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The Are No M Life Casinos In Atlantic City

MGM Resorts M Life Players Club

M Life

Every day I get incoming searches that are some variation of this:

m life casinos in atlantic city

There are no M Life casinos in Atlantic City.

Here’s a link to M Life casinos across the country. There are no MGM Resorts hotels in Atlantic City. Even though MGM Resorts owns half of Borgatathey really don’t. Borgata has their own players club anyway.

MGM Resorts casinos that use this players club are located in Las Vegas, BiloxiDetroit and Tunica. In addition to these MGM Resorts hotels there are other casinos that are partners of the players club (See Pinnacle-MGM details here).

This is one of the most searched terms that send people to EDGeVegas.com. Sorry to burst your bubble googlers but there are no M Life casinos in Atlantic City.

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

7:30am Showboat Atlantic City Balcony Suite

7:30am Showboat Balcony Suite

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

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

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

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

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

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

I like being the big fish in the little casino pond

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

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

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

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Horse Racing Simulcasts Leaving Atlantic City Casinos

Watching the ponies race at the casinos in Atlantic City is the closest thing the city has to a sportsbook but that’s changing. Only 5 of the 12 casinos in Atlantic City still have horse racing simulcasts.

Last Sunday, March 31, Trump Taj Mahal became the latest Atlantic City casino to get out of the simulcasting business when it closed its racing operation Sunday. Now only five of the city’s 12 casinos, including Borgata, Bally’s Atlantic City, Caesars Atlantic City, Harrah’s Resort, and the Showboat Casino Hotel, continue to offer simulcasting.  The simulcast parlor at Taj Mahal will be used for live keno and to extend the poker room.

When I frequented Atlantic City I only went to the horse books a few times for bigger races like the Kentucky Derby or the Belmont Stakes. I’m not into the horses and the race books did nothing to make me feel comfortable enough to want to stay and see what it was like.

Horse racing only accounts for about .7% of gaming revenue in Las Vegas (about half of sports betting) but there are a lot of people watching the horses and every now and again it looks like something I’d like to try. Betting on horse racing may be the only way to get a drink ticket in some sportsbooks.

Most of the spaces that I remember in Atlantic City that were devoted to to horse racing were small and probably couldn’t be renovated to account for the, relatively, large space needed for when sports betting is legalized in a few years when the powers that be get their act together. The Borgata racebook above may be the exception and is probably the largest in Atlantic City.

Photo: Travelmilesluxury

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Seven Stars Insider – December Edition

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

Seven Stars Insider – December 2012

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.

 

It’s now easier to find the Seven Stars Insider Web site.

Simply go to: 

>> www.sevenstarsinsider.com <<

 

Hollywood Casino St. Louis

Answers To Your Questions

There are a lot of questions regarding the transition from Harrah’s St. Louis to Hollywood Casino St. Louis. Answers can be found at this link.  Several readers have expressed surprise that their Total Rewards tier status was not matched by Hollywood’s Marquee Rewards program; however, if you read carefully – at least the way I interpret it, your tier status with Hollywood will be matched based solely on your play in St. Louis.  In other words, you might have a Total Rewards Diamond card, but if you earned only 5,000 of the required 11,000 annual points at Harrah’s St. Louis, your tier status with Hollywood would be based on 5,000 tier points, not 11,000.  Same with comp dollars.  You might have $1,000 worth of comps under Total Rewards, but Hollywood will match only the amount you earned at Harrah’s St. Louis.

Las Vegas

SlotZilla

Perhaps in an attempt to compete with the two new observation wheels under construction on the Strip, Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman has announced plans to construct a five-block zip line where riders are spit out the “mouth” of an 11-story slot machine.  Construction begins next month, with a projected opening in June. 

Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall & Saloon

Bye, Bye, Bill’s

Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall will close February 4 for a $185 million renovation.  Bill’s will reopen in early 2014 under a new name and theme, transforming the hotel and casino into a “boutique lifestyle hotel and club” – to use the words from a statement issued by Caesars Entertainment.  The conversion includes the complete remodeling of the guest rooms, the casino floor and common areas, the addition of a new second-floor restaurant, and construction of a rooftop pool and dayclub/nightclub.  The rooftop club will open later in 2014. 

Flamingo

Great Great Gift Wrap Up!

I attended the Great Gift Wrap Up last month at Flamingo and it couldn’t have been run more smoothly.  I was there on Sunday, the day before it ended, and there were no lines, as well as plenty of signage to direct people – not only to the event itself, but also within the ballroom, showing where different types of gifts were located. There also were lots of employees to help you find things, answer questions, etc.  The second leg of this popular annual event takes place at Caesars Palace and ends December 3. 

Paris

Evening In Paris

Not that it needs my endorsement or recommendation, but I can’t think of a more perfect evening than dinner at Gordon Ramsay Steak followed by a performance of Jersey Boys. For those of you who don’t mind eating early (6 or 6:30 p.m.) and seeing a show late (9:30 p.m.), check out this great combination on Tuesday nights.  [You also could see a 5 p.m. show on Saturdays, followed by dinner.]

The Quad

It’s Official!

The Total Rewards Web site has dropped Imperial Palace and replaced it with the new name and logo.  Plus, I just got my first promotion – a $100,000 bingo tournament – with the new Quad name and logo.

[Human] Nature Calls For Last Time

If you planned to see Human Nature at the Imperial Palace – oops, The Quad – you’ll have to travel to Florida or Australia.  The group performed its final shows last month.  Las Vegas entertainment columnist John Katsilometes claims that Recycled Percussion will take the singing group’s place starting next month.

Atlantic City

Advertising Hope and Appreciation

Caesars is using some valuable real estate to welcome back customers and employees after Hurricane Sandy devastated parts of the area in late October.  Rather than advertising upcoming entertainment, celebrity chefs or other promotions, the billboards lining the causeway at the end of the Atlantic City Expressway, as well as other locations, offered messages of hope, as well as appreciation to those who risked their lives for others in need. Caesars also donated thousands of dollars to the Red Cross and other local charities.  Nice!

Cool Treat

Winter Sweet, a new 3D light and sound show that is projected onto Boardwalk Hall, has replaced Duality, the show that’s been featured on the outside of the hall since July.  Shows will play every half hour from 6 to 9 p.m.

The Early Bird. . .Gets Charged Extra

Perhaps taking a cue from the airlines and all their extra fees, but for those arriving before 4 p.m., Caesars Atlantic City hotels are now offering early check-in for a “nominal fee”.  (I wonder if Caesars will rebate a portion of the room rate when guests check-out earlier than noon.)  I know companies are looking for all sorts of ways to increase revenues, but this just seems a little cheap.  If a room is ready for occupancy, why not let a guest check-in and avoid a 4 p.m. rush at registration?

More Name Changes?

Several readers received a survey from Caesars asking “Which is your main casino for the New Jersey market?” Among the choices:

Borgota Hotel Casino

Harrah’s Restort Atlantic City

Buffets On Holiday Schedules

Caesars Boardwalk Buffet will open during regular hours this month, but Showboat’s Mardi Gras Buffet will be closed December 10-13 and 16-24, and Harrah’s Waterfront Buffet is scheduled to close Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays through December 24.  It’s always wise to reconfirm these dates before you show up, though.

Climb and Dine

Popular Harrah’s Resort chef Luke Palladino is partnering with the Absecon Lighthouse.  Through December 17, climb the lighthouse, show your “I Climbed” card at Luke’s Kitchen & Marketplace at Revel, and get a bowl of soup for $4, or a soup and sandwich combo for $8.  Details at www.abseconlighthouse.org or call (609) 449-1360. 

Bally’s

Diamond Lounge December Hours

The Diamond Lounge at Bally’s will be closed on the following days this month: December 3-4, 10-14 and 17-24.

Holiday Cheer

Be sure to stop by the Bally’s Diamond Lounge December 8 to sample its “mean” egg nog station.

Gift Shop Sells $1M Powerball Ticket

One of the eight $1 million Powerball tickets sold in New Jersey came from Picks and Wicks at Bally’s 

Caesars

December Seven Stars Lounge Hours

Unlike the lounge at Harrah’s (see below), the Seven Stars Lounge will be open Thursdays during regular hours – at least for the next two weeks; then the schedule will be re-evaluated.  Fridays the lounge will be open from 5 p.m. to midnight through December 21.  The Seven Stars lounge will be open on New Year’s Eve from 1 p.m. to midnight and New Year’s Day from 1 to 8 p.m.

December Diamond Lounge Hours

Unlike the other Diamond Lounges in town, Caesars will be open every day during regular hours.  On New Year’s Eve the lounge will be open from 2 p.m. to midnight, and New Year’s Day from noon to 7:30 p.m.

Chef Shuffle

Former Seven Stars Lounge chef Tim Davis is now in the kitchen at Nero’s.

Harrah’s Resort

Seven Stars Hours To Change

Starting this month and continuing through January, the Seven Stars Lounge will no longer be open on Thursdays.  In addition, the lounge will close the weekend before Christmas, December 21-23, but be open on New Year’s Eve.

Diamond Lounge December Hours

The Diamond Lounge at Harrah’s will be closed on the following days this month: December 10-13 and 17-20.

Up All Night – Not

Despite what it says on the Harrah’s Resort and Sammy D’s Web sites – “An all-day, all-night, all-you-could-ask-for eatery. . . .” – Sammy D’s is no longer the 24-hour outpost originally envisioned.  Currently, it’s open until 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, but closes at 10 every other night.  (There is a disclaimer on the site which says, “Hours subject to change, please call to verify.”)  The Sammy D’s Web site, though, publishes totally different hours (Monday & Tuesday: 7 a.m. – 10 a.m., Wednesday: 7 a.m. – 12 a.m., Thursday: 7 a.m. – 10 p.m., Friday: 7 a.m. – 3 a.m., Saturday: 24 hours, Sunday: 7 a.m. – 10 p.m.).

You Need To Get Out More, Mr. Reservationist

I’m not sure where I was calling, but when I spoke with a reservationist – supposedly working at Harrah’s Resort – he told me things were “pretty bad down there” (meaning Atlantic City) and that “the Boardwalk around the casinos was destroyed.”  I proceeded to update him on conditions, but this is certainly no way to bring back business if Harrah’s reservationists are painting such a glum picture of conditions at the Jersey Shore.

You Also Need To Get Out More, Mr. Smith

I pointed this out more than a year ago, but in “A Few Words From The General Manager” John D. Smith writes, “You’ll enjoy a dining experience where the delicious cuisine and attentive service are only surpassed by breathtaking ocean views.”  Which restaurants offer these “breathtaking ocean views”?

From Dust To More Dust

Apparently I’m not the only person to experience poor housekeeping and maintenance at Harrah’s.  A reader sent me photos, along with some commentary on his experience there:

I stayed in the Waterfront Tower last month.  There was no clock radio, only one ashtray in this “smoking room”, no pen/paper, horrible Wi-Fi service, and no do-not-disturb sign.  I was not spending much time in the room but I had mentioned to housekeeping a need for more ashtrays, paper/pen, clock radio and do-not-disturb sign.  I returned to the room at 4 a.m. and everything was the same.  Needless to say, I was awakened by housekeeping later in the morning at which time I then demanded a do-not-disturb sign.  I mentioned all this to the front desk when I checked out, but it didn’t seem like they were going to do anything, even making jokes about it.  I would hope they’d get someone to at least clean that filthy air filter before the next guest checks in.

Ironically, less than a week after I received these photos I experienced the same problem.  When I checked into my room the thermostat was set for 50º, but the temperature was showing 73º.  I called the front desk and when the maintenance person showed up he found a similarly clogged filter.  Shouldn’t someone put these things on an ongoing maintenance program?  Harrah’s promotes these Waterfront Tower rooms as “premium”, but even basic rooms at most national hotel chains have clean filters, plastic laundry bags, sinks that drain properly, soap dishes, pads and pens, more than four hangers in the closet, and other basics – none of which did I have in my room. Also, once again, my room had a missing towel ring.  (Why not just remove these or replace them with something else?)  Admittedly, these are little things, but just reflect poorly on a hotel where rooms retail (plus tax) – on average from December 1-28 – nearly $105 (some nights as high as $183.20, and that’s not including December 29-31 where the lowest average rate is nearly $365 – $567.20 on New Year’s Eve).  Now let’s talk about all the dust on top of the Diamond Express sign at check-in.  I’m tall, so my eye level focuses right on top of that sign.  It was covered with dust. . .plus an earlier guest must have spotted the same thing and ran his finger across the top of the sign, even further emphasizing the lack of basic housekeeping.  This is not a good way to begin a visit.

False Sense Of Security

It’s bad enough that no one seems to care about all the drunk young ladies walking around without shoes outside The Pool.  Let’s talk about “security” going to rooms in the Waterfront Tower.  Unintentionally, to get into the elevator bank I showed the “guard” a key from a recent stay at the Water Club.  He waved me through, only for me to discover that I didn’t even need to insert my room key in order to ascend to my floor.  Why bother? 

Showboat

Diamond Lounge December Hours

The Diamond Lounge at Showboat will be closed on the following days this month: December 10-14 and 17-24.

Harrah’s Philadelphia

BarleyQue Finally Gets It Right

While I don’t know if it’s going to attract more business, the still unfortunately-named BarleyQue – clever and cute, but meaningless to a lot of people – has modified its menu again, bringing back items from its former End Zone days, and adding some variety to what was once all too dependent on smoked and barbecued foods. Opening the wall behind the host station also should help, as will moving the host desk out onto the casino floor.

General

Tier Jerker

Starting late last month word began circulating through the Internet (on message boards such asharrahscasinos@yahoogroups.com and on the Web site, www.vegastripping.com) that tier levels were being increased. The information is incorrect and, at best, incomplete. The lesson here is, “Don’t believe everything you read on the Internet” and its corollary, “Don’t further distribute information you read on the Internet without being sure of the source and its accuracy.”

Insider Out?

Frankly, it verges on false advertising. . .or bait and switch.  Anyone earning the requisite 10,000 tier points between July 1 and September 30 to qualify for TR Insider status in the fourth quarter of 2012 has been sorely disappointed by the lack of events and benefits.  [In Atlantic City, there was one cocktail party on November 10; there were no events at Harrah’s Philadelphia; and one event in Tunica.  (Those are the only lists I’m on, so if the situation was different in other parts of the country, please let me know.)]  After much hoopla last year – at least in Atlantic City where they had to add a second dinner to announce this supposedly great new program – it seems as though the TR Insider program is just going to quietly disappear.  Don’t such loyal customers – as we keep being told we are – deserve some sort of announcement on the status of the program or, at the very least, some closure?  And what about the people who qualified for fourth quarter 2012 “benefits”?  I know several, and they are not very happy.  Caesars owes these players something, in my opinion.

 Great Race Point Discrepancies

A number of people wrote to say they didn’t feel they got all the credits they deserve for this year’s Great Race. Check “Promotions” on your December My TR eStatement to see how many Reward Credits you received.  If that number is inaccurate, then use the “Contact Us” form on the Total Rewards Web site to send an inquiry.  If Caesars does this promotion a third year, perhaps they could add a line on our eStatements indicating how many checkpoints we hit during that month.  That way, if there is an error, the problem can be solved within a 30-day framework, rather than waiting until the program ends.  [A running total of how many Great Gift Wrap Up points we’ve earned would be a nice feature, as well.  MGM’s M life Web site shows a player’s current tier score, available comp dollars, Holiday Gift Shoppe points and free play right at the top of the Home page after log-on.]

Some Seven Stars Benefits Are Not The Same Everywhere

I’ve heard from several Seven Stars cardholders who were angry about being charged for local and toll-free calls, as well as in-room movies, and even angrier that they were not upgraded to suites on their annual Seven Stars trip (or any stay) – or never received any sort of in-room amenity.  None of these are corporately-mandated “benefits”; however, some casinos do extend these courtesies to Seven Stars cardholders.  Always check first to find out what the casino policy is regarding benefits you “think” you are entitled to.

Total Rewards Rewarded

Congratulations to Caesars Entertainment and Total Rewards!  The casino loyalty program won the 2012 Master of Enterprise Loyalty, an award which “recognizes one company that stands apart for having an enterprise-wide, holistic approach to using data to transform the consumer experience and improve both financial and customer performance.”  The award is presented annually by Colloquy, a collection of resources devoted to the global loyalty marketing industry.  Read details here.

Question Of The Month

I want to take five guests (six total) for my annual celebration dinner, but I’ve been reading that there is a limit of four people.  Is this correct?  No!  Once again, don’t believe what you read on the Internet – unless it’s in this newsletter.  (I know someone who took 11 guests to the Bacchanal Buffet at Caesars Palace.)  The only limit is the amount of the bill.  Caesars will pick up $500; if it’s more than $500, the rest you can pay with cash, credit card or Reward Credits.  (Some restrictions may apply regarding the purchase of alcoholic beverages at certain casinos.)  You’re also responsible for the gratuity, but you cannot use Reward Credits or anything left over from the $500 Seven Stars dinner credit.  My memory is a little fuzzy, but there might have been a four-person limit in the early years of the program, but it’s always been a $500 credit, which, considering how prices have gone up, is due for an increase.

Dress Code

Guys, if you’re lucky enough to receive an invitation to one of the Caesars-sponsored New Year Eve parties, please dress appropriately.  At last year’s party at Caesars in Atlantic City, I saw several men wearing baseball caps, shorts, T-shirts and flip flops, or some combination thereof.  A friend received an invitation to a New Year’s Eve party at Wynn in Las Vegas.  At the bottom of the invitation was this caveat:

“Cocktail party attire is required. Dress code strictly enforced.”

I wish Caesars would do something like this – and enforce it.

Holiday Hours

Don’t assume that your favorite restaurants and lounges will be open during regular hours this month.  Many will observe reduced hours due to the holidays.  Call ahead before making plans.

Leaving Macau

Caesars has given up on efforts to open a casino in Macao.  Five years ago Caesars paid $578 million for a golf course in Macau, hoping to use the land for a casino, but the company still hasn’t received permission to build the casino.  Consequently, Caesars is now trying to unload the money-losing golf course and leave Macau. 

Caesars Financial Report

Here’s a link to a transcript of a conference call with Caesars executives regarding third quarter earnings.

Survey Says. . .

I may unintentionally have skewed the results of last month’s survey because Total Touch was by far the number one biggest irritant that Caesars puts in front of its customers.   “I’ve had to go to as many as six machines before the system recognized my card, sometimes getting to the point where I thought I could download my free play, only to be ‘told’ my request couldn’t be completed.”  Beverage orders were another sore spot.  “Have you tried to find coffee with Bailey’s?” one person wrote.  Another said she ordered a cocktail, but, after winning a big jackpot, wanted to move to a different machine.  “There went my drink order!  At least if I’d ordered from a ‘real person’ I’d know who to tell that I was moving.”  Diamond and Platinum members chimed in with the second biggest complaint – not enough cashiers.  Third was from Seven Stars cardholders who wanted exclusive lines at events and restaurants.  “Why should I share with Diamond and Platinum cardholders?” was a common complaint.

 This Month’s Survey

The Total Rewards Web site has gone through more “facelifts” than Joan Rivers.  In my opinion, I think they finally got it right, but what do you think?  Do you use the site to check your tier points and comp dollars, plan future trips, get answers to your questions?  Or, do you even use the site?  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 – Got Celeb

 

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Seven Stars Insider – April Edition

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

Happy New Year!
I know this is April, but for Total Rewards it’s a brand new year of benefits. The next 12 months will go fast, so consider making your plans early for the annual trip and celebration dinner. While you’re at it, go ahead and select your annual gift – you’ll notice that the selection is much greater this year. However, who decided to arbitrarily categorize the gifts as “For Her” and “For Him”? Aren’t we well past the days when kitchen appliances are considered “feminine” and sports equipment and electronics are dubbed “masculine”?

Harrah’s New Orleans

Diamond LoungeChanges
A reader who just returned from New Orleans reports that there have been changes – for the better! – at the Diamond Lounge. The buffet has been replaced with a long couch, chair and coffee table, and there is now a printed menu. Choices included 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. She also tried the new restaurant, Manning’s, across the street from the Grand Isle. Two standouts on the menu, she said, were the Gris Gris Duck Wings and the chicken and andouille sausage gumbo. Service was excellent, she added. Manning’s accepts Quick Rewards on a 1:1 basis, or you can charge meals to your room and settle the bill with your Total Rewards credits upon check-out.

Harrah’s St. Louis

Level II Experience Report
I thought you might enjoy this report from Seven Stars cardholder Tom Valledolmo. Overall, he and his wife had a very positive experience which he details in this report downloadable from his Web site: http://www.tomthebombpicks.com/uploads/St._Louis_Harrah_s_Trip_Report_3-27-12.pdf.

Lake Tahoe

Updates At Harrah’s and Harvey’s
Seven Stars cardholders who frequent Lake Tahoe were kind enough to send me these updates:
Harrah’s no longer has the Summit Restaurant on the 16th floor. There is now “The President’s Lounge at the Summit” – open to Diamond and Seven Stars cardholders from 4 to 7:30 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. There are two levels of seating with beautiful views of the lake. Between 4 and 6, there is a carving station (usually roast beef and ham), with breads, chips, soup, etc.; the Diamond Lounge off the casino floor serves only finger foods from 4 to 6. Also, unlike the Diamond Lounge, which is self-service, there are several servers to take drink orders.
Harvey’s Diamond Lounge is more seasonal. Open on Thursday or Friday through Sunday from 4 to 9 p.m., the Lounge serves food from 4 to 6 p.m. There is a little better selection than Harrah’s Diamond Lounge – usually hot dogs and sandwich type food.
There are a couple new food outlets at Harvey’s: Straw Hat Pizza (with free WiFi) has pizza, burgers and salads, and opens at 11 a.m. Sierra Deli also opens at 11. Both accept Total Rewards credits, but at a 2:1 ratio.
Free lift tickets for Seven Stars cardholders are no longer monthly, but are now limited to four per season.

Las Vegas

No More ‘Two For The Show’
Those free and discounted show tickets for Diamond, Platinum and Seven Stars cardholders are no longer available. Apparently this is just another “enhancement” to the “new” Total Rewards.

Caesars Palace

Seven Stars Registration ‘Down-Sized’
Like the lounge it shares with Diamond cardholders, the formerly exclusive Seven Stars Registration is now a Seven Stars/Diamond Registration. Inside there is a small office with two desks and a sign that says, “Seven Stars”. When it’s not busy, and there’s no need for a dedicated check-in area, that office is empty. The former Diamond Registration is now registration for guests booked in the Augustus or Octavius Towers. Hopefully, guests who don’t have Seven Stars or Diamond cards are alerted to this in advance – both to avoid frequent long lines at the main registration area and also to take advantage of the close-by valet parking (see below).

Octavius Tower Now Open
Though I was originally booked in the Augustus Tower for my annual Seven Stars trip last month, I asked for a room in the new Octavius Tower that opened in January. [According to promotional copy provided by Caesars (which I didn’t see until my return), the Tower is a “668-room exhibition in excess. Let us apologize in advance for ruining other hotels for you. Each and every room brings new definitions to the words extravagance and comfort. It is modern beauty, timeless luxury and boastful amenity all rolled into one. Rooms also feature. . .your very own iPad® or iPod Touch® application which allows you to communicate with hotel services.”] In hindsight, I should have stuck with my original reservation. Probably because it faced the Garden of the Gods pool complex, the room was very dark and seemed smaller than rooms I’ve had in the Augustus which looked out over the Bellagio fountains and Paris’ Eiffel Tower. Also, it would have been nice if someone had told me about those apps. And, while staying in any of Caesars’ towers requires a considerable bit of walking from check-in – even using the dedicated Seven Stars/Diamond registration in the Augustus Tower, it’s a hike to get back to the Octavius Tower. If you’re driving, and know in advance you’ll be staying in the Octavius (or Augustus) Tower, be sure to take advantage of the special VIP Valet on Flamingo Road. Those who need an early morning cup of coffee to get them started will have to pre-order the night before from Room Service. Unlike the Augustus Tower, there are no coffeemakers in the rooms and, while there is complimentary coffee at the Seven Stars/Diamond Registration (along with free newspapers), I’m not sure it’s worth the walk. The other alternative is to take the interior walkway that skirts the pool area and grab a light breakfast at Rao’s or Payard Patisserie & Bistro. Finally (as always seems to be my “luck”), I had a room with a broken toilet seat which was never repaired during my entire four-night stay, despite a call to Guest Services shortly after I checked in; in addition, the stopper was broken in one of the bathroom sinks. Also, I don’t think anyone has ever dusted the tops of the wall-mounted room number blocks or cleaned the vents in the bathrooms. Both were covered with dust. High marks, though, go to the bright lighting in the bathroom. As to all those other “luxuries” in the promos, it all seemed pretty standard to me. If you find yourself booked into the Octavius Tower I would ask for a low floor overlooking the pool area, or a high floor overlooking the Bellagio. Better yet, stick with the Augustus Tower, and leave the Octavius for those conventioneers who will have closer access to the meeting space.

Lost: Lost and Found
It took nearly three weeks and four phone calls, but I finally got back the electric toothbrush I inadvertently left behind in my room. I realized my goof about halfway back to the airport, and called Seven Stars registration once I cleared Security – about an hour after I had checked out. Within a few minutes, the clerk confirmed with Housekeeping that the toothbrush was there, and he transferred me to Lost and Found to make arrangements for its return – at no charge, he said, because I was a Seven Stars cardholder. No one answered the call, so I left the detailed message a recording requested. More calls, and more voicemails, and still no returned messages (or my toothbrush). Reluctant to get him involved – after all, it was my own stupidity that created this situation, I e-mailed my host with all the details and asked him to forward it to the appropriate department head. Less than 24 hours later, an administrative assistant to the Vice President of Security called me, apologizing for the lack of response and promising me the toothbrush would be shipped overnight. When I sent a thank you note to my host confirming that all was in order, he replied that – while not making excuses – Lost and Found is “swamped” with inquiries. Isn’t this a sign that some additional staffing might be necessary? I know every company is trying to save money by operating as lean and efficiently as possible, but when customer service suffers, it might be time to reassess those cutbacks.

O’Shea’s

Slán leat, O’Shea’s [Good Bye, O’Shea’s]
O’Shea’s will close next month and be demolished as part of the $550 million Project Linq development. Space currently occupied by O’Shea’s will become part of the reconfigured Imperial Palace, which will be given a new name and theme. As previously announced, Project Linq is an outdoor retail, dining and entertainment district to be built along a private street that separates the Flamingo and Imperial Palace, starting at the Strip and heading back to Audrie Street and Ida Avenue. The two streets will be converted from public to private streets. The centerpiece of Project Linq is a 550-foot-tall observation wheel. It’s expected to open next year.

Atlantic City

Insider Outsider
Even though I qualified as a TR Insider for the first quarter of 2012, I seemed to be the only one among a group of friends who wasn’t invited to a number of monthly Friday evening cocktail parties at Bally’s, Caesars and Harrah’s. Last month, since I was staying at Bally’s the evening of one of the parties – billed as “Cocktails and Conversation” – even though I wasn’t invited, I walked up to the registration table, gave the clerk my Seven Stars card and waited to see what would happen. After all, there was a big sign out front of the Blue Martini Bar indicating there was a TR Insider Party, I was an “Insider”, so how could they turn me away? Well, their computer was down so she just handed me a wristband and told me to come in and enjoy myself. I had only about 15 minutes before I was meeting friends at the Caesars Seven Stars Lounge, but I counted approximately 50 people at the party, and there was an open bar, some lovely passed hors d’ouevres, a carving station and some pasta on a small buffet. A week later I knew there was a similar party at Harrah’s. Again, since I was staying there (and, at the base of the escalator leading up to the ballroom, there was a similar sign about a TR Insider Party), I tried the same trick. No dice. “You’re not invited,” I was politely informed, and none of the three women was going to let me in. I explained that I had friends inside who were expecting me and that I had not been invited to any of these Friday night parties in January, February or March. The woman in charge of the event checked my record, verified that I was, indeed, an Insider, but couldn’t explain why I wasn’t getting the invitations. She agreed to do some research into why I wasn’t receiving them, finally (and reluctantly), giving me a wristband. Was it worth all the trouble? Not really. Sure, there were open bars, pasta and garlic bread, General Tso’s Chicken and fried rice, and a dessert station, but I could get all the free food and drink I wanted in the Seven Stars Lounge downstairs. What I did get was – I think – an explanation of what this whole TR Insiders thing is (at least in Atlantic City). If you qualify, you should be invited to a monthly cocktail reception at your “dominant casino” (the one you play at most frequently); in addition, there is a quarterly party at each of the four Caesars-owned casinos. During the first quarter of 2012, Caesars and Bally’s hosted slot and blackjack tournaments, there was a Carnival-themed party (as in those pre-Lenten festivals held in Rio and New Orleans) at Showboat, and an Olympics-themed party at Harrah’s. No word yet on what’s in store for April, May and June.

Light [No] Show
A news release touting its participation in Earth Hour – a “symbolic act [that] represents Caesars Entertainment’s commitment to reducing its carbon footprint on a global scale” – promised that all of its casinos would turn off exterior lighting Saturday evening. Showboat shut off its giant red marquees, but lights remained on at Caesars and Bally’s. I was inside Harrah’s so I don’t know whether its lights were on or off.

Don’t Expect A Revel-ution
Despite lots of threats from players – many who are dissatisfied Seven Stars cardholders, unless Revel makes changes to its player’s card program, I don’t expect much in the way of defection. Already, folks are grumbling over the fact that – like Wynn in Las Vegas – there will be only one level of player’s card. In other words, nothing like Caesars Gold, Platinum, Diamond and Seven Stars cards or Borgata’s Red Label, Black Label and Titanium cards. [“Everyone will be treated like a VIP,” said one Revel executive.] Also, Revel will have no dedicated player’s lounge like Caesars Diamond and Seven Stars Lounges, Trump’s and Golden Nugget’s Chairman’s Clubs, or Borgata’s Amphora Lounge and Society Club. Revel’s officials claim a lounge is unnecessary because of the casino’s generous comp policy, and the fact that all food and beverage outlets, the spa, etc., will be on a 1:1 basis, i.e., one comp dollar equals US$1. However, unless players are treated to some upfront “signing bonuses” or hosts divvy out lots of “discretionary comps”, I don’t see many players bellying up to the bar for premium cocktails and paying cash for them, let alone using their comp dollars. However, time will tell. After all, MGM’s casinos in Las Vegas don’t have anything like Caesars Diamond Lounges and it doesn’t seem to be hurting their business.

So, What’s It Like?
I had a tour of the Revel March 30, and it’s spectacular. The views alone from the large expanses of glass overlooking the ocean are worth the trip, as is the “sky garden” and just about every aspect of the hotel, casino, spa, restaurants and night club. Your Seven Stars (or Borgata Titanium) card will get you a host immediately and expedited service when it comes to signing up for a Revel player’s card, but that’s about it. There isn’t even a brochure detailing any benefits from the player’s card – which has no name, just “Revel” printed in black on a plain white card. I put more than $1,000 through a variety of slots at levels ranging from a penny to $1. After an hour of play, I walked away with $7 in “Resort Credits” [comp dollars] – not even enough to buy a decent drink at one of the bars.

‘Welcome Celebration’
The annual Seven Stars “Welcome Celebration” has been scheduled for April 27 and 28 – ironically, the same weekend as the Golden Nugget’s Grand Opening. Friday night each of the four Caesars casinos will give its Seven Stars cardholders a seven times Tier Credit multiplier, but the big event of the weekend is a 90-minute cocktail “soiree” Saturday. Invited guests also will receive a “commemorative bottle” of Belvedere® vodka. (A competing casino down the street gave out bottles of Belvedere a couple months ago as one of their standard weekly gifts – no major play required.) At each soiree, seven two-year leases on a 2012 Cadillac® CTS – along with additional cash prizes – will be given away. Aside from the tax implications – and, if I won, not even factoring in how much more I would spend on gas (I drive a Kia), my insurance would increase, and I’d be scared to death I’d cause some damage or exceed the maximum annual mileage. If Caesars is so committed to the environment (see above), why not give leases on a Prius or a Volt?

Diamond (and Platinum) Books Are A Player’s Best Friend
One of the more popular benefits for players in Atlantic City, these valuable coupon books will be distributed to Diamond cardholders on April 14 and 15 between noon and 6 p.m. Platinum cardholders can pick up their books from April 2 to 6; however, many of my Jewish friends – especially those who work fulltime and are unable to travel to Atlantic City during the week – feel that Caesars has been a bit insensitive to the fact that Passover begins at sunset on April 6, so they are unable to take advantage of a benefit they’ve earned. Since most Platinum cardholders probably don’t have a host, I would hope that Caesars makes some sort of special accommodation for those unable to pick up their books during the designated distribution dates.

ACES Not So Wild
The non-stop train service between Manhattan and Atlantic City – ACES (Atlantic City Express Service) – is no longer. Several factors led to the decision.

Marketing Test
I didn’t hear it personally – because I wasn’t invited, but at least three readers who attended a reception at One Atlantic told me that someone from Marketing said Caesars was purposely reducing offers to a “test group” of players to see if they would still come to Atlantic City and play. I think I must be part of the group because my “offers” have been reduced to practically nothing. And, yes, it’s affecting my play at Caesars casinos. But does it take a fancy marketing study to prove that?

Resorting To Additional Fees
How can Caesars casino hotels continue to say on their Web sites that they don’t have Resort Fees (see below) when – other than the Tropicana – they are the only hotels to charge more than the mandatory $5 per room night New Jersey State Occupancy Fee?

Call it what you will, but Caesars, Bally’s, Showboat and Harrah’s all are charging guests an additional $8 per room night (a $5 “Room Assessment Fee” and a $3 “Comp Room Fee”) — see below.

At least in Las Vegas when a hotel charges a Resort Fee it generally includes free Internet service, a free daily newspaper and even admission to the hotel’s fitness center. (And those staying in comped rooms generally have the resort fee waived, so it’s not an issue.) In Atlantic City Caesars is giving its guests nothing in return for this $8 additional charge – whether it’s paid in cash or taken out of comp dollars.

Bally’s

Clue®-less
Originally scheduled to promote the new Clue® slot machine (which still isn’t in operation yet at Bally’s or Caesars), the Murder Mystery Dinner Theater last month probably sounded like a good idea on paper. The Traymore Ballroom was cleverly decorated to evoke the interior of an English manor house; however, after about 20 minutes, the “theater” part just didn’t seem like it was going anywhere. Guests at our table were starting to talk among themselves, as were others in the room, so it was difficult to hear. Though we ate the salad (which was very good!), my friends and I left after about 20 minutes and ended up at The Reserve for an excellent dinner. “All’s Well That Ends Well!” Also, if Bally’s is going to use tickets under saucers to distribute a giveaway, make sure everyone understands that coffee cups are placed to the right of a diner. The man next to me grabbed the ticket under my coffee cup and claimed a Clue® board game for himself. It wasn’t worth arguing over, but had there been a more substantial prize, I might have become more contentious. In the future, Bally’s should consider a better system.

Wild Wild Guess
Just based on what I – and others – have been told by several Bally’s employees, look for a Dave & Buster’s, some retail shops, and maybe some additional food and beverage outlets to replace the slot machines currently “quarantined” behind temporary walls in the Wild Wild West.

Legends – Worth A Look
Though I’m not generally a fan of “tribute” shows, I must admit I was pleasantly surprised at the quality of both the performances and the production at Legends last month. The line-up of acts may change this month and next, but the cast I saw did an outstanding job, and the back-up dancers/singers deserve special credit for their enormous contribution. When they weren’t onstage dancing and singing their hearts out, they were backstage changing into yet another costume. Considering – other than comedy clubs at Tropicana and Borgata – there are so few shows during the week in Atlantic City, this is definitely one to check out.

Caesars

Friday Afternoon Meltdown
Be glad if you weren’t playing at Caesars the last Friday in March. Around 2 p.m. a “system” went down. Video poker and slot machines would not accept Fast Cash Tickets or Express Pay Coupons, and anyone cashing out from a machine had to wait for a hand pay – whether they were owed $500 or 15 cents. The lines at the main cashier were so long, I thought they were selling Mega Millions lottery tickets.

Harrah’s Resort

Difficult High Heels To Fill
While we’re happy about her promotion, we’ll miss Seven Stars Lounge Supervisor Alisa Hammill. During her years working in the lounge, she made it a point to get to know her customers, and treated everyone with dignity and respect. When the lounge was particularly busy, it was never beneath her to clean a table, take a cocktail order or deliver a plate of food. She also inspired great teamwork among her staff. Fortunately, she’ll remain at Harrah’s in another capacity, so let’s hope she won’t be a stranger.

Tipping Point
Unbelievable! That’s the only way I can describe my shock when a fellow Seven Stars cardholder grabbed a $5 tip from the bar at the lounge on a recent Friday night. The couple next to her had left and, when she thought I wasn’t looking, she took the bill and threw it in her purse. I told her what I saw, but she denied it. In an attempt to give her a chance to redeem herself, when Lou, the bartender, came to take my drink order, I said, “This nice lady was kind enough to take your tip so no one would steal it.” She just stared blankly ahead. A few minutes later she walked out, leaving her uneaten lobster roll and bowl of soup.

Sign Of The Times
Have you seen the sign on the casino floor promoting the American Idol slot machine? “The Vote’s Are In. This game is a winner!” Obviously, whoever designed – and approved – this never won any awards for punctuation. (The plural of the word “vote” does not require an apostrophe.)

Harrah’s Chester (Pennsylvania)

Name That Town
Could there be a name change in Harrah’s future? Will it be renamed Harrah’s Philadelphia? Makes a lot of sense. Harrah’s is practically ”a stone’s throw” from Philadelphia International Airport, and the Philly city limits are only about 15 minutes away. Most people don’t have a clue where Chester is, or, worse, think that Chester is the name of the man who owns the casino.

Declaring Bank-ruptcy
The “Bank” feature which is part of Total Touch® is nice, but downloaded free play expires with no warning. I had $155 in free play which I forfeited by forgetting to play it. I wouldn’t even have known, except for the fact that Pennsylvania requires its casinos to send reports to players detailing the amount of “slot cash” they offered, how much was played and how much expired. Even worse happened to a friend of mine. Saving up free play for an afternoon in the High Limits Slots, he hit the wrong button and mistakenly downloaded $500 while playing a penny slot in the C-Bar. Related to this is the fact that you can download only one of two smaller amounts or the entire balance of your bank. The system needs more options, or the ability to allow the player to choose a specific amount by punching numbers into a keyboard.

Caffe Napoli To Open This Month
Located on the former site of Café Cappuccio, the new Caffe Napoli is expected to open April 6. One employee described it as something similar to Sbarro’s, i.e., there will be seating to enjoy your food, but no servers.

The End Of End Zone
End Zone is closing to reinvent itself as a microbrew/barbeque pub. Renovations are expected to be completed – and a grand reopening is scheduled – next month. In the meantime, The Cove will be open extended hours Tuesday through Saturday and is introducing a new spring menu. (Don’t forget to update your Web site, Harrah’s It still has outdated information, not only about the Cove, but other details.)

General

The ‘New’ Total Rewards
While it’s evident a lot of time and money went into the new look of Total Rewards, the focus seems more on obtaining new cardholders than rewarding and retaining current cardholders. Sure, there a few new “benefits” – advance ticket sales for some events, discounted pricing at participating casino restaurants and buffets, the ability to transfer Reward Credits to another account-holder, and exchanging Rewards Credits for slot play (at a 2:1 ratio); however, I haven’t spoken to anyone who finds these that valuable. Many long-time Caesars players felt “blind-sided” when they heard about the four concerts that kicked off the brand re-launch March 1, wondering why more players weren’t invited to attend, why there wasn’t more advance notice, and the most vocal wondered what in the world P. Diddy, Cee Lo Green, Lil Wayne and others had to do with their favorite casino’s player loyalty program. Those who were aware of the concerts and tried to watch them online were frequently greeted by the equivalent of those “stand-by” signs reminiscent of the early days of television. At other times, portions of a concert were repeated, perhaps while “technical difficulties” were being corrected. “Commercials” for Total Rewards were greeted by cyber-boos in the form of negative tweets and Facebook postings (“This is the [sic] wurst!”) running continuously on the right side of the screen. As a matter of fact, about the only things positive being broadcast were obviously “planted” tweets from Caesars employees (“Heard about the new Escape To Total Rewards game? Can’t wait to play!”), or fan shout-outs to Mariah Carey and some of the other performers (“We luv u Mimi!”).

Atlantic City Signature Event
Add June 15-17 to your calendar if you plan to attend the first 2012 Signature Event in Atlantic City. There’s been no official announcement, but, assuming he wasn’t trying to throw me off, a Caesars executive let the dates slip during an informal conversation in the Seven Stars Lounge at Harrah’s Resort. Why keep the dates a secret? People like to make plans, and June 15 is only 2½ months away.

Signature Experiences: Deadline Extended (continued)
When someone tried to book her Level II experience for a date after March 31, she learned that some of the contracts with outside vendors expired March 31, and no replacement options were offered. In other words, it wasn’t going to be the experience she expected, so she opted for something else. If you’re going to take advantage of this extension, be sure to check in advance that you’ll get everything promised – or at least the equivalent.

Movie Mania
If you’re a fan of the free in-room movie benefit, when you check-in be sure to ask at the front desk what the policy is. Some casino hotels now limit the movies to one or two per day, and, in some cases, the limitation is per stay.

Play To Stay
When one player questioned why the Level I Tunica Basketball Experience no longer included a $1,500 airfare credit, and was reduced from four to two tickets, four to two rooms and one dinner for two (from four), he was told that too many players were coming to Tunica and not playing, or not playing enough. Excuse me, but aren’t these trips supposed to be a reward for past play? Plus, from my experience in Tunica too many machines wouldn’t accept my Total Rewards card, were out of order or were being reserved for other players. Also, unless you’re going to return to one of these casinos, what’s the point in playing a lot? As a result of that trip to Tunica I’m now getting invited to slot tournaments and other events, plus I am receiving free slot play offers, as well as food and beverage credits that I’ll never use – offers, I might add, that are more generous than the ones I receive from my “local” casinos in Atlantic City. Why would I travel 1,000 miles for $50 off my meal at Binion’s and $100 in free slot play? Similarly, why would I drive 90 miles [to Atlantic City] for $10 in free slot play and a $20 food credit (that’s good only Monday through Thursday)? I’m not even going to drive 15 minutes to Chester for a lousy $5 in slot play. I’d rather receive nothing than be insulted by these piddly “incentives” to play. It’s costing Caesars more to print and mail these silly offers than they’re worth.

Pick One: $500 Hotel Credit or 50,000 Reward Credits
When scheduling your annual trip, check to be sure if your $500 is in the form of a credit against your hotel room folio or whether 50,000 Reward Credits are going to be added to your Total Rewards account. If it’s a $500 credit on your hotel folio, you’ll need to use it before you check-out or you lose any remaining balance. Those who get the 50,000 RCs can use them anytime and anywhere – even after they return home. How about a little consistency, folks?

Mirror, Mirror
If you’ve already received one of the new Seven Stars cards, keep it somewhere safe. It may become a collector’s item. While replacement cards are on the way, the current cards are hard to read, the type (your name and TR number) scratches off easily, and – if you’re in the sun or under a bright light – you’re liable to temporarily blind someone. I actually saw a woman in Las Vegas using the card to check her make-up.

English Grammar 101
Apparently the copywriters at Total Rewards don’t have access to a basic grammar-checking program. I see this same type of error time after time in correspondence, promotional mailings and e-mails. “Total Rewards” is not the “valued Total Rewards Member”. Try this instead: “Total Rewards is pleased to provide you – our valued member – with this E-Statement. . . .” Also, in one 21-word sentence, “Total Rewards” is repeated three times. We get it. . .we get it!

A similar example arrived in the mail about a week later [emphasis added]: “As someone who knows about all the great luxury, amenities and beauty of our Las Vegas Total Rewards resorts, we don’t have to tell you that this is the perfect time of year to start planning your next Las Vegas getaway.” Huh? Try this instead: “For someone who knows about all the great luxury, amenities and beauty of our Las Vegas Total Rewards resorts, this is the perfect time of year to start planning your next Las Vegas getaway.”

Seven Stars-Specific Benefits
Notice anything missing from the Seven Stars benefits section of the Total Rewards Web site? Casino-specific benefits like the “Day at the Races” at Harrah’s Chester are currently being “vetted” by the TR execs in Las Vegas. Once the process is complete, the list will be posted again. Already dropped, according to the VIP Desk at Harrah’s New Orleans, are the Mardi Gras World tour, the carriage ride through the French Quarter and the paddleboat ride. Once each year cardholders visiting New Orleans were able to choose one of these as a special Seven Stars benefit. Between the loss of free show tickets in Las Vegas (see above) and this, it’s not looking good for the other benefits.

My TR: Not App-licable
With the additional layers of security required to log-on to the Total Rewards site, signing on to the My TR mobile app on my iPhone® is still not possible. The program needs a different “keyboard” that allows for upper case letters, as well as separate keys for letters and numbers. Supposedly, this was fixed a couple weeks ago, but it still doesn’t work.

A Not-So-Happy Birthday Offer
I was hoping it would change, but some with birthdays in the first quarter of 2012 are still getting the “earn up to 5,000 tier points in one day and we’ll match it” offer. At least in Atlantic City, every other non-Total Rewards casino offers free play, comp dollars or an actual gift. If you’ve already singled us out for some sort of birthday recognition, then don’t expect us to invest more money in slot machines or table games in order to get something in return.

Survey Results: The ‘New’ Total Rewards
So, what are players saying about the “rebranding” and new look of the Total Rewards program, as well as some of the enhancements, e.g., reduced prices at some food outlets, first choice to purchase tickets for concerts and shows? Unfortunately, complimentary responses are rare (it’s always more fun to trash something). I’d like to assume that someone has positive things to say about the new program, but I can’t prove it by the e-mails I received:
“Why spend all this money on new [player’s] cards? Diamond cards no longer look like Diamond cards and the Seven Stars cards are horrible. The cards all look alike, and they’re downright ugly!”
“They need to do more to reward their top players. They took away 12 trips from Level I last year. We did not even try to reach it. What’s the use?”
“Do they really think I am going to fly across country for $65 of free play in Lake Tahoe? Why do they send these ridiculous offers? It’s an insult. Surely, with Caesars sophisticated computer system, it should be able to better target players and offer more meaningful incentives.”
“If Caesars wants their continued support, Caesars needs to be talking to its players to see what they want. I don’t know anyone who wants to transfer their Reward Credits to someone else, or buy concert tickets in advance.”

Speaking of the new cards, I actually know people who are retaining their 2011-12 Seven Stars cards because they’re more distinctive and better differentiate them from Diamond and other lower-level cardholders.

Photo: Pulse of Las Vegas Blog

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Seven Stars Insider – December Edition

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

Seven Stars Insider – December 2011

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

Harrah’s Joliet (Illinois)

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

Baltimore,  Maryland

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

Las Vegas

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

Flamingo

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

Atlantic City

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bally’s

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

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

Caesars

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

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

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

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

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

Harrah’s Resort

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

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

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

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

Showboat

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

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

General

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

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

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

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

New Year’s Resolutions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Darryl D. McEwen, Publisher
Seven Stars Insider

Photo: Pulse of Las Vegas Blog

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Las Vegas Hotel Rooms Each Worth $20,000 More Than Atlantic City

MGM Grand in Las Vegas is making a big hubaloo over their new room renovations that are expected to be open to the public as soon as November with renovation continuing into 2012. Good those rooms are old and ugly, as you can see from my pictures on Vegas Chatter.

Renovations are coming in at $160,000,000 for 3,570 rooms. A total of almost $45,000 per room. Not bad. This got me to thinking about how that total compared to Borgata in Atlantic City, who planned their renovations earlier this year. Well, not surprising Borgata is spending much less updating their rooms. Borgata will be spending a total of $50,000,000 for 2,000 room renovations. That’s $25,000 per room.

So where is the extra $20,000 going by MGM Grand? Much of it is probably the bathroom – no joke. Borgata has relatively new and pretty nice bathrooms that can easily be updated, whereas MGM Grand has old bathrooms that will need top to bottom renovations.

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This Dude Won $15 Million At Tropicana

Don Johnson Blackjack Player

Don Johnson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo: Atlantic City Press

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Nongaming Revenue Las Vegas vs. Atlantic City

It shouldn’t be a surprise that Las Vegas earns more than Atlantic City on things other than gambling.  However, it’s a little shocking – not surprising – to see how much Las Vegas’ percentage of revenue comes from sources outside of gambling versus Atlantic City.

…But Atlantic City still has a long way to go before it can reach Las Vegas’ level, where about 60 percent of revenue comes from nongaming ventures, said Cory Morowitz, of Morowitz Gaming Advisors LLC, in Galloway Township.

Last year, nongaming revenue in Atlantic City was probably less than 10 percent after discounting comped goods, Morowitz said.

“I don’t think we can get to 60 percent,” he added. “We just don’t have the room size that Las Vegas has. Rooms are the biggest driver.”

As I mentioned there’s no surprise that the nongaming revenues are greater in Las Vegas than Atlantic City.  Las Vegas has put a lot of effort into creating those revenue streams for better or worse.

Borgata was the first casino to really put effort into creating nongaming revenues and Harrah’s Resort and Tropicana have followed suit by enhancing their club experiences.  Bally’s is starting down that road by renovating their properties (Claridge and Wild Wild West) and Harrah’s is considering rebranding Showboat.

These are all good steps to separating Atlantic City from the rest of the East Coast casinos that have been popping up over the past few years.

In addition to expanding their club scene I think (actually, I know) that better restaurants and more shows need to follow to grow this revenue stream and separate Atlantic City from the rest of the casinos.

Gwen Stefani - No Doubt - Borgata

Photo: Flickr: woundsarebleeding

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4 Hour Roll In Craps

4 Hour Craps Roll at Borgata Atlantic City

This lady rolled dice for 4 hours!

Wow.  Just Wow!  This weekend, in her second time playing craps, a New Jersey woman broke a record with a 4 hour-long roll of the dice in craps at Borgata.  He turn lasted 154 rolls.  Yowza!

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) — A record-setting night for one gambler in Atlantic City.

While playing craps at the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa on Saturday night, Patricia Demauro of Denville set a new record for the longest craps roll by hanging on for four hours and 18 minutes.

Borgata officials said that bested the previous mark of three hours and six minutes, set nearly 20 years ago at a Las Vegas casino.

I might have kissed Patricia if I were at that table.  The longest roll I’ve ever been apart of lasted about 45 minutes.  It was awesome.  Lately, I’m lucky if I get a roll that lasts more than 10 minutes.

I stopped playing craps at Borgata last year when I heard rumor that the tables were longer and the felt was bouncier than other Atlantic City casinos.  These were things I noticed when playing, but hearing this from multiple other sources played to my fears and has kept me away.  The more the dice roll the more difficult any strategy is.  I’d rather just play other games.

Photo: Time

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