice of concerts Friday or Saturday. You’ll have the opportunity to multiply your Rewards Credits by seven on June 14 and 18, as well as play throughout the weekend to earn Caesars gift cards.

Food and Wine Festival
The Atlantic City Food and Wine Festival has been scheduled for July 26-29. Among the celebrity chefs already confirmed are Robert Irvine, Tom Colicchio and Anne Burrell. Foodies who can’t wait should consider The Taste of Revel May 18-20, presented by Food & Wine and Travel + Leisure.

Wires
If you wire money to any of the four Atlantic City casinos, note that some of the routing numbers have changed. Check with a Credit Executive for details. I don’t know if other regions or casinos are also affected.

A New Gold Standard
I was fortunate enough to attend the VIP opening reception at the Golden Nugget last month – the same night as the Seven Stars Celebrations around town. What an outstanding job the crew there did! Taking advantage of the fourth floor space surrounding the atrium, planners had all of the Golden Nugget’s restaurants develop a tasting station of menu samplings. Each was better than the next! Even if you never plan to play or stay at Golden Nugget, do yourself a favor and take a look at the place – especially if you knew it as Trump Marina. You won’t recognize it. In particular, don’t miss the H2O pool deck with its fire pits, cabanas and outdoor bar. Once word gets out, I think this will become the place to hang out this summer. Back at Caesars, I couldn’t contain my enthusiasm over the Golden Nugget, telling everyone from managers to servers about my experience. Kudos to each and every Caesars and Bally’s employee who had nothing but praise for the Golden Nugget, noting it will only be a positive influence on the entire city. Thanks for “taking the high road” and not knocking the competition! This says a lot about Caesars employee training.

Bally’s

‘Dealertainers’ Coming To AC
Taking a cue from what I must assume is successful in Las Vegas, Bally’s is hiring entertainers who look – and sound like – celebrities to do double duty as dealers on the casino floor. I witnessed a couple of these “dealertainers” at the Imperial Palace, and I hope their dealing skills were better than their singing voices.

Caesars

Celebration Exasperation
“Disappointing.” “What were they thinking?” “This is how they treat their ‘best’ customers?” Within hours – and in one case, minutes – after the last Cadillac lease was announced, my inbox started filling up with comments about the Seven Stars Celebration April 28. I walked in around 8 p.m. and – loud (make that, very loud!) music notwithstanding – I thought I was attending a funeral, not a celebration. People were sitting around looking pretty bored, just cooling their heels until the door prizes were announced at 8:30. No one I spoke with liked the food. [I hardly touched the food because I had just come from the reception at Golden Nugget (see above), but what I did try was not very good and not very appetizing. Plus, I had a 9 o’clock reservation at Arturo’s.] Part of the problem, too, was that no one really knew what to expect. “What’s a ‘cocktail soiree’?” Turns out it was a fancy name used as an excuse for not serving a decent sit-down dinner. And what was the point of having a dance band if you’re not going to have a dance floor? There was plenty of space. . .and at least it might have brought some much needed energy to the room. Related to the celebration was an extra large bottle of Belvedere vodka left in our rooms. What if you don’t drink vodka, or what if you don’t drink at all? Since it was stamped with the Seven Stars logo, you can’t even give it as a gift. Most people I talked to would have preferred a Macy’s or Best Buy gift card, or even some free play coupons. All in all, this was not one of the best efforts from a team that usually produces some of the highest quality events in town.

Showboat

Boatload Of Changes
Canal Street Bread & Sandwich Co. – After closing May 5, I’ve been told the space will reopen with an outside vendor. My guess is that means another venue which will accept Total Rewards comp dollars, but probably at a 2:1 ratio. I hope I’m wrong; that would leave no place for players to grab a quick sandwich, salad, dessert or other snack without paying double – or being forced into a sit-down situation.

Mansion Cafe – After the Mansion closes May 13, the House of Blues will become a 24-hour operation. Space currently occupied by the Mansion is expected to be turned into meeting space for groups.

Vive Day Spa & Salon Offers Seven Stars Special
During the month of May 2012, show your Seven Stars card and mention “Seven Stars Insider” to get these special savings:

Seasonal Cocktail Facial
This unique limited edition facial treatment incorporates the purest ingredients from each season’s harvest. Packed with antioxidants to help restore and brighten skin ravaged by the season. Enjoy a new melody of ingredients every six months. Previous seasonal treatments include Melon & Mint, Ginger & Tangerine and Green Tea & Honey. $99 (regular $135)

Women’s Haircut, Blow Dry & Finish

$50 (regular $85)

Harrah’s Philadelphia

What’s In A Name?
As reported last month, Harrah’s Chester has rebranded itself as Harrah’s Philadelphia. According to a message on the inside cover of this month’s coupon book, “We’re proud to announce that Harrah’s Chester is now the all-new Harrah’s Philadelphia,” writes Senior Vice President and General Manager Ron Baumann. [Now, someone should tell the folks who maintain the Total Rewards Web site and iPhone app. Harrah’s Chester, not Harrah’s Philadelphia, is still listed.]

Seven Stars Celebration Dinner
Perhaps the staff at Harrah’s can give some pointers to the folks in Atlantic City when it comes to recognizing Seven Stars cardholders. Earlier last month, Harrah’s Philadelphia hosted a lovely cocktail reception with a raw bar and other hors d’ouevres, followed by a sit-down dinner that featured a delicious salad, a “surf-and-turf” entrée [shrimp and perfectly cooked filet] and a lavish dessert. While there were no Cadillac leases, there was a drawing for a trip and some free play, and everyone left with a $25 Macy’s gift card, $100 in free play and a collapsible insulated picnic hamper. Very nice. Too bad the next event there wasn’t quite as successful. . . .

Thursday Becomes Fry-day
Apparently there’s no shortage of oil in Philadelphia. At last month’s TR Insider “Cocktails and Conversation” nearly all the “food” accompanying the cocktails was breaded and fried: fried shrimp, fried chicken, fried chicken stuffed with cheese, fried cheese – even fried green beans! The one exception was something baked in a pastry that was totally indistinguishable and tasteless. Perhaps, more accurately, it should have been called “Cocktails and Cholesterol” or “Cocktails and Calories”. Did I miss something, or is Paula Deen the new executive chef there? Come on, folks, how about something a little more tasty, healthful – and creative?

Tip On Tipping
Comp dollars may no longer be used for gratuities at Harrah’s. For a long time – to the best of my knowledge – [then] Harrah’s Chester was the only Total Rewards casino that allowed you to use comp dollars for server gratuities.

General

September Signature Event
While the official dates have yet to be announced, let’s hope planners don’t select the weekend that ends on September 16. Rosh Hashanah begins at sunset that Sunday and it might be difficult for some East Coast attendees to get home from Las Vegas in time. Two years ago, the fall Signature Event began on the last day of Rosh Hashanah, one of the holiest days on the Jewish calendar, and many players were not happy about the scheduling. And, speaking of scheduling. . .again, what’s the big secret, folks? September is only four months away and there are people who like to plan their schedules in advance.

Call ’em What They Are: Comp Dollars
It’s nice to see that Caesars is using the term “Tier Credits” (instead of “Base Rewards Credits”) to more accurately reflect those points players earn each year to qualify for the various card levels, e.g., Platinum, Diamond, etc. Now, I wish they would consider dumping “Rewards Credits” (or “Reward Credits” – it shows up both ways depending on where you look). It’s like traveling to a foreign country and having to calculate U.S. dollars into some other currency. Just give us the total amount of comp dollars we have in our accounts. In Atlantic City (and I think Las Vegas), this number pops up when you swipe your card at a kiosk. You get your tier score and the amount of comp dollars available. However, sign on to the TR Web site and you get your tier score, plus that “inflated” Rewards Credits number. What also gets confusing is when you see a sign that says: “Guests will be charged 1,000 Rewards Credits for admission to the Diamond Lounge”. How many players know that this is $10 (in comp dollars)? Or that ridiculous birthday promotion – “Get up to 50,000 Rewards Credits by earning up to 5,000 Base Rewards Credits [now Tier Credits] in a gaming day”. Though 50,000 Rewards Credits sounds like a lot, it’s actually $50. Considering that, to earn one Tier Credit, it takes $5 “coin-in” ($10 with video poker), you’d have to put $25,000 through the slots ($50,000 for video poker). That’s not much of a gift, or a bonus. Borgata in Atlantic City has one of the easiest systems to understand. Every comp dollar you earn equals one tier point.

Still Not App-licable
There’s finally a new Total Rewards app for the iPhone, but it’s not very user-friendly or helpful. Since it’s actually a new app, if you have the old My TR app you won’t get any notification to update it; just delete My TR and go to the App Store and search for Total Rewards. You’ll need your Total Rewards account number to sign-in. Though it sometimes offers the option of using the new username you had to create to access the Web site, that log-in page will not accept upper and lower case letters, so you have to use your account number. Once you’re online about the only useful information available is your current tier score and Total Rewards credits. Clicking on various links sends you to pages that – in most cases – are not yet available, are inaccurate, incomplete or useless. A couple examples: On the Caesars Atlantic City page, clicking on “Senator Suite” tells you, “Experience the Empire as it was meant to be. Appreciate true indulgence when you retire to a Caesars Senator Suite.” [Huh?] Click on “Standard Room/Classic” and you learn, “Our classic rooms offer 1 King or 2 Double beds. At Caesars we plan to make your stay a friendly one.” [Gee, most hotels I stay in offer a choice of a king or two double beds. How about some of the amenities? How large are these rooms?] Interested in the “Dinner & Giada Show”? Click and learn, “Giada DeLaurentis show and dinner.” [How about a date, a time, the cost and some details?] On the Bally’s Atlantic City site there is a reference to a restaurant that’s no longer open; and clicking on the rooms tab gives you a mixture of sleeping rooms and meeting rooms. Unless Bally’s is planning overnights in its ballrooms, keep the meeting space and accommodations separate.

Rumor Control
Don’t always believe everything you read on some of the message boards and blogs. Last month someone wrote that she was told by employees at Paris and Flamingo that her play at Harrah’s Philadelphia, nee Chester, and in Atlantic City wouldn’t count toward getting offers from Las Vegas. Suspicious – because I don’t play in Vegas as much as I used to, but the offers continue to pour in, I contacted a senior executive at Caesars who said this was absolutely false. Granted, part of this may be Caesars fault for perhaps not educating their employees, but, on the other hand, these could be employees who misunderstood something they heard or read, or maybe they were disgruntled employees who decided to take it out on a customer.

New At The Top
According to paperwork filed in late March, M. Tariq Shaukat has been named Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer of Caesars Entertainment. Mr. Shaukat comes to Caesars from McKinsey & Co., a global management consulting firm.

From The In-Box
Some Caesars executives seem to think I make up comments from my fellow players because they rarely hear from anyone directly. Want to know why? I can’t tell you how many people are scared of “retaliation” – they actually believe that, if they complain about something, somehow Caesars will withdraw offers, hotel stays, free play, etc., or, worse, code their player’s cards so they don’t win as much. I hope everyone knows this is not true – and would be illegal (or, in the case of suppressing wins, not even possible). However, starting this month, I’m going to reprint some of the e-mails I receive which I think might reflect not only opinions expressed by the writer, but also of many others I talk to on a regular basis:

“Both Harrah’s [Resort in Atlantic City] and Caesars [in Atlantic City] seem to be replacing many of their slot machines with the new digitized versions. I really do not like them, as they’re just big piggy banks. By the way, I stopped at the new Golden Nugget and played for a few hours. Surprisingly, after four hours I had accumulated almost $70 in comps! (That would take me days at Caesars or Harrah’s.) And, their cashback is immediate so you can download it right into the slot machine you are playing. How’s that for convenient? I’ve always hated those damn coupons with specific days on them. And, I notice that they aren’t sending as many as they did in the past.”

“I had three coupons valid yesterday. However, I’m curious. One went right in the machine; one had to be taken to the cage to get Reel Rewards to put in the machine; and one was for cash, which found its way into the machines. Why not make them all work the same way?”

Survey Results: ‘How would you have changed Total Rewards?’
If you’d been in charge of changing/updating the Total Rewards program, what – if anything – would you have done? Here are a few of the responses I received (several people sent in similar suggestions):

I would have asked for feedback from players before announcing any changes to the program. It would have been amazing the valuable suggestions and feedback they might have received.
I would increase the tier points needed to become a Diamond cardholder from 11,000 points to 40,000 or 50,000 points. There is too much of a gap between Diamond and Seven Stars. Make getting Diamond status worth something.
For Seven Stars cardholders, I would waive fees, such as that room assessment fee and comp fee in Atlantic City.
For all Total Rewards members who may travel to different casinos and not be particularly loyal to one property, why not reward them a small Rewards Credit bonus annually once they visit five different properties or a greater number of RCs if they visit 10 different properties. Because of my business travel, sometimes I visit a variety of properties, and I’m penalized for not being loyal 90 percent of the time to one particular property. (This is reflected in the offers I receive, compared to what some of my friends receive.)

Survey: ‘Did you attend a Seven Stars renewal event? Your thoughts?’
I’ve already received lots of unsolicited feedback on last month’s Seven Stars Celebrations in Atlantic City. Here are some examples:

“Thought I’d offer some comments on the Seven Stars Cocktail Party this weekend. . .the one at Bally’s was interesting. The food preparation was led by The Reserve Executive Chef Joseph Muldoon and was consistently good throughout. The party theme of Mission: Escape was odd given that car leases, not trips, were given away. The bottle of Belvedere vodka was over the top, too large to fit in my liquor cabinet, and the labeling of it as ‘Seven Stars’ renders it nonregiftable. I offered it to my housekeeper in lieu of a tip. Some people apparently offered their bottles to Boardwalk vagrants as I saw a homeless guy outside of Caesars drinking from one of those huge bottles. I hope he’s not found under the Boardwalk today suffering from alcohol overdose.”

“Just got back from the renewal weekend in Atlantic City. Some thoughts. . .the 7X comps on Friday was nice, the party on Saturday was underwhelming. The food was not very good – four stations with lots of odd selections: assorted hummus, terrible potato latkes, not enough places for people to sit and eat. The seven Cadillac leases and 10 $1,000 cash prizes awarded seemed a little cheap for the number of 7 Star guests. I would have liked to see more prizes spread around. Also, I realized at about 10 p.m. on Saturday night that I had not received the promised signature bottle of Belvedere vodka. It wasn’t handed out at registration, nor was it given out at the party. I called VIP Services to enquire and was told, ‘Oh, room service was supposed to deliver it to you.’ Well, they hadn’t, although the woman at VIP Services promised to have it sent up. Made me wonder what would have happened if I had not thought to call and try to track it down. Perhaps the people in room service would have ended up with a lot of extra mega-bottles of vodka. Seemed like a very poor method of distribution. Hopefully the lackluster weekend is not an indication of things to come in Caesars new Total Rewards program.”

“I attended the event last night at Harrah’s Resort in AC. Can these guys at Caesars Entertainment possibly get more cheap? Are you kidding me? What casino has ever given away vehicle leases – and for a lousy two years at that? Add to that poor gas mileage at a time when fuel prices are outrageous, hefty tax and insurance costs, and the fact that you are receiving something that has no lasting value at all. This has to go down as one of the most ill-conceived casino ‘gifts’ ever. I’m serious when I say that given a choice between $20 in free slot play and this lease, I’d choose the slot play. Talking with others last night, I found many others similarly unimpressed. I hold out hope that next year Caesars management will opt to step up their top prize by offering seven high mileage, used econoboxes with some front-end damage. At least you get to keep these cars, and the fuel, tax and insurance costs won’t kill you. Thanks for showing us once again how much you appreciate your best customers!”

I know there must have been similar events around the country. Did you attend one? What did you think? Send me an e-mail (sevenstarsinsider @ gmail .com) and I’ll share your thoughts – anonymously, of course.

Darryl D. McEwen, Publisher
Seven Stars Insider

Photo: Pulse of Las Vegas Blog

Seven Stars Insider – February Edition

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

Tunica

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

Las Vegas

Caesars Palace

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

Paris

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

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

Atlantic City

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

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

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

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

Bally’s/Wild Wild West – Johnny Rockets, Ben & Jerry’s, M Star Mart, Macy’s gift cards, Harry’s Oyster Bar, Taste of the Shore outlets, tobacco products at casino-owned retail stores

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bally’s

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Caesars

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

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

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

Harrah’s Resort

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

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

Showboat

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

Harrah’s Chester (Pennsylvania)

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

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

General

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

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

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

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

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

Photo: Pulse of Las Vegas Blog

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.  Head over to Seven Stars Insider to sign up for the newsletter.  There is a lot of information in this edition and I will pull out some nuggets to look at closer later next week. In fact, I’ve already pulled one major nugget. Can you find it?. Read on for all the goods.

Seven Stars Insider – December 2011

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

Harrah’s Joliet (Illinois)

Updates and Renovations
Thanks to a reader who plays at Harrah’s Joliet, here are some updates:
The existing Diamond Lounge has closed, but a temporary location has been set-up.  Mosaic will soon close to become the site of the new lounge.
The buffet and Stage 151 also have closed, and with the addition of the former Diamond Lounge, this area will become a new Paula Deen buffet and restaurant.  Target date for opening is March 2012.
Utilizing space formerly occupied by high-limit slots, a poker room was added earlier this year, and in October a new high-limit slots room opened in space on the main casino floor.
The former general manager of the Chicago Chop House has joined Harrah’s Joliet as food and beverage manager.

Baltimore,  Maryland

Decision Expected Next Month
Caesars Entertainment Corp. last month applied for the license to run a casino proposed for Baltimore.  Caesars submitted a bid for a 3,750-machine casino on Russell Street. The location drew another bidder, Baltimore City Casino LLC, but the company did not submit the required $22.5 million initial license fee and is likely to be disqualified, State Slots Commission Chairman Donald C. Fry said.

Las Vegas

Making the Great Gift Wrap Up Even Greater
It’s time again for “phase 2” of the annual Las Vegas Great Gift Wrap Up, December 1 – 5 at Caesars Palace.  The most frequent question I get is, “Do I have to be staying at a Caesars property to participate?”  The answer is, “no”.  If you’ve earned the points, all you have to do is be there physically to cash them in.  However, a little homework is in order before you get to Vegas.  First, check your point balance at www.greatgiftwrapup.com .  Then, decide if you want to use your points for free play ($100 for 30,000 points), gift cards or specific products.  In some cases, it may be more convenient to “purchase” gift cards, and buy the products locally or online (taking advantage of sales and other discounts), rather than waiting for the items to be delivered.  (Don’t forget to factor in state and local taxes, and delivery charges.)  Whatever you do, take the time to compare items with their retail prices (check out the manufacturer’s Web site or go to a price comparison site like www.pricegrabber.com ).  Then, divide the number of required points by the purchase price to see which offer the best values.  For example, a $100 gift card “costs” 35,000 points, or 350 points per dollar.  A 12-cup Cuisinart food processor retails (on the Cuisinart Web site) for $249 and requires 62,700 points or 252 points per dollar; however, by doing a little online pricing, I found it as low as $151.95 (or 413 points per dollar).  Also, as with everything, “prices” have gone up.  That $10 Shell card you got last year for 3,100 points is this year 3,500.

Flamingo

Carlos’n Charlie’s
The newest outpost of this Mexican cantina opens this month.  Founded in Acapulco in 1970, the restaurant chain has seven restaurants in Mexico and two others in the United States (Austin, Tex., and West Palm Beach, Fla.).

Atlantic City

Caesars Giveth and Taketh Away
Next time you gloat over the fact that you didn’t pay that $13 in “fees” on your comp room at Bally’s, Caesars, Harrah’s or Showboat, know that your comp dollar account has been depleted by said $13 per night.  I always assumed the $13 was “forgiven” – much like the taxes on comped food and beverage in casino restaurants; however, after a recent two-night stay at Harrah’s I noticed my comp dollars had been reduced, even though I had no food and beverage or other charges.  When I requested a “transaction” report – which you only can see briefly while standing at the Total Rewards desk, but not keep to study – the manager, Linda, pointed out several $5 and $3 charges against my account (adding up to $13 per night).  Considering that every other casino in town only charges guests the required $5 in fees (see below), Caesars takes an additional $8 and then charges it against your comps.  To me, it’s like a “resort fee” that many Las Vegas casinos charge.  Ironically, the fact that Caesars properties in Las Vegas don’t charge a resort fee is a major theme of its advertising campaign out there.  As I’ve written before, I’m surprised that the Borgata, Trump, Golden Nugget, Resorts and others in Atlantic City don’t use this $8 per night fee as an element of their promotional campaigns – especially since, if you try to book a room in Atlantic City using the My TR app on your iPhone, the rate even states, “No Resort Fees!”

According to Publication ANJ-17 from the New Jersey Division of Taxation, casino hotels are required to collect a $2 per night “tourism promotion fee” which they remit back to the state.  In addition, the state imposes a $3 per night fee on complimentary rooms in casino hotels.  At Bally’s/Wild Wild West/Claridge, Caesars, Harrah’s and Showboat, though, the nightly fees total $13 – the highest in Atlantic City.

Other than the Tropicana – which charges $10 per night, all other Atlantic City casino hotels charge guests just the $5 per night required by law.  Trump Plaza waives the fee for its Signature cardholders (and doesn’t charge their comp accounts), but not Taj Mahal.  And, unless your play is at a certain level, Caesars won’t allow just anyone to pay those fees with their comp dollars. 

 So, why the difference in fees charged at Caesars properties?  When I inquired last year, [then Harrah’s Entertainment] spokesperson Ed Tagliaferri responded, “The other $8 are specific Harrah’s Entertainment fees and are charged to cover the cost of doing business and transacting.”  Maybe Caesars should check with the other casinos in town to see what efficiencies they’ve put into place to avoid having to charge their customers this extra $8.

Copycat Promotions
With Borgata giving three times comp dollars every Thursday in December, and the Golden Nugget giving same-day triple cashback – real cash! – look for the Caesars casinos to offer similar promotions this month.

Caesars, Union Avoid Strike
Union workers at Caesars four casinos approved a new three-year contract November 1.  The pact covers about 5,000 employees.

Pier Restaurants Accepting Comps 1:1
Through December 24, Buddakan, The Continental, Souzai, Phillips Seafood Express and Phillips Seafood are joining Morton’s The Steakhouse by accepting comps on a 1:1 basis.

Cut That Out!
Resorts is having a little fun at the expense of Caesars and its Express Play Coupons.  A billboard on the way into town asks, “Tired of clipping coupons?” – a direct hit at the four Caesars properties in town  that don’t upload free play to player’s cards, but require coupons you get in the mail and bring from home, or exchange from vouchers dispensed at the casinos’ kiosks.  For a company so highly computerized it just doesn’t make sense that Caesars puts players through all the machinations of this outdated system – plus it has to be expensive to print all those special bar codes, perforate them, and drop them in the mail.  And, if you mistakenly leave your coupons at home, as they say in New Jersey, “Forgetaboutit!”

Bally’s

Fired Up
An Atlantic City man was charged with arson after he allegedly set two small fires inside Bally’s two days before Thanksgiving.  Fire crews responded about 7:15 p.m. to a small fire in a second floor mop closet at the hotel. That fire was put out prior to their arrival, but crews were directed to a second fire on an upper level of the building.  The casino’s surveillance department spotted the suspect on camera and security found the man inside the bus waiting area.

Legends Holiday Show
Atlantic City just can’t seem to get enough of Legends In Concert.  After returning to Harrah’s Resort following a successful summer engagement, the show is back to its original location, Bally’s Palace Theater, through January 1.

Caesars

A Very Special Diamond ‘Club’
Congratulations to Caesars for joining the Borgata’s Water Club in earning AAA’s Four Diamond rating.  It’s the first Four Diamond rating in the history of Atlantic City for a center Boardwalk casino resort, according to Caesars.  Less than four percent of AAA-approved facilities in the United States, Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean received this rating.

A Little Discretion, Please
We all know that “high rollers” get special treatment, but the Caesars employee picking up Pier Shopping Vouchers for customers at last month’s event in the Mars Room could have been a little more discrete.  While there were only a few of us in line, everyone noticed the transactions going on between her and one of the event staffers, and wondered who was getting the special treatment.  It’s all well and good to treat your best customers with a little extra service, but, next time, don’t do it in front of others who play by the rules.

Make More Tables For Room
I was lucky enough to snare the last table in the Seven Stars Lounge shortly after it opened on “Black Friday”.  Perhaps if someone from Caesars management team had sat there he/she could have heard all the dissatisfaction with the lack of tables in the lounge.  Most who arrived after I did headed to the bar until it filled up, but, in some cases, age or disability prevented them from hopping up on a bar stool.  One trio stood transfixed, staring into the room for about five minutes, as if some magical spell was going to create more tables and chairs.  Another couple kept watching my guests and me, waiting for us to finish lunch so they could grab our table as soon as we stood up.  When is someone going to admit he/she made a mistake, and add more tables?  Just get rid of those oversized sofas and put in some small tables for two or four.  You’ll make a lot of people very happy.

Boardwalk Brrrr Garden
Colder weather has forced the Boardwalk Beer Garden to close for the season.  It will reopen in May.

21 To Open
As one venue closes, another opens.  On New Year’s Eve, look for the debut of 21 Bar @ Dusk.  The new bar will offer something for everyone, according to go Dusk Management Group, which also operates Disk and the aforementioned Boardwalk Beer Garden.

Harrah’s Resort

From Eye Candy To Eyesore
The colorful leaves of fall, as well as the snowflakes and holiday decorations of winter seem to have taken a backseat to gaudy advertisements for Harrah’s restaurants, The Pool, celebrity entertainers and special events.  I’m talking about the “light show” on the exterior of the Waterfront Tower.  What used to be a visually striking addition to the skyline has deteriorated into nothing but an ugly high-tech billboard.  The worst is when there is a “photo” of someone.  The quality is terrible, and many times, it’s difficult to figure out who’s being illustrated.

Crumb-y Waterfront Buffet
I don’t think anyone would mind waiting a few extra minutes to be seated at a clean table – not just the tabletop, but also the area beneath the table.  I ate twice at the Waterfront Buffet last month and, both times, as I pulled out my chair, I couldn’t help but notice that the carpeting underneath my table was littered with soiled paper napkins, empty sugar packets, and bread crumbs and other partially eaten food that the previous diners had dropped.  Considering that, in my opinion, as well as several others who’ve written, the quality of the food there has deteriorated since it first opened, this is not a good way to start off a meal.

Feeding Frenzy
It can’t be easy feeding 1,000 people all at once – but it’s done all the time.  I’ve had wonderful meals at large banquets from the Waldorf in New York to the Holiday Inn in Toledo.  So why can’t Harrah’s get it right?  After at least three years of avoiding these group dinners, I attended a 60th birthday celebration for Dominic Tedeschi (more on that later), but walked out shortly after the entrée was served.  Seated at a crowded table of 12 (that more comfortably would have seated 10), I could forgive the underdressed salad (and the fact that our server was so busy delivering cocktails I couldn’t get his attention to bring more dressing), but I wish I could have filmed the looks on everyone’s faces at my table when our server delivered the main course.  First, people stared, trying to figure out what it was.  Then, like little kids, they pushed around the food on their plates, hoping, I guess, that it would magically turn appetizing.  The dinner plate (a mass of dark brown, purple and green – brightened only by two perfectly cooked bright pink shrimp sprinkled with lump crabmeat) was the most unappetizing presentation I’ve ever seen.  The steamed cauliflower was tasteless and appeared to have no seasoning, the filet had been cooked to within an inch of its life, and was covered with a tasteless brown mushroom sauce, and the fingerling potatoes were OK, but they just added another “brown element” to an already depressing looking plate.  Hopefully, the dessert was better.  Don’t the banquet chefs at Harrah’s know there’s a Viking Cooking School downstairs?  Maybe they should sign up for some lessons, or ask the chefs over at Bally’s for some pointers.
But, back to Dominic.  I’m sure he’s a nice guy, but no one at my table even knew who he was.  They freely admitted they were there for the free food and drinks, and a chance to win some cash.  Earlier in the week I tried to cancel once I received the written invitation and realized it was a dinner for someone I didn’t know, but my host insisted I would have a good time.  “Open bar, gourmet dinner, cash prizes!  What’s not to like?” she said, pleading with me to attend.  Turns out she resigned the day before the dinner, so I didn’t feel so guilty walking out.  (Maybe she knew in advance how bad the food would be.)  It’s a shame, too, because the room looked lovely; there were beautiful overlays on the tables, matching chair covers, exquisite floral arrangements, and even a decent musical group that – for once – wasn’t too loud.  Maybe things will improve before Dominic’s 65th.

Super Fresh
If you liked your meal at Luke Palladino a couple months ago, don’t look to reorder some of your favorites.  Because Palladino uses only the freshest seasonal ingredients, the appetizers and entrées I enjoyed in June were missing last month to make way for new ones.  Before it’s too late, try the autumn salad, the agnolotti stuffed with ricotta and foie gras, or the ravioli stuffed with ground veal.

Showboat

Knocking The Foundation [Room] Out From Under Another Benefit
Used to be if you wanted to have a drink or dinner at the Foundation Room, you had to be a member – or flash your Seven Stars card.  Now it’s open to the public.

Calendar Girls
The Borgata’s been doing it for years with its “Babes” calendar, so it’s no surprise that a Caesars property has jumped on the bandwagon with a sexy calendar of its own featuring the “Bombshells” party-pit girls from its popular Backstage.

General

Feedback On Feedback
While it’s commendable that Caesars wants feedback on many of our dining experiences, it needs to provide customers with more than a short survey.  How about a pencil or pen?  Too many times I’ve had a great meal or a great server, but no way to complete the survey at my table because I didn’t have a pen or pencil, and couldn’t track anyone down to borrow one.  Same holds true when a server brings the check.  Please bring a pen along so I can sign and leave, and you can get back to your other guests.

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

Personal Birthday Wishes
We all know how many customers our hosts have and how busy they are.  While he’s not employed by Caesars, I just want to recognize the fact that Alan Korman, Executive Director of National Marketing at the Golden Nugget in Atlantic City, actually took time to pick up the phone to call and wish me a Happy Birthday last month.  I know Alan reads this newsletter, so I wanted to publicly acknowledge this.  I’m certainly not a big player at GN, but I got to know Alan when the GN was the Trump Marina.  He’s always been the consummate professional, and extremely responsive whenever I’ve had the need to contact him.  Other than a generic e-mail from Total Rewards and a hand-signed card from my host at Chester (who I’ve never even met), that was the only “personal” contact I had from anyone at Caesars.  Perhaps front desk clerks also should be a little more mindful of their guests’ birthdates.  Since they’re already checking IDs, you’d think they might notice when a guest is checking in on his/her birthday.  It’s these little touches that can make the difference in customer service.

Survey: Signature Experiences
Those readers who made it to Level I were disappointed in the offerings both this year and last.  Some ideas they suggest for next year: deep sea fishing in Atlantic City, day at the Biltmore or white water rafting (Cherokee), meet and greet with performers (Las Vegas).

New Year’s Resolutions

My suggestions for Caesars Entertainment:
Keep the Diamond Lounges in Las Vegas open later than 9 p.m. – especially on Fridays and Saturdays.  (Lounges in cities much smaller – and less “24-hours” than Vegas – stay open until midnight or later.)
Vary the food offerings in the Vegas Diamond Lounges.  (The hummus and pita wedges, chicken wings and egg rolls are getting a little “tired”.  I’m not saying you have to serve a complete meal – as in Atlantic City – just offer some different options.)

Remove the televisions from Seven Stars and Diamond Lounges – or at least turn them off with the exception of the Super Bowl, World Series, Stanley Cup, and, maybe for the sports-impaired, awards shows like the CMAs or Oscars.  Alternatively, switch the channels to CNN Headline News, or something similar – this is what the airlines do.  [Many of us are tired of the “sports bar” atmosphere that pervades too many of these lounges, as well as the loud and obnoxious “arm chair coaches” who insist on shouting at the screen as though they were actually a) at the game and b) know better than professional coaches.]
“Formally” allow Seven Stars cardholders to bring three guests to the Vegas Diamond Lounges.  (Nearly every other Caesars casino allows this. . .and why shouldn’t Seven Stars cardholders get a benefit greater than every Diamond cardholder?)

Instead of forcing players to host an annual $500 “celebration dinner”, just add to all Seven Stars cardholders’ accounts the equivalent in comp dollars that can be used anytime and in any combination.
Allow all players to see their Total Rewards accounts in “real time” – just like banks and airline frequent flier programs allow them to see “deposits” and “withdrawals”, give players online access so they can verify points they earned, as well as spent, following every trip.

Adjust the value of Great Gift Wrap Up points and, similar to MGM’s Holiday Gift Shoppe points, make each earned Base Reward Credit equal one Great Gift Wrap Up point.

Let players – who wish to – make their own reservations and arrangements, whether it’s for a trip from Atlantic City to Las Vegas or their annual Seven Stars trip.  (If you have more than one host, each of them wants to get credit for scheduling these trips.  This makes it uncomfortable for players who want to maintain a good working relationship with these hosts, but find it awkward to ask one host over another when it comes to these trips.  Don’t make those of us with multiple hosts “play favorites”.  Plus, for players used to making their own travel arrangements, it’s much quicker and easier, eliminates possible errors when working through a third-party, and you get an answer immediately.  I recently booked a stay at an MGM property in Las Vegas by phone.  It took less than five minutes and I had an e-mail confirmation before I hung up.)

Give Seven Stars cardholders (and a guest) complimentary admission to Qua at Caesars in Atlantic City.  (The much larger original Qua at Caesars Palace has offered this perk since it opened.)
To those eligible, offer an alternative to the quarterly golf game at the Atlantic City Country Club.  (Not everyone plays golf, so perhaps the powers-that-be could come up with something of equal value for non-golfers.  If the idea is to get folks out to the club to check it out, how about a lunch or dinner – with transportation, so no one has to drive after a couple cocktails?)
Offer more alternatives for the annual gift – even bonus free play or comp dollars.  (For 2011-2012 the paucity of “choices”, as well as the selections themselves, were the talk of many Seven Stars cardholders.)
Reopen a Seven Stars Lounge somewhere in Las Vegas.  (If Hammond, Ind., and Cherokee, N.C., can have Seven Stars Lounges, why not Las Vegas?)
Either require participating casinos to keep their “pages” up-to-date or drop them from the My TR app.  Other than getting your up-to-the-minute tier score or comp dollars, or directions to a casino (which you can get through other means), the app is pretty useless.  You can’t even get accurate rate information.  For example, I requested a reservation at Bally’s Atlantic City for arrival January 12, 2012, departing the next day.  I got rates starting at $55 up through $155 per night.  However, going through totalrewards.com , that same room was complimentary.

What other “resolutions” would you suggest Caesars make?  Send me an e-mail (sevenstarsinsider@gmail.com) and I’ll share your thoughts – anonymously, of course.

Darryl D. McEwen, Publisher
Seven Stars Insider

Photo: Pulse of Las Vegas Blog

Seven Stars Insider – September Edition

Here is the latest Seven Stars Insider newsletter.  This is good information if you are a Harrah’s player and a Total Rewards card holder and has now been tailored for all levels of card holders.

The newsletter doesn’t teach you how to “game” the system, but rather how to maximize your comps.  Sign up for the newsletter here.

NOTE: While this newsletter was originally designed exclusively for Seven Stars 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.  You will need Adobe Acrobat to view them, but this is a free program available at www.adobe.com.

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

 >> www.sevenstarsinsider.com <<

 Las Vegas

Restaurant Week

If you’re in Las Vegas between now and September 11, you’ll not only have the opportunity to get some good dining bargains, but help out some needy charities, as well.  With three-course breakfast, lunch and dinner specials running $20.11, $30.11 and $50.11, respectively, participating restaurants include Serendipity3, KGB, Hyakumi, The Range, Eiffel Tower, Bill’s Steakhouse, Payard, Beijing Noodle No. 9, Martorano’s, Rao’s, Mesa, Toby Keith’s I ♥ This Bar & Grill, and Empress Court.

Fast Cash Available Longer

I haven’t independently verified this, but a reader writes that those Fast Cash tickets the slot machines spit out with your winnings are now valid for 180 days, two months longer than previous.  It’s still a good idea to go home with your cash, so take those slips to the cashier before you leave Las Vegas.

 

Lake Tahoe

 Signature Event

My e-mail in-box was strangely empty concerning last month’s event at Lake Tahoe.  Let’s hope that no news is good news.

 

Atlantic City

Hurricane Irene: More Than Storm Damage

It certainly was no fault of the casinos, but the closure of the four Caesars-owned casinos (as well as all of the casinos in Atlantic City) left many players with hundreds of dollars’ worth of free play coupons and other offers they were unable to use.  According to a host, “corporate” made the decision not to honor them now that the casinos are back open.  Big PR blunder, in my humble opinion (and many others who have written me).  [While Harrah’s Chester in Pennsylvania was closed only from 8 p.m. Saturday through noon on Sunday, they are not honoring free play coupons either.  Borgata is honoring its “Hurricane Sunday” free play offer September 25.  I didn’t survey the other AC casinos.  Dover Downs in Delaware, however, is honoring its promotions from the hurricane weekend during Labor Day weekend.]

‘We’ll Buy The Food If You Buy The Drinks’

Once again, you gotta read the fine print in your offers.  I booked a two-night stay at Caesars that included – what I thought was – a $150 food and beverage credit.  As instructed, I charged dinner and lunch from two of the participating restaurants, but when I checked my bill on the TV set, it showed two charges which I thought should have been picked up by the offer.  Turns out, the offer was only for food.  My bottle of wine at dinner and two iced teas at lunch were at my own expense.  No big deal, but it seemed a little odd.  Apparently, I wasn’t the only one to question this, according to the folks at VIP Check-In.  [Cheapskate that I am, before checking out, I went next door to Harry’s Oyster House and got 2½ pounds of “peel-and-eat” shrimp to go – worth about $40.  I wasn’t about to give back any of the $150!]  Related to this, similar promotions were offered in different denominations, but some also included restrictions regarding which hotels were available on certain days.  Also, remember that, in order to use an offer like this, your hotel stay must be booked under a specific offer code.  Just because you are staying at a participating casino hotel during the time the free deal is offered doesn’t automatically allow you to take advantage of the promotion.

Cash Banks To Close Early

Now, in the category of “What are they thinking?”  First, actual cash back was changed to free slot play which is good for up to 90 days after you earn it.  Now that three-month deadline has been reduced to 60 days.  Fine for those of us who frequent Atlantic City to take advantage of it, but not so good for those who make the trek perhaps once a quarter.  I’ve heard from several people in the latter category, and they are not happy.  With Borgata, Resorts, Trump and Golden Nugget – and perhaps Tropicana and Hilton (I’m not familiar with their player’s card programs) – all allowing 90 days, this puts Caesars casinos at a severe disadvantage when it comes to attracting big-time players who don’t have the time or the inclination to travel to Atlantic City on a more frequent basis.  Whether they will follow-through or not, several have written to me and said “this is the last straw” and the final incentive they need to switch allegiances.

Seven Stars Benefits – That Don’t Exist

If you want to know what special benefits exist at the four Caesars Atlantic City casinos, don’t depend on the Total Rewards Web site.  According to the site:

Bally’s

  • Access to SEV lounge Thursday – Sunday (Available at Harrah’s Only)  [My guess is that “SEV” refers to the Seven Stars Lounge which is available also at Caesars.  And what about “exclusive access” to Bally’s Diamond Pointe area?  See more on this below.]

Caesars

  • Access to SEV lounge Thursday – Sunday (Available at Caesars Only)  [See comment above regarding Bally’s.]
  • Access to our exclusive slot room, Diamond Cove, Mondays – Thursdays  [Ah, but see the next “benefit”!]
  • Access to our exclusive slot room, Diamond Cove every day, including weekends and holidays  [So, if it’s available to you every day – “including weekends and holidays” (what other choices are there?) – why list as a “benefit” that it’s accessible Mondays – Thursdays?  But, wait, there is no Diamond Cove at Caesars!  The “exclusive slot room” is called Palace Court.]

Harrah’s Resort

  • Access to our exclusive slot room, Diamond Cove, Mondays – Thursdays  [See comments above regarding Caesars.]
  • Access to our exclusive slot room, Diamond Cove every day, including weekends and holidays  [See comments above regarding Caesars, but note that there is a Diamond Cove at Harrah’s.]
  • [Why is there no reference to the Seven Stars Lounge?]

Showboat

  • Access to our exclusive slot room, Diamond Cove, Mondays – Thursdays
  • Access to our exclusive slot room, Diamond Cove every day, including weekends and holidays  [Uh, it’s called “Jackson Square” at Showboat.  See comments above regarding these other “exclusive slot rooms”.]
  • [Why is there no reference to the complimentary Sunday brunch from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.?]

And, what’s the big deal about access to these “exclusive slot rooms”?  Most of the time there is no one standing guard to check player’s cards, and I find it hard to believe that someone showing up with a wad of $100s and no Diamond or Seven Stars card is going to be denied access.

Bally’s

Goodbye, Red Pearl; Hello, Nanking

When Mr. Ming’s reopened as Red Pearl, I was sadly disappointed at the interior design, as well as the food.  The sign now reads, Nanking – Asian Fusion, but it doesn’t seem to be open yet.  Let’s hope for some improvements.

Caesars

Seven Stars Lounge Needs Some Direction

While I’m flattered that my opinion seems to be important to a lot of people who play in Atlantic City and want to know what I think of the new Seven Stars Lounge, I wanted to hold off making comments until it had been open a while.  However, after three months and five personal visits (three for cocktails – twice on weeknights, once on a Friday; once for lunch; and once for late-night dessert and after-dinner drink on a Saturday) – and many, many negative e-mails from Seven Stars cardholders, I feel compelled to raise some issues that someone needs to address.  The biggest problem is the room itself, but, hey, you work with what you’ve got, and there wasn’t much you could do with that big box of a room, formerly housing the Bacchanal.  The décor and furnishings are another story.  The style certainly isn’t to my taste, but you’re never going to please everyone.  What the room does need is more tables.  It shouldn’t take a rocket scientist to notice that the first seats to go are those surrounding tables.  Those long lavender sofas may look nice around the perimeter of the room, but try setting your drink down – or, worse, try to balance a bowl of soup or a plate of food – on those tufted leather (faux leather?) “cocktail ‘tables’”.  When a server brought my iced tea at lunch, she offered to leave behind her tray so I would have something solid to put my drink on.  Why go to all that expense to create a fancy atmosphere, then leave a beat-up serving tray behind so your guest has some place to rest his food and drink?  Come on, now.  And, speaking of food, for weeks I had been salivating over the sweet corn bisque and crab fritter I spotted on the menu.  When I finally got a chance to order it, it tasted like a bowl of warm milk into which kernels of raw corn had been scraped.  I barely had two spoonsful, and pushed it aside.  It was tasteless, and the undercooked corn was bitter.  God knows what that light green “oil slick” floating on top was!  Worse, the server never even questioned why I would leave almost a whole bowl of “soup” practically untouched.  That evening, a gentleman sitting next to me at the bar ordered the “Filet Mignon”.  The meat was about the size of a silver dollar and was artfully balanced on about two tablespoons of mashed potatoes.  He admitted he didn’t expect a full dinner, but this was ridiculous, he said – especially when he could have gotten all the prime rib he could handle by heading downstairs to the Diamond Lounge.  And, for those of us who just want a couple pre-dinner cocktails, is it too much to ask for the availability of some mixed nuts, or a nice cheese plate (as they have at the Harrah’s lounge)?  I even hinted to the server that maybe he could “borrow” some nuts from the Diamond Lounge downstairs, but the thought went totally over his head.  Oh, and don’t even think about ordering any food from the bartenders.  If you’re sitting at the bar, they’ll hand you a menu, but it’s up to you to track down a server (or hope one stops by) to place your order.  Considering that the bartenders are rarely that busy, and spend most of their time watching TV or talking to their colleagues, isn’t it too much to ask that guests deal with two different employees just to get a shrimp cocktail?  Again, the bartenders at Harrah’s take orders, as do the bartenders at the Diamond Lounges.  (On my last visit for a late-night after-dinner drink and some ice cream, I sat at the bar for five minutes before someone came to take my drink order – in the scheme of things not that long, but when you’re sitting alone watching the bartender glued to a soccer match on TV and chatting with the other servers, it seems like an eternity.)  When she finally spotted me, she asked, “Is this your first time here?”  “No, actually, you made a drink for me about 30 hours earlier,” I replied.  When she asked if I wanted some food, I said, “Just a little dessert.”  She brought me the menu (which I didn’t need), and when no one came to take my order, gently chided me for not propping the menu upright on the bar.  I apologized for not knowing the “secret code” necessary to get served.  Enough already!  Just take my order and relay it to a server.  Finally, how about a friendly greeting when you enter?  Unlike Harrah’s (and I hate to keep making comparisons to such an established operation, but maybe the folks at Caesars could learn something instead of going out of their way to be “different”), a revolving door of the same folks who work at VIP Check-In, as well as the Diamond Lounge, swipe your player’s card as you enter.  It’s fine if you know the person, but, usually, the individual sitting there is busy checking personal e-mails and barely gives you the time of day.  He or she is probably bored due to the fact that so few people are frequenting the lounge.  In addition, management needs to be more visible – and shouldn’t be wasting time bringing food orders to tables when there appears to be plenty of servers.  If the rumor is true about the high level of staff turnover – and I’ve heard it from a number of sources – someone in charge needs to step up and fix a very broken situation.  I’ll stick to the Caesars Diamond Lounge where I feel I’m treated more like a real VIP.

Parking Garage Reminder

Have you ever self-parked somewhere, only to return later and forget where you parked?  Caesars offers “memory joggers” in the form of little cards near the elevator that read:

 

WELCOME TO CAESARS

YOU ARE PARKED ON

FLOOR

X

COLOSSEUM GARAGE

 

Nice touch!

Nero’s: Two Thumbs Down!

Maybe it’s because I had just seen Spartacus a few days earlier on TCM, but the first thing I did after finishing dinner at Nero’s last month was make a fist and point my thumb downward.  After a three-year absence (I’d had a succession of less-than-desirable experiences there, including a disastrous Seven Stars “Celebratory Dinner”), I returned reluctantly, but expecting some improvements.  Rebranded Nero’s Tuscan Steakhouse (which seems to mean that you add some cheap white bean side dishes to entrees), dinner was “OK” but nothing extraordinary.  “Steak-ed out” following dinner the previous evening at the fabulous new Vic & Anthony’s over at the Golden Nugget, my guest and I wanted something a little lighter.  I thought I found it in the swordfish special ($42), and my friend had the pressed chicken.  Both were perfectly cooked:  The fish was not overly done and had the requisite grill marks; the chicken was crispy on the outside, moist on the inside.  However, both entrees were just bland, both in taste and presentation. My fish came with a few stalks of broccoli raab, some potato puree and a big glob of what I would best describe as fig chutney.  Now, I love figs, but this stuff would have been more appropriate slathered on toast at breakfast.  It was cloyingly sweet, and there was so much of it, it dominated the plate – and not in a good way.  And, what about that special treatment for Seven Stars cardholders?  Nothing – not even the chocolate-covered strawberries which the table next to us received.  (Even Reflections over at Harrah’s Resort was giving complimentary mimosas at breakfast – and, not only to Seven Stars cardholders, but to Diamond, as well.)  In summary, Nero’s is just a little “tired” and could use a makeover.  With its dark paneling and subdued lighting, what once seemed clubby and elegant, now just seems dated and claustrophobic.  When Caesars closed Primavera, it should have shuttered Nero’s as well, and made the entire floor the Atlantic Grill.  I haven’t tried it, but I plan to write a full report next month.

Harrah’s Resort

Dos Caminos

Be sure to bring your flashlight if you dine at Dos Caminos.  While I enjoyed my dinner there last month, it was almost impossible to read the menu due to the low light level.  Even the servers used flashlights to confirm who-ordered-what before bringing it to the table.  The food was delicious, but don’t expect Taco Bell – or that fast food chain’s low prices.  Three tacos (made with high-quality and perfectly grilled beef – not ground beef with “fillers”) will set you back about $17, as will a modest-sized serving of chicken enchiladas.  Two entrees also included a coffee-cup sized bowl of rice and another of saucy beans, i.e., one bowl of each to share.  And, yes, the food’s a bit on the spicy side – not overwhelming, but be forewarned.  Back to the pricing:  The least expensive bottle of red wine hovers in the mid-$30 range.  Also, unlike most Mexican restaurants, there are no baskets of complimentary tortilla chips and salsa.  As a matter of fact, be prepared for the “upsell” as your server enthuses over your choice of several handmade guacamoles – all at an extra charge, of course.  In a world of casino dining that seems to focus on steakhouses and Italian eateries, it’s nice to have the option of “Modern Mexican”.  I just hope there is more demand – and Harrah’s does more to promote it.  Unless you know those restaurants upstairs exist, it’s easier to grab a quick meal at Bob’s Bar & Burger (as awful as their burgers are) and Reflections, or something more substantial at McCormick & Schmick’s.  Despite what the ad for Dos Camino touts, it was a Friday night around 11 p.m. and I didn’t see anyone “shaking their maracas to the hottest DJs on the Shore”.  The music was a little on the loud side, but the place was practically empty.

General

Seven Stars Countdown

Following up on an item from last month, for the benefit of those Diamond cardholders who aspire to Seven Stars status – and those former Seven Stars cardholders who may be returning to the fold this year – let’s track how long it takes.  As I wrote in August, I know someone who topped 100,000 tier points July 29.  Here’s a chronology of “events” leading to receiving the actual card – just a week later!:

  • July 29 – Player earns 100,000+ tier points.
  • August 1 (or could have been July 31) – Both Total Rewards Web site and myTR app show not only up-to-date tier score, but indicate player’s “Current Tier” as Seven Stars.
  • August 4 – Player receives Total Rewards statement via e-mail which also indicates Seven Stars status.  Local host at Harrah’s Chester prints new cards.  Player takes cards to Atlantic City to add photograph.
  • August 5 – Player receives e-mail confirmation from Total Rewards.
  • August 12 – Player receives official Seven Stars welcome package and booklet

Not bad, considering some folks have complained that it took weeks – which is what this player was told.

Extra Credit

Many restaurants in Caesars casinos around the country participate in Open Table (http://www.OpenTable.com).  It’s a quick and easy way to make a dining reservation and you can earn Dining Reward Points for OpenTable Dining Cheques which can be used at any participating OpenTable restaurant.  Most restaurants earn you 100 points per reservation, but many offer “specials” that earn 1,000 points for dining on a certain day and at a select time.  You need a minimum of 2,000 points to redeem a Dining Cheque, issued in three denominations, with the following point values:

United States:
2,000 OpenTable Points = $20 OpenTable Dining Cheque
5,000 OpenTable Points = $50 OpenTable Dining Cheque
10,000 OpenTable Points = $100 OpenTable Dining Cheque

Canada
Redeem 2,000 points and get a $26 OpenTable Dining Cheque
Redeem 5,000 points and get a $65 OpenTable Dining Cheque
Redeem 10,000 points and get a $130 OpenTable Dining Cheque

United Kingdom
Redeem 2,000 points and get a £15 OpenTable Dining Cheque
Redeem 5,000 points and get a £37.50 OpenTable Dining Cheque
Redeem 10,000 points and get a £75 OpenTable Dining Cheque

Ignorance Is Not Always Bliss

I met a very charming couple from Pennsylvania at the Caesars Seven Stars Lounge.  They had been Seven Stars cardholders for more than three years and never knew about the Seven Stars Lounge at Harrah’s Resort – despite the fact that they stayed and played there almost exclusively (often in the shadow of the lounge at Diamond Cove).  As we talked longer, it was clear that – other than the “basics” – they knew very little about all the benefits they were due.  Part of the problem, we surmised, is that their host is a “freelancer” (based in Pennsylvania) who represents a number of casinos and probably isn’t aware herself.  The couple also confided that her service has deteriorated over the years, but they’re embarrassed to complain and feel awkward expressing their frustration because they’ve become so “close” to her.  Lesson #1 folks, if your host isn’t doing his/her job, ask for someone else.  Directly and indirectly, you’re paying this host’s salary.  If you owned a business, you’d fire an employee who wasn’t performing; it’s the same with your host.

Tipping Tips

On the Seven Stars Insider Web site, I note that the staff at the Seven Stars Lounge at Harrah’s Resort in Atlantic City treats its customers very well, and that customers should do likewise, i.e., be sure to leave a gratuity.  From what I – and several others – have observed, too many people are simply walking out of the Diamond and Seven Stars Lounges and not leaving tips (or modest ones, at best).  For years I have been advocating that guests should receive an itemized “bill” with all their drinks and food.  It would be stamped with a big “Complimentary” but also, in large letters, it would say, “Gratuity Not Included”.  People don’t realize the value of what they are receiving, for one thing, and others are just plain cheap.  They figure they dropped a bundle in the casino and are “owed” all this free food and drink (and, apparently, service).  Caesars could do its wait staff in these lounges and clubs a great service by taking my advice and presenting “checks” to everyone before they leave.  Not only might it increase gratuities for the servers, but it would educate players what they’re getting in return for their play on the casino floor.

‘Bait and Switch’?

Speaking of new cardholders, since it appears that a number of players are just starting to qualify for Seven Stars for the first time, they may be disappointed to learn that the gifts listed in the descriptive copy on the Web site – “We’ve chosen a wide range of items that will apply to even the most discriminate of tastes.  From a Garmin Nuvi to a set of Reed & Barton wine glasses, no object will disappoint.” – are not even being offered.  The only “choices” – if you can call them that – available this year are one of two digital cameras, a 3D Blu-Ray player, an Apple 8GB iPod Nano or a Kindle.  Nice gifts, but if you’re a “techie” you probably already have any of these items you’d be interested in.  You’ve either purchased them, or gotten them through some other casino giveaway.  Hopefully, next year, there will be more to select from.

Time For More Spelling, Grammar and Punctuation Lessons?

A sharp-eyed newcomer to Seven Stars found yet another error in the fancy book everyone gets:  On page 45, the “Unforgettable Trip to Chicago. . .must be taken in it’s [sic] entirety during one trip.”  Then there’s the Contact page on the Total Rewards Web site.  One of the FAQs is “How do I get in touch with Caesars’s [sic]?”  Perhaps the writer wasn’t sure which form to you, so he/she used several to cover all bases.

General Manager’s Clubs

Seven Stars cardholders (and Diamond cardholders with 30,000 or more tier points) have a nice benefit in the General Manager’s Clubs at several casinos in the Midwest.  Each Club is a little different in what it offers, according to those who have visited.  For instance, while the Diamond Lounge in Kansas City charges for alcoholic beverages, the GM Club doesn’t.  There is more limited food service than in the Diamond Lounge, but the quality is higher, e.g., prime rib, shrimp.  There also are iPads to use, a massage chair, Wii and other “toys” (as someone described them).  At the Horseshoe in Council Bluffs the food offerings are a little more extensive, but not by much, report others.  In addition, the GM Clubs hold special events and promotions.  Some of the GM Clubs, in Joliet, for instance, are “virtual”, i.e., there is no physical GM Club, but perhaps just a kiosk in the Diamond Lounge to swipe your player’s card for some special drawing or event.  After an overnight stay in Joliet a couple months ago, I have been bombarded by special offers, free play, dinners, etc., all part of my membership in the GM Club.

Don’t Believe Everything You Read In The Papers (or Magazines)

The editors of Total Rewards Magazine need a geography lesson.  Harrah’s Resort in Atlantic City is not located on the Boardwalk, and the Atlantic Grill is open at Caesars (which is on the Boardwalk), not Harrah’s.  According to the Fall 2011 edition, “Harrah’s [Resort] already had a baker’s dozen of delectable restaurants, but four new eateries have made this casino the culinary king of the Boardwalk. . . .Atlantic Grill, run by Food Network veteran chef Anthony Amoroso, offers organic freshwater and seafood delights along with spectacular views of the ocean.”

Updates

  • Caesars Atlantic City – Just when I thought it safe to enter my room and not slip on menus from local restaurants, there it was again!  A.C. Pizza Palace II is back!  (At least the elevator that wasn’t recognizing key cards is working again!  As a matter of fact, a couple weekends ago, you didn’t even need to insert your key; just push a button and up you went.)
  • Harrah’s Chester – I guess we’re all going to have gamble a little more there.  A much-needed paint job in the self-parking garage started, but it seems to have stalled at the first level.  I’d be happy to pitch in a few bucks; it would be cheaper than recovering from several near collisions in the garage due to the poor signage and worn-off markings on the garage floor.
  • Harrah’s Resort Atlantic City – They actually reprinted the Straight No Chaser posters with the misspelling of Harrah’s; however, someone forgot to replace the one out front at the Brigantine entrance.

Let’s Try This Again. . .

More than a year ago I made a couple suggestions which, I think, are worth restating:

  • Toll-Free “Hotline”- Major airlines and hotels have them for their “elite” customers, why can’t Caesars have a dedicated Seven Stars toll-free number where cardholders can call to get answers to their questions?  Too many times, you ask someone a question and he/either doesn’t know, or gives you the wrong answer.  One definitive source would make life a lot easier.
  • Advisory Board – Several years ago I was honored to be part of an advisory board for Starwood Hotels & Resorts.  There were 30 us serving staggered three-year terms, i.e., there were 10 new members joining the board each year, as 10 others “retired”.  All of us booked a considerable number of hotel room nights each year and planned a wide variety of events including annual conventions, incentive trips, etc.  We met over weekends three times a year at various properties around the country.  Couldn’t Caesars benefit from the ideas and thoughts of its “best” customers?

Question Of The Month

My husband and I have to be in Los Angeles the weekend before Thanksgiving.  We thought it would be great if we took a nonstop flight from there to Philadelphia (there are no nonstops from our home airport near San Diego), spend a few nights in Atlantic City, take the train (at our expense) to a nearby town in New Jersey to spend Thanksgiving weekend with our kids, then fly back to San Diego from Philadelphia.  My host tells me my annual Seven Stars trip has to be a round-trip ticket from my home airport to the casino’s local airport.  That just doesn’t seem right.  Any suggestions which might be beneficial to me?  My understanding is that you have a $600 per person coach airfare credit, and you can use it practically any way you want.  Your request seems extremely logical, and should not be a problem.  Give your host this example:  My “home casino city” is Atlantic City/Philadelphia.  I spend spring, summer and fall there.  However, in the winter, I travel to my second home in Florida.  I decide to take my Seven Stars trip to Las Vegas in mid-April, and return not to Miami, but Philadelphia.  Do you think Caesars is going to make me travel back to Philadelphia (at my own expense) just to start the trip from my “home” city?  Or make me fly back to Miami, when it’s more convenient for me to return to Philadelphia?  If your host won’t book it, speak to her supervisor – usually the casino’s director of marketing.  Your host is ill-informed and not very accommodating.  I’d also ask for a new host.

Great Race Giveaway

I’m not sure who came up with this promo, but someone should have thought it through a little better.  I know too many people who are sending their Total Rewards cards to their friends around the country and asking them to swipe in at their nearest Caesars casino and play the requisite one tier point.  [Of course, I’m not suggesting you do this!]  Considering how cautious Caesars and many other casinos are when it comes to requiring identification for most transactions, I would have thought that this would have been the first requirement, i.e., physically presenting your card with ID at a Total Rewards Center.  Too late now!

Darryl D. McEwen, Publisher

Seven Stars Insider