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Defending Harrah's

20 March 2006

The recent topic about customer service at Harrah's now that it has taken over Caesers Entertainment generated more letters than any other topic besides the RNG. Here are some more letters about Harrah's and, finally, some writers have positive experiences to report.

Hi, John,

I wanted to weigh in on the discussion of Harrah's. I have never played a lot at Harrah's because I always felt the payback was poor and Total Rewards was too. I did really like Caesar's rewards club and found that even a low roller like myself could benefit from that club. Now that Harrah's has purchased Caesar's, I will be moving on to other properties. Spending hours playing the slots should at least get you a few bucks for a meal and at Harrah's you can't count on that.

I am happy to learn that the Copa and Treasure Bay both intend to reopen in Biloxi. I was actually down in Biloxi/Gulfport right before Katrina hit. We had to evacuate so we went up to Pearl River. We really enjoyed that resort as well and the service was fabulous, even with their resources stretched thin. Pearl River has made the most effort of any casino ever to get our repeat business. So for the Mississippi players looking for options, visit Silver Star and Golden Moon!


Just thought I would add to the Harrah's discussion. I recently went to the old Indiana Caesars (now Harrah's). They were in the middle of switching all their computer systems. Rather than close for 24 hours and lose revenue, they did the change during the height of business. The hotel was totally booked. Two floors of the boat were closed. AND, there was no rated slot play for almost two days. And they totally closed down all machines for a two-hour period of time — so much for 24-hour operations.

I could have gone at a different time had I known about their plans. Even the hotel could not provide room service charges or pay-for-view TV charges during this time. About the only thing that worked was the elevator.

I understand their business reasons for not announcing it — people would not have come and it exposes their vulnerabilities when they are on a manual system for check writing, validating machine tickets, etc. However, as an old Player's One club member, I was disappointed that my host did not at least give me a "heads up" warning on all of it.

Service everywhere was very poor as well.

Linda

Dear Linda,

On the one hand, I think you're being a little harsh. Casinos loathe to close their doors for any reason once they've thrown them open. I know I've been subjected to temporary construction walls sealing off parts of the casino, jackhammers at early hours, and opening up the drapes in my room only to discover a workman standing outside the window on a scaffold.

On the other hand, I've always been told beforehand when the casino/hotel was going to be running with reduced resources and have even gotten construction discounts to stay during those times. Minor inconveniences were handled with signs and maybe an apology letter in the room. And I know I would be really upset to find out my slot play would not be rated, unless the casino offered some sort of compromise.

I think you've seen them at their worst and during a very difficult time. I suggest making another visit to experience the property under more normal circumstances. Let your host know what happened on your last visit when you book this one.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,
John


Dear Sir:

I have just finished reading the column on bad service with Harrah's. Unfortunately, I have to agree.

My husband used to spend about $2,000 as a diamond player at Cherokee — which is a Harrah's Casino — two or three times a month. He played $1 slots — maximum coins (10) — and would win as much as he lost and usually overall a little more. After ten or twelve trips in which he consistently lost, he began playing blackjack. He is a small $5 player — sometimes $10. He still spends the same amount at the tables but receives practically no credit for it.

We changed to the Grand, which we loved. He received a little more credit for playing the same amount at the tables — not a lot more but still enough to keep getting free rooms and free food. Between the two of us, about every two months, we spend about $3,000. We never paid for food, the service was always great, the rooms were free and even though we mostly only come out losing, we still enjoyed the games.

However, now that Harrah's owns the Grand, the terrible point system they have is coming into play. It offers you great prizes at about 90 times what they are worth. We were very unhappy with the Harrah's system and now that it is about to take over the Grand, we will probably have to begin looking again for another casino.

We will never be whales, but we have always been loyal to the casino that was loyal to us and treated us well. The Grand at least used to make it worthwhile to spend our time there.

According to the survey that Harrah's sent out on their comp system, they claim everyone loved it. I do not believe that for a minute. I think they intended to use that system and the surveys they sent were shams. All the people I know who filled them out said they preferred the Grand's system over Harrah's. We could get free meals while we were there based on our play and cash back based on our play. Harrah's never gave us cash back and we could not use our points earned this time until the next time — plus it took almost all the points you would make in one trip to get one buffet.

I know I am rambling, you don't need to print this — I just wanted to vent to someone who might understand the frustration some of us regular smaller gamblers are feeling.

L.

Dear L.,

I'm a big fan of open slot club that clearly tell you how much play is required to earn various rewards, so I understand your frustration with these slot clubs designed by bean counters instead of gamblers.

I'm afraid though that your numbers don't add up. Your husband can't spend $2000 two or three times a month and then, between the two of you, spend about $3,000 about every two months.

And I'm not sure what you mean by "spend". If by "spend" you mean "lose", something really doesn't add up. A player losing between $3,000 every other month to $2,000 or more a month should not have any problems getting a free meal.

Keep in mind that because table games go considerably slower than slots and usually have much lower house edges, it usually takes more time or larger bets to earn a certain comp at the tables than at the slots.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,
John


Stayed at the Horseshoe in Tunica 4 days during November 2005.

I had always heard many good things about the 'shoe.

None of the good things were obvious to me. Cheap, cheap, cheap.

I visit casinos on Florida dayboats about twice a week. Las Vegas about four times per year for about four days per trip.

Have never felt so insulted as at the Harrah's Tunica Horseshoe. Will never enter a Harrah's casino again.

Thank you,
Don


John,

Harrah's Total Rewards states on their website that you get 1 credit (both base and reward) for $5 slot play and $10 video poker play. The "comp value" of those credits is good, in my opinion. If I was playing for comps, maybe I'd be more picky, but I play for fun. And I have lots of fun no matter where I choose to play, unless they charge for drinks! Yes, comps can be added to low-margin games to create a sort of positive expectation outcome. But you'll never lose if your bankroll is created from your entertainment budget and you had fun playing.

I think that many of the Total Reward Diamond members feel slighted in that some benefits that used to be exclusive to Diamond members are now extended to Platinum members, making the Diamond members feel less "special."

Casinos are a high-volume business, and if you are truly a "high roller," then you will get treated like one. If you used to get treated like one before they tracked your play, then that is just how it goes; technology has improved and the business has evolved.

Regarding the machines, I have been casino gambling since 1993 and it is my impression that reel machines are tighter these days, while the video slots tend to be looser... nickel and diming you to death in search of that elusive but fun bonus round. Please don't get me wrong, I love tight machines: especially progressives. (You never know, you might just hit the top payout like I did in 2002 for $175k!) The only thing that we can say for certain is that a video poker pay table says it all and it pays to shop around.

And please don't be selfish and take up the two or three machines in the casino of a certain type while others are obviously wanting to play. You probably aren't the only person who drove four hours. Remember what your mom said: "Play nice and SHARE"! :-)

May the Ching be with you,
Charles

Dear Charles,

Thanks for pointing out that Harrah's has revealed many parts of their formula. Their site also gives the number of reward credits needed for certain comps at many of their properties. Still, the comp requirements at many properties remains a mystery.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,
John


John,

We were in Harrah's N.C. and I gave my card back and told them I WILL NEVER PLAY ANYTHING HARRAH'S OWNS AGAIN. Asked for 2 buffets and was told I needed 12 hours at $25 per hand for 1 buffet. The host I talked to said if I didn't like it, too bad.

They are the only game in 500 miles. We used to play at all the different casinos, but not any more.

George

P.S. I had lost over $400 at the time I asked.

Dear George,

I agree that twelve hours at $25 per hand for a buffet is absolutely ridiculous unless the buffet serves Kobe beef, truffles and saffron rice made with real saffron.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,
John


Hi, John,

I am a Diamond player with Harrah's and play in Atlantic City. I have not experienced any negative changes with the Total Rewards system, cash back or customer service. There have been many changes both in rebuilding the casinos and adding new machines. Some of those have been penny slots and some new video poker machines with decent payoff schedules for this area. There are still many promotions including 2-5 times reward credit days and many offers for free or half-priced buffets. I am able to be comped rooms for ANY casino under the Harrah's banner and have already booked rooms in Las Vegas.

Customer service has always been a huge plus for Harrah's and I hope it improves at the other casinos in Atlantic City. I too know people who complain the machines are tight especially when they are losing, and sometimes the lines for the promotions and buffets are horrendous due to the crowds availing themselves of these events. This causes everyone to complain. The restructuring is and will be a work in progress for a while and most people don't want any inconvenience at all in today's society.

I work in a customer service job (not in a casino) and find people will complain to me. When asked if they want to speak to a manager, 95% refuse and if prompted to write or call our corporate customer service 99.9% refuse. That would be the best way to air complaints.

Thanks,
Pat

Dear Pat,

Thanks for providing another good word about Harrah's.

Most, if not all, of the complaints are from people whose casinos have been taken over by Harrah's. I suspect they went from a fairly open system to Harrah's sometimes open, sometimes mysterious system. I also suspect that hosts had more discretion to issue comps under the old management.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,
John


Send your slot and video poker questions to John Robison, Slot Expert, at slotexpert@comcast.net. Because of the volume of mail I receive, I regret that I can't send a reply to every question. Also be advised that it may take several months for your question to appear in my column.

John Robison

John Robison is an expert on slot machines and how to play them. John is a slot and video poker columnist and has written for many of gaming’s leading publications. He holds a master's degree in computer science from the prestigious Stevens Institute of Technology.

You may hear John give his slot and video poker tips live on The Good Times Show, hosted by Rudi Schiffer and Mike Schiffer, which is broadcast from Memphis on KXIQ 1180AM Friday afternoon from from 2PM to 5PM Central Time. John is on the show from 4:30 to 5. You can listen to archives of the show on the web anytime.

Books by John Robison:

The Slot Expert's Guide to Playing Slots
John Robison
John Robison is an expert on slot machines and how to play them. John is a slot and video poker columnist and has written for many of gaming’s leading publications. He holds a master's degree in computer science from the prestigious Stevens Institute of Technology.

You may hear John give his slot and video poker tips live on The Good Times Show, hosted by Rudi Schiffer and Mike Schiffer, which is broadcast from Memphis on KXIQ 1180AM Friday afternoon from from 2PM to 5PM Central Time. John is on the show from 4:30 to 5. You can listen to archives of the show on the web anytime.

Books by John Robison:

The Slot Expert's Guide to Playing Slots