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Cheap Hotels On The Vegas Strip

Las Vegas lost almost 300 cheap hotel rooms when Bill’s Gambling Hall closed in February. The plan was to replace it with a ultra-cool-young-hip-celebrity-friendly boutique hotel. Caesars Entertainment did that by partnering with Gansevoort and Victor Drai for the new Gansevoort Las Vegas.

As with every new casino Gansevoort Las Vegas will open with prices starting at the top of the market, currently $249, and why not? Last year at G2E a rep from MGM Resorts said that across all of their properties room occupancy is at 90% or more. Cosmopolitan says that they’re regularly almost at 90% capacity. Room rates will continue to rise with increased visitation. Last year I wrote about that the low rates at luxury hotels in Las Vegas were nice while they lasted but things are changing.

Don’t worry there are still plenty of hotel rooms on the Vegas strip (let alone downtown and off strip) that can be had for as low as $20 a night. Of course, you get what you pay for. Here are the least expensive hotels on the Vegas strip.

  • Bally’s
  • Best Western at Casino Royale
  • Circus Circus
  • Excalibur
  • Flamingo
  • Luxor
  • The Mirage
  • Monte Carlo
  • New York New York
  • The Quad
  • Stratosphere
  • Treasure Island
  • Tropicana

There are almost as many luxury hotel rooms on the Vegas strip as there are non-luxury hotel rooms. Las Vegas hotel room rates will continue to rise as demand increases with the better economy. The excess room supply that hurt Las Vegas during the recession will allow overall room rates to remain relatively stable in the future.

For the most part you get what you pay for in Las Vegas and you won’t get the same quality amenities at these hotels as you would at new and/or luxury hotels. This list is a great place to start if you’re looking for hotels with less expensive prices on the Vegas strip. If you’re looking to save even more money look away from the strip. Check out the list of cheap places to stay in Las Vegas.

For now…VIVA LAS VEGAS!

Photo: Las Vegas Guide

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Bill’s To Become Gansevoort Las Vegas

Bill’s Gambling Hall closed in February so that Caesars Entertainment could renovate the property. The talk was that the property would cater to a younger, club going crowd and it seems like that will be the case with Bill’s becoming Gansevoort Las Vegas. Here’s the info straight from a Caesars press release I just received.

Caesars Entertainment Corporation announced today the collaboration with New York-based luxury hotel brand Gansevoort Hotel Group and nightlife impresario Victor Drai to launch a never before seen Las Vegas experience creating an intimate urban resort at the location of Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall & Saloon. 

As the only standalone boutique resort, perfectly situated at the center of the Strip, Gansevoort Las Vegas’ exceptionally high standard of style and service will redefine the boutique hotel experience. Glitterati and everyday guests alike will receive the ultimate in VIP treatment and unique social experiences.

Gansevoort Las Vegas will be the fourth installment of the luxury hospitality brand following the recent success of Gansevoort Park Avenue in New York. Following a $185 million renovation, Gansevoort’s iconic style will completely reimagine the hotel experience in Las Vegas, creating the only intimate property among the Strip’s towering skyscrapers.  Gansevoort Las Vegas will feature 188 Parisian apartment-style guest rooms including 19 suites, designed by Tandem Las Vegas. An intimate lobby space will welcome guests upon arrival, with a redesigned lobby bar, ultra-lounge, retail outlets, and 40,000 square-foot casino providing a unique upscale energy. A destination restaurant overlooking the Strip will round out the guest experience.

Caesars Entertainment hasn’t created anything original in years so it’s no surprise that they would partner with a company (actually two companies with Victor Drai) to bring some sort of celebrity cool to their Las Vegas portfolio. USA Today was the first to report that the Gansevoort partnership was happening last week and I’m not very impressed with the initial renderings.

Of course, they are just renderings but the Gansvoort website looks like a 1990’s real estate website which is equally unipressive. I guess the “glitterati” don’t really care about that. Vegas Chatter has some useful information on Gansvoort Las Vegas:

  • Rooms will start at $249
  • Gansvoort Las Vegas will be part of Total Rewards (Bill’s wasn’t)
  • Beyonce, Prince, Brangelina are customers of Gansvoort

$249 seems to be the new price point for luxury hotels with Cosmopolitan and the Nobu Tower at Caesars Palace both charging prices in that range. Total Rewards players usually get better pricing so if you’re a gambler expect a small discount.

Gansvoort Las Vegas is exactly what I expected Bill’s to become and I’m curious to see how it develops.

Photo: USA Today

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More On Why The Vegas Strip Is Changing

I love the Vegas strip. There’s no place in the world like it. There never has been and there never will be. It’s awesome. That said, the strip has been changing a lot from when I first started visiting Las Vegas for bettor better and worse. Right now the center of the Vegas strip is where you’ll find plenty of construction for The Linq, The Quad and Bill’s but in the next few years the construction will be moving to the north end of the strip with Resorts World and SLS Hotel.

The Vegas strip change isn’t anything new. CityCenter, Cosmopolitan and even Wynn ushered in change over the past decade because their customers are changing. People don’t come to Las Vegas just to gamble like they used to. They come for the night clubs, fine dining and shows. In fact, people have been coming to Las Vegas for those things more often almost every year since 1990 and in 1999 when people began spending more money on things beyond the casino.

 

Gaming Vs Non Gaming Revenue

Revenue is the total amount of money spent and not profit. This chart only shows gaming and non-gaming revenue so let’s look at an approximation on gross profit. The house edge (ie. gross profit) on some of the worst bets in the casino is only 30% with the lowest house advantages being under 1%. Meanwhile, the markup on a bottle of wine in a 4 star restaurant can be 200% or more. Even a soda at a low end restaurant will be marked up over 1,000%. The markup on a bottle of vodka at a nightclub dwarves all both of those.

In todays, corporate run, Las Vegas every square inch of a casino has to show a profit. This information has to be reported every quarter and in order to show shareholders that the future looks bright they have to always show a profit. Sure the casino may lure you in but the real money is made on those awesome SW steak dinners or at a table in Marquee.

Even if the Cosmo only gets a percentage of the revenue from Marquee there is a nice chunk of money to be made their from small stake plus rent plus overflow spending at restaurants and bars.

Gambling hasn’t left Las Vegas. Far from it. While the chart above shows that 35% of the revenue earned on the Vegas strip is from gaming you’ll find that Downtown Vegas still earns the majority of its revenue from gaming.

Moving forward expect this trend to continue. If you’re a gambler you’ll probably find better gaming options and more people like you downtown. If you don’t mind worse gaming odds and don’t mind being around different people you will still be able to find fun on the Vegas strip.

Personally, I love the both the gaming and non-gaming Las Vegas and look forward to seeing what the future brings.

Photo: abpan.com

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Boom Goes The Vegas Strip This Morning!

Warning: The video takes time to load and may not work on Chrome, but otherwise it’s worth the 2 minutes.

My morning routine usually consists of enjoying a cup of coffee while listening to the Dan Patrick Show on TV and checking twitter and facebook. Nothing fancy. The Dan Patrick Show wasn’t on TV this morning so I switched to the local news to see what’s happening in Las Vegas. There’s usually nothing happening but it’s noise. Today was different. Different in a big way!

There was a shootout down the Vegas strip that ended with three people dead and cars exploding. This was straight out of a movie.

8 News NOW

This ended at the corner of Flamingo and the strip. That corner of the strip is near Bellagio, Bill’s, Bally’s, Caesars Palace and Flamingo and will be closed until noon or so day.

The news keeps calling this a “rolling shootout” and all I can think of is Rage Against The Machine.

Photo: 8 News Now

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Seven Stars Insider – February Edition

Katrina Bowden Total Rewards Concert

Katrina Bowden

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

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

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

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

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

‘Convenience’ Fees

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

Caesars Windsor (Ontario)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Photo – Fabzz
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Barbary Bills Closed Today

Today is the last day for Bill’s Gambling Hall and Saloon. Whoop de do. It’s just another change to the Vegas strip and I’m all for change.

When Bill’s reopens next year, what had become a Strip antique will be a boutique hotel with new hotel rooms, a refurbished casino, a second-story restaurant, and a rooftop pool and nightclub. It will have yet another name.

A boutique hotel and casino seems like something that makes sense for today’s market. I’m not very nostalgic and I have little care for  a casino I’ve never been to. This is being called a full renovation so I’m assuming all of the rooms will be renovated and new unlike the half assed renovation of the Imperial Palace into The Quad.

I like new shiny new things and I ‘m looking forward to seeing what the future holds for the property when it re-opens in a couple years. I imagine that this will just continue the migration of low rollers downtown and there’s nothing wrong with that.

If you frequented Bill’s the POV Blog tells you what other Caesars properties you can visit to find things like beer pong and performers like Fat Elvis. If you’ll miss cheap gaming, head downtown or to any of the casino’s in these hotels.

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Changes Happening To The Vegas Strip Right Now

There are a lot of changes happening on the Las Vegas strip right now. Many people just know the construction as an inconvenience. Most of the major projects happening on the strip right now are Caesars Entertainment casinos, hotels and shopping areas. Here’s the quick breakdown in order of new projects opening.

OutImperial Palace (photo flickr/ ayersa@sbcglobal.net) – Caesars Entertainment does not own the license for the name Imperial Palace and decided not to renew their lease on the name. The property is undergoing a name change to The Quad and being renovated.

Imperial Palace Las Vegas
In: The Quad – Caesars decided to only renovate the casino and not hotel of The IP/The Q. The good news is you’ll have a new casino. The bad news is you can still get the dirtiest rooms on the strip! Hey, at least they’re cheap. Transformation will be completed by 12/21. Learn more details about The Quad at Vegas Chatter.

The Quad Las Vegas

Out: O’Shea’s – O’Sheas closed earlier this year and is the biggest closure because of what’s being built in its place, The Linq. I’m happy to see this dump go away, but it was a place for people to go and gamble and drink for cheap. It had a place on the strip.

O'Sheas

In: The Linq – The Linq is not a casino. Instead it will be a variety of retail outlets, restaurants and bars with a ferris wheel as the anchor to the area. This will be a huge area of the strip that seems as if it will rival CityCenter in size. The Linq’s tenant’s aren’t very exciting but there’s nothing horribly offensive about any of the bars or restaurants. The Linq is scheduled to open December 2013. Vegas Chatter has a lot more information on this huge space causing traffic on the strip.

The Linq Las Vegas

Out: Bill’s Gambling Hall & Saloon (photo flickr/ anna_jewels) – Bill’s will close in February 2013 and will be gutted but not imploded. In its place a new “boutique” hotel/casino will open focused on serving people more interested in nightclubs than gambling. I’ve never been inside of Bill’s, but people that like cheap drinking and gambling were their customer. Notice the trend here by Caesars?

Bill's Gambling Hall & Saloon Las Vegas
In: Drai’s (Actual name TBD) – This casino will be completely different by the time renovations are complete in 2014. From all accounts it seems as if this will be geared towards the same people that go to Cosmopolitan for Marquee nightclub. It will be interesting to see how that segment of Vegas visitors develops over the next two years. No photo here since there’s no renderings.

Maybe more: There was talk of Bally’s Grand Bazaar shops being built on the strip earlier this year but I haven’t heard anything recently and there’s no construction happening right now.

I have no memories tied to any of the places closing on the strip so I’m not sad about any of these changes. I look forward to seeing what the strip looks like in 2014.

Tweet me @eastcoastgamblr

 

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Out With The Dump…In With The “Douche”…And That’s OK

Bill’s Gambling Hall & Saloon will be closing for renovations February 4th, 2013 and will reopen in 2014 as Drai’s Douche Emporium and Boutique Hotel. Here’s the info straight from the horses (Caesars Entertainment) mouth.

Caesars Entertainment Corporation today announced its previously arranged $185 million, seven-year senior secured credit facility will fund the conversion of Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall & Saloon to a boutique lifestyle hotel and casino. The renovation includes the addition of a rooftop pool as well as a dayclub/nightclub. Drai Management Group will manage the club.

“This project exemplifies our strategy to develop new experiences that will help attract a broader spectrum of visitors to Las Vegas and our properties,” said Gary Loveman, chairman, chief executive officer and president of the company. “The renovated property will provide visitors with a sophisticated, upscale experience, including a unique rooftop pool and club, which will have a panoramic view of the Las Vegas Strip.”

I’ve never been to Bill’s and I don’t care that it’s going away. I felt the same about O’Sheas, Imperial Palace and Sahara. Change is good. Clean and modern hotels are good. Progress is good.

These hotels and casinos aren’t being renovated for me. They’re being renovated for future me’s and that’s fine. If I want to go somewhere less expensive with good gambling I’ll stay away from the strip. If I want to hang out and grab a drink while checking out the future of America I’ll go to the strip.

The Vegas strip has always kind of been this way. There will always remain properties for all kinds of people. If you’re seeking more classic luxury you can head to Wynn, if you want a cheap place to stay you can go to The Quad, if you’re in the middle, maybe a family or older person, you can stay at MGM Grand.

If you’re like me, this is just a sign that you’re getting older. You can tell these kids today to get off your strip lawn but this change like this is fairly normal. Embrace it or just be old and grumpy.

All of this goes to say that my guide to cheap places to stay in Las Vegas will come in handy as the city continues to change.

Tweet me @eastcoastgamblr

 

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Seven Stars Insider – November Edition

Here’s the latest edition of Seven Stars Insider.  This is an easy read and an excellent resource for Caesars Total Rewards players.  Head over to Seven Stars Insider to sign up for the newsletter.  There is a lot of information in this edition and I will pull out some nuggets to look at closer later this week or next. Read on for all the goods.

Seven Stars Insider – November 2011

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

Horseshoe Indiana

Bridge Falling, So Are Revenues
Revenue dropped 11 percent and admissions dropped 20 percent in September due to the closure of the Sherman Minton Bridge.  The bridge, closed September 9 after cracks in the steel supports were discovered, carries Kentucky patrons across the Ohio River to the casino 10 miles away.

Harrah’s New Orleans

Signature Event Gets Raves
From a couple who both are Seven Stars cardholders:  “We’ve been to several of these in the past – in New Orleans, Atlantic City and Las Vegas – but the folks in the Big Easy continue to do it right and make it a fun-filled weekend for everyone concerned.  In a word, this one was spectacular.  It began with a gathering at the valet area where the hurricane cocktails flowed freely and Harrah’s representatives handed out white handkerchiefs/bibs to everyone in preparation for that evening’s dinner.  At 7, a jazz band led the parade of guests to the Crazy Lobster restaurant on the shores of the Mississippi for a twilight dinner consisting mainly of freshly cooked lobsters.  As a local band played, guests were invited to have a caricature done, have their palms read or pose with a small alligator while a photographer recorded the big moment for them.  The next day, former NFL quarterback Archie Manning, father of Super Bowl champions Peyton and Eli, made an appearance in the Masquerade area on the casino floor, chatting with guests, signing autographs and taking pictures with them.  The former Saints QB was very accommodating and gracious and made sure he greeted every guest personally even though he ran over the time he was supposed to be there.  Like at the Crazy Lobster the night before, photos were printed immediately and given to guests in a binder.  That night, chef John Besh, whose Steakhouse is the main restaurant in the casino, put on a cooking demonstration in the theater while members of the audience ate the dishes he was preparing.  The crab-filled shells appetizer, short ribs and dessert were delicious.  Those events were a lot of fun and efficiently run, but the icing on the cake came the next night.  Just as the sun was setting, guests were loaded onto a parade of Mardi Gras floats, given light-up beads to wear around their necks and handed Mardi Gras masks to wear.  On the floats were bags of beads to throw to revelers on the street as the floats made their way down Canal Street en route to Bourbon Street.   The people on the street had no idea what all the fuss was about, and why this celebration was taking place in the middle of October, but they certainly got into it.  Once at our destination, Harrah’s reps led us to two restaurants that had been closed down especially for our private parties.  There was a buffet-style dinner provided that featured local food choices such as catfish and jambalaya, but the coup de grace was more bead-throwing from the balconies atop the restaurants to the sometimes rowdy and raucous crowds below.  After all the revelry had come to an end, shuttle buses brought us back to the casino or the hotel for a much-deserved rest.  Sunday at 9 a.m., coffee and beignets were served in the theater.  In summary, I can’t say enough about how smoothly this whole weekend was handled and how much fun we and our guests had taking part in all the activities.  It was the second time we’ve attended a Seven Stars Signature Event in New Orleans, but it won’t be the last.  The main thing New Orleans has going for it is that the events it schedules are unique and reflect the character of the city.  Other venues like Las Vegas and Atlantic City put on parties and shows, but we can go to a party or see a show any time, at any Caesars property.  But how many times do we get an opportunity to ride on a Mardi Gras float?  Or meet an NFL quarterback?  Or have our palm read?  Or pose with an alligator?  Different and unique.  So, kudos to the staff at Harrah’s New Orleans.  You got it right.”

And from another guest:  “The beignets and coffee session was done just as well as the other sessions. There was a four-piece band plus singer.  At one point, the singer led a dozen people around the room in a conga line.  Servers were dressed in outfits similar to Cafe Du Monde uniforms, including white aprons and caps. There were plenty of servers and also a cocktail server who brought out bloody marys or anything else we wanted, very quickly.  The beignets were excellent and fruit salad was also available.”

Suffolk Downs (Massachusetts)

Gambling Law In Conference Committee
The Massachusetts Senate, 24-14, approved casino gambling October 13.  The plan would authorize three “resort” casinos and one slots-only gambling parlor.  The House passed a similar version of the bill in September.  Now the measure is before a joint House-Senate conference committee where lawmakers will reconcile the differences that now exist in the two versions.  Once a final proposal has been ironed out, the legislation will head to Governor Deval Patrick’s desk for his signature.  Patrick has indicated initial support for the plan.

Las Vegas

Great Gift Wrap Up Mix-Ups
This year’s Great Gift Wrap Up will be held from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. November 10-14 at the Flamingo and December 1-5 at Caesars Palace.  If you feel there’s been some sort of mistake in your points, ask to have someone review your account.  Apparently, for at least the last two years, there have been dedicated representatives who will work with you.  Be sure to bring any documentation, if you have it.

Bill’s  Gamblin’ Hall & Saloon

Get A Free Diamond – Card, That Is
Though owned by Caesars Entertainment, Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall & Saloon, next to the Flamingo and across from Caesars Palace, has its own player’s club.  Normally it would take 11,000 tier credits – earned in a calendar year just like Total Rewards – to get a Bill’s Diamond card; however, Bill’s will automatically upgrade any Seven Stars (or Diamond) cardholder.  The card will be good through March 31, 2012.  Comp dollars, though, can be used interchangeably among all the Caesars Total Rewards properties in Las Vegas.  The catch is that you must exchange your Bill’s comp dollars for a voucher which is good for 24 hours.  Don’t take more than you can use because any unused credits will not be returned to your account.  Conversely, you can use your Total Rewards comp dollars at Bill’s much like Quick Rewards.  No voucher required.

Signing Bonuses
Currently, when you sign up for a player’s card there is a promotion that also gives you five free comp dollars and, after you earn two more, you get a free T-shirt.  You also get a book of coupons good at the 10 Caesars-owned properties in Las Vegas, as well as for some other tours and attractions.  Most of the coupons require some sort of purchase – buy one/get one or “X” percent off your purchase – but one coupon gives you four free balcony tickets to Nathan Burton’s show at the Flamingo.  My favorite is the “free coffee table book” at Michael Godard Art Gallery & Store.  The only requirement is that you must make a $995 or greater purchase of “fine art” at the store.

Free Show Tickets
Another benefit to having the Bill’s Diamond card is that you can get two additional free show tickets every month.  (Check with the player’s card desk to see which shows are available.  Last month they were offering comedians George Wallace and Vinnie Favorito, magician Nathan Burton, Legends in Concert, Human Nature and Frank Marino’s Divas.)  In other words, with a Seven Stars/Diamond card and a Bill’s Diamond card you can double the number of tickets you’re eligible for each month.

Great Gift Wrap Up
Play at Bill’s qualifies for Great Gift Wrap Up points.

Caesars Palace

And The Walls Came Tumbling Down
In an inspired architectural touch, the former Augustus Café has been transformed into Central – full name Central by Michel Richard (shortened to Central Michel Richard at the entrance, and on the menu and cocktail napkins).  [And it’s pronounced “sen-tral”, not “sen-tral”.]  Central’s bar spills into the lobby, and the open floor plan allows lots of natural light to stream in from windows hardly noticeable in the room’s previous incarnation.  See photo below:

[Note the whimsical “stacked plates” artwork as you walk in, as well as the hanging “plates” suspended throughout the room.]  A James Beard Award winner, Richard was one of my favorite chefs during the years I lived in Washington, D.C., when I often dined at Citronelle at the Latham Hotel.  At Central, Richard has created a menu that’s accessible, but filled with French bistro flourishes.  A perfectly cooked pan seared salmon filet came with succotash – but not your grandmother’s corn-and-lima bean concoction.  Freshly sautéed corn kernels and baby limas rub elbows with tiny diced red pepper, onions and fresh herbs.  If fish isn’t your thing, try the crusty filet, moist and medium rare, served with haricots verts.  For dessert try Michel’s Napoleon (big enough to share) or the crème brulee.  At dinner, if you’re lucky enough, ask for one of the best servers I’ve encountered, Laurent.  His French accent will only add to the ambience.  And, unlike the Washington, D.C., branch, Central in Las Vegas is open 24 hours.  However, service at breakfast can be maddening slow – the kitchen seems to be overwhelmed by the crowds, but it’s worth the wait.  My spinach, wild mushroom and Swiss cheese omelet was wonderful, but the menu needs to spell out what’s included with the breakfast entrees.  A gentleman sitting next to me at the bar sent back a practically uneaten order of breakfast potatoes, perhaps not realizing that hash browns (and an English muffin) came with all omelets.  Bargain hunters should try the $17 breakfast that includes three eggs, pancakes, sausage, bacon, ham and potatoes.  Similar to what was served at the Augustus Café, it’s easily enough to share.  Add two $3 cups of coffee, and maybe a glass of OJ, and two people can eat for around $25 – a real deal at high-end casino restaurants these days.

Size Does Matter
Now I know why it’s called Serendipity 3. . .the entrées are large enough for three to share.  I had brunch there last month and was shocked to see how large the portions were.  I saw one $20 sandwich that looked to be almost two feet long.  I barely made it through half of my quiche and salad.  The place is popular, though.  Thanks to my Seven Stars card I was seated in less than five minutes, but others – depending on the size of their parties – were being told of waits as “short” as 45 minutes to as long as 80 minutes.

Information Worth Recycling
Caesars Palace recycles 640,000 gallons of waste vegetable cooking oil a year.

Out With The Old, In With The Old [Homestead]
Opening next month on the site of Neros will be a second branch of the venerable New York steakhouse, Old Homestead.  The other is in Atlantic City, not at a Caesars property, but at the Borgata.

Flamingo

The Show Must Go On
To her credit, Marie Osmond finished her brother’s and her show October 26, then went straight to the emergency room at a local hospital.  “So the allergies went into a bronchitis,” she tweeted early the next morning, adding that it affected her high notes.  Always the trouper, she was back on stage that night.

The Cheapest Free Ticket In Town
Does anyone actually pay to see Nathan Burton at the Flamingo?  A ticket to Divas includes up to four free balcony tickets, and there is a coupon in the Total Vegas booklet given to all new Total Rewards members which also gives four free balcony tickets.

Harrah’s

Who’s, I Mean Whose, Line Is It Anyway?
I never have to worry about finding a misspelling or punctuation error for this newsletter’s monthly feature when it comes to the crack proofreaders who work for Caesars.  A New Year’s Eve invitation from Harrah’s in Las Vegas features this boo-boo:

Jumping The Line
Perhaps taking a cue from the airlines with their à la carte pricing, Harrah’s is now offering “express seating” at its Flavors Buffet.  Those without a Platinum, Diamond or Seven Stars card can pay $5 per person per entry to bypass the line.  Earlier this year Harrah’s experimented with – and subsequently abandoned – an optional additional charge for “premium” liquors and wines served on the casino floor.  [Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall & Saloon (see above) is now pitching the same drink offer.]

Imperial Palace

Divas Las Vegas
For a different sort of “peepshow” (see below), check out Frank Marino’s Divas in the Imperial Theater.  Marino was out – no pun intended – the night I saw the show.  Despite what you might think of the genre, the cast of the show works harder than practically any other show on the Strip – especially the six “boys” who serve as back-up dancers to many of the divas’ solo numbers.  Kudos, too, to the costume and wig designers (and “manufacturers”).  Some of the divas are more iconic than others, but it depends on your generation.  I found it easier to relate to a Dolly Parton, a Liza Minnelli, a Cher or a Bette Midler, but, then, I’ve never seen Rihanna in concert.  The music – all soundtracks of the original singers – is overamplified and I could do without all the prerecorded applause, but the show is very entertaining and something you probably won’t see in Topeka – though Atlantic City has its own impersonator show over at Resorts.  And there’s definitely more skin showing than Peepshow – all of the male variety, with much of it masquerading as “female”.  The biggest question is how the Cher impersonator slips into that skin-tight costume and where does he. . .oh, never mind!

The Most Expensive ‘Free’ Ticket In Town
A ticket to Divas also includes up to four “free” tickets to Name That Tune which plays during some afternoons (and one evening) in the same theater.  However, read the fine print, and there is an additional $15.71 “box office fee”.  It’s not clear if that’s per ticket, or for the entire order.

Planet Hollywood

A Peak At Peepshow
Hey, it’s been running for more than two years, so who am I to judge, but I just don’t understand the success of Peepshow.  [It’s certainly a step-up from the old burlesque show in Toledo, Ohio, that my fraternity brothers and I sneaked into back in the 60s – not that we were underage, we just didn’t want anyone to know we were that desperate for cheesy entertainment.]  Peepshow currently features former Hugh Hefner girlfriend Holly Madison; she’s certainly attractive enough, but her acting, dancing and singing talents leave much to be desired.  In fairness, I don’t think those were the “talents” that got her the job.  Much of the singing – mostly by others – was unintelligible, the “choreography” pretty pedestrian and the music too loud; again, I don’t think that’s what audiences are going for – at least the guys.  But, hey, the tickets were free and I felt a certain obligation to check it out.  Has anybody else seen the show?  Comments?

Atlantic City

Caesars, Union Hope To Avoid Strike
Local 54 of UNITE-HERE union has reached a tentative contract agreement with the four casinos owned by Caesars Entertainment Corp.  Terms of the three-year agreement with will not be publicly released until after the union members vote on it November 1.  If approved, the agreement ensures there will be no strike at Bally’s, Caesars, Harrah’s Resort or Showboat.

Pier Shops Purchased At Auction
Lenders paid $25 million – plus $1 – to purchase the Pier Shops.  Look for more mid-price stores to replace – or at least co-exist – with the mall’s current high-end tenants such as Louis Vuitton.

Now You See Them, Now You Don’t
Following a carjacking in September that left a man dead and a woman injured, but only nine days after law officials introduced the plan, Atlantic City’s Mayor prohibited police from patrolling casino parking garages.  He said that the city government’s responsibility is to its residents “first and foremost.”  To maintain their confidence, public-safety agencies must stay visible and respond quickly, he added.  Shortly, thereafter, police went back on patrol in casino parking garages, against the wishes of some members of local law enforcement and against the orders of the mayor, but based on a decision by the
Atlantic County Prosecutor, and with the support of New Jersey’s Governor Chris Christie.

Match Game
Caesars Entertainment matched a $5,000 donation to the Community FoodBank of New Jersey.  The original contribution was from employees – called the HERO team – who conducted various fund-raising activities.  HERO stands for Helpful Employees Reaching Out.

Comps Declining or Increasing In Atlantic City?  It’s All In The Numbers
If you think your comps are declining, the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement has the statistics to prove it – though the “real story” is that they’re not.  Confused?  Read on.  Figures show that the 11 Atlantic City casino hotels spent about $1.3 billion for comps in 2010, down from $1.4 billion in 2009 and $1.5 billion in 2008.  Now comes word that Atlantic City’s casinos are becoming more generous with their giveaways as gaming competition has grown in Pennsylvania and other surrounding states.  But back to that “’real story”: Comp spending as a percentage of gross gaming revenue has increased, meaning that the casinos are actually giving more.  Measured as a percentage of total casino revenue (gaming and nongaming sources), the rate of comps in Atlantic City rose from almost 26 percent in 2006 to 27 percent in the first six months of 2011.  Gaming analysts, though, argue that, while the upward trend in comps may be good for customers, it’s bad for the casinos and their bottom line.

Caesars

CSI: Atlantic City
Police and emergency medical personnel responded early last month to reports that a person had jumped from Caesars.  Police closed part of the street with yellow police tape by 10 p.m.  In the enclosed area there was what appeared to be a body covered with white sheets.  It was wrapped in blue tarp and removed from the scene on a gurney at about 10:30 p.m.  Atlantic City firefighters arrived five minutes later and cleaned the area with bleach and water.  In order to pass through the area, pedestrians walking along South Arkansas Avenue were instructed either to turn around or walk through the Caesars parking garage.

Homeless Shelter
With the weather getting colder in the East, the homeless once again are beginning to take refuge inside Atlantic City’s casinos.  A popular haven is the large area inside the exit/entrance around the corner from the Racebook/Keno area on the first floor.  Despite the fact that the doors on Arkansas Avenue are locked from the inside, it doesn’t take a cat burglar to figure out the way in – or you just wait patiently until a customer or employee exits.  Perhaps Security could patrol this area on a regular basis.  One afternoon last month I spotted a guy sprawled out on the floor against the back wall, but I couldn’t find anyone to do anything about it.

Morton’s Steakhouse Offers Early Holiday Gift
If you’ve been wanting to try Morton’s, but were put off by the 2:1 comp dollar policy, give it a try between now and December 24 when comps will be accepted on a 1:1 basis.

Harrah’s Resort

 Water and Blackjack Combo Gives ‘Card Sharks’ A New Meaning
Harrah’s Resort has added two blackjack tables inside its dome-covered pool and entertainment complex, becoming the second Atlantic City casino to expand gambling into traditionally nongaming areas.  Days after Tropicana Casino and Resort won state regulatory approval to put slot machines and electronic table games inside The Quarter shopping center, Harrah’s filed paperwork with the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement to transform The Pool complex into a gambling attraction.  Don Marrandino, Caesars Eastern Division president, said, “There are at least five casinos in Vegas that have blackjack by the pool.  I think we should take learnings from there and use it here to make things more unique.”  He added, “Stay tuned.  We’ve got a few things up our sleeve.”

Harrah’s Chester (Pennsylvania)

A Not-So Welcome Reception
Patrons entering the building from the first floor garage or front door valet are too frequently greeted with the site of men and women sleeping, reading and eating, often with their – sometimes shoeless – feet propped up on tables.  There’s nothing wrong with having a place for folks to wait for a bus, or for non-gamblers to read a book while their spouses hit the slots, but these people are taking advantage of the situation.  Security needs to patrol the area more frequently, and some “No Loitering”, “No Sleeping” and “Keep Your Shoes On” signs need to be posted.

Getting To Chester Without Going Through Chester
Driving to Harrah’s from the south via I-95 just got a little easier.  You now can take Exit 4 (Commodore Barry Bridge/New Jersey to East 322 and 291).  Don’t go across the bridge – that will drop you off in New Jersey, but take the first exit (Chester Waterfront PA291) and turn right at the bottom of the ramp on Second Street (PA291).  (A sign will direct you to Eddystone.)  Harrah’s should petition for a sign to direct folks to the casino.  It’s a little confusing if you don’t know that the casino is just before Eddystone.

General

How The Grinch Stole Birthdays
Oh, for the days when you got a chocolate cake delivered to your house, or some free play, or maybe even some comp dollars.  As many of you know, the birthday gift du jour is now bonus Base Rewards Credits – I got offered up to 5,000.  Wow, 50 comp dollars – assuming I want to invest up to $25,000 in slot play on one day during the last three months of the year.  As I wrote before, this is like having your best friend tell you to go out and buy a birthday present at your own expense, but he/she will gift wrap it for you for free.  And, considering these are Base Reward Credits (that count toward your tier status), those who have birthdays earlier in the year really get the most value.  By October (or even July), if you’ve already achieved Seven Stars status, it really doesn’t do you much good – unless you’re going for one of the Signature Experiences.  Even then, by October, November or December, many players already have surpassed the 125,000 mark.  Caesars, please rethink this birthday “gift” next year.  Considering how generous competing casinos are with everything from cash and comp dollars to free play and “real” presents, this is pretty pathetic.  You want to recognize my birthday by asking me to invest more money on the off-chance I am going to win, just so I can get a few points and comp dollars?  I don’t think so.  [By comparison, Dover Downs in Delaware – where I play a fraction of what I play at Caesars casinos – gave me $200 in free play, good the entire month of November.  And the best gift?  Good all during November, Aria in Las Vegas – where I’ve never even played! – is giving me three nights in a corner suite, $700 in free play, and a $450 food and beverage credit.]

Seven Stars Discount Discontinued
The 15 percent Seven Stars discount on gift cards sold through the Total Rewards Catalog has been discontinued, effective last month.

Great Race Credits
Looks like Caesars was right on schedule.  Messages boards are buzzing and e-mails are being exchanged about the Rewards Credits everyone earned with the Great Race promotion.  Caesars said the bonus credits would be added by October 31, and they were!

Survey: Old vs. New Slots?
Once again, it’s a draw.  Slot players were almost evenly divided as to whether they stick with the same machines, or tire of the old and search out the new.

Survey: 125K+ Players
Looking over the choices for 2011-12 Signature Experiences, there doesn’t seem to be much logic in what they include for the amount of play required.  If you could design some new Experiences for 2012-13, what would you suggest?  Which of the current experiences would you eliminate?  How about an à la carte option that would allow you to assemble your own personal experience?  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

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Fixing Up Vegas

Recently your host, Mr. Eastcoastgambler (Hi), has been bringing you youtube videos of past Vegas implosions.  Now that the economy has soured, Vegas isn’t destroying old properties to build new ones but instead is investing money to improve already existing resorts.  Yesterday, the trend continued with the announcement that Golden Gate would be adding 19 new rooms and expanding its casino floor.  So what other properties need a fixer upper?

Bills Gamblin Hall and Saloon – This place is so in need of some life, that Caesars won’t even let it be part of Total Rewards.  As the Barbary Coast, it was unique, boutique and known for great service.  Since being taken over by Caesars, it has fallen into disrepair. The service has majorly declined and upkeep has been minimal.  The doors even still have the BC initials from the Barbary Coast.  There is a lot to like about the interior of Bills, but it needs a lot of work to become relevant again (and a new name wouldn’t hurt either).

Binions – Binions is basically a Las Vegas landmark.  Historically, it is known as being the place where Benny Binion would take any bet offered and even would display a million dollars in cash for people to take photos with.  Caesars may have stolen (ED: They paid for the name, that’s not stealing) the Horseshoe brand, but that doesn’t mean that Binions should go away.  With the Plaza, El Cortez, and Golden Gate getting upgrades, Binions should be next in line to continue the trend.

Excalibur – This place needs so much work I don’t even know where to start.  The theme is a killer, as it is distinctly built to be a family oriented place.  Since Vegas has moved out of that trend, the theme hinders more than it helps.  A fresh coat of paint to bring down the ‘Camelot’ and re-theming the place into a good vs evil knight thing could be a start.  However, Excalibur would need a remodel along the lines of the Tropicana to have any chance at relevancy.

Pioneer Club – This is my dark horse candidate.  Pioneer Club has one of Vegas’s most iconic signs, Vegas Vic, and yet is no longer even a casino.  How sad is it that Vegas Vic now advertises for a gift shop and an ABC store?  I would love to see someone buy this place and return it to its former glory and give Vegas Vic the property he so rightly deserves.

Copyright © 2017 Marc Meltzer & EDGe Vegas