Seven Stars Insider - March 2013
NOTE: While this newsletter was originally designed exclusively for Seven Stars cardholders, there is useful information for anyone who has a Total Rewards® player’s card and/or plays/stays at a Caesars property. Please feel free to pass this on to your friends. Back issues of the Seven Stars Insider newsletter are available online at http://www.sevenstarsinsider.com. You will need Adobe Acrobat to view them, but this is a free program available at www.adobe.com.
It’s now easier to find the Seven Stars Insider Web site.
Simply go to:
Sorry About That. . .
Gordon Ramsay Steak is located in Paris, not Planet Hollywood, as I wrote last month. Also, unlike the others, the Diamond Lounge at Caesars in Atlantic City serves nuts. Sorry for these errors!
Harrah’s Rincon North San Diego
I’ve updated the Web page to reflect some changes and new information regarding Harrah’s Rincon. In particular, be aware that major renovations and new construction are taking place. I stayed there last month and, perhaps because of where my room was located, construction noise was not a problem. Also, unique to Rincon is a complimentary $50 media package for Seven Stars cardholders. Rather than providing complimentary Internet access and unlimited in-room movies, Rincon allows you to decide how to “spend” your allowance. Internet access is $12.99 per day ($24.99 for property-wide access) and movie charges vary. While food and service were “hit or miss” at Rincon’s “fine dining” restaurant, Fiore, one annoying aspect was an unadvertised $3 “split plate charge”. Friends I took to dinner one evening asked to share a salad and, it wasn’t until the next morning when I had better light and a chance to review the check more thoroughly, that I discovered the cost of the salad increased from $13 to $16. While I still think it’s a little cheap to levy this additional charge, customers should be advised about this either by their server or by a notation on the menu. Also, when a specific brand of vodka was ordered, but not available, the server (or the bartender) took the liberty of replacing it with another brand – again without saying anything to the customer.
Harrah’s New Orleans
Diamond Lounge Relocated
The Diamond Lounge – formerly located in the High Limits table games area – has been moved to the location previously occupied by Bambu Restaurant. Unlike some Diamond Lounges, guests order food from a printed menu; selections include shrimp and prosciutto bruschetta, a red bean onion dip, alligator, crawfish and Andouille sausage, international cheeses and prosciutto, mini muffaletta sandwiches, and fresh fruit with berries. In addition, there are a few desserts. Diamond cardholders are limited to four cocktails and two menu items; Seven Stars cardholders have unlimited choices.
Harrah’s North Kansas City
Everything’s Up-To-Date In Kansas City
Thanks to a reader who recently visited there, Harrah’s North Kansas City now has a page on the Seven Stars Insider Web site: https:/…harrah-s-north-kansas-city. If you’ve recently visited a Caesars-owned casino not featured on the Web site, please feel free to send me your comments. Also, if you see information on the site that requires updating, please send me that information as well.
Hype, Hype, Hurrah!
A reader who lives on the East Coast (and about an hour’s drive from Atlantic City) sent me his latest offer from Las Vegas: Choice of a $50 Macy’s gift card or $50 in casino play – and three complimentary nights either at The Quad or Rio. “Do Caesars marketing folks really think I’m going to hop on a plane and travel to Las Vegas for $50 and three free room nights (and at The Quad – yuk!)? Plus, it’s over a specific set of dates. This was a waste of printing and postage.”
Last month I received a second survey from Total Rewards about Las Vegas casino hotels. [The first one had several errors and I just deleted it.] This time I exited after the first two questions. Doesn’t anyone test these on a sample base of customers before sending them out? One of the questions on the survey was based on a laundry list of Vegas casinos. I was asked to indicate when I last stayed at any of them, if I’d heard of them but never stayed, etc. Problem was the list was so long that I had to keep scrolling to the top to be sure I was checking the right box. I gave up after about 10 casinos. The next question asked me where I stayed on my last visit to Las Vegas. As it turns out, I stayed at three different hotels during my weeklong visit. However, the only option I had was to check one. That’s when I gave up again because I was sure the next set of questions was going to be based on whatever casino I checked, and would probably result in a bunch of false-positives, for lack of a better word. I’m happy to give my opinions (just read this newsletter!), but send me a survey that asks the right questions and is in a format I can actually respond to. I’ve rarely received a survey from Caesars/Total Rewards that I would actually take the time to complete.
Rio All-Suites Hotel & Casino
Before The Parade Passes By
The Rio’s free Masquerade Show in the Sky will end March 30. This one-of-a-kind show featuring parade floats suspended from a track in the ceiling, as well as an accompanying stage show with singers and dancers, started in 1997, but over the years performances were cut-back to Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.
Seven Stars ‘Renewal Weekend’
Nothing official, but several sources tell me that the Seven Stars “renewal weekend” will be April 26-28.
Instead of four different hosts – one at Bally’s, one at Caesars, one at Harrah’s and one at Showboat – I’m hearing that Caesars is considering assigning players just one city-wide host, similar to what they’ve been doing in Las Vegas.
Food, Glorious Food – and Wine
Caesars Entertainment’s Atlantic City Food and Wine Festival will return for the fifth year beginning July 25. Among the first celebrity chefs to be announced are Robert Irvine, Pat and Gina Neely, and Rocco DiSpirito. Total Rewards cardholders can purchase discounted tickets in advance at acfoodandwine.com, ticketmaster.com or by calling (800) 736-1420. Ticket sales will open to the public at 10 a.m. March 8.
Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa has become the first land-based casino in the United States where customers can gamble while inside their hotel rooms through the television. The 90-day trial – which began in mid-February – allows hotel guests with a player’s card to play video slots and poker. While Borgata eventually will allow guests to gamble on smartphones and other mobile devices by the pool or in restaurants, the trial period will restrict mobile wagering to television sets inside the resort’s hotel rooms. Patrons must first check-in to a Borgata hotel room, where they will be given a password for the television gambling software. To gamble on the TV, patrons must enter that password, which is valid only for however long the patron is checked in to the hotel, and the PIN associated with their player’s card. Patrons must first walk to the cashier’s cage on the casino floor and deposit the money with which they will gamble. Under New Jersey’s mobile gambling regulations, patrons can gamble up to $2,500 a day.
Wynn Loss Statement
Speaking of Borgata, if you purchased My Borgata Vacation certificates with your comp dollars, you need to know that they no longer are accepted at Wynn and Encore in Las Vegas. They are valid only at Main Street Station, The Orleans, Sam’s Town and Suncoast in Las Vegas; the Blue Chip in Michigan City, Ind. and Par-A-Dice in Peoria, Ill.; and Delta Downs in Vinton, La., and Sam’s Town in Tunica, Miss., and Shreveport, La. Unused and unexpired certificates may be returned to the My Borgata Card desk for credit.
Boardwalk Buffet Still Open
It was supposed to close last month for renovations, but the buffet at Caesars is still open for business. Perhaps someone realized that the folks in marketing printed and distributed coupons good at the buffet for the month of March, though one host reports that the buffet will, indeed, close mid-month.
Sounds Like. . .
They may not know how to spell it, but they sure know how to prepare it! The “Coco Van” [coq au vin] on the menu at the Diamond Lounge last month was delicious, as was the marinated grilled flank steak. Congratulations to the chefs!
New Menu At Seven Stars Lounge
Following in line with the lounge at Caesars, the menu has been changed at Harrah’s. Some “old favorites” – like ice cream – may still be available, so ask your server.
Harrah’s Lights Up Your Life
Last month Harrah’s was offering a “Light Up Your Love” package that would spell out a proposal in lights on the Waterfront Tower. Included was a 1 p.m. late check-out, free parking, VIP check-in, a $100 dining credit, limo ride and a bottle of champagne. The cost? $699 during the week, $1,000 over the weekend.
Quote Of The Month
Here it is, direct from the top of the menu at Luke Palladino – run-on sentences, unnecessary capitalization and punctuation, misspellings, and all: “Dear Valued Customer: Harrah’s is very proud to have recently Introduced a newly Re-designed and Re-energized Total Rewards (TR) Program which offers rewards and benefits to it’s members, that are unparallel to any other gaming entity World Wide. As an extension of these rewards and benefits, when you present your TR Card while Dining at Luke Palladino, you will receive the benefit of a favorable enhancement in the form of special pricing. Please note below the items indicated by the TR logo.” Translation: “Give the server your Total Rewards card and you’ll get discounted pricing on any menu item identified with the TR logo.”
Two Hours Every Week Have Just Become Happier
Fridays from 10 p.m. to midnight, Harrah’s hosts a “Happy Hour” at the Cove exclusively for Seven Stars cardholders. It’s in a trial phase to see what type of response and demand Harrah’s receives. Currently, there are just complimentary cocktails, but, depending on response and demand, Harrah’s may add a limited food selection as well.
Third Time’s A Charm?
First it was the End Zone. Then, last June, it reinvented itself as BarleyQue – a clever, but confusing moniker that really didn’t mean much to many customers. In addition, the menu changed more frequently than Hillary’s hairstyles during the Clinton years. This month, BarleyQue will become the Philly Tap and Tavern with, yes, another menu change, bringing back some of the popular items from its days as End Zone. I’ve been suggesting this for months, but some high-priced restaurant consultant probably made a bundle off this.
Harrah’s is continuing its popular Senior Days this month – free valet parking, 30 percent discount at participating food outlets, etc. – but note that the day has changed from Wednesday to Tuesday. Harrah’s defines “Senior” as 60 and older.
More Questions Than Answers
We’re two months into the new year, earning tier credits for a casino loyalty program that won’t tell us its benefits. All we know for sure is that the “milestones” for the various tier levels have increased, we can get bonus tier credits if we earn 500 or more credits in a single day, that two new “Diamond Aspiration” levels have been added, and, effective April 1, Seven Stars and Diamond cardholders are going to get a more favorable rate if they opt to exchange comp dollars for free play. Yes, we’ve heard that at 40,000 tier credits we’ll get a free four-night trip to any Caesars casino and, if we wait until we earn 80,000 credits, Caesars will throw in $750 for airfare and a “Diamond Companion Card”. Then there’s this mysterious second trip – “offered as a Level I Signature Experience”. Other than that, we really don’t know much, including any specific details about these aforementioned benefits. Contrast this with Delta Air Lines. In January Delta sent letters to its customers announcing changes and enhancements to its frequent flyer program, but they won’t take effect for a year. Total Rewards customers should have received a similar courtesy and a little more notice. At a very minimum, the new program’s benefits should have been spelled out at the same time the increased tier levels were announced. It gives you the impression that they’re making this stuff up as they go along. Would you deposit money in a bank or take out a loan without knowing the interest rate in advance? [For more on this subject, see below.]
Question Of The Month
I became a first-time Seven Stars cardholder in November 2012. Not wanting to miss out on anything, I’ve already taken my annual trip, scheduled my annual celebration dinner and ordered my annual gift. I understand I get to do this all over again starting April 1, but I’m concerned about rumored changes to the Total Rewards program. Will the benefits be different? Good question. They shouldn’t be. After all, you and I earned our 100,000 (or more) tier credits between January 1 and December 31, 2012, when, among the promised benefits were an annual trip (with $1,200 in airfare, $500 dining credit, etc.), a gift and a dinner. I think Caesars would have a lot of unhappy customers if, at a minimum, cardholders don’t receive these. However, don’t be surprised to see changes in benefits for this year, meaning benefits you’ll receive for tier credits earned between January 1 and December 31, 2013.
Yes, Resort Fees
A lot of signs came down, a lot of Web pages were changed and even a Facebook page was deleted. After years of touting “No Resort Fees” Caesars Entertainment is now charging an extra $10 to $25 per night at some of its Nevada hotels, “in response to the increasing demand from our guests to provide a package price instead of the inconvenience of separate fees,” according to Gary Thompson, director of corporate communications. Sure. Can’t you just see customers lining up at the front desk demanding to pay what is essentially a higher room rate? (For the record, reservations made before March 1 are exempt from the fee.) The big question will be how players with comp rooms are affected. It isn’t a problem for Seven Stars cardholders, since they’re already getting free WiFi and admittance to the fitness center, but what about Diamond and Platinum cardholders? According to Kristine Johnson, Total Service Representative, Caesars Entertainment, Western Region, Platinum and Diamond cardholders will have the option of adding the Resort Fee or simply selecting individual components of the package (Internet access, making local calls, etc.) and paying for them separately. As far as the individual property charges, here is the breakdown:
Caesars Palace - $25
Paris and Planet Hollywood - $20
Rio, Harrah's and Flamingo - $18
Bally's - $15
The Quad - $10
In addition, resort fees also will be levied in Lake Tahoe; Harrah's will charge $20 and Harvey's will charge $25. No word yet on Laughlin and Reno.
Great Gift Wrap Up
The Web site was just updated. Here are the dates for the 2013 Great Gift Wrap Up:
November 7-11: Flamingo
December 4-8: Caesars Palace
And, related to this, wouldn’t it be a nice idea to add a line on the monthly My TR eStatement with our Great Gift Wrap Up points?
‘Communication, Communication, Communication’
In real estate, the mantra has always been: “Location, Location, Location”. Too bad Caesars can’t take a lesson from that and communicate better with its players. Some Diamond cardholders I’ve spoken to still aren’t aware of the changes to the Total Rewards tier levels, and most of us learned about Resort Fees at the Las Vegas and Lake Tahoe casinos from newspaper articles and online message boards. I don’t care about “pre-sale” concert ticket announcements, but I’d like to know about the 2013 Great Gift Wrap Up, as well as the details about the new Resort Fees, without having to call or use the Contact Us feature on the Total Rewards Web site. Ditto on the local level, had I not dropped in at Harrah’s Philadelphia and seen the sign, I never would have known about its Seven Stars Happy Hour.
Belated Happy Birthday
Several Seven Stars cardholders whose birthdays were in January are just now receiving offer for free play, comp dollars and room nights both at their “dominant property” as well as in Las Vegas. In January they had received free play, comp dollars and other offers from several competing casinos in the area, but nothing from their local Caesars casino – where they spend most of their time and money. The response when one player asked his host? It’s not up to the local casinos any longer, he claimed. “Corporate Direct Marketing is working on sending birthday offers via email.” While the promised email arrived, for at least one player, it was too little too late. “My wife and I just got back from Las Vegas, so there’s no way we’re going to return within a month just to collect a few comp dollars.” And, considering that Seven Stars cardholders get complimentary rooms anyway, what’s the big deal about free rooms? “These are pretty pathetic offers,” wrote one player. And, similar to the reader quoted above, if I got this same offer, I would not make the trek to Las Vegas for a few comp dollars and a little free play. As it has in the past, Caesars is making you spend money in order to get what it perceives as recognition for your birthday.
Survey Says. . .
Last month I asked: Now that you know more about the “new” Total Rewards, will you be
playing more to reach the next “milestone”?
playing more, but just to maintain your current tier?
playing at your current level and “letting the chips fall where they may”?
switching to another casino’s player loyalty program?
Here’s a cross-section of responses:
· Last year, I earned more than 300,000 points, with a daily average of 2,000+ points per day. Even though the bonus system wasn’t in effect, Caesars claimed I would have totaled more than a half million points last year. Therefore, the only effect the change will have on me is that I might stop with 1,000, or go on to 2,500. Nothing significant either way there. What will have a drastic effect is if Caesars starts reducing offers. Last fall, my weekly offers dropped from $80 to $65. For my birthday, I got nothing. When I look at my future offers, I’m seeing dining credits and free buffets, but not the incentives that I used to get. My spouse doesn’t play, so if there’s a play-up, I go by myself and play all day. If it’s dinner, we go together, and I play very little. If Caesars thinks it’s saving money by giving more dining credits and fewer rebates, my play will decline dramatically.
· We did not receive the information about the changes from our host. We received a mailing on January 7! Once, we learned about the bonuses, we should have no problem renewing our Seven Stars status. The big issue for me is that Total Touch doesn’t give you an accurate total of your tier credits as you play. How do you know if you have reached the threshold for the bonus tier credits? You have to go over to the Total Rewards desk and check with them if they are still open.
· Last year I wound up with 25,000 tier credits. With this new system I will try to play 20 times at 2,500 tier credits each day. With the 5,000 tier credit bonus each time it will get me to 150,000.
· I don’t know if this new tier credit increase is good or bad, if it’s going to make me a Seven Stars cardholders next year or make me broke. I was at Caesars January 1, 2 and 3 and got to receive an extra 1,000 points for each day since I made more than 1,000 each day and trying to get to 2,500 was just too hard. On another visit I earned 2,550 credits playing penny slots for 12+ hours. At 2,200 points I had spent $1,700. Usually I would have quit way before this, but I had to go for the 5,000 bonus credits. Who wouldn’t? Well, I certainly won’t go for it again. It just takes too much money to get.
· I don’t think I’ll be playing any more to maintain our Seven Star status, even with the 150,000 points requirement. Why? Because if my initial two experiences this year are indicative of how things will go then it will be fine. If my math is correct, with the 5,000 point bonus for earning 2,500 points, it behooves a player to put 2,500 points on each day to get the best bonus. For low level players who have to really work to make it to Seven Stars that seems like a good strategy. So far, for each of three days of play, we have been able to reach the 2,500 points. That gives us 22,500 points each trip (7,500 coin-in plus 15,000 bonus points). Using that strategy, 6.7 three-day trips will get us to 150,000 tier credits.
· My total yearly play will remain at my current level. But if I do find myself relatively close (which I will need to define for myself) to reaching a bonus level then I would play to reach that bonus and stop.
This Month’s Survey
I’ll be the first to admit that I was pretty harsh this month in my criticism of Caesars and the “new” Total Rewards program, e.g., lack of information regarding player card benefits, Resort Fees, customer communications, marketing offers, etc. While I am expressing my personal opinions (often from my own experiences and observations), many of them are formulated based on feedback I get from readers via email or in conversation. Should I stick to the facts, and stop editorializing? What do you think? Send me an e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org) and I’ll share your thoughts – anonymously, of course.
Darryl D. McEwen, Publisher
Seven Stars Insider