Phantom, Hollywood Gaming Seek to Open Sports Betting Parlors

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Sports betting facilities would open next year at Covelli Centre, downtown, and at the racino in Austintown if the state approves the applications.

Phantom Fireworks and Hollywood Gaming Mahoning Valley Racetrack and Casino have applied for sports betting licenses from the state’s casino control commission. The state will announce later if the licenses have been approved, and sports betting will begin on Jan. 1.

The number of Type B – or brick-and-mortar – licenses per county is based on population, with Mahoning County allowed to have two. Trumbull and Columbiana counties are each permitted to have one such facility, but no applications have been filed from either county as of July 20.

Phantom Fireworks is seeking a Type B license, while Hollywood Mahoning Valley racino is seeking both a Type B and a Type A (online betting through computers and phone apps) license.

There is also a Type C license available, which calls for self-serve betting kiosks and/or clerk-operated terminals in liquor-serving establishments.

The state is prioritizing the state’s eight professional sports teams and a NASCAR and PGA event, and it’s 11 casinos and racinos for Type A and Type B licenses. If all of those licenses are approved, there will still be four Type A and 19 Type B licenses available.

The fees for a five-year Type A license start at $1 million for initial and annual renewal fees. Type B licenses start at $90,000 for a five-year license.

William Weimer, vice president and general counsel of Phantom Fireworks, said its plans for a sports betting parlor at Covelli Centre are in “an embryonic stage” at this time.

“The idea is to put betting kiosks in the concourse of Covelli Centre and also turn the [Huntington Bank VIP Lounge] into a mini-sports book,” Weimer said, by adding monitors and other necessary technology.

Phantom Fireworks owns the Phantoms hockey team, which plays its home games at Covelli Centre. Because the Phantoms – a member of the US Hockey League – is an amateur team, bets could not be placed on its games.

“You cannot bet on the USHL and we have no intention of changing that,” Weimer said.

Phantom would have to hire an approved sports gaming management services provider to operate the facility, he said.

“Our business is fireworks, and we don’t know how to do it,” Weimer said. “Somebody will have to come in with machinery and the know-how and operational savvy.
We are talking to [potential] management companies now. Hopefully, there will be a decision in short order, and we will announce our partner.”

Weimer said that Bruce J. Zoldan, CEO and founder of Phantom Fireworks, is very “community spirited. He was one of the movers behind the development of Covelli Centre and [a sports book] would enhance its attractiveness and might attract more people there.”
Eric Ryan, president of JAC Management which operates the city-owned Covelli Centre, said discussion of the sports book with Phantom are ongoing.

Plans call for it to be open to the public 24 hours a day, seven days a week, he said. The Huntington Bank VIP Lounge is on the upper level of Covelli Centre.

“Another plan would be to build an addition on to Covelli,” Ryan said. “But in either event, it would be a full-service sports book, even if we just start with using a converted Huntington Bank VIP Lounge.”

As the sports book licensee, Phantom Fireworks would be considered a tenant of Covelli and pay a rental fee to JAC Management for the space. “The finances would eventually go to the city,” Ryan said.

The Business Journal contacted officials at Hollywood Gaming Mahoning Valley Racetrack and Casino but did not get a response in time for this article.

All casinos and racinos in the state have applied for brick-and-mortar sports book licenses, including JACK in Cleveland, Thistledown in Cuyahoga County, and Northfield Park in Summit County. The SPIRE Institute in Geneva has also applied for a Type B license.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.