Seven Stars Insider – January 2012 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.  As always there is a lot of information in this edition. Read on for all the goods.

Harrah’s New Orleans

Heading Santa’s Naughty List
I’m a big fan of Harrah’s New Orleans, and have never experienced anything but first class service and a good time.  I always describe the hotel as being more like a Ritz Carlton or Four Seasons – though I wish they had included a spa in their initial plans.  However, based on the volume of e-mails I received during 2011, New Orleans got the most complaints about everything from missing comp dollars, screwed up hotel and dinner reservations, and uncaring and inefficient hosts.  Admittedly, it’s been awhile since I’ve been down there, but I hope they can get their act together.  It may just be a vocal minority that’s having these bad experiences, but word is spreading throughout lots of message boards on the Internet, as well.  There’s often a fine line between perception and reality and, like a woman scorned, an unhappy gambler – especially if he/she is losing – can be your worst nightmare.

Las Vegas

Caesars Palace

See Celine For A Good Cause
If you haven’t seen Celine Dion’s new show in the Colosseum, you can help raise money to fund research for and increase awareness of sickle cell anemia by attending a special performance at 8:30 p.m. on Sunday, January 15.  Ticketholders also get to attend an exclusive reception at PURE Nightclub, sponsored by Southern Wine & Spirits.

Merry Excess-mas
In case you missed it, Christmas Eve/Christmas dinner at Guy Savoy last year was a mere $358 per person (not including beverages, taxes and gratuity).  The menu included:

Oysters in Ice Gelée
Langoustine and Fennel
“Colors of Caviar”
Roasted John Dory in Sage and Tarragon Crust
Artichoke and Black Truffle Soup, Toasted Mushroom Brioche, and Black Truffle Butter
Poussin “en Cocotte” and Albufera Jus
Brie Black Truffle
Champagne Dessert
Chocolate

For further decadence at Caesars – available year-round, go to Casa Fuente and try the “Forbidden Collection” of cigars costing up to $150 each, along with some rare scotch at $1,100 a shot.

Atlantic City

Eyes Wide Shut
I’m not sure whether Caesars employees have a vision problem or just don’t like confrontation.  Why is it, then, that even the most casual visitor to Atlantic City spots vagrants sitting at slot machines sound asleep?  One Saturday evening last month, a man with a large thick beard, wearing several layers of clothing – identity protected by a thick hooded parka, tucked a huge backpack between his legs, and napped for nearly an hour right outside the Diamond Lounge at Caesars.  The same man was spotted in a different section of the second floor casino the day before.  Many players – particularly women – simply refuse to play at the Boardwalk casinos just because they don’t feel safe.  “Sleepers” aren’t exclusive to the Boardwalk, though.  Over at Harrah’s, a woman was sleeping at a table in front of Club Cappuccino as two security guards chatted away in front of her, seemingly oblivious to the situation.  While there’s no reason to believe these nappers are doing anything but catching 40 winks in the warmth of the casino, nevertheless, no other business would be as tolerant.

Easy Revenue Source For AC
If the city police better patrolled Arkansas Avenue between Wild Wild West and Caesars they could write a bunch of tickets for illegally parked cars.  On several occasions during the New Year’s weekend, friends picked me up from the first floor exit of the Centurion Tower at Caesars; I was amazed at the number of cars that were parked there – most of them minus the driver and/or any passengers.  While, theoretically, the three sets of doors to Caesars on Arkansas only can be opened from the inside, folks seem to have no problem prying them open from the outside.  It’s not such a big deal with the two sets of doors leading into the casino, but the fact that individuals are entering the door leading into the first floor of the Centurion Tower makes me a little nervous.

Controversial Decision Paying Off
It didn’t sit well with a lot of Diamond cardholders, but Caesars decision to require a minimum of 25,000 tier points to enter the four Atlantic City Diamond Lounges at no charge is apparently paying off.  While I’ve seen no official statistics, based on conversations with certain casino executives, as well as talking with a number of players, a lot of people went out of their way to reach that 25,000 point threshold by the end of 2011.

Home For The Holidays
Many “regular” players skipped their trips to Atlantic City last month when they learned that the Diamond (and the Seven Stars Lounge at Harrah’s), as well as several buffets, restaurants and other venues were closing for several days – and, in some cases, weeks – at a time.  Others were downright angry – some, just perplexed – when they got to one of the lounges, only to find it was closed.  At least Harrah’s offered the option of a Waterfront Buffet to eligible cardholders.  This year, Caesars management, please decide further in advance if – and when – you are going to close lounges, buffets, restaurants, The Pool at Harrah’s and other venues.  Then, let everyone know!  (I’ll even help you spread the word – plus, I’ll be reminding you in November to start thinking about this.)

Airshow Moves To Friday
The 10th Annual Atlantic City Airshow will be held August 17 – a Friday, rather than the traditional midweek timeframe.  Headlining the show once again will be the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds and the U.S. Army Golden Knights.

Bally’s

Seven Stars 101
The VIP Registration staff and Total Rewards crew need a crash course in Seven Stars cardholder benefits – specifically, the Companion card.  My “companion” tried to check in at Bally’s VIP last month, and was condescendingly told to check-in at the “regular” registration desk.  When I stopped in later to find out why, I was told that, “of course, we would extend that courtesy to a Seven Stars Companion cardholder.”  Apparently, Chris who was working there that afternoon didn’t know this.  Furthermore, when I inquired at Total Rewards, the gentleman at the Seven Stars section said he didn’t know and, when he checked with his manager, told me that his manager didn’t know either.  Shouldn’t there be a list of basic benefits handy at each Total Rewards desk and each VIP Registration?

Send Me No Flowers
Apparently, the New Year’s Eve dinner at Bally’s was another outstanding example of the fine work done by the hotel’s food and beverage department.  I heard many wonderful compliments about the food, service, music and ambience – both at dinner and the Sunday brunch.  However, some miscommunication – later apologized for – caused a bit of a scene at the conclusion of the dinner.  When some guests tried to leave with flowers from the centerpieces, many were chased by security guards who told them the flowers couldn’t leave the ballroom because they were needed for the brunch.  Frankly, I always find it appalling how some people walk off with table decorations – many times before the event even concludes.  Sometimes guests even “fight” for the flowers!  [The worst I’ve seen was at Caesars New Year’s Eve when a woman pulled out a pair of manicure scissors and began cutting off the strands of “crystals” from the decorations suspended over some of the tables.]

Caesars

Welcoming 2012 In High Style
Caesars hosted an absolutely flawless New Year’s celebration this year:  simple, but elegant and understated invitations. . .tasteful and creative hors d’oeuvres (steak tartare in mini-parmesan tuille cups, slices of rare ahi tuna on tiny pancakes, grilled baby lamb chops, etc.). . .stunning décor in the Palladium Ballroom that elicited audible gasps as the doors were dramatically opened.  All this was complemented by an imaginative dinner menu featuring a salad with the largest shrimp I’ve ever seen, followed by a dual entrée of roasted mero (a delicious white fish that was so moist it literally cut like butter) and lobster-crusted filet.  Dessert, below, was an edible miniature “snowman” encased in half a “snow globe” (made of sugar), perched atop vanilla sponge cake filled with Meyer lemon mousse and covered in vanilla butter cream, sitting in a pool of light blue “ice”.  It looked beautiful, and tasted even better.  The versatile musicians backing up four equally versatile singers provided continuous entertainment and dance music, breaking only for two professional dance exhibitions right out of those opening numbers on Dancing With The Stars.  Brunch the next day was just as outstanding.  Congratulations – and thank you! – to all involved.

Morton’s Steakhouse Chain Sold
After Landry’s Inc. bought Trump Marina, it had one of its chain restaurants – the Rainforest Café – already ensconced in Trump Plaza, as well as McCormick & Schmick’s at Harrah’s Resort.  Now Morton’s Steakhouse in Caesars is in the same situation.  Last month, Houston billionaire Tilman Fertitta bought Morton’s Restaurant Group Inc. in a $117 million deal.

Harrah’s Resort

Breakfast Of Champions
Kudos to the staff at the Diamond Lounge for their excellent breakfast buffets late last month.  Anticipating larger crowds due to the holidays – and with the closing of Reflections to make way for Sammy D’s (see below) – management opened the Diamond Lounge for breakfast on a temporary basis.

Room Maintenance
Hopefully, it was an isolated case, but one of the electrical outlets in my room last month had a cracked coverplate, above, exposing potentially dangerous wiring to a curious child or even a careless adult.  A similar cracked plate partially covered another outlet in the hallway near the elevator.  When I reported this at check-out, the clerk said the room should not even have been assigned.  But, how would anyone know?  Housekeepers don’t seem to report these maintenance issues, and, apparently, housekeeping supervisors don’t notice them either.  It’s up to us, as guests, to notify the front desk when we spot these problems, but no one seems to take the initiative.  Next time there’s a burned out light bulb, a frayed lamp plug, etc., please call it to someone’s attention.

No Parking
The special reserved parking section for Seven Stars cardholders is currently open to anyone.  It appears that perhaps a frustrated driver just plowed through the second card-controlled gate.  I’m not sure why that warranted that the first gate should remain permanently open.

Sammy D’s
Scheduled to open last month, Sammy D’s – located in the area formerly housing Reflections – is now supposed to open this month.  Bill’s Bar & Burger, which has been serving breakfast during the transition, will discontinue that service once Sammy’s opens.  Ironically, breakfast at Bill’s was the best meal of the day.

Red Door: Improvement Still Needed
Not long after it opened, I visited the Red Door and wrote, “This fabled Elizabeth Arden institution is a disappointing experience for men.  The facilities need much stronger supervision, and the front desk personnel need more training.”  I’m happy to report that my experience last month found these problems corrected.  However, several things have not changed:  the men’s “grooming area” still has only two sinks, and the lighting is so bad, it’s like shaving in the dark.  (“Assuming it was a man,” I wrote earlier, “whoever designed the lighting should be forced to shave there for a month.”)  The spa also has the “wimpiest” Jacuzzis (in terms of jet strength), so it’s not the most satisfying way to relax.

Bet $20, Win $1 Million
An unidentified woman won $1 million on a $20 bet last month while playing poker.  The jackpot is the second of its kind for “Three Card Poker 6 Card Bonus” which began play at Caesars Entertainment casinos in September.  The woman said she had played the game only twice before and was at the table for about two hours. The winning hand was a royal flush in diamonds.  In October, an unidentified man won $1 million on a $19 bet in the game and last month a Virginia man won $100,000.

Harrah’s Chester (Pennsylvania)

Happy Fifth Anniversary!
Hard to believe, but January 22 marks the fifth anniversary of the opening of Harrah’s Chester.

There Has To Be An Easier Way. . .
Maybe it’s just me, but Chester’s “Beat the Freeze” is second only in confusion and complication to Bally’s “Beat the Heat” promotion in Atlantic City this past summer.  Here are the official rules – misspellings and missing words included:  “Guests can win free slot play on days in December in which the temperature is forecasted to be below 28 degrees Fahrenheit.  The weekly forecast will be displayed in the casino atrium (the forecast used will be NBC Channel 10) and will update each day at 10am.  When a day is forecasted to be below the 28 degrees threshold we will communicate that day as a ‘Beat the Freeze’ day.  The day prior we will promote the ‘Beat The Freeze Day’ through Facebook, Twitter, e-blasts and outdoor signage (Billboard).  Guests are then invited [to] come to the casino, swipe there [sic] card at the promotional kiosks on the 2nd floor starting at 10am to have a chance to receive 5 dollars slot play for every degree below 28 degrees.  500 guests will randomly receive the slot cash prize!”  December’s unseasonably warm weather probably saved the casino a lot of free slot play, but you have until January 15 to get in on the fun.  Checking the official NBC 10 forecast through January 8, though, only January 2, 3 and 4 are forecast to have temperatures less than 28 degrees.

General

Skating With The Stars
I hope you got to see Caesars Tribute II on NBC January 1.  It was an excellent show and gave Caesars some very positive publicity.  Taped at Boardwalk Hall in early December, the show was a tribute to Peggy Fleming, and featured some of the top female skaters from the United States, Canada, France and Japan.

Regrets, He’s Had A Few
In August 2010 Caesars Chairman Gary Loveman called his decision to reject an opportunity to acquire the Macao gaming subconcession controlled by Wynn Resorts Ltd. a “big mistake”.  “I was wrong.  I was really wrong,” Loveman told Bloomberg Businessweek.  Determined not to be left behind again, Caesars is focusing on U.S. expansion, according to Howard Stutz’s “Inside Gaming” column in the December 4 Las Vegas Review-Journal.  “Through a joint venture, the company will operate two of the four casinos opening [this] year in Ohio.  Caesars is the leading bidder for a downtown Baltimore casino project and is expected to earn the license for a casino in the Boston area.”  Further, Stutz writes, “The company is looking at Miami, the next potential casino expansion market.”

Reminders
Seven Stars cardholders, don’t forget you have only until March 31 to complete your annual celebration dinner and trip, order your gift, and, if applicable, complete your Signature Experience.  Trips require a 30-day advance notice, so make your plans by the end of February.

Tier Levels: It’s Not Just Gold, Platinum, Diamond and Seven Stars Anymore
My guess is that, similar to direct mail promotions and even certain products, Caesars is testing several ways to bridge the gap between Diamond and Seven Stars.  As I’ve written before, several Midwest casinos, as well as the Grand in Biloxi, have General Managers Clubs (some actually have separate physical locations for the clubs; others are just “virtual” and offer special quarterly or monthly benefits); about 15 months ago Rincon (and perhaps others) introduced Diamond Select and Diamond Signature cards, below; and the Atlantic City casinos have their “TR Insider” program which begins its second quarter this month.

Survey Says: New Year’s Resolutions
Among the additions to my list, suggested by readers:
Allow Companion cardholders (who do not qualify through their play) to bring one guest into Diamond and Seven Stars Lounges.

Offer free slot play as an alternative to the annual gift.
Be more sensitive to singles, as well as those widowed or divorced; too many events are so couple-oriented that those traveling by themselves feel uncomfortable or less welcome.
Allow Total Rewards credits (comp dollars) to be used toward airfare, rental cars and other travel – similar to Mohegan Sun’s player’s card program.

Survey: New Year’s Eve
I attended the parties at Caesars in Atlantic City, and I heard lots of nice comments about Bally’s parties in Atlantic City, but what about the rest of the country (and Caesars Windsor in Canada)?  How were those celebrations?  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 – October Edition

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

Harrah’s Ak-Chin (Phoenix)

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

Harrah’s New Orleans

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

Tunica

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

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

Las Vegas

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

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

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

Caesars Palace

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

Flamingo

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

Atlantic City

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

For example:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bally’s

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

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

Caesars

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

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

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

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

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

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

Harrah’s Resort

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Survey: Old vs New Slots?
Slot players, are you “addicted” to one or two machines, or do you get bored after a while and search out the latest additions to the casino floor? I had an interesting discussion on this topic recently, and thought I would informally poll readers. Send me an e-mail (sevenstarsinsider@gmail.com ) and I’ll share your thoughts – anonymously, of course.

Darryl D. McEwen, Publisher
Seven Stars Insider

Photo: Pulse of Las Vegas Blog

Seven Stars Insider – June Edition

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

Seven Stars Insider – June 2011
[Also featuring information/commentary on Golden Nugget’s Elite and Trump’s Signature Cards]

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

General

Think ‘Twice’ Before Using Comp Dollars – Part II
Add Taste of the Shore at Harrah’s Resort and Bally’s in Atlantic City to those outlets that accept Total Rewards credits – but on a 2:1 basis.  That means your $8 sandwich at Sack O’ Subs will cost you 16 comp dollars.  Ditto for the stand-alone Ben & Jerry’s and Pretzel Factory at Bally’s, as well as the new Harry’s (see below).  Meanwhile, down in New Orleans, according to an e-mail, “. . .[P]artner restaurants (Ruth’s Chris, Gordon Biersch, Grand Isle) require $2 comps for each $1 served.  If you plan on having lunch and/or dinner at Fuddruckers, Lucky Dog, Macalister’s, Starbuck’s, Bambu and/or Besh Steak, please feel free to show your card – Cost for meal(s) will be deducted from your Reward Credit Comp Value. Note: Paper vouchers will have to be picked up from VIP Services [located in the high limit area/next to cashier cage] prior to lunch and/or dinner for ALL other partner restaurants.”

More On ‘Singles Discrimination’
One reader says she has no problem getting two single tickets from Total Rewards at Harrah’s in Las Vegas, so maybe that’s the secret – get your voucher there instead of Caesars Palace.  [She also pointed out that, since these ticket offers are based on a calendar month, if you’re traveling at the end of a month, you could get up to four free tickets.]  And, related to this issue, another “solo” player/traveler pointed out that those “two free buffets” offers should be split so single diners can get two free meals.  Definitely something to chew on.

Caesars Global Life
With its main focus on overseas expansion, Caesars Entertainment Corp. has formed Caesars Global Life to develop non-gaming hotels and restaurants.  In a statement May 9 the company said it will develop hotels via licensing, franchising and management agreements.

Discretionary Comps vs. Total Rewards Credits
The creativity some players exhibit in exhausting their Reward Credits so hosts can authorize discretionary comps is amazing.  Apparently, casinos in the Midwest allow players to exchange their RCs for cash and/or free play.  Somehow this just doesn’t seem fair for the rest of us, but, heck, these folks are just taking advantage of a loophole in the rules.

North Kansas City

Seven Stars Renewal Dinner
Think things were bad in Atlantic City?  One reader reported that her dinner consisted of a pasta bar with either red or white sauce, a potato bar and a taco bar.  A pre-Oscar dinner was even worse, but there were nice giveaways.

Chester

Web Site Woes
Someone needs to go through Chester’s Web site.  It’s in desperate need of updating.  Under “Temptations Buffet” special hours are posted for “Feb. 14th, Feb. 20 and Feb. 12st (sic).”  There are references to the Cove’s Prix Fixe dinner, but clicking on the link produces an “Oops. . .” page noting that the page is no longer available.  [The same dinner special is referenced under “Special Packages & Offers” where there also is a “Retail Package” that touts, “Buy 3 Items at Bijoux Terner and get a FREE Gifft (sic) with purchase!”]  The dinner is still available – and it’s a real bargain! – but you are unable to access the menu on the site.

Today’s Lesson:  How and When To Use An Apostrophe
I hope whoever is running the Cove knows more about food than punctuation.  [Happily, I can report they do; a recent dinner there was outstanding.]  The plural of crab cake is crab cakes, not crab cake’s as printed on the menu.  In addition, there was a sign outside the entrance promoting a special tapas menu on Wednesday’s (sic); again, the plural of Wednesday is Wednesdays (and it appears twice on the sign!).  Another sign outside the Temptations Buffet promotes its Italian-themed section featuring “Pizza’s and Pasta’s”.  And when there should be an apostrophe, there isn’t, evidenced by a sign to the right of the casino exit leading to Level 4 of the parking garage.  The sign says, “Its sure to please. . .”; make that “It’s sure to please. . . .”  And, finally, there is another sign flashing on the video screens throughout the casino that reads, “At Harrah’s Chester Its [sic] Easy To Check Your Reward Credits”.  Add an apostrophe between the “t” and “s” in “Its” – “It’s”.

A Little More Notice, Please
I received an invitation to a very nice brunch with $100 in free play on the Sunday prior to Memorial Day; unfortunately, the mailing arrived on Thursday, and I already had scheduled a long weekend in Atlantic City.  I’m not sure the brunch and $100 would have kept me in town, but, had I not made plans I definitely would have attended.

Harrah’s Chester Hotel?
Not sure where it’s located, but the cover of my Memorial Day Weekend mailer touted, “Call To Book Your Harrah’s Chester Hotel Stay Today”; however, there were no other references inside the mailer as to where the hotel is located or what number to call.

Winning Streaks Becomes Derby Burger Bar
What is Caesars Entertainment’s (and other casinos’) obsession with “burger bars”?  Add Chester to the list of casinos.  The Derby Burger Bar is basically a “reincarn-ivore-ation” (sorry, couldn’t help that!) of Winning Streaks on the simulcast level, one floor beneath the casino.  As a matter of fact, the original Winning Streaks sign is still there; it’s just covered up by the new sign.

Atlantic City

Signature Weekend vs. Dave Matthews Band Festival
Those driving or otherwise arriving by car to Atlantic City for the Signature Weekend should do their homework to avoid road closures, possible traffic jams and the anticipated 50,000 additional visitors expected each day June 24-26 attending the Dave Matthews Band Festival.  Not sure which event was planned first, but lots of “locals” already are crying “foul” over what could be a real mess.  Let’s hope for the best.

Food/Beverage Credits vs. RFB
If you’re staying at a Caesars property in Atlantic City and your room offer includes a food and beverage credit, make sure your room account is set-up properly.  I had a $100 credit, courtesy of Harrah’s Chester, and I was RFB at Caesars; however my first two room charges went against my Rewards Credits and not the $100 credit from Chester.  To correct this, my RFB was disabled, and I had to settle my bill personally at the conclusion of my stay.  [No big deal. . .those employees at Caesars VIP Check-In (Valerie, Carol, Jennifer, Gene, Joyce, et al) are so nice, I wouldn’t do anything to make their jobs any more stressful.  I continue to be amazed at the arrogance exhibited by some of the guests checking in there.  Please, your Seven Stars or Diamond card is a way to recognize your level of play, not a license to be rude and unnecessarily demanding.]  RFB is a nice convenience, but, unless you keep all your receipts, you have no way of knowing how many of your comp dollars you “spent” (or earned) during your stay.

Donny Osmond To Perform In August
Remember that rumor about Donny and Marie coming to Atlantic City this summer?  We’ll it’s partially true, but you won’t see Marie, and you won’t see Donny at a Caesars property.  He’ll be performing at the Borgata in August.

$1,000 Hand Pays
According to a slot manager at Harrah’s, the reason the $1,000 hand pay was instituted was so more people would qualify for the once-a-month $15,000 jackpot promotion open only to those who hit a jackpot $1,000 or more – even though they didn’t have one last month.

$8 ‘Resort Fee’?
Considering that casinos in Atlantic City are required to collect only $5 in New Jersey State and Atlantic City taxes, it appears that the additional $8 Caesars casino hotels collect is tantamount to a Resort Fee without any of the benefits usually associated with such an additional charge, e.g., free newspapers, local calls and Internet access.  Considering its Las Vegas properties tout “No Resort Fees” (something their MGM competitors collect from paying customers), I’m surprised competitors in Atlantic City don’t launch a similar campaign against Caesars.  Only Tropicana charges more than $5, and the Borgata allows guests to use comp dollars to pay these taxes.  Trump Signature cardholders have the taxes waived entirely at the Plaza, but not, ironically, at the Taj Mahal.

Giving Back
Kudos to Donata Caloiero from Caesars and her other Caesars Entertainment team members who volunteered last month during the United Way of Atlantic County’s eighth annual Day of Caring.

‘Wizard Of Odds’ Needs A Fact-Checker
He (or, maybe, she?) sounds more like a disgruntled player than a legitimate source of information about Atlantic City casinos.  The column in the May 27 edition of TV Atlantic magazine is full of inaccuracies and unsubstantiated claims.  “Best Casino Deals” include “Best Steakhouse – Ruth’s Chris” (Ruth’s Chris is not a casino steakhouse), “Best Italian Restaurant – Primavera’s [sic]” (Primavera closed several months ago to make way for the new Atlantic Seafood Grill), “Best Deli – The Deli [at Harrah’s]” (The Deli has been closed to make way for the new Bill’s Bar & Burger), “Best Buffet Food (tie) – Harrah’s” (and ?).  In addition, the Wizard claims that Prime Place (“Best Steakhouse”) and Magnums (“Best Player’s Club”) are gone (yes, but are now The Reserve and the Diamond Club, respectively), and that Pickles (“Best Jewish Deli’) is gone – last time I checked, it was still open and, over Memorial Day weekend, thriving, especially its outdoor seating.  Also, I’m not sure how the Wizard can blame “poor management” – his words – for employees who choose to retire or move to another position at a different casino.  He also blames management for “diminished” cocktail service, even though the new Total Touch system is one of the most advanced and high-tech ordering systems available – surely more efficient than trying to flag down a busy server.  And, “Best Birthday Gift” (two dozen long-stemmed roses)?  I’ll take free play or comp dollars any day.

Caesars
What’s Next?  No More Shampoo?
What’s happened to the notepads and pens in the rooms?  It’s a little thing, but we “old folks” sometimes need to write things down or we forget them.

Mr. Met’s Sleepover
Whoever produced and signed off on the Mr. Met video playing throughout Caesars apparently never stayed in the Centurion Tower.  A final scene shows Mr. Met putting a “Do Not Disturb” sign on his doorknob.  When the Centurion Tower was renovated, those signs were replaced by an electronic system that’s activated by pushing a button just inside the door.  A small red light on the room number panel in the hallway comes on to indicate the guest doesn’t want to be disturbed.  [Also, Mr. Met is probably the only guy allowed in Dusk with a baseball cap – I guess team mascots get special treatment.]

And, Speaking Of Those Room Numbers. . .
Would someone please dust the tops of those plexiglass squares with the room numbers mounted on them?  I noted this several months ago and the dust just keeps building up.  [I realize I’m overly harsh with Caesars, but I stay there almost exclusively, and they bill themselves as Caesars Entertainment’s “luxury” property in Atlantic City.  When a couple without a reservation checked in next to me on a recent Saturday night, they didn’t even blink at the quoted $249 rate.  At that price, they deserve better.  (But, doesn’t that rate make you appreciate those comp or discounted rooms you get?)]

Enough With The Menus Under The Doors!
Those marble floors in the entryways are slippery enough, but I almost fell tripping over the menus shoved under my door last month.  Perhaps it’s time for a certified letter – or, better yet, a personal visit – from Caesars management to AC Pizza Palace, Chelsea Pizza & Italian Grill, Pizza King and Tommy’s Seaside Grill & Pizza.  Whoever is distributing these menus is probably not a guest – or a guest of a guest – so isn’t that trespassing?

Please, Be Careful. . .
. . .if you choose to use the first floor Boardwalk exit from the Centurion Tower.  While, as far as I know, there have been no reported “incidents” there, I find it disconcerting to walk out the door and navigate my way between drunken vagrants sprawled out over the steps drinking from brown paper bag-covered beer cans.  It happened again Memorial Day evening around 6:45.  If you see some “unsavory characters” outside the door, simply turn around, get back on the elevator and exit through the casino.  Even more importantly, do not let anyone in through that door as you walk out.  That door is an exit, not an entrance, and it’s locked from the outside for a reason.

Bally’s

What’s More Central?
Bally’s is now using the tagline: “Be In The Center Of The Action”.  Sounds awfully similar to Trump Plaza’s longtime taglines: “The Center Of It All” and “The center of the Boardwalk.  The heart of the action.”

Cheapskates Of The Month Award

Business – Bally’s fast food outlets (Gold Tooth Gertie’s, Lone Star, Wild Wings) have the skimpiest paper napkins I have ever seen.  They’re about the same thickness (thinness?) as a piece of one-ply toilet tissue, only as “long” as two sheets of toilet tissue and 1½ times as wide.  [I took one to my room and measured it.]  If management thinks it’s saving money, keep in mind that the average customer is probably using 10 of these, as opposed to one larger and heavier one.

Individual – A customer at Gold Tooth Gertie’s in the Wild Wild West asked for a small paper cup and proceeded to fill it to the brim with milk from the dispenser meant for coffee.  Cheaper than buying a pint of milk at the local Wawa or 7-11, I guess.

Asleep At The Switch
Despite a slew of “No Sleeping” and “No Loitering” signs, the bus terminal at Bally’s was full of sleeping passengers and others who may – or may not – have been waiting for their transportation home.  I was meeting a friend at Bally’s the Sunday morning of Memorial Day weekend, and no one seemed to be enforcing the rules.  I couldn’t help but pull out my cellphone to snap the – admittedly blurry — photo below:

Total Touch Not Working?
OK, I guess one try isn’t a sufficient test, but a drink request using the new Total Touch system produced nothing but a long wait.  I tested the system about 7:40 a.m. on Mother’s Day and, after 15 minutes, no one ever showed up with my bloody mary.  I never even saw a server, and the Wild Wild West casino was practically empty.  If you can’t get a drink during a slow period, what’s it like on a busy Saturday night?  What’s your experience been?

Taste Of The Shore Opens
Smaller, but similar to the Taste of the Shore at Harrah’s Resort, Primo Pizza and Sack O’ Subs is open in the “gateway” corridor between Bally’s and the Claridge.  You can use comp dollars, but at a 2:1 ratio.

Sore Sight For Eyes
I don’t know anyone whose eyesight is so good that he or she can read the tiny type on those billboards Bally’s is using on the Atlantic City Expressway to promote its

Play 60 Minutes*
Get A Free Buffet
Who’s approving this ridiculous signage?  (And if the copy the asterisk refers to is so important, why not make it larger so everyone can read it?

And, Speaking Of Approving Copy. . .
Didn’t anyone review the full-page ads in the May 26 editions of At The Shore and Atlantic City Weekly?  The section promoting “Let’s Make A Deal” has Joey Fatone as the host – it’s now Alan Thicke – plus some really confusing copy

Wild Wild West Breakfast Buffet
I thought it seemed too good to be true, a weekend breakfast buffet for $10.99.  And, as many of you know, I’m not a fan of buffets, but, in the interest of this newsletter, I decided to try it.  Mistake!  It took me longer to stand in line for my omelet (20 minutes) than it did for me to eat it.  Plus, the buffet is set-up in such a manner that, after you get your eggs cooked to order, you then have to cut through the line in order to get at potatoes, biscuits and other accompaniments.  [A lot of people got the rest of their food first and then stood in line.  Hello!  Your food just gets cold while you wait for your eggs.]  The buffet also comes with a “steak”; mine was a small triangular piece of meat that looked like anything but a steak, but, ordered rare, I must admit, it was rather tasty.  If you go, though, don’t make the mistake that a lot of people did:  Don’t get into the “egg line” thinking it’s the “steak line”.  There is no line for the steaks, even though you might have a couple of people ahead of you.  And, Bally’s management, please fix the refrigerator door behind and to the right of the cook preparing the eggs.  Someone went to get a new bag of grated cheese, and the door practically fell off in her hands.

Another New Restaurant To Open
Harry’s Oyster Bar & Seafood will open this month in what was formerly the Sidewalk Buffet.  It will be operated by the owners of what many call “Atlantic City institutions” – Dock’s Oyster House and the Knife & Fork.  According to an interview published in the Press of Atlantic City, “The whole concept is that it’s a throwback to old seafood houses that were once predominant in the East Coast.  The idea that very fresh food prepared simply is outstanding.  The idea of people getting together eating oysters, clams and good fish should be a perfect fit.”  In addition to a 45-seat bar and seating for 140 more people inside, the restaurant also will extend into the Dennis Hotel courtyard, where an additional 25-seat bar and 60 more seats will offer outdoor dining.  Again, you can use comp dollars, but at a 2:1 ratio.

Loosen Up Slot Tournament Rules
A slot tournament from 7 to 11 p.m. June 10 requires winners to be present at 11:30 p.m. in order to collect.  Seems a little unfair – even if the grand prize is $10,000.  (And, what’s with all these huge first, second and third prizes?  I’m not talking just Bally’s, but everywhere.  Wouldn’t it be nicer if the prizes were a little less and more players won?  Just a thought.)

About Other ‘Premium’ Player’s Cards

Since many of you also have “premium” cards from other casinos’ player’s clubs, if news warrants, periodically, I’ll publish information (and my thoughts!) about programs such as MGM’s M life, Trump Entertainment’s Signature Card and the Golden Nugget’s 24 Karat Club Elite card.

Golden Nugget Elite – While the Golden Nugget is a welcome new addition to the Atlantic City gaming scene, its players club program is a major disappointment.  Basically, it’s a carbon copy of the Trump One Card program – meaning their Elite card (comparable to Trump’s Signature card) has very few benefits.  The benefits for the Elite card don’t even get a mention in the 24 Karat Club brochure; “Ask a host for details,” the brochure advises.  Problem is, when you ask someone, all you’re told is that benefits are basically the same as the Chairman card.  [Turns out, though, that you earn comps and cashback at an even higher accelerated rate than Chairman, and you get complimentary admission for two to the Chairman Club (normally 10 comp dollars per person).]  Why is Golden Nugget so afraid to put these “benefits” for its highest level player’s card in writing?  [Trump finally did this in its latest players club literature.]

Trump Signature – Trump Entertainment Resorts’ “management by accountant” policy is not only irritating its customers, but alienating them.  No one can quibble with sound business decisions, but just communicate them to your customers.  Last month, Trump closed down its shopping catalog (a new catalog has been promised), and drastically cut the hours of its flagship restaurants at Trump Plaza, as well as its popular Plaza Bar – all with little or no advance warning to its players.  The Plaza Bar was closed all of Mother’s Day weekend and is now closed on Sundays, leaving just Friday and Saturday hours.  The biggest punch in the gut last month was the purge of all comp dollars earned during the past six months at Trump Marina (now, the Golden Nugget).  [In an extremely generous move, Golden Nugget gave all its eligible players comp dollars equal to the amount they had banked in their Trump One account.]  However, none of this was communicated to its best players – most of whom receive at least one monthly mailing, along with weekly “weekend updates”.  Also gone are weekly e-mails from each of the Trump properties reminding customers of their offers and encouraging them to stay and play.  Sunday, May 15 (which may have been the first Sunday the closures of the Plaza Bar, Roberto’s and Max’s took place), Evo was packed to the gills, with customers spilling out into the crowded Boardwalk entryway, blocking escalators and causing “traffic jams” as customers tried to enter the casino.  Evo was obviously not prepared to handle the crowds, which further angered “regulars” and newcomers alike.  [Trump finally disclosed the Marina comp dollar situation in its June promotional mailer.]

Darryl D. McEwen, Publisher
Seven Stars Insider

This Dude Won $15 Million At Tropicana

Don Johnson Blackjack Player
Don Johnson

Don Johnson is the dude that won $15 million in Atlantic City last year by playing blackjack.  He won $6 million from Tropicana, $5 million from Caesars and $4 million from Borgata in 6 months.  His action was too high for Resorts and Trump Taj Mahal (and probably the other Trump properties too).  He seemed to be working on his own, with his own special methods.

Johnson, who declined to call himself a professional gambler, would not divulge his betting strategy. However, he emphatically said he is no cheater and denied being part of any gambling ring.

“I’m not breaking any laws,” he said. “I’m beating them with my own skills.”

It’s pretty clear he was out to make money and not for a good time with booze and fancy meals.  Further,

Jim Wortman, a former Atlantic City casino executive and nationally recognized gaming expert, said it was entirely plausible for one player to win so big at the blackjack tables – if he had sound knowledge of the game, deep pockets and exercised self-discipline.

“There are a lot of people who have the knowledge and who have the bankroll, but they fall short of discipline and start changing to losing hands,” said Wortman, gaming director at the Conrad N. Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management at the University of Houston.

Discipline and bankroll is something I don’t have and that’s why I gamble for fun.  Maybe someday I’ll grow older and become a smarter gambler, but I like my Grey Goose a bit much when I’m at the blackjack table.

Photo: Atlantic City Press

Seven Stars Newsletter – May Edition

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

Seven Stars Insider – May 2011 [Also featuring information/commentary on MGM’s M life and Trump’s Signature Card]

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

Las Vegas

Gratuity Tip
Those of you participating in the Mother’s Day Spa Giveaway May 6-8 in Las Vegas should note that gratuities are included “compliments of Caesars Entertainment”.  I’m not suggesting you leave nothing additional – or that you should, but, considering that most of these packages (such as some of the Signature Experiences) do not include gratuities, I just wanted to be sure you were aware of this.

Show Recommendation
Start with any Cirque du Soleil show on the Strip, eliminate the theme (water, circus, Elvis, the Beatles, magic, etc.), drop the “filler” (the clowns and other esoteric diversions) and put it on a typical old-fashioned casino showroom stage – one that doesn’t rise and fall or twist and turn.  What you get is Matsuri at the Imperial Palace – a nonstop 70 minutes of acrobatics, tumbling. juggling, dance and other displays of athletic prowess.  It’s not without production values; there are hundreds of light and sound cues, as well as ever-changing colorful animated projections.  And who knew jump ropes, hula hoops, batons and yoyos could serve as the basis for so many acts?  The relatively small cast is also one of the hardest working in Las Vegas.  Plus, it’s perfect for all ages.  Shows are Saturdays through Wednesdays at 4 p.m., though the 8 p.m. starting time on Fridays will still get the kids in bed by 9:30.  If you don’t qualify for free tickets, discount options abound, so even the cost of admission is family-friendly.  Matsuri is one of the best kept secrets and most under-rated shows in Las Vegas.  Do yourself a favor and enjoy it while it lasts.  (Maybe the powers-that-be would see fit to bring it to Atlantic City for a run?)

Burger Bar A Whopping Success
According to Gaming Wire, the Whopper Bar which opened at the Rio last month is an “unqualified success”.  The Whopper Bar concept blends the traditional Burger King menu with an upscale hamburger bar.  Customers choose from among 30 toppings and sauces.

Free Dessert At Serendipity 3
With purchase of an entrée or sandwich, Seven Stars cardholders can get a free cheesecake bites dessert at Serendipity 3 on the Strip in front of Caesars Palace.  [Formerly, the “freebie” was its famous frozen hot chocolate.]  Act quickly, though, because the last time I reported about a free food offer for Seven Stars cardholders, management eliminated the perk quicker than $100 disappears in a $5 slot machine.

Cascata Golf Course Sold?
According to several employees familiar with the deal, but who would speak only off-the-record, Cascata Golf Course is in the process of being sold.  One person said the sale shouldn’t make any difference for those players who like to golf there; another said he wasn’t sure what the new owners’ plan will be.  Stay tuned.

Single Discrimination?
It happened to me on my last trip – and I know it’s happened to others because you’ve e-mailed me.  I was staying at Caesars Palace – by myself – and decided to take advantage of the free show ticket offer for Seven Stars and Diamond cardholders.  Since eligible players get two complimentary tickets once each month, I figured I could get one ticket to two different shows.  No!  That’s what Manny at Total Rewards told me.  He also said that others have asked, so that’s why he was aware of the policy.  Short of finding another single to share two pairs of tickets, you’re stuck seeing just one show, with the other ticket going to waste.

Harrah’s Charging For Drinks On The Casino Floor
Well, sort of. . . .  I haven’t seen it anywhere else, but if you want an “ultra premium” cocktail (Belvedere, Grey Goose, Patron, Bombay Sapphire, 10 Cane, Glenfiddich, Gentleman Jack or Maker’s Mark) you can pay $3 to your server.  (14 Hands wine – cabernet, chardonnay and merlot – costs $5 a glass.)  Apparently, even flashing a Seven Stars card won’t exempt you from the charge.  (Several years ago this worked at Harrah’s Resort in Atlantic City and I was able to get premium drinks on the floor – and even “doubles”, but I don’t know if that policy still exists.)  Frankly, if someone would assure me that those “ultra premium” liquors are coming directly from the bottle (and not one of those “guns”), I’d probably spring for the extra three bucks, but I don’t play at Harrah’s anyway.

False Advertising At Harrah’s Café
I wish I’d had my camera, because here’s one for Consumer Reports’ inside back cover.  There are posters throughout Harrah’s promoting “Italian Night” at its Café.  The signs say:

3 Courses for $14.99*
Soup/Salad, Pasta/Pizza
*dessert available for $3.99

Huh?  By my calculation, it looks like we’re talking two courses for $14.99 and three courses for $18.98.

Diamond Lounge Guest Limits/Rankings
During my trip last month, if there was one single complaint I heard from Seven Stars cardholders, it was the “one guest limit” at the Diamond Lounges.  Noting that this is the same limit as Diamond cardholders, Seven Stars cardholders feel they deserve a little more.  (Interestingly, they also pointed out that they rarely bring anyone other than their spouse or partner, but it’s just the idea that they can’t bring in a second or third guest.)  So, Caesars management, listen to your customers.  It’s Marketing 101, won’t cost you any money and, apparently, has great importance to your top customers.  As it is, if the lounge isn’t that busy, a good door “guardian” will allow the extra guest(s), but why not make it official and end the complaints?

Speaking of Las Vegas Diamond Lounges, someone asked me to “rank” them, so, at the risk of going out on a limb – it won’t be the first time – here is my personal opinion (on a scale of 1-5, with 5 being the top score):

Ambience Bar Seating Food* Service
Harrah’s 5/Yes/5/5
Caesars Palace 4/Yes/5/5
Paris 5/Yes/5/4
Flamingo 2/No/5/5
Rio 3/No/4/3
Planet Hollywood 3/No/3/3
*all menus are basically the same; scoring is based on variety, quality, quantity and presentation

My visit to Planet Hollywood’s lounge last month was a disaster.  It was a Wednesday night around 7 and the place was practically empty.  I waited nearly 10 minutes before anyone stopped by to take my drink order.  Then, I didn’t get exactly what I ordered, but the drink was so tiny, I finished it rather quickly, and, again, 10 minutes passed, and no one returned to ask if I wanted a refill.  I rarely “stiff” servers, but, in this case, I just walked out, and had a better (and bigger!) drink on the floor over at the Bellagio.  (In fairness, www.casinocenter.com called the club “the best on the Strip” – noting “the small number of players” in the club.)  I’ve stopped going to the Rio lounge for the same reason – poor service.  Things may have changed there, but I haven’t returned in several years.  The Flamingo Lounge is way too small for a casino that large.  Located in a former Chinese restaurant, the lounge has limited seating which often forces you to share tables.  Eliminate all those clunky leather easy chairs, and they’d be able to increase seating.  Also, don’t expect too much from the bar.  Drinks are made by the same bartender who works at the burger joint next door and he/she can’t seem to make anything more complex than a vodka and tonic.  That said, considering the limitations on the menu, Flamingo ranks right up there with Caesars, Harrah’s and Paris in terms of offering a varied selection of crudités, dips and other snacks.  Frankly, all the lounges in Vegas have turned into nothing more than private sports bars.  There are too many televisions, and too much tolerance by the staff of loud and obnoxious behavior.  The night I was there, though, Ray at Harrah’s deserves credit for tactfully and politely quieting down a slightly inebriated customer and making him drink a bottle of water before granting him a refill.

New Orleans

Signature Event: Choose Your Weekend
Since there is a choice of two weekends for the New Orleans Signature Event later this year, if you have a preference, book early to be sure you get the weekend you want.

Atlantic City

Bye, Bye, Jay!
Jay Snowden, formerly senior vice president and general manager of both Harrah’s  Resort and Caesars, resigned last month and in October will become senior vice president of regional operations at Penn National Gaming near Harrisburg, Pa.  He will remain a Margate, N.J., resident.  Read the news release here.

June Signature Event Details
Details are now online, but, as reported earlier the Signature event in Atlantic City June 23-26 will feature a welcome party at the The Pool at Harrah’s Resort, Saturday night concerts by Lionel Richie at Caesars or “Straight, No Chaser” at Harrah’s, the House of Blues Gospel Brunch at Showboat on Sunday morning, 7X multiplier during the weekend, slot and blackjack tournaments, and an Apple Gift card promotion ($25 card for every 1,500 base rewards credits earned).
You Say ‘Mammels’; I Say ‘Mammals’

Not to diminish Caesars generosity, but a sign, reproduced below, informing guests that all coins from its second floor fountain were donated last month to the Marine Mammals Stranding Center, misspelled “mammals”.  It would have been nice if someone had proofread it.

Table Games Supervisors Laid Off
An undisclosed number of table games supervisors at the four Caesars-owned casinos have been laid off in the first round of personnel cuts related to New Jersey’s deregulation of the gaming industry.  New Jersey has adopted a less expensive and looser system of casino regulations similar to the Las Vegas model.  No word on whether the other seven Atlantic City casinos will follow suit.

Pier Shops Foreclosure Sale To Be Scheduled
Bank of America has been granted final court approval to foreclose on The Pier Shops at Caesars after the mall owner, Taubman Centers Inc., defaulted on the mortgage.  The next step is for Bank of America to schedule a foreclosure sale.

Showboat Parking Lot Theft
Police are searching for a man who stole two cartons of cigarettes from a vehicle at the Showboat casino April 10.  According to the Atlantic City Police Department, the man – identified either as white or Hispanic – is approximately 50 years old and was wearing a grey hooded sweatshirt and beige pants.  The victim was a 73-year-old Cherry Hill, N.J., woman who told police her car was broken into at the casino’s self-parking lot at 8:15 p.m.  The cigarettes were stolen from the back seat and trunk.

Vrrroooom For Improvement At Caesars Parking Garage
As I’ve written before, the self-parking garage at Caesars is an accident scene waiting to happen.  (Who knows?  There may already have been several.)  Drivers race through the levels as though it’s a NASCAR track, many not realizing that they’re driving on a two-way stretch.  The signage is pathetic and it’s rare to see any security patrolling the lot.  As if the speeding problem is not enough, no one seems to be policing the cars and trucks parked in “Small Cars Only” or “Compact Cars Only” spaces, or the yellow-lined no-parking areas near the entrances to the casino.  Between the pedestrians who tend to walk down the middle of the road, as well as the rear ends of trucks and SUVs that stick out into the roadway, parking is always a challenge.  Stick with valet – just make sure you know which location your car will be returned: “H” means the front entrance (“Porte Cochere”) where you dropped it off; all others (marked “C”) are delivered to the second level of the Temple parking garage across the skybridge from the Valet office.  In any event, you first need to swipe your parking ticket outside the Valet office next to the Bell Desk on the second floor just past the front desk.

Beer Garden Opens At Caesars
The owners of Dusk have opened the Boardwalk Beer Garden in the space formerly occupied by Planet Hollywood (and most recently, Dawn).  The beer garden has a wood bar inside, plus tables that can seat about 80.  When the weather is nice – as it was last weekend, the action moves outdoors, where picnic tables and other seating with umbrellas lines Caesars frontage and offers seating for about 200.

Don’t Get Cornered In Caesars Corner Rooms
After overnighting in one, I have serious reservations about again staying in one of those corner rooms in the Centurion Tower (XX18 and XX20, with “XX” standing for the floor number, e.g., 2018 and 2020).  They’re the ones which require entry through an unlocked door off the hallway.  Who knows if someone is waiting inside since the fire department won’t allow the door to be locked?  And don’t be fooled by the false security of needing to insert your room key in the elevator.  Since I tried it once when I was staying in the Ocean Tower, as long as one person enters the elevator and inserts his/her key card, everyone else can just “piggy-back” on this swipe and get to any floor.  [The same works for the Ocean Tower and most hotel elevators that require key cards, so it’s not just Caesars.]  I’m sure that’s how those pizza menus found their way inside that anteroom leading to my room and other next to it.  If the fire department won’t allow the doors to be locked, then they should be removed for everyone’s safety.

Think ‘Twice’ Before Using Comp Dollars
It’s a disturbing trend that just continues with the opening of the new Caffe Tazza at Caesars.  Yes, it accepts Total Rewards credits – but on a 2:1 basis.  That means your $2.50 cup of coffee will cost you five comp dollars.  While most casino-owned restaurants, as well as many shops and spas, accept comps on a 1:1 basis, i.e., one comp dollar equals US$1, others accept them on a 2:1 basis.  Unfortunately, this comp policy is not always clearly indicated, so there is a bit of “sticker shock” when that $150 dinner at The Pier ends up costing 300 hard-earned comp dollars.  While there has been a lot of discussion about restaurants in New Orleans, I’m most familiar with Atlantic City, so here is a list of restaurants, shops and other places that accept casino comp dollars, but at a 2:1 ratio:

·         Bally’s/Wild Wild West – Johnny Rockets, Ben & Jerry’s, M Star Mart, Macy’s gift cards, tobacco products at casino-owned retail stores.
·         Caesars – Morton’s The Steakhouse, Dusk (and, presumably, its new Beer Garden – see below), the aforementioned Caffe Tazza, tobacco products at casino-owned retail stores.  (For Pier Shops’ restaurants that accept comp dollars, see below.)
·         Harrah’s Resort – McCormick & Schmick’s Seafood Restaurant, Viking Cooking School, tobacco products at casino-owned retail stores.
·         Showboat – Johnny Rockets, tobacco products at casino-owned retail stores.

(Interestingly, the Johnny Rockets and other outlets at the Food Court in the Flamingo Las Vegas accept comp dollars on a 1:1 basis.)

In addition, the following restaurants at the Pier Shops accept Total Rewards® comp dollars:  Phillips Seafood, Sonsie, Game On!, The Trinity and Souzai.  (Check at a Caesars casino kiosk first, sometimes these restaurants offer specials, accepting comps on a 1:1 basis.)  You also can purchase gift cards – accepted at all Pier Shops outlets – on a 2:1 basis.

Smoking Ban Goes Unenforced
If you don’t smoke, head over to Bally’s because it’s the only one of four Caesars-owned casinos where The Press of Atlantic City didn’t observe anyone smoking in non-smoking sections.  The Borgata and Hilton got a similar clean bill of health, based on the newspaper’s observation of floor activity last month.  City officials claim they don’t have the staff to enforce Atlantic City’s partial smoking ban, and casino managers say they’re complying to the best of their ability.

Seven Stars Renewal Dinners
Depending on whom you talk to – and where you went – the April 16 dinners were either awful or fabulous.  The Caesars dinner got a “thumbs down” and the Bally’s dinner was a “thumbs up”.  No word on similar events at Harrah’s or Showboat.  Anyone have thoughts to share?  Are these dinners held just in Atlantic City or do other casinos around the country hold them?

Le Ombré
Le Ombré – with its combination of acrobatics, contemporary dance and other theatrics – is returning to Harrah’s Resort this month, beginning May 21 and continuing until June 1.  I highly recommend you attend.

Caesars Evacuated; Prompts Safety, Security Concerns
A short in the alarm system when Caesars computer room flooded due to torrential downpours set off an evacuation alarm around 11:30 p.m. April 16.  “At first, everyone ignored the sirens,” according to someone who was there.  “[T]hey have gone off several times and are usually announced as false alarms, or they just stop.  This time an announcement followed that everyone should evacuate, due to an emergency in the building.  After arriving outside, I texted my husband to see where he was, and he replied ‘in the room’.  When I called, he hadn’t heard any alarms or announcements.  Only when he went to the stairwell and opened the door, could he hear the alarms somewhat faintly.  With the elevators off, he walked down 11 flights.  On the way, he met an elderly, very heavy woman, who was barely moving.  (She had also received a phone call from family.)  After being sent back into the building, we were evacuated again.”

“Why no alarms in the rooms?” she asked.  “Why no Security to clear the floors?  I’m sure that many people prefer the higher floors for the view, but those not capable of walking the stairs may want to think twice about this.  Had it been a real emergency, many people just wouldn’t be able to make the climb.  Perhaps the folks doing room assignments should consider steering the infirm to lower floors for their own safety.”

Here’s a link to a YouTube video.

Caesars Forfeits Some Winnings
Caesars was among four casinos the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement ordered to forfeit a total of $12,204 that they won from people who were not legally permitted to gamble.  The action also was taken against Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa, Resorts Casino Hotel and Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort.  The casinos had won the money from people who were either under the legal gambling age of 21 or had placed themselves on a “self-exclusion” list that bars them from entering Atlantic City’s gaming halls.

About Other ‘Premium’ Player’s Cards

Since many of you also have “premium” cards from other casinos’ player’s clubs, if news warrants, periodically, I’ll publish information (and my thoughts!) about programs such as MGM’s M life and Trump Entertainment’s Signature Card.

M life – I must admit that I was a bit surprised to be upgraded to this program’s top Platinum card.  The lower tiers, in ascending order, are Sapphire, Pearl and Gold.  (I understand there is a little-publicized higher-level Noir card, as well.)  My first experience with M life took place at the Bellagio last month during a three-night visit prior to my stay at Caesars Palace.  Expecting to find different check-in lines at the front desk – similar to Caesars Platinum, Diamond and Seven Stars – I was surprised to see nothing of the kind.  Ditto at the Player’s Club (where there always are long lines).  Café Bellagio (adjacent to the Conservatory) and the Buffet have separate lines for M life cardholders, but there is no priority line for Platinum (or any level) cardholders.  Presumably, anyone with even the most basic player’s club card could use this line, but there was rarely anyone taking advantage of this option.  Instead, even at non-peak dining hours, many times lines at the Buffet were out the door into the casino and back almost to the lobby leading to the guest rooms.  Same at the Café.  Either no one knows about the separate line, or all these people are in the casino without player’s cards.  Even a request for late check-out was not honored, and don’t even think of looking for a lounge similar to Caesars Diamond Lounges.  While M life touts its Express Comps program, it’s not exactly groundbreaking.  Caesars/Harrah’s has been doing this for years.  What I do like about the new program is its transparency, but, again Caesars/Harrah’s Total Rewards program always has let you know where you stand tier-wise and how many comp dollars you’ve earned.  Previously, when staying at an MGM property, I always hated the “confrontation” with a host to determine what was going to be comped “based on my play that trip”.

UPDATE – I just received a promotional mailing from the Bellagio.  There is some interesting and – again – somewhat disturbing small print regarding M life:

·         Enjoy three complimentary nights in a luxurious Room
·         $150 in FREEPLAY®
·         Earn Express Comps™ as you play
·         Play the same way you did last time and you’ll earn $300* in Express Comps

*This offer is not a promise of complimentaries and is meant only as illustration.  Express Comps will be. . .used with your permission to fulfill components of this offer.

What?  Does this mean the Bellagio is going to use my Express Comps to pay for those three “complimentary nights in a luxurious Room”?  Or to pay for that $150 in FREEPLAY®?  At least when a Caesars property sends you an offer for a free room, some free play, and maybe some food and beverage comps, your Rewards Credits remain untouched.

Trump Signature – Trump Entertainment Resorts’ new management team shot itself in the foot last month when it sent an e-mail (reproduced below) to certain current and wannabe Signature cardholders.  The “bombshell” was the line, “You must maintain Signature level play throughout the year to retain status.”  A request to Trump’s new owner asking for clarification so far has gone unanswered, and two long-time hosts were unaware of the e-mail.  This is like Caesars sending an e-mail to Seven Stars cardholders telling them they must maintain “Seven Stars play” (without defining what “Seven Stars play” is) throughout the year to retain status.  Can you imagine what an uproar that would cause?  First, you spend a year earning enough tier points to qualify for Seven Stars (or Signature), then you’re told it will be taken away if your play throughout the year is not sufficient.  There are precious few benefits to the Signature card anyway – compared with Caesars Seven Stars card – and soon only two casinos to use them in.  Already, many long-time Trump players are jumping ship and playing at Resorts, and they and others are eagerly waiting for the rebranding of the Marina as the Golden Nugget, and the opening next year of Revel.  Trump’s executives need to up the ante if they’re going to retain their top players.

General

Using Your Annual Trip For Signature Events
Those who don’t want to spend their own money to travel to Signature Events should consider making the event their annual trip.  Just be sure to make your plans early enough.

[A Not So] Happy Birthday To You!
One Seven Stars cardholder, used to getting a generous [cash] birthday gift each year, complained that she received a mere $50 in free play this year.  Based on responses to last month’s question, this is pretty typical, though many reported they got an offer that essentially doubled whatever Rewards Credits they earned on a given day.  That’s like a friend asking you to go out and buy your own birthday present, but he/she will gift wrap it for you – using your own gift wrapping paper.

Discretionary Comps vs. Total Rewards Credits
I wasn’t gambling at Harrah’s (now Caesars) when its Total Rewards program came into being, but my understanding was that Total Rewards Credits (RCs) were supposed to replace the discretionary comps given out by hosts to their best players.  In other words, in the “old days” if you wanted to have a nice meal in the casino’s “gourmet restaurant” or even two admissions to the buffet, you’d have to contact a host who would review your play and issue or deny your comps.  Total Rewards was supposed to take this decision-making out of the hands of hosts and let players earn comps, much the same way they earn frequent flyer miles.  Everyone would be treated equally and you always would know where you stood in terms of perks available to you.  Apparently, if I can believe what I hear from a lot of people, that’s not the case – especially outside the major markets (Atlantic City, Las Vegas) and in casinos in the Midwest.  Either they don’t keep track of their RCs and don’t realize their meals are being taken out of their accounts, or they’re getting twice the benefits the rest of us are.  Message boards are full of stories from folks who stop in St. Louis (or Council Bluffs or Joliet), get a comp suite, dinners at the steakhouse, breakfast buffets, and more, all without losing any of their earned RCs.  My understanding was that discretionary comps come into play only when a player exhausts all of his/her RCs and a host can comp a meal based on that person’s play.  So what about it?  Do you get meals and others things comped without dipping into your RC account?  Send me an e-mail (sevenstarsinsider@gmail.com) and I’ll share your thoughts – anonymously, of course.

Darryl D. McEwen, Publisher
Seven Stars Insider

Seven Stars Insider – January Edition

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

Seven Stars Insider – January 2011

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

Review-Journal Back In Gift Shops
Not sure when it happened, but the Las Vegas Review-Journal is once again for sale in the gift shops at Caesars’ properties.  The paper had been banned when then-Harrah’s officials were unhappy with some of the newspaper’s reporting, according to anonymous sources in Gaming Today.

Review-Journal Slams KGB
After its not-so-favorable review of Kerry Simon’s KGB, the Review-Journal may be back off the shelves at Harrah’s in Las Vegas.  In her December 3 review, critic Heidi Knapp Rinella wrote, “the restaurant has some problems that could threaten its future.”  Whoever wrote the headline didn’t help much either – “Culinary Confusion: Sloppy Service, Average Dishes Dash High Hopes For KGB At Harrah’s.”  Read the full review online (For her review of Harrah’s Buffet of Buffets)

Keurigs Now In Forum Tower
Add the Forum Tower to Augustus and Palace if you’re staying at Caesars Palace and need that early morning coffee fix.  I’d be curious how sales of the expensive coffee pod packs are going.  Most people I’ve heard from either don’t use the machines, bring their own pods from home or, if they’re staying in the Augustus Tower, just wait until 8 a.m. and pour themselves a free cup either at Seven Stars or Diamond Registration.

Staffing Cutbacks Continue
The four Caesars-owned casinos in Atlantic City eliminated several hosts.  (Reports ranged from up to five at each property, at least one of whom had worked at Harrah’s Resort for more than 20 years.)  In addition, several managers were let go, leaving those remaining to take on additional responsibilities at another casino, as well.  [Trump’s casinos in Atlantic City made similar cuts.]  Meanwhile, out in Las Vegas, one reader reported that breakfast service two days at Harrah’s Café was “horrendous”.  “When I asked our nice waitress about it, she said Harrah’s had expanded the number of tables she covers from four to eight last month.  This is terrible.  It took us an hour for breakfast!  Further, on a trip in October it took a slot attendant almost 30 minutes to come to my friend’s aid.  The EZ-Pay ticket stock was depleted and he couldn’t cash out.  The attendant told us that he had half the casino.  This was around 9 p.m. on a Sunday night.” Continue reading “Seven Stars Insider – January Edition”