One-tank trip to Wheeling Island

Ted Hamilton

Nearby casino offers Ohioans an outlet for gambling, enjoyment


Credit: John Proppe

Wrapped inside the hills and over a river that separates the Ohio and West Virginia border, lays the city of Wheeling, W.Va. The city offers fine food and a chance to experience a small slice of Las Vegas through the Wheeling Island Racetrack and Gaming Center for those 18 and over.

If students can handle the three-hour drive to Wheeling without pulling over for food, they can stop at Abbey’s Restaurant. Abbey’s is a family-owned restaurant a few blocks away from the casino. The menu offers a varying selection of food and a wide variety of seafood. Students used to living off of day-old pizza should try the hot sausage sandwich or exotic Lebanese salad.

“We try to offer quality food, large portions and low prices,” owner Joey Maroon said.

Abbey’s is a popular stop for casino-goers and local people as well, he said.

“We get a lot of both people because we are a local, family-owned restaurant,” he said.

The inside of the casino is a dramatic change from the homey feel of Abbey’s. Guests are greeted by a waterfall and bright lights all around. The lights radiate from slot machines that line the floor and seem to stretch on for forever.

“We have over 2,400 machines,” said Carlene Nickerson, director of cage operations.

The machines range from 2 cents to $1 per play. The machines also have different themes including treasure hunting, Wheel of Fortune and even ones modeled after the movie Alien.

Wheeling Island has more than just slot machines, though, Nickerson said.

“We have live greyhound racing,” she said. “We also have horse and greyhound racing through simulcast.”

Greyhound racing has been a part of Wheeling Island for almost 23 years, she said.

According to the Wheeling Island Web site, the gaming center got its start by racing horses before the Civil War and is one of West Virginia’s largest tourist attractions.

Wheeling Island gets a lot of college students from Ohio and Pennsylvania because it is centrally located, Nickerson said.

“I thought it would be fun to make a trip and see what it was like to gamble,” said Jennifer Benevich, sophomore secondary education major. “It has a really fun atmosphere.”

Inside the casino are several restaurants and bars, so people can have something to drink while playing the machines or watching sports games on TV. Some of the bars even have machines built into the counter so people can sit at the bar and play at the same time. There is no reason to leave a machine to get a drink because a cart filled with different kinds of ice-cold beer is pushed around the floor to serve casino-goers.

If someone has too much to drink or they do not feel like driving three hours to get home, the gaming center also has a large hotel attached to it, so a soft bed is never too far away.

Contact features correspondent Ted Hamilton at [email protected].


• More than 2,400 machines (Ranging from 2 cents to $1)

• Greyhound racing (available through simulcast)

• Restaurants and bars inside the casino

• Hotel accommodations (attached to casino)