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Vegas Hotel Rooms Up 15% From 2014, Highest Since 2007

SLS Las Vegas Carpet - Vegas Hotel Rooms

SLS Las Vegas Carpet

Prices for Vegas hotel rooms are booming.

..the month’s average daily room rate of $136.02, up 15.1 percent from a year ago, was at its highest level since the Great Recession.

Strip rates were up 13.1 percent to $145.80 while downtown rates climbed 2.8 percent to $64.62.

Furthermore

Visitation to Las Vegas inched up slightly in January…Monthly visitation hit 3.4 million, just 0.1 percent ahead of January 2014.

2014 had a record number of visitors to Las Vegas and that trend is expected to continue in 2015.

More visitors in Vegas and less rooms available (with Riviera closing) is a recipe for higher hotel prices. (don’t forget to add resort fees, here’s a good list).

Happy New Year!

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Reach Total Rewards Platinum, Diamond And Seven Stars Quicker

Total Rewards Cards

Old School Total Rewards Cards – Pulse of Vegas Blog

Caesars Entertainment is a mess with this whole bankruptcy thing. They claim everything will “be business as usual”. We’ll see about that. Caesars’ players club, Total Rewards, will likely change at some point but in theory it should remain in tact through bankruptcy.

In an effort keep customers flowing into its casinos Caesars is offering a pretty sweet Tier Credit promotion. Most players club promotions offer Reward Credits only. Those are the credit which that you use on goods like meals. Extra tier credits are a little more difficult to come by.

Tier credits are the credits that allow you to ascend to higher players club tiers like Platinum, Diamond And Seven Stars. The higher your tier status, the better the benefits you’ll receive from Total Rewards. Here’s an overview of those benefits. Note, if you’re Diamond or Seven Stars your resort fees will be waived.

Here are details on the promotion:

Through March 31st, 2015, we are giving you a 50% bonus on the first 50,000 Tier Credits you earn! So, you could walk away with up to 25,000 EXTRA Tier Credits to count towards your Tier Status, and we even started counting on January 1st.*

*Member must earn at least 1,000 Tier Credits by March 31, 2015 to be eligible for the promotion. 50% Tier Credit Bonus will be awarded on up to the first 50,000 Tier Credits earned from January 1, 2015 through March 31, 2015, for a maximum total bonus of 25,000 Tier Credits. Daily Tier Credit Bonuses will count toward the 50,000 Tier Credits maximum. Loyalty bonuses are not earned Tier Credits and thus, are not eligible for this promotion. Tier Credit Bonuses, including this promotion, do not count toward Reward Credit balance, promotional Tier Credit earnings, or qualifying for another daily bonus. Total Tier Credit Bonus amount awarded through this promotion will be calculated after March 31st, 2015 and will be posted to the Total Rewards account on April 15, 2015.

I wouldn’t gamble or spend more than normal to get the bump in tier status. VIP check-in, Diamond Lounges and waived resort fees are nice benefits but I don’t think they’re worth spending extra for.

That said, this is a useful promotion if you’re closing in on one of the upper tiers.

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Downtown Vegas Is Taking Me Away From Casinos And I Don’t Like It

Outside Of The Fremont Street Experience Downtown Las Vegas

Outside Of The Fremont Street Experience

It’s funny, gamblers always say that the Vegas Strip can learn something about keeping gamblers in their casino by offering better odds like Downtown Vegas casinos. I think it may be the other way around. Maybe the Downtown Vegas casinos need to improve their bars and restaurants like their counterparts on the Vegas Strip to keep gamblers like me happy.

A couple of weeks ago I spent a day and night in Downtown Vegas. I stayed at the Fremont Hotel because they always offer low room rates and no resort fee. My hotel room for the night was $32 after taxes. Not bad.

I went into this day away with no plan. My solo trips to Downtown Vegas have always been similar to someone going on a bender. I’d eat, drink and gamble way too much for a 24 hour period. This time my night in Downtown Vegas was different. I had a great time but it was a different kind of great time.

If you read this blog last week you saw daily updates of where I spent my time in Downtown Vegas.

  • I had a beer and chicken parm sliders for dinner at Triple George.
  • I grabbed a few beers and had some fun conversation at Nacho Daddy.
  • I had a flight of beer and then some at Banger Brewing.

Wow, I drank a lot of beer. There’s one thing missing from my night in Downtown Vegas. I hardly spent time in a casino and I barely gambled! This is very unlike me and I reflected on this on my drive back home to the burbs.

The casinos on the Vegas Strip are re-inventing themselves with new restaurantsbars and clubs to keep you on their property. My visits to the Vegas Strip haven’t changed. New restaurants and bars draw me to casinos on the Vegas Strip where I’ll inevitably end up gambling a little.

Eat, Drink, Gamble in one place – that’s my kind of fun. Let’s go back to Downtown Vegas.

Most of the new bars and restaurants are outside of the Downtown Vegas casinos. When I’m eating a great burger and drinking great beer at Pizza Rock there isn’t anything that says that I must go back out to the casino and gamble. The casinos in Downtown Vegas feel as though they’re becoming less relevant to me. They’re out of sight while I’m having fun eating and drinking and that puts them on the back burner.

Besides Andiamo Steakhouse at The D and Du-Pars at Golden Gate there really isn’t a restaurant destination inside of a Downtown Vegas casino that I feel like I ever need to visit. On the flip side every bar and restaurant I visited on my last trip to Downtown Vegas will be visited again.

As Downtown Vegas continues to re-invent itself the casinos may need to take note from the Golden Nugget and refresh their restaurants and bars every couple of years to keep old customers like me and attract new customers.

Many of my favorite casinos to gamble are in Downtown Vegas so it’s not like I’ll be avoiding the casinos there but I will certainly spend less money in those casinos when there are better bars and restaurants a short walk away.

It’s funny, gamblers always say that the Vegas Strip can learn something about keeping gamblers in their casino by offering better odds like Downtown Vegas. I think it may be the other way around. Maybe the Downtown Vegas casinos need to improve their bars and restaurants like their counterparts on the Vegas Strip to keep gamblers like me happy.

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Hotel Tonight Rooms Now Available At 9am

Hotel Tonight Logo

Hotel Tonight

Use my code MMeltzer5 for $25 off. (I also get $25 off)

Recently I decided to check out hotel tonight for hotel rooms in Las Vegas. There isn’t a week that passes where I don’t get a message asking where to get a last-minute hotel deal. I’ve heard a lot about the app and the travel people I know speak highly of it. In brief, hotel tonight provides last-minute discounted hotel rooms. The rates are for that night (you can stay up to 5 nights but rates may change) and not next month. As they say, they aren’t hotel tomorrow.

Hotel Tonight doesn’t offer rooms at every hotel – just where they can provide discounted rooms. The other day I did a quick check of rates in Las Vegas and found this basic El Cortez room for $20. It was $40 on the El Cortez website. Nice 50% discount. El Cortez doesn’t have a resort fee but if they did you would have to pay that directly to the hotel. Resort fees are noted when you book. Hotel Tonight doesn’t get involved with that nonsense.

Hotel Tonight El Cortez

There were rooms available from Hard RockPalms and a few other hotels in Vegas. None of the options were awesome but were all clean and cheap places to stay in different parts of Las Vegas.

Hotel Tonight is great for locals like me that may need a crash pad after a night of too much fun. The app is also great for last-minute trips to Vegas. If you’re already in Vegas for vacation you can check the app for a 2nd discount party room or suite. Yesterday there was a Palms suite for under $100. That’s the kind of deal I would get for a last-minute $5 Pai Gow rager.

Hotel Tonight App Countdown

I’m an early riser and I like to plan my day and night as early as I can. Before today Hotel Tonight rooms were only available after noon local time (anywhere you are). Today that switched. Rooms from Hotel Tonight are now available at 9am. I started writing this at 8 something but rooms for today are now available. Here’s a few options for today. The Palms suite I referenced earlier isn’t shown here but is available once again for $99.

Hotel Tonight Thursday

Hotel Tonight has room deals in other cities and is definitely an app that anyone traveling should have. You can download for iPhone and Android. 

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Let’s Relegate Vegas Casinos Like The Premier League

EPL Football Logos

EPL Logos

The Premier League begins this weekend and all of the discussion about it got me to thinking how we can implement a similar relegation and promotion system with Las Vegas hotels and casino.

In brief, if a team performs poorly in the Premier League they’re relegated to a lesser league and if they perform better in the lesser league they step up to play with the big boys in the Premier League. If you’re really curious about specifics of the Premier League system this Yahoo Answer should do the trick.

The Las Vegas casinos aren’t all in competition with each other (Wynn and Circus Circus don’t compete for the same customer) so it makes relegation a little difficult. It may make sense to relegate by class. So perhaps there’s a Las Vegas luxury hotel league with an upper and lower tier as well as a budget and middle class league. Here’s my breakdown of the leagues from strip area properties.

Luxury
Aria
Bellagio
Caesars Palace
Cosmopolitan
Encore
Mandarin Oriental
The Palazzo
The Venetian
Vdara
Wynn

Middle Class
Flamingo
Hard Rock
Mandalay Bay
MGM Grand
The Mirage
Palms
Paris
Planet Hollywood
Rio
Treasure Island
Tropicana

Budget
Bally’s
Casino Royale
Circus Circus
Excalibur
Gold Coast
Harrah’s
Hooters
Luxor
LVH
Monte Carlo
New York New York
The Orleans
Palace Station
The Quad
Riviera
Silver Sevens
Stratosphere

Now to separate each league into two tiers or divisions. I’m breaking the divisions down by the hotel/casinos I think are better and worse. Division A features the newer cleaner hotels that have a casino while Division B features older, dirtier or hotels without a casino.

Luxury

Division A
Aria
Cosmopolitan
Encore
The Palazzo
Wynn

Division B
Bellagio
Caesars Palace
Mandarin Oriental
The Venetian
Vdara

Middle Class

Division A
Mandalay Bay
MGM Grand
The Mirage
Palms
Planet Hollywood

Division B
Flamingo
Hard Rock
Paris
Rio
Treasure Island
Tropicana

Budget

Division A
Bally’s
Gold Coast
Harrah’s
Luxor
Monte Carlo
New York New York
Silver Sevens
Stratosphere

Division B
Casino Royale
Circus Circus
Excalibur
Hooters
LVH
The Orleans
Palace Station
The Quad
Riviera

So, why are we doing this incentive and relegation for hotels and casinos?

There has to be an incentive to move up from Division B to Division A. I propose that casinos in the lower tier are penalized with the potential to make less money.

Division A hotels can charge any resort fee that they want and have any gaming rules they want. There is one caveat with this structure. Division A properties would have to disclose all additional fees upfront. None of this hidden fee crap. It’s my league. 🙂

This would mean that only half the casinos on the Vegas strip would have resort fees and half would be allowed to have 6:5 blackjack. Not every Division A hotel would implement a resort fee or bad gaming rules because that may cause them to lose customers and get relegated to a Division B.

I’d somehow like to reward good housekeeping and customer service but I’m not so sure how to quantify them. There’s still some work to do here but I think we’re off to a good start for the Premier League season. Tweet or leave a comment with any ideas to make the Las Vegas Premier League more awesome.

Photo: GoolFM 

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If 85% Of Your Friends Jumped Off The Empire State Building…

Fremont Street Concert Outside of The D Las Vegas

Fremont Street Concert Outside of The D

“If 85% of your friends jumped off the Empire State Building would you?”

This is what my mother would say to me in her thick Bronx accent if I gave an excuse of that my friends were doing something that we shouldn’t be doing. That’s the kind of excuse Derek Stevens gave in justifying adding a $20 resort fee to hotel reservations at The D.

The D Resort Fee

The D has been positioning itself with the big boys of Las Vegas hotels and adding a resort fee puts them in step. That’s fine. It’s their hotel and they can charge what they want. As a consumer you have the right to choose whether or not you wish to pay it.

I will probably pay this resort fee because I like The D and adding $20 to a $40 hotel still keeps The D in line with similar hotels in Downtown Vegas. If there are better prices elsewhere, I’ll just crash somewhere else. Chances are that I’ll still do the much of my gambling at The D because I like gambling there.

The attitude of “since everyone is doing it so will we” is not the way the story was built at The D. They were independent and doing things their own way. That was part of the attraction to The D. I understand why The D added a resort fee but I just find this attitude (the little you can take from a few sentences) disappointing and unexpected. I hope this isn’t a sign of bigger changes in the future.

Photo: Haute Living

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Las Vegas Is The Most Affordable Vacation In America

Aria Marquee At Night

Aria Marquee At Night

Last week Trip Advisor released their TripIndex list of the most affordable places to vacation in America and Las Vegas came in as the cheapest. How ’bout that?!

Among TripIndex Cities, Honolulu rings up the biggest tab as the most expensive U.S. destination with a TripIndex cost of $504.94, while Las Vegas offers the most affordable stay at $272.94.

Typically I find lists like this to be a waste for customers as they’re generated to sell something or gain traffic but Trip Advisor has been around long enough not to make me laugh at their lists. That’s not to say Trip Advisor isn’t using TripIndex to gain traffic but it’s generally the place everyone I know looks for travel reviews. Once you scrape through the 90% of reviews that are fake or people with an axe to grind there is useful information.

Prices for luxury hotels on the Vegas Strip and resort fees take the attention away from how affordable Vegas can still be for people if that’s what they want. I don’t always want a vacation on a budget but my hotel room at The D for my summer vacation is only $50 on a Saturday (My $40 room was pretty sweet). I’ll be using my fancy Platinum Total Rewards status to get free rooms at Flamingo for the rest of my time away. This will allow me to blow more money on steak and gambling. You can’t hate that!

Mid-range hotels in places like New York City, San Francisco and Hawaii will often cost a couple hundred dollars per night while the average daily cost for a room in Vegas is just over $100. Not too shabby.

The TripIndex list also has Miami and New Orleans on the cheapest places to vacation. I’m really not a fan of anywhere in Florida for vacation but I looooooove New Orleans and will always recommend that a place to visit. Beside great food, drink and culture they have casinos. Harrah’s is walking distance to just about every tourist area as well as Mother’s where you will get one of the best Po’ Boys in the city.

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The D Hotel Review

Bed At The D Hotel Las Vegas

Queen Bed at The D

I say often how much I enjoy gambling at The D but, until last week, I hadn’t stayed at the hotel or experienced more than the bars and gaming. My King room at The D is possibly the best $40 hotel room I’ve ever had. In fact, I’ve already made another reservation. You may have sensed my excitement for the room with my sharing of a 6 second tour right after my stay.

The photo tour will culminate with a 60 second video tour.

The D Hotel - King Room Entry

When I entered the room I could see that this was a large and clean room. Most of the rooms in Downtown Vegas are fairly small because the buildings are old. That wasn’t the case with this room in any way. The space in the sleeping area of this king room felt like as if it was converted from a room with two beds. The corner rooms are $10-$15 more per night and are supposedly larger if you like having extra room. I may have gotten lucky with a larger room but if they’re all this size I don’t see the need for an upgrade.

The D Hotel - King Room Bathroom

The bathroom is immediately to the left of the entry. There’s nothing fancy about the bathroom but it seems as if the renovations included new granite and glazing of the sink, toilet and tub. That’s a small touch that many inexpensive hotel room renovations (like the Fab room at Flamingo) should do because it makes the room look clean. Side note, I love the smell of the lotion that they use.

The D Hotel - King Room Seating Area

Looking past the bed all the way to the other end of the room is the seating area. The chairs are low profile and easy to move if you want to put your feet up or charge a device while using it. Wifi is $10 and if I wasn’t hungover the morning after I would have stayed in the room to do a little work. The room has a number of simple amenities to make The D stand out from the pack.

The D Hotel - King Room Lamp

The lamps at The D have outlets. With this being an older room there aren’t many outlets with easy access to charge phones, tablets or laptops. I had my laptop and phone with me and was able to charge both while using them whenever I wanted. This is another amenity that every hotel room should have. The only other room I’ve stayed in lately that has a similar feature was my suite at Encore.

One of the downsides of staying at The D is that there isn’t a quick serve coffee joint, like Starbucks. The D has that kinda covered.

The D Hotel - King Room Coffee

Few hotel rooms offer free coffee anymore but multiple cups of coffee for $2.50 isn’t bad. If you bring your own K-Cups you can make coffee for free. I have to remember that for next trip. Later I learned that you can get coffee to go from the coffee shop on the 2nd floor but it’s not very good.

The D Hotel - King Room Air Conditioning

One of the only problems I had with the room was with the air conditioning unit. It was an older style unit which actually cooled the air just fine. My issue with is was how loud it was. I could barely sleep with it on but I couldn’t sleep with it off. Next time I’ll have more vodka. Speaking of sleeping…

The D Hotel - King Room Bed

The bed was clean, firm and comfortable. The pillow situation was a little strange because they were all tiny. The pillows are somewhere between throw pillow sized (the red one) and normal pillows. Now that I think about it maybe the pillows are the reason I couldn’t sleep and not the air conditioning.

The D Las Vegas Hotel Room King View

Besides the super loud air conditioning unit the only real negative of the room at The D was the view. The view of the El Cortez and Fremont East area was obscured by the building wrap. This would be a big deal if I cared about a view but I don’t often sit by the window just looking out at a nice view.

Overall, I was impressed with the king room at The D. The renovations were nice and there was plenty of room with a lot of places to charge my mobile devices. Comparing apples to apples this is easily one of the nicest rooms I’ve had in downtown Vegas or anywhere for $40.

That said, it’s not a $200+ room at The Palazzo or Encore who’s rooms suites cost 5 times as much per night not including resort fee.

I forgot to take a picture of the TV but it had one of the best HD signals I’ve seen on a TV. The tour will culminate with a video of the entire room. Leave a comment if you have any specific questions.

The D King Room from East Coast Gambler on Vimeo.

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Seven Stars Insider – March Edition

Katherine McPhee Total Rewards Concert

Katherine McPhee

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 full of information. Head over to Seven Stars Insider to sign up for the newsletter.


Sorry About That. . .

Gordon Ramsay Steak is located in Paris, not Planet Hollywood, as I wrote last month.  Also, unlike the others, the Diamond Lounge at Caesars in Atlantic City serves nuts.  Sorry for these errors!

Harrah’s Rincon North San Diego

Updates

I’ve updated the Web page to reflect some changes and new information regarding Harrah’s Rincon.  In particular, be aware that major renovations and new construction are taking place.  I stayed there last month and, perhaps because of where my room was located, construction noise was not a problem.  Also, unique to Rincon is a complimentary $50 media package for Seven Stars cardholders.  Rather than providing complimentary Internet access and unlimited in-room movies, Rincon allows you to decide how to “spend” your allowance. Internet access is $12.99 per day ($24.99 for property-wide access) and movie charges vary.  While food and service were “hit or miss” at Rincon’s “fine dining” restaurant, Fiore, one annoying aspect was an unadvertised $3 “split plate charge”.  Friends I took to dinner one evening asked to share a salad and, it wasn’t until the next morning when I had better light and a chance to review the check more thoroughly, that I discovered the cost of the salad increased from $13 to $16.  While I still think it’s a little cheap to levy this additional charge, customers should be advised about this either by their server or by a notation on the menu.  Also, when a specific brand of vodka was ordered, but not available, the server (or the bartender) took the liberty of replacing it with another brand – again without saying anything to the customer.

Harrah’s New Orleans

Diamond Lounge Relocated

The Diamond Lounge – formerly located in the High Limits table games area – has been moved to the location previously occupied by Bambu Restaurant.  Unlike some Diamond Lounges, guests order food from a printed menu; selections include shrimp and prosciutto bruschetta, a red bean onion dip, alligator, crawfish and Andouille sausage, international cheeses and prosciutto, mini muffaletta sandwiches, and fresh fruit with berries. In addition, there are a few desserts.  Diamond cardholders are limited to four cocktails and two menu items; Seven Stars cardholders have unlimited choices.

Harrah’s North Kansas City

Everything’s Up-To-Date In Kansas City

Thanks to a reader who recently visited there, Harrah’s North Kansas City now has a page on the Seven Stars Insider Web site: https://sites.google.com/site/sevenstarsinsider/harrah-s-north-kansas-city.  If you’ve recently visited a Caesars-owned casino not featured on the Web site, please feel free to send me your comments.  Also, if you see information on the site that requires updating, please send me that information as well.

Las Vegas

Hype, Hype, Hurrah!

A reader who lives on the East Coast (and about an hour’s drive from Atlantic City) sent me his latest offer from Las Vegas: Choice of a $50 Macy’s gift card or $50 in casino play – and three complimentary nights either at The Quad or Rio.  “Do Caesars marketing folks really think I’m going to hop on a plane and travel to Las Vegas for $50 and three free room nights (and at The Quad – yuk!)?  Plus, it’s over a specific set of dates.  This was a waste of printing and postage.”

Useless Surveys

Last month I received a second survey from Total Rewards about Las Vegas casino hotels.  [The first one had several errors and I just deleted it.]  This time I exited after the first two questions.  Doesn’t anyone test these on a sample base of customers before sending them out?  One of the questions on the survey was based on a laundry list of Vegas casinos.  I was asked to indicate when I last stayed at any of them, if I’d heard of them but never stayed, etc.  Problem was the list was so long that I had to keep scrolling to the top to be sure I was checking the right box.  I gave up after about 10 casinos.  The next question asked me where I stayed on my last visit to Las Vegas.  As it turns out, I stayed at three different hotels during my weeklong visit.  However, the only option I had was to check one.  That’s when I gave up again because I was sure the next set of questions was going to be based on whatever casino I checked, and would probably result in a bunch of false-positives, for lack of a better word.  I’m happy to give my opinions (just read this newsletter!), but send me a survey that asks the right questions and is in a format I can actually respond to.  I’ve rarely received a survey from Caesars/Total Rewards that I would actually take the time to complete.

Rio All-Suites Hotel & Casino

Before The Parade Passes By

The Rio’s free Masquerade Show in the Sky will end March 30.  This one-of-a-kind show featuring parade floats suspended from a track in the ceiling, as well as an accompanying stage show with singers and dancers, started in 1997, but over the years performances were cut-back to Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

Atlantic City

Seven Stars ‘Renewal Weekend’

Nothing official, but several sources tell me that the Seven Stars “renewal weekend” will be April 26-28.

1+1+1+1=1?

Instead of four different hosts – one at Bally’s, one at Caesars, one at Harrah’s and one at Showboat – I’m hearing that Caesars is considering assigning players just one city-wide host, similar to what they’ve been doing in Las Vegas.

Food, Glorious Food – and Wine

Caesars Entertainment’s Atlantic City Food and Wine Festival will return for the fifth year beginning July 25. Among the first celebrity chefs to be announced are Robert Irvine, Pat and Gina Neely, and Rocco DiSpirito. Total Rewards cardholders can purchase discounted tickets in advance at acfoodandwine.comticketmaster.comor by calling (800) 736-1420.  Ticket sales will open to the public at 10 a.m. March 8.

Room Service

Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa has become the first land-based casino in the United States where customers can gamble while inside their hotel rooms through the television.  The 90-day trial – which began in mid-February – allows hotel guests with a player’s card to play video slots and poker.  While Borgata eventually will allow guests to gamble on smartphones and other mobile devices by the pool or in restaurants, the trial period will restrict mobile wagering to television sets inside the resort’s hotel rooms.  Patrons must first check-in to a Borgata hotel room, where they will be given a password for the television gambling software.  To gamble on the TV, patrons must enter that password, which is valid only for however long the patron is checked in to the hotel, and the PIN associated with their player’s card.  Patrons must first walk to the cashier’s cage on the casino floor and deposit the money with which they will gamble.  Under New Jersey’s mobile gambling regulations, patrons can gamble up to $2,500 a day.

Wynn Loss Statement

Speaking of Borgata, if you purchased My Borgata Vacation certificates with your comp dollars, you need to know that they no longer are accepted at Wynn and Encore in Las Vegas.  They are valid only at Main Street Station, The Orleans, Sam’s Town and Suncoast in Las Vegas; the Blue Chip in Michigan City, Ind. and Par-A-Dice in Peoria, Ill.; and Delta Downs in Vinton, La., and Sam’s Town in Tunica, Miss., and Shreveport, La. Unused and unexpired certificates may be returned to the My Borgata Card desk for credit.

Caesars

Boardwalk Buffet Still Open

It was supposed to close last month for renovations, but the buffet at Caesars is still open for business.  Perhaps someone realized that the folks in marketing printed and distributed coupons good at the buffet for the month of March, though one host reports that the buffet will, indeed, close mid-month.

Harrah’s Resort

Sounds Like. . .

They may not know how to spell it, but they sure know how to prepare it!  The “Coco Van” [coq au vin] on the menu at the Diamond Lounge last month was delicious, as was the marinated grilled flank steak.  Congratulations to the chefs!

New Menu At Seven Stars Lounge

Following in line with the lounge at Caesars, the menu has been changed at Harrah’s.  Some “old favorites” – like ice cream – may still be available, so ask your server.

Harrah’s Lights Up Your Life

Last month Harrah’s was offering a “Light Up Your Love” package that would spell out a proposal in lights on the Waterfront Tower.  Included was a 1 p.m. late check-out, free parking, VIP check-in, a $100 dining credit, limo ride and a bottle of champagne.  The cost?  $699 during the week, $1,000 over the weekend.

Quote Of The Month

Here it is, direct from the top of the menu at Luke Palladino – run-on sentences, unnecessary capitalization and punctuation, misspellings, and all:  “Dear Valued Customer: Harrah’s is very proud to have recently Introduced a newly Re-designed and Re-energized Total Rewards (TR) Program which offers rewards and benefits to it’s members, that are unparallel to any other gaming entity World Wide. As an extension of these rewards and benefits, when you present your TR Card while Dining at Luke Palladino, you will receive the benefit of a favorable enhancement in the form of special pricing.  Please note below the items indicated by the TR logo.” Translation: “Give the server your Total Rewards card and you’ll get discounted pricing on any menu item identified with the TR logo.”

Harrah’s Philadelphia

Two Hours Every Week Have Just Become Happier

Fridays from 10 p.m. to midnight, Harrah’s hosts a “Happy Hour” at the Cove exclusively for Seven Stars cardholders.  It’s in a trial phase to see what type of response and demand Harrah’s receives.  Currently, there are just complimentary cocktails, but, depending on response and demand, Harrah’s may add a limited food selection as well.

Third Time’s A Charm?

First it was the End Zone.  Then, last June, it reinvented itself as BarleyQue – a clever, but confusing moniker that really didn’t mean much to many customers.  In addition, the menu changed more frequently than Hillary’s hairstyles during the Clinton years.  This month, BarleyQue will become the Philly Tap and Tavern with, yes, another menu change, bringing back some of the popular items from its days as End Zone.  I’ve been suggesting this for months, but some high-priced restaurant consultant probably made a bundle off this.

Senior Days

Harrah’s is continuing its popular Senior Days this month – free valet parking, 30 percent discount at participating food outlets, etc. – but note that the day has changed from Wednesday to Tuesday.  Harrah’s defines “Senior” as 60 and older.

General

More Questions Than Answers

We’re two months into the new year, earning tier credits for a casino loyalty program that won’t tell us its benefits.  All we know for sure is that the “milestones” for the various tier levels have increased, we can get bonus tier credits if we earn 500 or more credits in a single day, that two new “Diamond Aspiration” levels have been added, and, effective April 1, Seven Stars and Diamond cardholders are going to get a more favorable rate if they opt to exchange comp dollars for free play.  Yes, we’ve heard that at 40,000 tier credits we’ll get a free four-night trip to any Caesars casino and, if we wait until we earn 80,000 credits, Caesars will throw in $750 for airfare and a “Diamond Companion Card”.  Then there’s this mysterious second trip – “offered as a Level I Signature Experience”.  Other than that, we really don’t know much, including any specific details about these aforementioned benefits.  Contrast this with Delta Air Lines.  In January Delta sent letters to its customers announcing changes and enhancements to its frequent flyer program, but they won’t take effect for a year.  Total Rewards customers should have received a similar courtesy and a little more notice.  At a very minimum, the new program’s benefits should have been spelled out at the same time the increased tier levels were announced.  It gives you the impression that they’re making this stuff up as they go along.  Would you deposit money in a bank or take out a loan without knowing the interest rate in advance?  [For more on this subject, see below.]

Question Of The Month

I became a first-time Seven Stars cardholder in November 2012.  Not wanting to miss out on anything, I’ve already taken my annual trip, scheduled my annual celebration dinner and ordered my annual gift.  I understand I get to do this all over again starting April 1, but I’m concerned about rumored changes to the Total Rewards program.  Will the benefits be different?  Good question.  They shouldn’t be.  After all, you and I earned our 100,000 (or more) tier credits between January 1 and December 31, 2012, when, among the promised benefits were an annual trip (with $1,200 in airfare, $500 dining credit, etc.), a gift and a dinner.  I think Caesars would have a lot of unhappy customers if, at a minimum, cardholders don’t receive these.  However, don’t be surprised to see changes in benefits for this year, meaning benefits you’ll receive for tier credits earned between January 1 and December 31, 2013.

Yes, Resort Fees

A lot of signs came down, a lot of Web pages were changed and even a Facebook page was deleted.  After years of touting “No Resort Fees” Caesars Entertainment is now charging an extra $10 to $25 per night at some of its Nevada hotels, “in response to the increasing demand from our guests to provide a package price instead of the inconvenience of separate fees,” according to Gary Thompson, director of corporate communications.  Sure. Can’t you just see customers lining up at the front desk demanding to pay what is essentially a higher room rate? (For the record, reservations made before March 1 are exempt from the fee.)  The big question will be how players with comp rooms are affected.  It isn’t a problem for Seven Stars cardholders, since they’re already getting free WiFi and admittance to the fitness center, but what about Diamond and Platinum cardholders? According to Kristine Johnson, Total Service Representative, Caesars Entertainment, Western Region, Platinum and Diamond cardholders will have the option of adding the Resort Fee or simply selecting individual components of the package (Internet access, making local calls, etc.) and paying for them separately.  As far as the individual property charges, here is the breakdown:

 

Caesars Palace – $25

Paris and Planet Hollywood – $20

Rio, Harrah’s and Flamingo – $18

Bally’s – $15

The Quad – $10

 

In addition, resort fees also will be levied in Lake Tahoe; Harrah’s will charge $20 and Harvey’s will charge $25. No word yet on Laughlin and Reno.

Great Gift Wrap Up

The Web site was just updated.  Here are the dates for the 2013 Great Gift Wrap Up:

November 7-11: Flamingo
December 4-8: Caesars Palace

 

And, related to this, wouldn’t it be a nice idea to add a line on the monthly My TR eStatement with our Great Gift Wrap Up points? 

‘Communication, Communication, Communication’

In real estate, the mantra has always been: “Location, Location, Location”.  Too bad Caesars can’t take a lesson from that and communicate better with its players.  Some Diamond cardholders I’ve spoken to still aren’t aware of the changes to the Total Rewards tier levels, and most of us learned about Resort Fees at the Las Vegas and Lake Tahoe casinos from newspaper articles and online message boards.  I don’t care about “pre-sale” concert ticket announcements, but I’d like to know about the 2013 Great Gift Wrap Up, as well as the details about the new Resort Fees, without having to call or use the Contact Us feature on the Total Rewards Web site.  Ditto on the local level, had I not dropped in at Harrah’s Philadelphia and seen the sign, I never would have known about its Seven Stars Happy Hour.

Belated Happy Birthday

Several Seven Stars cardholders whose birthdays were in January are just now receiving offer for free play, comp dollars and room nights both at their “dominant property” as well as in Las Vegas.  In January they had received free play, comp dollars and other offers from several competing casinos in the area, but nothing from their local Caesars casino – where they spend most of their time and money.  The response when one player asked his host?  It’s not up to the local casinos any longer, he claimed.  “Corporate Direct Marketing is working on sending birthday offers via email.”  While the promised email arrived, for at least one player, it was too little too late.  “My wife and I just got back from Las Vegas, so there’s no way we’re going to return within a month just to collect a few comp dollars.”  And, considering that Seven Stars cardholders get complimentary rooms anyway, what’s the big deal about free rooms?  “These are pretty pathetic offers,” wrote one player.  And, similar to the reader quoted above, if I got this same offer, I would not make the trek to Las Vegas for a few comp dollars and a little free play.  As it has in the past, Caesars is making you spend money in order to get what it perceives as recognition for your birthday.

Survey Says. . .

Last month I asked:  Now that you know more about the “new” Total Rewards, will you be

  • playing more to reach the next “milestone”?
  • playing more, but just to maintain your current tier?
  • playing at your current level and “letting the chips fall where they may”?
  • switching to another casino’s player loyalty program?

 Here’s a cross-section of responses:

  • ·         Last year, I earned more than 300,000 points, with a daily average of 2,000+ points per day.  Even though the bonus system wasn’t in effect, Caesars claimed I would have totaled more than a half million points last year.  Therefore, the only effect the change will have on me is that I might stop with 1,000, or go on to 2,500.  Nothing significant either way there.  What will have a drastic effect is if Caesars starts reducing offers.  Last fall, my weekly offers dropped from $80 to $65.  For my birthday, I got nothing.  When I look at my future offers, I’m seeing dining credits and free buffets, but not the incentives that I used to get.  My spouse doesn’t play, so if there’s a play-up, I go by myself and play all day.  If it’s dinner, we go together, and I play very little.  If Caesars thinks it’s saving money by giving more dining credits and fewer rebates, my play will decline dramatically.
  • ·         We did not receive the information about the changes from our host.  We received a mailing on January 7!  Once, we learned about the bonuses, we should have no problem renewing our Seven Stars status.  The big issue for me is that Total Touch doesn’t give you an accurate total of your tier credits as you play.  How do you know if you have reached the threshold for the bonus tier credits?  You have to go over to the Total Rewards desk and check with them if they are still open.
  • ·         Last year I wound up with 25,000 tier credits.  With this new system I will try to play 20 times at 2,500 tier credits each day.  With the 5,000 tier credit bonus each time it will get me to 150,000.
  • ·         I don’t know if this new tier credit increase is good or bad, if it’s going to make me a Seven Stars cardholders next year or make me broke.  I was at Caesars January 1, 2 and 3 and got to receive an extra 1,000 points for each day since I made more than 1,000 each day and trying to get to 2,500 was just too hard.  On another visit I earned 2,550 credits playing penny slots for 12+ hours.  At 2,200 points I had spent $1,700.  Usually I would have quit way before this, but I had to go for the 5,000 bonus credits.  Who wouldn’t?  Well, I certainly won’t go for it again.  It just takes too much money to get.
  • ·         I don’t think I’ll be playing any more to maintain our Seven Star status, even with the 150,000 points requirement.  Why?  Because if my initial two experiences this year are indicative of how things will go then it will be fine.  If my math is correct, with the 5,000 point bonus for earning 2,500 points, it behooves a player to put 2,500 points on each day to get the best bonus.  For low level players who have to really work to make it to Seven Stars that seems like a good strategy.  So far, for each of three days of play, we have been able to reach the 2,500 points.  That gives us 22,500 points each trip (7,500 coin-in plus 15,000 bonus points). Using that strategy, 6.7 three-day trips will get us to 150,000 tier credits.
  • ·         My total yearly play will remain at my current level.  But if I do find myself relatively close (which I will need to define for myself) to reaching a bonus level then I would play to reach that bonus and stop.

This Month’s Survey

I’ll be the first to admit that I was pretty harsh this month in my criticism of Caesars and the “new” Total Rewards program, e.g., lack of information regarding player card benefits, Resort Fees, customer communications, marketing offers, etc.  While I am expressing my personal opinions (often from my own experiences and observations), many of them are formulated based on feedback I get from readers via email or in conversation. Should I stick to the facts, and stop editorializing?  What do you think?  Send me an e-mail (sevenstarsinsider@gmail.com) and I’ll share your thoughts – anonymously, of course. 

Darryl D. McEwen, Publisher

Seven Stars Insider

Photo: Fabbz.com

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Resort Fees Give Every Hotel Room On The Vegas Strip Wifi

Resort Fees are bad. Nobody will disagree with that but there is something that’s not awful that will come with every hotel on the strip adding a resort fee. When Caesars Entertainment adds a resort fee to all of their Las Vegas hotels next month it will mean that every room on the Vegas strip (besides Casino Royale) will now include wifi.

Not that everyone needs wifi on vacation but it’s nice to have the access. I’m a bandwidth hog and want it all the time. I travel with a laptop and smartphone and sometimes my awesome iPad mini. I get that not everyone is like me but more and more people are depending on wifi access. Many of them (for some reason) are travelling with children that expect wifi wherever they go and will be louder and more obnoxious when they don’t get what they want.

This isn’t to say that resort fees are good but, if nothing else, they’re bringing more internet access to Vegas hotels and that’s not a bad thing. Again, I’m looking for a bright side to resort fees.

On a related resort fee note, if you book a comp room at a Caesars hotel with your Total Rewards account you may not have to pay a resort fee. We’ll know for sure in a couple days but that’s how it’s worked for me at The Venetian and MGM Grand. Most people I know that stay at Caesars properties stay there because they have easy access to comp rooms and for them these resort fees may be moot.

 

Copyright © 2017 Marc Meltzer & EDGe Vegas