Forget going to TripAdvisor or Yelp, avoid the casino insider blogs and skip the hassle of trying to wrangle friends together for a last-minute getaway.
For the most honest reviews of casino hotels and restaurants, the best tips on getting the most out of loyalty programs and connecting with like-minded gamblers, look no further than the Everything AC Casinos (Atlantic City) Facebook group.
Everything AC Casinos, or EAC as some members of the group refer to it, was started a little more than two years ago by Joe and Barbara Arnashus.
The Toms River couple started the Facebook group after a similar Las Vegas casino page frowned upon their Atlantic City posts.
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Today, the private group boasts more than 9,900 members who share a genuine appreciation for Atlantic City casinos.
“This thing just keeps growing and growing and growing,” said Barbara Arnashus. “This has just been unbelievable.”
The group is a mix of casino veterans and newcomers, casual gamblers and big-money players, frequent visitors and occasional tourists. Because of the wide array of backgrounds of its members, EAC is a one-stop shop for those looking for ways to improve their Atlantic City experiences.
Members ask questions, offer honest assessments of Atlantic City casino properties and even post pictures of gambling wins.
“(I) definitely come here for advice (on the) best current deals, new places to eat, etc.,” said Aaron Covey, 37, of Steubenville, Ohio. “Being in Ohio, it’s given me an invaluable resource to keep in touch with what’s going on in Atlantic City.”
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But maybe even more important than finding out parking rates, figuring out which casinos are offering tier-matches or what slot machine is someone’s favorite, EAC connects people through their affection for Atlantic City.
Barbara Arnashus, 51, said the group had its first social meet-and-greet at Golden Nugget Atlantic City a couple of years ago and only 10 to 15 people attended.
Last year, the group’s now-annual Ugly Sweater party at the Wild Wild West Casino inside Bally’s Atlantic City drew nearly 200 members. For this year’s meet, scheduled for Dec. 1 at Resorts Casino Hotel, 192 people have already committed to going, with another 40 considering.
“We have made such great friendships with a lot of people,” Barbara Arnashus said. “Outside of Atlantic City, we go to their homes, they come here, or we go out to dinner, we go on vacation with them. So it’s really turned this love of Atlantic City into some really great friendships along the way.”
Joe Arnashus, 52, said “a lot of these friendships we’ve made, we consider some of these people like brothers and sisters to us.”
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Beth Russo, 38, of Sayreville, Middlesex County, said she “loves the group” and posts on the page before every Atlantic City trip in an effort to meet up with other members.
“Meeting Joe and Barbara who run this group was just amazing,” said Russo. “Since then, we have met up with Joe and Barbara and hung out and gambled together. They are two of the nicest people I have ever met, and they truly treat us like family. We have made some amazing friends just from being in this group, and it’s getting bigger, which means more friends and family to be made.”
Marilyn Cafone, 54, of Bergenfield, Bergen County, said before joining the group, she would visit Atlantic City three or four times a year. Now, her annual trips to the resort have nearly doubled, mostly because of new friendships with other members. Cafone said she met a new friend who lived one town away at this year’s EAC summer get-together.
“We have already met in Atlantic City again and spent time together getting to know each other and having dinner,” Cafone said. “The two of us then managed to meet up with another member of the group, and the three of us got together for cocktails in the players lounge at Ocean (Resort Casino). We have continued to stay in touch, so I feel like I have made two new friends directly from the EAC group. We already have plans to meet over the weekend of the Ugly Sweater party in December.”
Sher Lahvic, 58, of Richmond, Virginia, said her friends don’t understand her obsession with Atlantic City, but the EAC group does.
“I have learned so much about comps and information about what is going on in general,” Lahvic said. “(Being a member of the group) changed my experience in that I have a social outlet to talk to other gamblers, which is fun and makes me happy.”
EAC’s Ugly Sweater party Dec. 1 will be collecting donations for those in need. All donations will be delivered to Covenant House New Jersey in Atlantic City on Dec. 2. A list of items requested by Covenant House was posted Friday on the Facebook page and includes earbuds, umbrellas and gift cards.