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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Welcome Back, Carl!
Popular Diamond Lounge bartender Carl is back after an extended medical leave.
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
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.
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.
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 (firstname.lastname@example.org) and I’ll share your thoughts – anonymously, of course.
Darryl D. McEwen, Publisher
Seven Stars Insider