VINTON, Va. – The stakes are high leading up to Saturday's Belmont Stakes horse race and a local gaming emporium in Vinton is kicking off the weekend and celebrating with the community.
Rosie's Gaming Emporium opened its doors in May. It features 150 historical horse-racing machines, simulcast horse racing, a restaurant and bar and gift shop.
On Friday, the business marked its success with a grand opening celebration. Rosie's offered prizes, T-shirts, the chance to win free play for a year and even a 2019 Mercedes-Benz.
"We really want to give it back to the community and come out with all promotions blazing, if you will," said Ernie Dellaverson, Rosie's general manager.
Feeling lucky, Loretta Welch headed to Rosie's with her friends. Her favorite game is the penny slots.
"You can play a long time on 20 bucks," Welch said.
Jackie Robertson came all the way from Bedford.
"I just wanted to do a little horse racing, a little gambling," Roberston said.
More than 300 people attended the celebration. Workers said with the Belmont Stakes happening on Saturday, the off-track betting section will likely be standing-room only.
"I'm looking forward to it. It can be anybody's race. Ain't no Triple Crown, so it's luck of the draw," Robertson said.
Welch plans to bet on the race at Rosie's then head to to watch it.
"This place will be packed," Welch said.
The thrill of horse racing runs in her family. Welch and her dad worked at a track in West Virginia.
"My dad was a security guard. I ran the odds board," Welch said. "It's always something we've done as a family."
When Welch's father passed away 20 years ago, she moved to Vinton, but she keeps their family tradition alive every time she tries to pick a lucky winner.
"We don't bet on the odds. We bet on the numbers," Welch said. "My daddy's favorite number was 471 and that is probably what I'll bet. And if it comes up, I'll know he's up there saying , 'Yes, we did it!'"