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Seven Stars Insider – August Edition

Penn jillette Total Rewards

Penn jillette

Here are highlights from the latest edition of Seven Stars Insider. As always it has lots of information, especially for the Atlantic City players. This is an easy read and an excellent resource for Caesars Total Rewards players. It’s long, but full of information. Head over to Seven Stars Insider to sign up for the newsletter.

ATLANTIC CITY

‘Do I Hear $30?’
Video poker messages boards are buzzing about some machines in Las Vegas that require $25 “coin in” to earn one tier credit. VP players have always needed to play twice as much as us slot machine players ($10 coinin for one tier credit), and the fear is that this policy will start finding its way into other markets where Caesars has casinos.

Eat Your Pickles – or No Dessert!
Bally’s held a pickle-eating contest on the Boardwalk last month to promote the re-opening of Pickles Deli and its new self-service ordering system.

Belt and Suspenders
Why is Caesars sending an email to alert customers they will be getting offers in the mail? Also, what’s with that first sentence? Who writes this stuff? What does “Iconic as Caesars is” have to do with the rest of the sentence – or, for that matter, the entire paragraph?

Bored-walk Buffet
Customers at Caesars Boardwalk Buffet were a little taken by surprise last month when the venue changed its schedule to offer only brunch for $25 (beginning at 9 a.m.) and dinner for $32 (from 2 p.m. to closing). I was there for lunch one weekday around 1:30, and heard lots of grousing over the price – plus the fact that there were no longer breakfast and lunch options at a price point less than $25, and that dinner prices kicked in as early as 2.

Even worse was the fact that half the buffet contained heaping piles of dried up pancakes, waffles and French toast, along with overcooked bacon and sausage that hardly anyone was eating at that hour. An egg/omelet station attendant was basically standing around waiting for the changeover to “dinner” service when it would become a pasta station.

The other additions to the menu – pizza, grilled “steaks” and more vegetable choices – didn’t seem to justify the $7 premium, especially when compared to the more creative and upscale fare across town at the Borgata where the dinner buffet is $31.95 (but only $10 each for a Borgata Black Label cardholder and a guest).

A week or so later I returned for breakfast when the buffet opened at 9 and found the opposite situation. Lots of unappealing “lunch” items (mussels, clams, turkey breast, sliced carrots, broccoli and several Chinese specialties) that already looked “tired” even though the buffet had just opened – and which hardly anyone was eating.

Notably missing from the brunch menu, though, were bananas, fresh strawberries, bagels and smoked salmon, though there were plenty of canned pears, peaches and stewed prunes.

Looking for toast? It’s back by the desserts, along with an assortment of pastries and made-to-order waffles.

Apparently, the $25 brunch price includes a mimosa or bloody mary, yet during neither visit did my server offer these. Why not delegate this to the hostess who takes your order for other beverages?

Food and Whine
I attended the Kick Off Party for the Atlantic City Food and Wine Festival last month at The Pool at Harrah’s Resort. I got there about 10 o’clock – three hours after it started and an hour before it ended. There was one long line that extended from halfway on one side of the pool to halfway around the other.

While I think the line was actually for the free Absolut vodka cocktails being served, anyone interested in trying some of the food on that side of the pool couldn’t get to it without standing in line for 30 minutes. Figuring I’d just get a drink and skip the food, I ordered my favorite alcoholic beverage at the bar, only to be handed a bill: “Cash or credit card, no room charges.” Huh? This event doesn’t have an open bar?

When have you been invited to a party hosted by a casino and then asked to pay for a cocktail? [Retail price on the ticket was $55, but I had been comped by my host.] I took my drink and left.

Ever since I attended the opening night pool party at last year’s Seven Stars Signature Event, I’m convinced this is not the venue to hold one of these “Taste of. . .” parties. There’s just not enough room to arrange the various food booths to avoid the inevitable traffic jams. People instinctively form one big line rather than visit each restaurant’s booth individually. Plus, I’m amazed no one fell into the water!

Oh, by the way, I never got to rub elbows with Rocco DiSpirito.

Food and ‘Wow!’
Imagine receiving this invitation: Join us in the Paladium Ballroom at Caesars for a wonderful low-calorie, low-fat, low-sodium, low-sugar dinner. “Uh, thank you, but I’ll pass,” you say. “I’ll just take another slice of pizza with extra cheese.”

Fortunately, the folks at Caesars didn’t show their cards in advance, and everyone sitting in the elegantly decorated ballroom had no clue that the delicious meal they were about to enjoy was just that – a typical casino dinner of salad, surf and turf, and dessert, but with a fraction of the fat, calories, sodium and sugar usually associated with these affairs.

Sitting on each table was a beautiful “relish tray” – when was the last time you saw one of those? – with a variety of heirloom cherry tomatoes, small raw beet quarters, baby carrots, and an assortment of colorful orange, green and purple cauliflower florets. (Did you even know cauliflower came in colors?)

The meal began with a lightly dressed salad of assorted greens, fennel, orange sections and lima beans included several slices
of beautifully seared rare tuna.

The combination entrée featured a perfectly grilled filet – pizzzaiola-style – and a crab and cod cake, along with thin spears of crisp-tender asparagus.

Dessert was a silky smooth panna cotta with sugar-free chocolate and caramel sauces, garnished with fresh blueberries, blackberries and raspberries.

The menu was devised by celebrity chef Rocco DiSpirito and his team, and prepared by Caesars Banquet Chef Tim Davis and his crew.

Just before dessert was served, DiSpirito made a brief appearance to explain how he cut the calories and reduced the fat, plus demonstrated how to make the dessert and its accompanying sauces.

I understand that the following night’s Beach Soirée at Caesars attracted 1,100 guests and was equally successful.

Congratulations!

Under Construction
Construction is underway at Harrah’s Resort on a conference center, billed as the largest of its type in the Northeast. Cost to build the facility is estimated to be $126 million. The project, designed to host corporate meetings complementing the conventions and trade shows at the Atlantic City Convention Center, will include 250,000 square feet of space. In addition, there also will be two ballrooms, each featuring 50,000 square feet of space.

HARRAH’S PHILADELPHIA

Construction Zone
Work is underway to construct new high limit slots and table games areas on the casino floor. There are temporary areas set-up, so you won’t be stuck playing pennies, nickels and quarters while you wait for work to be completed.

Color Blind
Remember this joke when you were a kid: “What’s black and white and ‘red’ all over?” The monthly mailers that Harrah’s Philadelphia sends to its Seven Stars cardholders are black, white, red and grey, and generally look pretty nice. However, when it comes to readability, any Graphics 101 student will tell you not to print red ink on a black background – it’s nearly impossible to read. Add to that the advancing age of many of us Seven Stars cardholders, and it makes it even more difficult to decipher the special code Harrah’s prints for collecting bonus free play on certain days.

No More Temptations
Temptations Buffet is history, but no one is disclosing what will replace it. Several options, some of which include entertainment along with food, are under consideration. Watch this space.

AND IN OTHER INSIDER NEWS…

Companion-ship Does Not Have Its Privileges
Many Seven Stars cardholders became extremely upset last month when “new” rules regarding entry to the Seven Stars and Diamond Lounges, as well as use of the Companion card, became effective – supposedly with no notice – at Harrah’s Resort in Atlantic City. Among these rules:

-Seven Stars cardholders may bring up to only three guests into the lounges. If the Seven Stars cardholder has to leave the lounge for any reason, his/her guests must also leave. And, unless the Companion cardholder checks in first as an individual, if one of the three guests holds the cardholder’s Companion
card, he/she is considered one of the three guests.

– The Companion cardholder may use the lounges only if the primary cardholder is “in the market” – but may not bring any guests. In other words, say you’re in Atlantic City or Las Vegas. The primary cardholder must be a registered hotel guest and/or be showing play in any of the Total Rewards casinos in that
city.

Actually, it turns out that these are not new rules at all. They always have been in place. It’s just that no one ever told anybody, and not every casino was enforcing them. Frankly, with two exceptions, I agree with these rules.

For example, what’s to stop someone from bringing his/her three guests to the Seven Stars Lounge, leaving for 30 minutes, then returning with three more guests? Why should someone be allowed to bring in six guests when I play by the rules and bring no more than three?

And, yes, the Companion cardholder should be counted among the primary cardholder’s three guests. None of the Seven Stars lounges in the country are that large, so there is good reason for these limitations. To put things in perspective, at The Borgata in Atlantic City, the Society Club – Borgata’s equivalent to a Seven Stars lounge – allows Titanium cardholders only three guests. The cardholder and one guest are admitted free of charge. For the other two cardholders, the Titanium cardholder’s comp account is charged $20 each. The Society Club is more than twice the size of either of Atlantic City’s Seven Stars lounges, it is much more elegant (think high ceilings, crystal chandeliers, grand piano), and the food makes what’s served at the Seven Stars lounges seem like high school cafeteria fare. [I’m not being critical of the
lounges or what they serve – particularly at Caesars – but, in comparison to The Borgata, well, there is no comparison.]

What I don’t agree with is the rule that says the primary cardholder must be “in the market” in order for the Companion cardholder to use the Seven Stars or Diamond Lounge. I also think a Companion cardholder visiting the lounge solo should be allowed one guest. (Then if the primary cardholder shows up, he/she should be able to bring just one guest.)

Plus, it turns out, Caesars has a totally different definition of a Companion cardholder than a lot of us do – but never bothered to define it clearly. Here’s the difference between how Caesars and I interpret this benefit:

Basically, Caesars is saying that the “companion” part of Companion card means that this person is accompanying – being a companion to – the primary cardholder, and only benefits when they are traveling together, or are in the same city.

To me and many others, the “companion” part of Companion card referred to the primary cardholder’s relationship – legal or otherwise – to the individual with whom he/she shared this card. I know any number of people who have assigned their Companion cards not necessarily to spouses or “significant others” with whom they live (or don’t live), but to relatives and friends across the country. The reason? They rarely travel together, but wanted to extend some special privileges to these individuals when they’re not together. For example, I know a father who lives in Phoenix and is not a huge gambler, but enjoys occasional excursions to Ak-Chin, Laughlin and Las Vegas. His single son, a Seven Stars cardholder who lives in Ohio, assigned his Companion card to dear old dad. Other than possibly receiving some expedited attention at check-in, preferred seating at dinner or use of a special line at the buffet, he now will receive little benefit from the card. Another person I know lives in Boston, travels frequently and plays all over the country. Not knowing “the rules” he assigned his Companion card to a friend in California who’s not a big player, but travels frequently to Las Vegas and San Diego. Under this new strict enforcement policy, his friend no longer will be able to drop by the Diamond Lounge when he’s playing out there.

Or, what about a situation where a Seven Stars cardholder travels to Tunica, but stays and plays exclusively at the Gold Strike? Not being a gambler, her husband – the Companion cardholder – decides to visit theDiamond Lounge next door at the Horseshoe. Technically, unless she accompanied him, he would be denied admission.

So, what’s the point of having a Companion card if the primary cardholder has to be there? Let’s say a Seven Stars cardholder is traveling with his buddies to Las Vegas for a long weekend. His wife, the Companion cardholder, decides to go to Atlantic City over that same weekend. Following a strict interpretation of these rules, she wouldn’t be allowed in either of the Seven Stars Lounges. This dilutes the value of the Companion card by requiring both parties to be “in the same market”.

Regarding guest privileges, even if the Companion cardholder is traveling with the primary cardholder, perhaps that companion is not a gambler and would just like to enjoy a snack or beverage in the Seven Stars Lounge.

Why not extend the courtesy of allowing those persons someone to enjoy their company so they don’t have to be by themselves? Like the American Express card, membership has its privileges, but not companionship.

Cruise Control
Since I’ve never used my Seven Stars NCL cruise, a reader (who wishes to remain anonymous) wrote an excellent guide to getting the most out of this benefit. I’ve posted it on the Seven Stars Insider Website.

Giving Credit Where Credit Is Due
If you’re playing in a city with two or more Total Rewards casinos – and you play at more than one, good luck finding out how many tier credits you’ve earned that day. I’ve personally experienced this in Atlantic City and Lake Tahoe, and I know others who’ve experienced it in Las Vegas. In Atlantic City, play some at Caesars, then at Showboat, and no one can tell you your total daily tier credits. Check your daily play through Total Touch at Bally’s or Harrah’s, and neither that Caesars nor Showboat play will show up in your Total Daily Tier Credits. Same thing happened to me at Harveys and Harrah’s in Lake Tahoe.

The only way around this is to carry a pad and pen, write down the number of credits earned as you leave each casino, then total them manually. Very frustrating.

Balancing Act
Just as you – hopefully! – balance your checkbook each month, be sure to review your monthly eStatement from Total Rewards. Both my May and June statements had duplicate charges. Kind of makes me wonder how many mistakes I never knew about before these electronic statements. It’s gotten to the point where I now keep copies of my charges – just as I do with American Express.

Now You See It, Now You Don’t
If the Total Rewards app on your smartphone isn’t working, don’t complain to the manufacturer. The app is being revamped and should be back online by the end of the year.

Darryl D. McEwen, Publisher

Photo: Aceshowbiz

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Seven Stars Insider – February 2011 Edition

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

Seven Stars Insider – February 2011

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

Making The Most Out Of Your NCL Cruise Experience
Although not part of the Total Rewards program, be sure to sign up for a player’s card once on board.  Like Total Rewards, the cards will give you free drinks and points for cashback.  Also, be sure to meet with a casino host.  While I’ve not experienced an NCL cruise personally, I understand the casino hosts are very friendly and take good care of their customers.  At the end of the cruise, one reader wrote that the points earned though his play knocked $500 off his total bill – likely three or four times the value of the points.  In addition, “They had a couple of promotions, a slot tournament, a blackjack tournament, and hot snacks one or two nights,” he wrote.  And while you can apply for a credit line from the casino before you travel, they also offer an interesting option for cash:  You can draw a couple thousand dollars a day against the credit card you have on file for cruise expenses (subject to your credit card limits, of course).  Anyone else have tips to share?

Bally’s Bathroom Robbery
A man from Virginia was beaten and robbed in a bathroom just off the casino floor at Bally’s Atlantic City around 6 a.m. January 21.  The suspect followed the man and, once in the bathroom, police say the robber grabbed the victim from behind and slammed his head into the wall, nearly knocking him unconscious.  The victim fell to the floor where he was punched several more times before $100 was stolen from his pockets.  The attacker then got away; the victim was taken to the hospital with injuries to his head, nose and face.

C-Bar Opens At Harrah’s Chester
Described on the Web site as a “sleek ultra lounge situated in the center of the table games action on the casino floor,” C-Bar also features “flair bartending”.  It’s open Monday through Saturday from 8 a.m. to 2 a.m., and on Sunday from noon to 2 a.m.

Cherokee Parking Deck Opens
A new casino parking deck with direct access to the casino has opened at Harrah’s Cherokee.

Rio’s Hamada of Japan Closes
While its Flamingo location remains open, Hamada of Japan has closed its Rio restaurant.

Player’s Card Security Risk?
Casino companies may not be the only ones keeping track of how many points you have on your player’s card.  The cards represent a growing number of fraud cases in Las Vegas, as hackers target the programs and casinos’ customer databases in an effort to gain access to customers’ personal information or steal points, gaming regulators and security analysts claim.  “We are investigating several cases at the moment,” said Jerry Markling, chief of the enforcement division of the Nevada Gaming Control Board in Carson City.  “We’ve been seeing a lot of cases involving player’s club programs and the stealing of points.”  “Nevada has some very strict laws in place regarding customer confidentiality,” said Rob Meyne, vice president of corporate communications with Boyd Gaming Corp.  “In addition, the Nevada Gaming Control Board has recently reminded licensees that they are responsible for maintaining security of customer databases.”  Other casino companies declined to comment on the issue.  The security threat doesn’t just involve player cards, either.  Nevada gaming officials and security analysts said casinos’ smart phone applications – which require users to provide personal information that is stored in casino databases – are also a concern.  Hackers are attempting to hack into these databases to gain access to credit card or debit card information, or banking and other financial information.

Margaritaville To Open In Biloxi – But Not By Caesars
The Jimmy Buffett-backed Margaritaville Casino has new life, but the site has changed, and it won’t be owned or managed by Caesars.  Planners said it will move from across the street from the Grand Casino, Hotel and Spa to the Back Bay of Biloxi.  They hope to have all the paperwork and license approvals so the proposed 68,000-square-foot, $48 million Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville Casino and Restaurant will open by year’s end.  The master plan for Margaritaville includes shops, a casino, restaurants, an events center and a marina.  In 2007, Buffett and Harrah’s Entertainment, now Caesars Entertainment, announced plans to build a $700 million casino on the beach.  That resort was scheduled to open last year, but now sits unfinished after Harrah’s stopped construction in 2008.  “We are disappointed that our project with Margaritaville will not proceed,” said John Payne, Caesars Entertainment central division president.  “We will continue to explore opportunities that will allow us to enhance our resort.”

Caesars Employees Benefit From Non-Cash Reward System
The next time you commend a Caesars employee or respond favorably to a survey, you may be giving those employees a new blender or a free vacation.  Caesars Entertainment Corp. has replaced its cash-based rewards system with a non-cash reward system.  Referred to as the Total Return program, the new initiative – theoretically – empowers employees and motivates them to perform.  While employees work toward improving the customer experience, they earn credits in a variety of ways, including customer service surveys, safety, customer compliments and community service.

Palms Acquisition
Published reports are claiming that Caesars Entertainment is expressing an interest in acquiring the the Palms Casino, across the street from Rio.

Free Stay At Atlantis, Paradise Island
Seven Stars cardholders may be able to get three free nights at Atlantis, Paradise Island, now through March 29, 2011.  While the promotion is aimed at those with “premium cards” from Atlantic City casinos, a Seven Stars card has no specific casino associated with it, so I should think nearly anyone would qualify.  Reservations must be made through Casino VIP Services to qualify for this promotion.  Call (800)-PLAY-711 [(800) 752-9711] and mention “AC Billboard Promo”.  Reservations through any other source will not qualify.  Your stay must be booked by March 29, 2011, for travel through March 29, 2011.  Details here .  [Note: Diamond cardholders may qualify for a more limited offer, so check the Web site for details.]

Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall & Saloon Offers Free Grub
Show your Seven Stars card at the Victorian Café and you and your party eat free!  There doesn’t seem to be any dollar limit, and you order off the regular menu.  Bill’s is located across from Caesars Palace and next to the Flamingo.  As always, because policies can change on a moment’s notice, be sure to confirm this offer with the host/hostess before being seated – and remember to tip accordingly!  Bill’s is owned by Caesars Entertainment and considered a “casino partner”, but does not participate in the Total Rewards program.

Harrah’s 15X Promo Fizzles. . .Then Redeems Itself
Invited players at Harrah’s Resort in Atlantic City had a special incentive to play there on New Year’s Day:  a mystery multiplier – 3X, 6X or 12X.  But, when some players swiped their cards, the kiosk indicated they would be receiving 15X Reward Credits that day!   What they didn’t know was that the kiosks had malfunctioned and the 15X was a “mistake.”  Cardholders had to re-swipe to see what we were really getting.  Some folks, who were guaranteed 11X points at Showboat and Bally’s that day, had stayed at Harrah’s since they thought they were getting 15X and had played for a few hours before they learned the bad news.  Complaints to the Total Rewards Desk were answered with, “. . .it was a computer glitch” and “they were sorry”.  A week later, though, Harrah’s changed its mind and awarded 12X points (the highest possible multiplier for that day) to all the people who had swiped early in the morning and saw the 15X by mistake. They apologized for the inconvenience and said the bonus points would be dropped into accounts in a week to 10 days.  Good for them!

Restaurant Of The Month
A visit last month to Primavera (Caesars Atlantic City) reminded me that I have yet to experience less than stellar service or a poor quality meal there – ever!  Syggy, our server, has been at Primavera for nearly 30 years; both he and his team provided discreet, efficient service that complemented the excellent food.  In addition, Primavera, as well as a number of Atlantic City casino restaurants operated by the four Caesars properties there, offers half-price bottles of wine from Sunday through Thursday.  Check with your restaurant for details and to be sure the promotion is still available. Kudos, too, to Michael, the manager, for his warm welcome.

Question Of The Month
I haven’t been to Las Vegas in 10 years, but I’m taking my Seven Stars trip there next month.  Are there any special perks for Seven Stars (other than the “usual” ones like jumping lines, special check-in, etc.)?  If you’re staying at Caesars Palace you can get complimentary coffee and tea every morning after 8 (and a USA Today on weekdays) at Seven Stars Registration in the Augustus Tower.  Even if you’re not staying at Caesars, you and a guest get free admission to Qua, its spa and fitness center.  Bally’s, Flamingo, Harrah’s and Rio will admit you and a guest to their spa and fitness centers, but Paris limits this perk solely to the cardholder.  You can get two free tickets (once a month) for many of the shows at Caesars properties.  Check at the Total Rewards desk for availability.  Then there’s the free food at Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall & Saloon (see above).  Other than that, I can’t think of anything else, but if anybody knows of any perks I’ve missed, send me an e-mail.

Happy New Year’s?
Here’s a sample of some of the comments about New Year’s Eve celebrations around the country at Caesars casinos:

Paris Las Vegas party was an A+!  Awesome food, great service.  My only complaint was that Gloria Gaynor’s watch was slow and they did not show Strip fireworks.

We had dinner at Mia [Caesars Atlantic City].  After that we went over to Harrah’s Resort to see the B.B. King concert.  We got there early, so we went to the Seven Stars Lounge.  They are always so nice; I’ve never had a problem.  Showtime was 10 p.m., but when we got to the entrance we were told it started at 11.  The concert was OK, but B.B. did a lot of talking.  I think the show went from 11 to almost 1 a.m., but he only sang a few songs.  He also forgot about its being the New Year and went over the time.

I agree 100% with your comments about the Caesars [Atlantic City] dinner.  Brunch the next day, though, was great.

New Year’s Eve at Bally’s [Atlantic City] was executed professionally, and was not Seven Stars, but 10 Stars!  Handling in excess of 1,600 guests for the dinner, and in excess of 2,000 for the brunch, it was well-planned, and was a major success.  The food, decorations, pre-assigned seats, the music, the multiple large widescreen monitors in all of their ballrooms on the sixth floor, coupled with excellent security, the dancers, the live remote to New York City for Dick Clark’s traditional “Ball Dropping” combined for a successful feather in the cap of Gerald Beaver, their Food & Beverage Director, and the entire group of employees assigned for this monstrous and challenging task!  Kudos to Bally’s for showing how it can be done right!  We all know how easily it can be done incorrectly.  Congratulations, Bally’s!

New Year’s Eve at Harrah’s Resort [Atlantic City] was fabulous.  The food was excellent and the service was really great too!
As background, we were perennial guests at Caesars for New Year’s and never disappointed.  They always did the best party on the Boardwalk.  There’s no question that when Harrah’s [now Caesars] came into the picture, the event was down scaled a little.  In accepting an invitation from Bally’s for this year’s party, it was with some remiss that we wouldn’t be at Caesars.  Sounds like luck favored us after all.  While the menu was similar to that described for Caesars, it was served up in a timely manner and was extremely satisfying.  (To be fair, I should note that while my steak was beautifully done, most at the table didn’t fare as well.)  The band was top notch, and the wine selection quite acceptable.  The only complaint I might lodge is that they were understaffed (with half the number assigned to our table than in past years).

Seven Stars For Less Than 100,000 Points?
Citing the economy, for the past couple years Harrah’s – now Caesars – renewed this coveted status for several folks who were Seven Stars cardholders, despite the fact they didn’t earn the requisite minimum 100,000 tier points.  [And, I just heard about a Diamond player who was renewed at this level at far less than the current 11,000 point qualifier!]  Has this happened to you or were you offered a card for 2011-12 even though you didn’t earn 100,000 tier points during calendar year 2010?  Send me an e-mail (sevenstarsinsider@gmail.com) and I’ll share your thoughts – anonymously, of course.

Darryl D. McEwen, Publisher
Seven Stars Insider

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