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Here's where we'll give you some ideas to help you get the most value when you visit a casino.  One way to maximize your value is to be sure you are properly rated for your casino play and bets.  This will help you get your casino comps as well as benefits for certain drawings, giveaways and promotions that the casino might have in the future.

CAESARS TOTAL REWARDS OFFERS UP TO 100X MULTIPLIER IN ATLANTIC CITY

Update September 16, 2017  Members of the Caesars Total Rewards players club rewards program probably know that the best offers and bonuses aren't given in Las Vegas. There are some very attractive bonuses offered in Atlantic City. Here's the latest. If you you earn 25 Tier Credits at Caesars, Harrah's Resort or Bally's Atlantic City on Mondays September 18 and 25, and Thursdays September 21 and 28 you have a chance at getting a 100X Multiplier on your Reward Credits. "Once 25 Tier Credits have been earned on the valid day," according to an email, "swipe your Total Rewards® card at a designated Promotional Kiosk from 10am to 11pm to activate your multiplier!" 

The minimum multiplier is 3X. I have heard of players who did receive a 100X multiplier, but of course this is not common.

I've seen similar promotions at the Rincon Casino in San Diego which is known as Harrah's Resort Southern California and this is a casino that Caesars manages for the Rincon Indian Tribe.

A GLITCH IN DIAMOND AND SEVEN STARS COMPANION CARDS

Update March 25, 2017  I have heard reports that the Total Rewards Seven Stars and Diamond "Companion Cards" have been rejected for free parking at the various Total Rewards casinos in Vegas. With a Companion Card, the cardholders are supposed to get free valet parking -- but something has gone wrong. Now we know it was a glitch in the system and how the cards were coded. Total Rewards has sent an email to Seven Stars and Diamond members who have assigned a "Companion Card" to have that Companion cardholder go to an Total Rewards desk to have the card "re-coded" so it will be recognized for free parking.

TOTAL REWARDS OFFERS SEVEN STARS MEMBERS AN EARLY BOOKING BONUS

Update March 9, 2017  Caesars Total Rewards is offering its Seven Stars members a bonus of 5,000 Tier Points if they book their "Seven Stars Retreat" offer early this year. It appears to me that they want rooms booked during a slower time of the year. The offer sent to Seven Stars players called for a 5,000 Tier Credit Bonus if the Seven Stars Retreat was booked in Las Vegas or Lake Tahoe between April 1st and the end of May.

Frankly, a 5,000 Tier Point Bonus for players who already scored 150,000 or more tier points in 2017 doesn't mean much. But for players who have not yet met the 150,000 point level to renew their Seven Stars status into 2018 this is a pretty good deal. For a video poker player, earning 5,000 tier points would require at least $50,000 of coin-in play without bonuses. With the usual daily bonus, 5,000 tier points can be earned with significantly less coin-in play.

The Seven Stars Annual Retreat is an offer given to all Seven Stars players and includes up to $1,200 for airfare and $500 of dining credits and up to four free nights. Even if you don't use the airfare, the $500 dining credits can be worthwhile.
 

USING A SEVEN STARS COMPANION CARD TO AVOID PARKING FEES IN VEGAS

Update February 16, 2017  The highest ranking tier in the Caesars Total Rewards players club program is Seven Stars and each Seven Stars member is allowed to choose a "Companion" who is issued a Seven Stars Companion card. The Companion card works like a Seven Stars card giving the card holder the right to use many of the conveniences that Seven Stars cardholders have such as shorter lines for restaurants and clubs and preferred parking. Having a Seven Stars Companion card is a bit more valuable now than it was a few months ago, because now the Caesars casinos in Vegas charge for valet parking at most of its resorts and if you have a Companion card the valet parking is free which can save the cardholder $13 a day at many of the Vegas casinos.

However, there are some things to watch for. For example, there is a special VIP entrance to Caesars Palace on Flamingo Road in Las Vegas. Limos and Seven Stars members can use this special entrance but as of this writing, Seven Stars Companion card holders are not permitted to use the Flamingo entrance. Companion card holders will get free valet parking but at the other valet areas at Caesars and not at the Flamingo valet. Also, some of the kiosks where Total Rewards players swipe their cards instead of paying for parking do not accept the Companion card -- and this happened at Paris Hotel and Casino which is owned by Caesars and is a Total Rewards casino. A parking manager said it was a glitch in the system and if a Companion card holder find that their card is rejected they should notify the parking payment booth immediately.

In the meantime, some Seven Stars members have been openly selling their "Companion" card rights to strangers, and some people have been offering as much as $800 to Seven Stars card holders for being listed as their "Companion" to get the card.

2017 GREAT GIFT WRAP UP DATES ANNOUNCED BY TOTAL REWARDS

Update February 7, 2017  Total Rewards, the players loyalty card program for the Caesars family of casinos, has announced the dates and locations of the 2017 Great Gift Wrap Up. And this year, there appears to be something different -- or at least it's something I didn't know about. The Total Rewards program recognized play from December 6, 2016 until right before the start of the New Year's Weekend for earning GGWU points. I don't recall earning points in previous years for the period after the second GGWU event in December through the end of the year.

The 2017 GGWU events will be held November 2nd through November 6th at Paris Las Vegas, and from November 29th through December 3rd at Caesars Palace.

If you played after the December 2016 event but before Decemer 28, 2016 your play during that time earns points for the 2017 events.

CAESARS ADDING MORE PROMOTIONS GEARED TOWARD ITS GREAT GIFT WRAP UP EVENT AND CUTS THE VALUE OF SOME PROMOTIONS AT THE SAME TIME

Update January 14, 2017  The Caesars casinos are adding a new way to promote its annual Great Gift Wrap Up. Caesars has announced that some of the tournaments it is holding this year, including a slot tournament, will offer "Great Gift Wrap Up points" as part of the tournament prizes. In the past, tournament prizes were paid in free play vouchers and sometimes in cash. But now, "gift points" for the Great Gift Wrap Up are being added to the mix.

Some players might consider this to be a devaluation of the value of tournament prizes since merchandise at the Great Gift Wrap Up often have inflated prices. So a prize of, for example, one-million Great Gift Wrap Up points might actually be worth $2,900 in gift cards or some jewelry worth even less than that.

Awarding points to the Great Gift Wrap Up instead of free play or cash also pressures the prize winners to return to Las Vegas for the event dates in November or December or they will lose the value of that portion of the tournament win. Of course Caesars would love its players to make another trip to Vegas hoping that while they are cashing in their GGWU points they will also be dropping some money into the slots or on the tables.

Meanwhile Caesars is continuing its practice of having Great Gift Wrap Up "bonus events" that will award points to players who stay at Vegas properties on specific dates. I've seen offers that guarantee a minimum of 105,000 bonus GGWU points to Total Rewards members who stay and play at Vegas properties during certain dates. Using 35,000 points as the value of a $100 gift card, this means the 105,000 bonus points are worth $300 in gift cards. Players would also earn additional GGWU points based on their play.

For some players, a future prize of $300 in gift cards might be valuable, but others might not want to wait till the end of the year to cash-in this promotion or might not be able to return for the GGWU dates in November and December.

TOTAL REWARDS SAYS "BENEFITS REMAIN" FOR ITS 2017 PROGRAM

Update December 28, 2016  The Total Rewards players club program for the Caesars casinos has announced that  "all of your favorite benefits will still be available" for its 2017 loyalty program. However, the exact rules of the program won't be released until February 2017 and some changes might show up then.

Perhaps the most significant statement is that the bonus programs will remain, however there is no mention if the point requirements for each tier level will remain the same. A few years ago the points needed to be 7 Stars was increased from 100,000 to 150,000. Might there be another increase in the points required for the upper tiers?

Here's what Total Rewards sent to its players in an email blast:

  • All Total Rewards members will continue to earn Tier Credits and Reward Credits when playing, dining, shopping or staying at a Total Rewards resort or casino. Show your Total Rewards card everywhere you go or bill to your room to make sure you're receiving all of the credits available to you.

  • All four levels of daily Tier Credit Bonuses will remain the same, continuing to make it easier to achieve and maintain Tier Status.

  • Platinum, Diamond and Seven Stars® members receive discounts at casino gift shops, priority lines and the ability to gift up to 5,000 Reward Credits to a friend.

  • Diamond and Seven Stars members receive an annual Celebration Dinner, access to the Diamond Lounge, and eligibility for Aspirations at 40,000 and 80,000 Tier Credits.

  • Seven Stars members will continue to enjoy their core benefits, including a Retreat to any Total Rewards resort or casino, Voyage with Norwegian Cruise Line®, complimentary room for any visit, Companion Card to share priority service with someone special, eligibility to earn Seven Stars Signature Experiences, and invitation to a Signature Event® with a choice of four dates in 2017.

  • 2017's Seven Stars Signature Events will be held at the following destinations:

    • Lake Tahoe June 7 - 11

    • Atlantic City July 21 - 23

    • Las Vegas August 24 - 27

    • New Orleans September 28 - October 1

Complete benefit details will be available online no later than February 1st.

A FEW PROBLEMS WITH GIFT CARDS FROM THE 2016 GREAT GIFT WRAP UP

Update December 3, 2016  As I write this the second session of the Caesars Total Rewards 2016 Great Gift Wrap Up is being held at Caesars Palace. At the event a few, and I must emphasize a few, of the gift cards given out at the first session at the Paris Hotel and Casino were not activated. A few Total Rewards players were at the second session at Caesars Palace discussing their problem with representatives of Caesars. In 2015 there was a widespread problem with gift cards that were mailed to Total Rewards members without first being activated and replacement cards had to be mailed out.

At the Caesars event most of the gift cards were being mailed, and only a few cards were available for immediate pick-up.

There was a very big turnout on Thursday and Friday and the event in a Palace Tower ballroom was very crowded. And the crowd also meant a very busy casino. Surprisingly the casino had four craps tables working at 6-AM on Saturday morning (this morning) when usually only one table would be open. On Friday night some players complained that they couldn't get a seat at a video poker machine.

GIFT CARDS AND FREE PLAY NEWS FROM THE 2016 GREAT GIFT WRAP UP

Update November 7, 2016  If you are attending the second session of the Great Gift Wrap Up at Caesars Palace keep in mind that the MasterCard gift cards are only available in the denominations of $10 and $25. But at the first event at Paris, there was an "unadvertised special" (as one GGWU worker told me) for $100 Visa gift cards. You have to ask about these as they were not displayed in the gift card section.

Once again, as in years past, you can exchange your GGWU for free play. For 15,000 GGWU points you get $50 of free play and for 30,000 points you get $100 of free play. The exchange rate for other traditional gift cards including the gift cards for Shell gasoline and MasterCard and Visa is 35,000 points for $100.

This question always comes up: should you redeem your GGWU points for gift cards that you will re-sell on the open market? I checked some vendors who buy gift cards and many advertise that they will pay 70% of the face value for major gift cards. If your intention is to get gift cards for selling in order to get cash you might be better off just using your GGWU points for the free play and then sticking to games with a 95% or better expected return which would include many of the video poker games available at Total Rewards casinos.

SOME POSITIVE NEWS ABOUT THE 2016 GREAT GIFT WRAP UP

Update October 26, 2016  About one week before the start of the Great Gift Wrap Up there is some positive news for Total Rewards players in the Caesars system. First, the promotion that doubled bonus points has worked according to plan and the doubled-points for players have now been posted on the Great Gift Wrap Up site. You should check your points now on the website to be sure your double-up points are posted if you took part in the special promotion. Secondly, new gift cards have been added including a new gift card from MasterCard in denominations of $10, $25 and $100. The new MasterCard gift card has the same point redemption value as other gift cards including the Shell Gas Card and I think this makes the MasterCard gift card the best choice of all the gift cards.

The GGWU website says there are some restrictions on the MasterCard gift cards and I think most gift cards from MasterCard do not allow cash advances. I haven't seen the particular restrictions on this gift card offer, but I am going to assume that cash advances are not available. Still, these MasterCard gift cards are the closest thing to cash and unless you are determined to use your GGWU points for free play, I think a generic credit card good at stores, supermarkets, even doctor offices can't be beat.

 

CAESARS MANAGERS NOW SAY THE SEPTEMBER 15TH RESERVATION DEADLINE WAS A MISTAKE AND DOES NOT APPLY TO THE 2X GREAT GIFT WRAP UP BONUS POINTS

Update October 16, 2016  It's been a hectic 24-hours inside the offices of Caesars, but late today managers said that there never was a requirement that Total Rewards players had to make their hotel reservations by September 15th in order to qualify for a 2X bonus on Great Gift Wrap Up points.

Yesterday I reported that new text appeared on the Total Rewards website which said that in order for players to qualify for a special 2X bonus on 2016 Great Gift Wrap Up points the players had to book a hotel reservation by September 15th. When the promotion was originally announced in late August there was no mention of a September 15th deadline for booking a hotel room. And today, Caesars managers said the change that mentioned a September 15th deadline was in error.

The bottom line, say the managers, is this: If you stayed at a Total Rewards resort in the period that started on September 1st and ended on October 15th and earned at least one tier point during your stay, all of your Great Gift Wrap Up points earned during the period of January 1, 2016 through October 15, 2016 will be doubled.

In late August, hosts at Caesars Palace and other Caesars casinos were told of the special bonus promotion for the Great Gift Wrap Up. The promotion told to the hosts was simply this: Players would get double the amount of points earned during the year between January 1st and October 15th if they stayed and played at any of the Caesars Total Rewards properties between September 1 and October 15, 2016. If players stayed and played they would get a one time 2X multiplier on their Great Gift Wrap Up Points earned through October 15, 2016.

But there was confusion yesterday when on the Great Gift Wrap Up website the wording of the promotion had a change and the wording said "hotel reservations must be booked by September 15, 2016."

I immediately brought this to the attention of Caesars representatives and now I am told the requirement about booking hotel reservations by September 15th was an error.

I am also told that between now (October 16) and the end of the month, Total Rewards will check the hotel records and any Total Rewards member who stayed at an eligible property and had at least one tier point earned from play will have their total Great Gift Wrap Up points doubled.

The announcement about the promotion, including the incorrect information about the September 15th deadline for booking a hotel reservation, has now been removed from the Total Rewards website.

WILL THERE BE GIFT CARDS AT THE 2016 GREAT GIFT WRAP UP?

Update October 13, 2016  As I write this there are no gift cards listed on the Total Rewards Great Gift Wrap Up website. In previous years there were gift cards for various retailers including Shell gas stations, Home Depot, Starbucks and other popular places to shop. The gift card denominations started at $10 which made them available even to low limit players. But there are no gift cards on the website now. Will there be gift cards at this year's Great Gift Wrap Up?

I called the Great Gift Wrap Up office and they said "yes" there will be gift cards but they said the specific deals for gift cards probably haven't been finalized yet so they haven't been added to the website. I was told to check back before the end of the month.

In previous years I found the Shell gasoline gift cards to be the most useful. But a few months ago Caesars ended its relationship with the Shell Fuel Rewards program and I fear that Shell gasoline gift cards will not be available this year. I am hoping Caesars will come up with another gas gift card because frankly there's a limit to how much coffee I can drink at Starbucks and how many air conditioning filters I can buy at the Home Depot in one year. But I can never have enough gasoline gift cards.

TOTAL REWARDS GIVES A FOURTH QUARTER BONUS FOR PLAY

Update October 2, 2016  If you happen to earn any tier points during the fourth quarter of 2016, Total Rewards will give you a bonus to start off your 2017 tier point earnings. It is not an overly generous bonus but if you are playing anyway a bonus is a bonus. Under the plan for every 500 Total Rewards Tier Credits you earn between October 1 and December 31 you will earn a 100 tier credit bonus for 2017. Note that the bonus tier points come with every 500 tier point increment so if you are playing for the bonus be careful. Also, there is a cap for heavy players. See the Total Rewards website for details and to sign up. You must submit your email address and once again this is a way for Caesars Total Rewards to keep its email address base current.

TOTAL REWARDS IN VEGAS STARTS DO-IT-YOURSELF SWIPING FOR BONUSES

Update September 7, 2016  The Total Rewards casinos in Las Vegas are starting to catch up with the technology that other casinos have used for a long time. They are now allowing players to swipe their Total Rewards players cards at machines to print out offers and bonuses. This was sent out by email for an added free play bonus:

We're giving you an extra bonus to add to any current offer you have available October 1 - 11, 2016 or October 27 - 30, 2016. All you need to do is swipe your card at a Total Rewards® kiosk to print out your coupon - it's that easy.

KNOW WHEN TO REDEEM YOUR PLAYERS CLUB FREE PLAY

Update August 27, 2016  One of the friends called me early this morning -- around 4am because he knows that's when I'm awake -- to ask me why I thought he could not redeem his free play at Harrah's Resort Southern California near San Diego? I haven't been to the casino (also known as Rincon) in about a year, but I recalled that certain free play given by Total Rewards could not be downloaded between the hours of midnight and about 6 in the morning.

I was almost correct.  He called me later this morning to say certain free play could not be downloaded onto slot and video poker machines between midnight and 8-am. This was a good reminder to know when there might be time restrictions on redeeming your free play from your casino rewards club.

In Vegas you often have to go to the Total Rewards desk to get the free play and then go to the cage and there are limits when the Total Rewards desk is open. However, once a host issued the free play certificate for me when I arrived around 3-am when the Total Rewards desk was closed, and the cage issued the free play, bypassing TR.  That was a one-time event, and I've always followed the usual procedures since then. I have to admit there aren't always hosts around who will get you the free play when the rewards clubs aren't open, so known when you can claim or download your free play.

YEAR-END BONUS FOR GREAT GIFT WRAP-UP POINTS ANNOUNCED

Update August 23, 2016  Total Rewards, the players club program for Caesars casinos, has announced a year-end bonus plan for the Great Gift Wrap-Up. The bonus will double the amount of points earned during the year between January 1st and October 15th if you stay and play at any of the Caesars Total Rewards properties between September 1 and October 15, 2016. If you stay and play you get a one time 2X multiplier on your Great Gift Wrap Up Points earned through October 15, 2016. The announcement did not include anything about any minimum play, so it appears that if you earn just one tier point you would qualify.

TOTAL REWARDS HAS A 24-HOUR DESK IN LAS VEGAS

Update August 8, 2016  If you ever need to get something from Caesars Total Rewards in the middle of the night, there is one 24-hour Total Rewards desk in operation in Las Vegas. I found this out by accident recently when I wanted to get on the High Roller observation wheel at about 11-PM, when nearly all of the Total Rewards desks are closed. A host at the Linq told me that the Cromwell cashier's cage does double-duty as the Total Rewards desk, and since the cage never closes, Total Rewards services are also available 24/7 there at the Cromwell.

CHECKING OUT THE DIAMOND LOUNGE AT CAESARS PALACE

Update July 28, 2016  One of the perks of being a Diamond or Seven Stars player in the Caesars Total Rewards program is the ability to use and eat and drink for free at the Diamond Lounges in the various Total Rewards casinos.

I don't usually spend time in the Diamond Lounges at any of the Total Rewards casinos. The reason I don't usually visit is there is usually not much to entice me to visit. Sometimes I will step into the Diamond Lounge at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas because they have three computers there that guests can use to check email or search the web or post on Facebook. There is an open bar for Diamond and Seven Stars players and their guests inside the lounge, but I don't drink booze so that's not appealing to me either.

And then there is the food. In the past when I stopped in to the Diamond Lounge the food that was available was not interesting at all as it was mostly finger food. But on my last visit to Caesars a few days ago, I stopped in to the Diamond Lounge and even though I arrived late -- after most of the hot food had been consumed -- I did find the food service improved dramatically from the last time I was there a couple of years ago.

Below is the plate I put together for myself from the buffet in the Diamond Lounge. I chose two egg rolls, some salads (one is a bean salad), some vegetables and I had a soft drink that was served by a friendly waitress. My friend who was with me had an ice tea along with a plate of salads. There were also desserts including individuals pies and cakes but I skipped them so there isn't a picture. The food was actually tasty. The salads and veggies were fresh. The service by the waitresses were fast, and if I wanted to stay and drink until closing at 9-PM I could have.

webassets/20160725_185753diamondloungefood.jpg

When the Diamond Lounge at Caesars first opened several years ago there was always a generous buffet for Diamond and Seven Stars members of the Total Rewards program. But after a while the food was downgraded and my host at the time told me it was because the restaurants at the property complained that too many players were eating for free instead of visiting the restaurants.

There is no time limit for using the Diamond Lounge and there is no limit on how much you can drink either, but if you appear tipsy the bartenders and waitresses will cut you off. The room is capacity controlled and during peak times you might find a line outside. When the line is long, a second line is set up for Seven Stars players who get priority over Diamond players to enter. If there is a short line, Seven Stars and Diamond players are in the same line. Seven Stars and Diamond players can bring a limited number of guests with them into the lounge. The lounge usually is open for a few hours a day -- and it is not meant to be an all-day retreat.

Caesars Palace, at one time, had a luxurious lounge exclusively for its Seven Stars players in the area that is now the Diamond and Seven Stars check-in lounge. That Seven Stars lounge was also removed because too many Seven Stars players were eating and drinking and not playing. The Seven Stars lounge boasted a luxurious buffet and a chef who prepared sandwiches and omelettes to order and there were comfortable sofas and big screen TVs to watch stock market news or sporting events.

CAESARS TOTAL REWARDS SPRING BONUS TIER POINTS SHOWING UP IN ACCOUNTS

Update July 15, 2016  If you played at a Total Rewards casinos between April 1 through June 30 and earned at least 1,000 Tier Credits, check your account for a special 50% tier credit bonus from a special spring promotion.

Caesars offered the bonus if you signed up for the promotion and gave Caesars an up-to-date email address. Look for promotions like this in the future.

I like to take advantage of bonus promotions, but don't make the mistake of playing more just for a bonus as a bonus is rarely worth what you lose at playing. What made this particular promotion appealing is that the Spring Bonus was given in addition to regular daily bonuses.

MGM M-LIFE PROGRAM ADDS A CREDIT CARD BENEFIT

Update June 9, 2016  The MGM casino player club program called MLife has added a credit card program that will help casino players earn comps and tier points. It is similar to the credit card program that Caesars Total Rewards has had for several years, but it is not exactly the same. The MLife Rewards Mastercard program is run by a bank and you will have to qualify for the card through the bank.

Every dollar spent at an MGM resort earns the cardholder 3X tier points and comp credits, and every dollar spent at gas stations and supermarkets earns 2X tier points and comp credits, and cardholders get 1 tier point and comp point for other purchases. The card is a way to earn higher casino player status without gambling.

The most immediate value for the cardholder is free self-parking because the cardholder immediately gets Pearl status in the MLife program. You need Gold status for free valet parking. There is no annual fee and there are some other benefits such as buffet line passes.

My feeling is there is nothing wrong with these type of "affinity credit cards" as long as you use them wisely. Picking the right card for the benefits you use the most is always a smart idea. For years I've resisted offers for a credit card that offers free flights on a major airline because I rarely fly.

BUYING AND SELLING SEVEN STARS COMPANION CARDS -- PRICES GOING UP?

Update June 1, 2016  Back in April, I wrote about how I was surprised to find out that in Atlantic City some players are paying as much as $1,000 to be listed as a Seven Stars Companion. I was surprised because being a Seven Stars Companion really isn't worth more than having shorter lines at the casino cage and at restaurants and taxi stands, and there is no monetary value attached to the piece of plastic except for entrance to Diamond and Seven Stars lounges.

But now there are signs that the value of being a Seven Stars Companion card holder might be going up. One reason is the new paid parking rules that MGM is starting at its casinos in Las Vegas on June 6th. MGM is exempting higher-ranked players from paying for parking. The thought now is that Caesars will follow the MGM lead and start its own paid parking in which case Seven Stars members and presumably Seven Stars Companions will also be exempt from paid parking. This will not only add to the convenience-factor of being a Seven Stars Companion card holder, but the free parking will actually give the Companion Card some actual cash value.

Right now, at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, valet parking at the Augustus Tower on Flamingo and at the main entrance on Las Vegas Boulevard is often restricted to only Seven Stars members, and that would include those with a Companion card. So there is some "convenience value" to being a Companion card holder. And add in the free parking and free valet parking, and a Companion card could be worth a lot of money as Valet rates could be in the range of $20.

Several Caesars Total Rewards members have been discussing via private messages and posting on Internet discussion groups that there is an actual market for "Seven Stars Companion Status" in Atlantic City. It seems that there are regular players who will pay a Seven Stars member to be listed as their companion so they can use the Diamond Lounge there. The going rate seems to be $1,000 which works out to under $20 a week. The belief is that for regular, daily visitors they get their money's worth from using the Diamond Lounge for food and beverages.

I have recently seen several posting on Internet discussion groups asking to be listed as a Seven Stars Companion and offering to pay the Seven Stars member some money to do this. If Caesars starts to charge for parking (like MGM) and there is a parking-fee exemption for Seven Stars then I could see how regular visitors to the Vegas casinos might bid up the value of being listed as a Seven Stars Companion.

I don't know of any rule that would prohibit a Seven Stars member from designating a complete stranger as their Seven Stars Companion. As I noted in previous reports a "companion" cannot access the account of the Seven Stars member and must have their own Total Rewards account. If you're a Seven Stars member and you don't have someone you want designated as your "companion" then selling the designation to a complete stranger just might be worth a thousand dollars or more if free parking is included.

CAESARS TOTAL REWARDS ENDS PARTICIPATION WITH FUEL REWARDS NETWORK

Update May 17, 2016  One of the fringe benefits of the Caesars Total Rewards Program (and it really was a tiny fringe) was getting discounts at Shell gas stations based on your casino play. These discounts came through Shell's Fuel Rewards Network discount plan. Today, Caesars announced that its participation in the Fuel Rewards Network was ending. In an email to Total Rewards members, Caesars said:

The last day to earn Fuel Rewards savings from Total Rewards is May 31, 2016. You will then have until June 30, 2016 to redeem any savings that you earned during May.


The Fuel Rewards Network will continue but without Caesars. While it was a nice benefit it was a very tiny benefit. You'd visit a casino and play and get maybe a discount of 5-cents or 10-cents per gallon on one fill-up. I once got a discount of $1 a gallon but it included special discounts that I earned with other businesses that were also part of the Fuel Rewards Network.

A CHANGE FOR THE 2016 TOTAL REWARDS SIGNATURE EVENTS

Update March 17, 2016  Some members of the Caesars Total Rewards program will see a significant change in the Total Rewards Signature Events promotion this year. Instead of choosing only one event, some players with higher Total Rewards Tier Scores (from casino play) will be able to attend two events. These events are in Lake Tahoe, Atlantic City, Las Vegas and New Orleans and include four nights hotel plus various events such as dinners and tours of nearby points of interest.

Perhaps because some Total Rewards Seven Stars members can book two Signature Events, I had some difficulty getting my choices at the Las Vegas Event in August. Some of the special events were not available at the times I wanted and others were not available at all. And then there were some conflicts in times that prevented me from getting my first choices. I was told this when I ran into trouble: book your Signature Event on April 1st which is the first day that the Signature Events can be reserved. That's a good tip for 2017.

THE SEVEN STARS COMPANION CARD REALITY CHECK

Update April 23, 2016  This is the time of year when Seven Stars players in the Caesars Total Rewards program can choose their Seven Stars Companion for the new fiscal year. Here's a reality check on the Seven Stars Companion Card:

1. It's nothing more than what I call a "line cutting card." Yes, showing a 7 Stars Companion Card will give you access to the priority lines that Seven Stars players have at restaurants and at the cage and at the valet and taxi lines but that's about it.

2. Having a Seven Stars Companion Card does not entitle you to any of the comps that 7 Stars players get. The reality is, if you designate your girlfriend or your wife as your Seven Stars Companion, she does not have access to your credit line or to your account for reward credits or tier points. And that can be a good thing. 

3. The Seven Stars Companion must have their own Total Rewards players card account and their individual account number will show on their Seven Stars Companion Card -- and not the account number of the actual Seven Stars player.

4. While some casinos will comp tobacco for actual Seven Stars players, they are not likely to comp tobacco for a Seven Stars Companion card holder. While some casinos might comp buffets for Seven Stars players, they will not extend the comp to a Seven Stars Companion without the actual Seven Stars player being present.

The bottom line is that the Seven Stars Companion Card is nothing more than a courtesy card treating the Companion as if the Companion were with the actual Seven Stars Player when it comes to using special and shorter lines.

CAESARS TOTAL REWARDS GREAT GIFT WRAP UP DATES FOR 2016

Update April 19, 2016  Caesars has scheduled the dates for its 2016 Great Gift Wrap Up event in Las Vegas. This is the event that allows Total Rewards members to choose from a catalog of gifts based on the Reward Credits that they earn during the year. This is a bonus event leaving the player's Reward Credits intact for use for other purposes so that you can earn 100 Reward Credits and spend them on a restaurant meal and still have 100 Reward Credits for the Great Gift Wrap Up shopping event.

The first GGWU event will be held November 3rd through November 7th at Paris Las Vegas. The second GGWU event will be November 30th through December 4th, 2016. Later this year the first of the gift items will be added to the GGWU www.greatgiftwrapup.com but as of today there are no listings.

Caesars does a pretty good job with shipping so that most items are delivered in time for Christmas, but there can be delays. At the 2015 GGWU at Paris, Caesars had a desk where Total Rewards members could pick up gift cards instead of having them shipped. But near the end of the Paris event the supply of gift cards was exhausted and gift cards had to be shipped. At the Caesars event all gift cards had to be shipped.

What is curious about the GGWU event is that Caesars requires the vendors who participate to have top executives and regional managers on hand to demonstrate and describe their products. It is not uncommon to even have a senior vice president of a company at the GGWU speaking with players. Caesars does this to be sure its players get the best information.

Total Rewards members will note that Caesars runs various promotions during the year that provide bonus Tier Credits but Caesars does not have promotions for extra Reward Credits which come primarily from actual casino play. This means you might have a "tier score" that is double of what your "reward point score" is. You can check your Reward Credits on the GGWU website.

CAESARS TOTAL REWARDS HAS A DEAL WITH ATLANTIS RESORT IN THE BAHAMAS

Update April 15, 2016  The Total Rewards program at Caesars now has a marketing deal with the Atlantis Resort and Casino on Paradise Island in the Bahamas which provides one free stay each year for Platinum, Diamond and Seven Stars members. You will get free from two to four nights plus a limited amount of free play (up to $250) and a limited amount of resort credits (up to $100 daily) under the program.

You have to pay for your own airfare and that makes it an expensive "free offer" to claim if you live on the west coast. I called the casino marketing department at the Atlantis and they confirmed they have no air-fare deal to use. Also, it's not cheap to eat there. Meals are very expensive at the resort but the resort does have meal plans for fixed prices for a breakfast/lunch and dinner. If you want to take this offer you deal with the players club at the Atlantis and not with your Caesars host.

Also, there have been some comments on the Internet that the Atlantis expects Caesars Total Rewards members to have play at Atlantis which matches their play at Caesars casinos. Some Total Rewards members received a confirmation from the Atlantis for their trips and this condition was spelled out in the fine print. The fine print also says players might be charged for their room if their casino play does not meet expectations. However, when I called the marketing department at the Atlantis they said this does not apply to Total Rewards members and the confirmation slip with that fine print was actually intended for Atlantis' players. The Atlantis marketing rep told me TR members could "no play" and the offer would stand as stated.

CAESARS APPEARS TO HAVE CANCELED ITS ALTERNATIVE OPTION FOR TOTAL REWARDS SEVEN STARS ANNUAL RETREAT

Update April 13, 2016  It appears that Caesars canceled its new 2016 alternative option for the Seven Stars Annual Retreat. The Annual Retreat has traditionally included air fare and a folio credit of $500 to a Caesars casino property that isn't your "home casino" and was a use-it or lose-it offer. For a few weeks this year, players could elect to receive an alternative option of $500 in Reward Credits instead of the Annual Retreat package. But now, that alternative option has been removed from the Total Rewards website.

I called Total Rewards and they confirmed the alternative option for 50,000 Reward Credits ($500 value) is no longer available in their system but the representative I spoke with could not explain the reason.

The traditional Annual Retreat package does continue. It includes air fare worth up to $1200 and there is a four-night stay. But for those who had no interest in a trip to another casino claiming the alternative option of $500 in RCs which can be converted to free play wasn't a bad option while it lasted.

I was able to claim the $500 in RCs about a week ago and it appears I was able to claim the option just before the option was canceled.

CAESARS TOTAL REWARDS CONTINUES ITS TIER CREDIT BONUSES IN 2016

Update March 2, 2016  This year, Total Rewards -- the players rewards program for the Caesars casinos -- is continuing its program of giving bonus tier points when players reach certain levels of play each day. If a player gets 1,000 tier credits from their play in a day they get a 1,000 tier credit bonus. Get 2,500 tier credits in a day and the bonus is 5,000 points. Get 5,000 tier credits in a day from your play and the bonus is 10,000 tier points.

By maximizing your play on certain days it is possible to reach certain tier levels including Seven Stars quicker and with less actual play in the casinos. In fact, in just ten days of play earning 5,000 tier points, a player can earn the Seven Stars level in the Total Rewards program.

There are two impacts of these tier bonuses. One impact is that more players are reaching the higher levels of Diamond and Seven Stars and that is probably leading to lower offers for all Diamond and Seven Stars players. The other impact is that players are being given an incentive to play more to earn a bonus.

It is probably never a good idea to play for comps and getting bonus tier points for your play is nothing more than getting comps. But instead of the "comps" coming in the form of a buffet or a casino tote bag the comps are coming in the form of tier points. The reality is no casino comp is ever worth the theoretical cost of your play.

The key phrase here is "theoretical cost" because if you actually have a profit from your play then all of your comps are icing on the cake. Remember that casinos give out comps based on what they expect to win from your gambling. This expected win for the casino (which is also known as an expected loss for the player or a theoretical cost or loss), is always figured to be worth more than the cost of the comp or the offer.

It's true that by receiving tier bonus points your theoretical loss of reaching the Seven Stars level in the Total Rewards program will be lower than if you received no bonus tier points. But don't make the mistake of thinking the bonus tier points are a complete gift.

The real danger for players is when they have exhausted their budgeted money for the day and their tier score is 4,999 points. Do they reach into their pocket for another $5 bill to get one more tier point at slots? Or do they reach into their pocket for one more $10 bill to get one more tier point at video poker? And what if the player is 500 points away from 5,000 tier points and a 10,000 tier point bonus? Does that player run to the ATM to withdraw another thousand or two thousand dollars to earn those extra points?

The continuation of the bonus tier points can help savvy players who normally play high levels. But for players on a budget the lure of a tier bonus just a few points or a few hundred points away can be a real budget buster.

CHECK AND DOUBLE-CHECK YOUR CASINO RATING

Update February 23, 2016  One of the worst conversations to have is when you are speaking to your casino host about booking a room or asking for show tickets or a special restaurant reservation and the host says "but you haven't played enough for these offers." But you know you have played enough -- or you played more than enough and maybe you lost too much? What do you do?

Let's face it: casino hosts and marketing programs look at your casino play to determine your "worth" when it comes to comps (offers) and incentives such as free play and free hotel rooms. You must be certain that you are properly rated for your play.

With slots and video poker it's important that you have your player's card inserted in the machine and check to be sure the card is properly inserted and the "points" for your play are being registered. With some casinos, if you stop play for several minutes the system will "reset" and you will have to reinsert your card for play to be recorded. So be sure your card is active with each push of the button.

With table games it's important that you check-in with the table supervisor and be sure your play is properly recorded and the supervisor has your correct player's card number recorded. With some casinos it's a matter of swiping your card through a card reader. But with other casinos they might have to physically write down your name or account number.

Machines are pretty good about getting your play properly recorded -- but humans aren't as good and this is why you should check-out with the table supervisor and ask how you will be rated? You want to know the time and the average bet that was recorded for you. It's also good to have your win or loss properly recorded because this can help you negotiate offers later with your casino host.

You don't have to lose to negotiate good offers. When you win casino hosts also want to give you good offers because they want you to come back to play more. Winners tend to return and since the casino has its "edge" on all of its games, the odds favor the casino getting back the money you won. So when you win ask for extras such as comps and show tickets and an extra free buffet because as a winner a host might be very inclined to make you happy so you will return or keep playing.

When you get home from your trip or sometimes during your trip, you can sometimes check your official rating with the casinos website. The MLife website for players in the MGM casino system is updated daily showing casino play including coin-in for machine players and table game wins and losses. If you play at an MGM property you should make it a habit of going on their website and checking your action. It's good to know your action not only for casino comps and offers but also as a reality check so you know exactly what you are winning or losing.

For players with the Caesars Total Rewards system, you can go on the Total Rewards website and check the win/loss statement for the last calendar year. Then for the current year's win/loss change the year in the web address for your account and you will get your current amounts. I have found that the Caesars Total Rewards current year win/loss amount is updated online usually within 48 hours of your last play.

There can be problems in what supervisors at table games might record for you. I had a problem in 2015 when somehow my player's account number was credited with a $100 buy-in at roulette with a $50 loss at a Vegas casino for a weekend when I wasn't even in Las Vegas. Because of that bogus entry, my average bet was dramatically impacted and my casino offers for the next three months dropped by almost 50-percent. My casino host at the property tried to correct the error -- after all, I wasn't even in the city and didn't stay at the hotel. But I was told "once it's in the system it can't be changed."

On the other hand, if you detect an error while you are in the casino you can alert the pit where you were playing about the error and have it corrected.

Update December 4, 2013  I was reading the official rules of the Great Gift Wrap Up, the annual gift event that Caesars Entertainment has for its Total Rewards players when once again I spotted that great disclaimer about table game ratings:

Table game players must turn their Total Rewards® card in to the dealer to have their play tracked in order to receive tracked play Gift Points. Caesars uses reasonable efforts to track a table game participant's average bet and length of play. However, as a condition of receiving Gift Points for playing table games, all Promotion participants agree that such tracking is based on the personal observation of Caesars employees, which is subject to error. The determination of Caesars shall be final with respect to any discrepancies regarding tracked table play.

The big problem for all table game players at all casinos is the fact that there is the personal observation of a human, and a human has to enter what they observe, and as a player you have to hope that they get it right.

I once played craps at a casino where for the first several shooters I only made a $10 passline bet... but after those first few shooters I went to my regular betting of having $25 pass with $130 or $135 "across" on the numbers, plus full odds.  I later found out that the floorman had me rated as a $35 player for two hours, and the floorman either overlooked or failed to change my "rating" from my initial bets.  I asked my host at the casino if that could be changed so my overall rating at the casino would not be damaged, and I was told that unless the floorman was able to recall his error and make the change it would be almost impossible to fix.

You should be aware that most floor supervisors will make a note of your betting level when you first start playing at a table.  If that initial entry is not updated by that floor person or subsequent supervisors, your higher bets made later might never be recorded.

But sometimes the "record" can be in your favor.  I once played at a "carnival game" at a casino where my average bet was $15 but the floor person said to us at the table (when we asked) that she rated everyone as a minimum $25 player because she realized the system wouldn't give anyone betting $10 or $15 any comps at all.

There are certain things you can do to "protect yourself" to be sure you get a proper rating when playing a table game such as checking with the floor person when you leave and asking what you were rated at -- which is probably the best thing you can do.  Once you leave a table it is almost impossible to have the records changed.

About ten years ago, when RFID casino chips were developed there was hope that table game players might actually get accurate ratings and proper comps for their action or bets.

RFID casino chips can be scanned from a distance and are scanned to be sure they are authentic.  The scan can be used to check not only authenticity but also their denomination.  The RFID technology could also count the value of a stack of chips or even a bank of chips with an instant scan.  The RFID technology could also be used to count the chips in each player's rail or table position.

I recall that when RFID casino chips were first developed that one of the goals was to have a computer-linked rating system for each player position that would actually track the individual bets of players.  That system was easy to establish for blackjack tables and I saw it demonstrated at a gaming business convention but I don't know if it is actually used anywhere now.  But while it is very difficult to track all of the bets and all of the betting positions at a craps table the RFID game designers said it is also possible to have RFID-enabled craps bet tracking.  They explained it to me that the newest RFID technology could isolate even the bets within the boxes such as the number "5" on a craps table.

In roulette an RFID bet tracking system might work more easily because different players get different color chips.  Perhaps that type of system could also be adopted for craps?

The point is that something better should be developed for tracking the bets of table game players.

Whether it's a promotion such as the Great Gift Wrap Up for the Caesars Properties or the gift giveaways that other casino companies have or getting comps (free offers) for such things as hotel rooms, meals, shows, bonus chips, free slot play, etc., the casinos have created an environment where getting proper "ratings" of your bets has become very important.

In the meantime, because table game players don't have the ease and simplicity that slot and video poker players have for getting their "action" tracked, I think the casinos should do a better job of trying to be sure that table game players are tracked better, and table game players should still make the extra effort to be sure they were tracked properly.

Maybe someday those RFID chip tracking systems will be used.

SLOT MACHINE AND VIDEO POKER PLAYER TIPS 

For slot machine and video poker players the rating game is easier and more exact.  You insert your player's card (casino club card or tracking card) into the reader of the machine and keep it there.  Of course there can also be problems for machine players such as the reader fails to recognize your card, or the card reader stops working.

Some card readers will flash red lights when they stop reading.  This could happen if your card has been inserted into a machine but you have not played the machine for several minutes.

If your card is withdrawn from the machine during the course of a handpay by a slot attendant be sure the card has been properly reinserted after the attendant records your card information.

There might also be a problem if your card is in a machine for too long and too many points are recorded.  I have been told of systems that stop recording points on a player's card when too many points show up in one session.  This "cut off" was designed to protect the casino in case one player's card remains in a machine and registers the play of various players in succession who come to the machine.  The advice from that casino was to remove and reinsert your card each half hour or after a large number of points have been recorded if you are a high limit player.

You might also want to remove and reinsert your player's card if the casino is tracking current play for certain promotions.  For example, if there are hourly drawings for cash prizes your play for that hour might not be recorded for the drawing unless you remove your card.

Some casinos also might have bonuses for certain play during each "gaming day" and you should remove and reinsert your card if your play crosses that "gaming day" time.  For example, if the gaming day changes at 4am you should remove your card at 3:59am and then reinsert it at 4:01am to be sure your play is properly record for both gaming days.  Being recorded for two gaming days instead of one might help your overall rating or for certain bonuses. 

WHY YOU SHOULD USE AN INDEPENDENT CASINO HOST

Update May 17, 2012  If you have a gambling budget or bankroll of $5,000 or more you should be booking your casino visit with the assistance of a casino host.  A host can be sure that you get the proper reservations for your stay, for restaurants, shows, events and even promotions such as shopping sprees and gift-giving events.  They can get you some of the best Vegas show tickets and into some of the most prestigious events.

If you're the kind of casino regular that is loyal to one property, then dealing with a casino host from that property is probably okay for you.  However, many loyal players are finding that casinos have cut back on the number of hosts they have, and many "property hosts" might not be able to give you the attention you deserve, and with casinos tightening up on comps they might lack the "power of the pen" to write comps.

If you are not getting the attention of the "property hosts," or if you want to stay and play at different casinos on different trips then having an Independent Host is in order.

An Independent Host does not have any allegiance to any one casino or to any one group of casinos.  In fact, an Independent Host is likely to have a relationship with the management at several casinos in the same city so that he is able to shop around for the best deals for his clients -- and they are the players.

I talked about the business of Independent Hosts with Ed Ford of CASINOMKTG which is an Independent Casino Host outfit.  Ed will represent players who have a budget of $5,000 and more for a casino trip.  He also handles high rollers who might have a bankroll of a million dollars or more for a trip.  And because he represents his client's best interests he can work for them to get the best possible deal from the casinos he has relationships with.

As I said before, as an Independent Host Ed can shop for the best deal for his players among casinos in the same city.  In Las Vegas, for example, he can make arrangements for his players at the Wynn properties or with the Caesars properties.  He also deals with Cosmopolitan and Ed tells me that a lot of his clients want to try out the Cosmopolitan because it is the newest casino.  He can also get the best deals for his players at Red Rock and Green Valley and the Hard Rock.

The point is, if you are a player who doesn't want to be locked into one casino-relationship then having an Independent Host can help you get more from different casinos.

You see, if you were to try to get VIP treatment at any casino on your own, you'd probably have to establish some sort of "player history" with them.  But by working with an Independent Host, that Independent Host knows what your action (player activity) is and get you the benefits and comps and upgrades even before you place your first bet.

"It's all about having one contact to stay all over, to travel to different casinos, in different states," Ed told me.  "It's like one stop shopping instead of having to deal with different hosts at different casinos."

Ed Ford is always looking for new clients to represent.  Call him at (702) 533-5464 to talk about your play and the benefits he can secure for you.

Here on our new media website "Moneyman" Alan Mendelson who is the original Best Deals TV Show reporter on KCAL9 and consumer advocate, shows you the best deals on TV, and the best buys, bargains and where savvy shoppers go to save, and how to get the most for "your money" with the best of Los Angeles, Orange County, Ventura County, Riverside County and San Bernardino County.  Our Best Buys TV Show has the best TV deals and is the only regularly scheduled weekly best deals TV show in Southern California.  We show you the best buys and best deals on TV and more deals and bargains on www.alanbestbuys.com and www.bestbuystvshow.com and watch for our Las Vegas TV show Vegas Best Buys.  Some of the content can come from paid advertising and from our advertiser paid TV infomercial programs.  The Best Buys TV Show is a paid infomercial program which may also include news and information which is not sponsored or paid for by advertisers.  AlanBestBuys.com has the highest ranking among competitive sites in Southern California according to the independent website ranking companies Alexa.com and Quantcast.com and our Best Buys TV Show is the most watched shopping and consumer information show in Southern California.

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