Austintown Racino Tops $100M for Second Month

State OKs Sports Betting Licenses for Austintown Racino, 20 Area Bars

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Hollywood Gaming Mahoning Valley racino was granted licenses Wednesday to offer sports betting at its Austintown facility and to also launch an online betting site and app.

The Ohio Casino Control Commission also approved licenses for sports gaming kiosks for 20 bars and restaurants in the Mahoning Valley.

Sports betting will begin Jan. 1.

The commission also approved on-site, or Type B, and online, or Type A, sports betting licenses for Jack Cleveland Casino, Jack Thistledown racino, the Cleveland Browns, Columbus Crew soccer club, MVGC Subsidiary (Muirfield Village Golf Club) in Dublin, The Cincinnati Reds, and Toledo Gaming Ventures (Hollywood Casino).

It deferred a decision on two applicants: The Cincinnati Bengals and FC Cincinnati soccer club.

The commission also approved 300 Type C licenses Wednesday, adding to the 200 that it approved at a previous meeting.

Local bars and restaurants granted licenses were:

  • Riser Tavern, Poland.
  • Blue Wolf Tavern, Boardman
  • Davidson’s Restaurant, Canfield.
  • Belleria Pizza, Hubbard.
  • Coaches Burger Bar, Poland, Austintown, East Liverpool, and Salem.
  • Diamond Bar and Grill, Campbell.
  • Ice House Inn, Austintown.
  • Gasoline Alley, Niles.
  • Belleria Express, Canfield.
  • Patsy’s, Campbell.
  • Rip’s Café, Struthers.
  • The Foundry, Salem.
  • Shotz Bar and Grill, Austintown.
  • Tavern 26, Campbell.
  • Boneshakers, Salem.
  • Truck World, Hubbard.
  • Amen Corner, Girard.

Matthew Schuler, executive director of the commission, noted that about a third of the 850 applicants statewide for Type C licenses filed incomplete applications. The deadline for these bars and restaurants was extended until Oct. 5. If correct applications are not received by that time, those applicants will not be eligible for licenses when the law goes into effect, Schuler said.

“We do not have the time or capability to carry them across the finish line,” Schuler said, noting the commission went to great lengths to make the process simple and to provide all necessary information.

Type C applicants must already be licensed by the state lottery commission, hold a liquor license and meet certain other requirements.

Jessica Franks, spokeswoman for the casino commission, said Type C applications are still being processed and more will be approved in the near future.

“Some that were not approved today is just because we didn’t get to them yet,” she said. “We are cranking through them at a good clip.”

Hollywood Gaming Mahoning Valley had no trouble getting approval for Type A and B licenses.

The Business Journal contacted Kevin Brogan, marketing director of Hollywood Gaming in Austintown, for comment about the racino’s plans to create sports betting operations, but did not receive a reply in time for this article.

A second Mahoning Valley entity is seeking only a Type B license to operate a sports gaming facility at Covelli Centre. The entity, Phantom Fireworks, was not considered for approval at Wednesday’s meeting.

William Weimer, vice president and general counsel for Phantom, said the company is still completing its application and will submit it when it is ready.

“We’re moving at a slow pace,” Weimer said. “It’s a rolling approval process.”

The Phantom Fireworks sports book would be located in what is now known as the Huntington Bank VIP Lounge on the upper level of Covelli Centre and would be open 24 hours a day. Weimer said that sports betting kiosks would also be placed in the concourse of Covelli Centre.

Phantom would hire an outside company to install and manage the betting hardware and software, Weimer said.

Joe Rzonsa, co-owner of the Blue Wolf Tavern in Boardman, was excited to learn that his restaurant and bar was granted a Type C license for betting kiosks.

“It will be a good thing for the economy of the state and even better for a lot of restaurants and bars that have a lot of [financial] ground to make up because of the pandemic,” Rzonsa said.

Bars and restaurants in the state were ordered to close in March 2020 for a few months, and then reopened under reduced hours and occupancy.

The Blue Wolf has been an Ohio Lottery retailer for the last 10 years. Rzonsa said he sees the demand for sports betting in bars even if it cuts into his take from his Keno games.

“It gives people something to do while they’re having lunch, dinner or a cocktail,” he said. “It keeps them in their seats longer.”

Rzonsa said his next step is to hire a management company to install bettor information screens and wagering kiosks and train his staff.

Patrons will find sports betting options and Ohio Lottery games on the same screens at the Blue Wolf, Rzonsa said. He is happy about that because his bar does brisk business and he does not want to remove seats to make room for sports betting kiosks.

“We need every seat every day,” he said.

One aspect of the sports gaming rules is not so appealing to Rzonsa.

“[Betting kiosk management companies] can also come up with their own mobile apps, so people can bet online,” he said. “That is a little bit disappointing. I don’t know how much of a bump restaurants and bars will get from sports betting, because people can have a party at home and bet from their sofa.”

Nevertheless, Rzonsa calls sports betting a step in the right direction.

“It might not benefit folks like us as much as we would have preferred, but will keep that money in our own state,” he said.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.