Sports betting sought for Covelli Centre, Hollywood Gaming

Customers watch a game in the NCAA basketball March Madness tournament at the Borgata casino in Atlantic City, N.J. On March 13, 2022, the American Gaming Association predicted that 45 million Americans will bet on this year's tournament. Licenses for sports betting at the Covelli Centre and Hollywood Gaming racino in Austintown are being sought.

YOUNGSTOWN — Sports betting could come to Hollywood Gaming at Mahoning Valley Race Course and the Covelli Centre if the Ohio Casino Control Commission approves both Mahoning Valley applications.

Phantom Fireworks Inc. and Youngstown Real Estate Ventures LLC (Hollywood Gaming at Mahoning Valley Race Course) submitted sports gaming proprietor, services provider and supplier applications to the Ohio Casino Control Commission, according to its website.

William Weimer, vice president of Phantom Fireworks, said its application would be used for the downtown Youngstown arena, and credited Phantom Fireworks President Bruce Zoldan with the plan.

“He came up with the idea of getting one of these gaming licenses for the Covelli Centre,” Weimer said. “The idea is to put kiosks in the concourse (for sports betting) and do some remodeling at the Huntington Club on the second floor to provide for a betting area and TVs.

“Youngstown, like many cities, has seen a lot of decline downtown. … It seems to be turning into an entertainment place. Adding this dimension to the Covelli Centre would help the entertainment aura of the downtown area.”

Weimer stressed the plan is in the “embryonic stages,” and a loose outline of the concept was included in the application.

“We’ve talked to the mayor and to the Ryans (JAC Live and JAC Management Group President Eric Ryan and Covelli Centre Executive Director Jordan Ryan), and everyone seems to be on the same page,” he said. “We have to get together and formalize this whole process.”

Zoldan also owns the United States Hockey League franchise the Youngstown Phantoms, which plays its games at the Covelli Centre. The USHL is a top-level amateur league, and Weimer said there is “no intention under any circumstances” to get the commission to allow betting on USHL games if the license is approved.

Hollywood Gaming at Mahoning Valley Race Course, 655 N. Canfield Niles Road, Austintown, received its racing license and opened in 2014. It’s a part of the massive Penn National Gaming, North America’s leading provider of integrated entertainment, sports content and casino gaming. Penn operates 44 properties in 20 states, online sports betting in 13 jurisdictions and iCasino in five.

Last December, the General Assembly approved House Bill 29, legalizing and regulating sports gaming in Ohio. The bill, effective March 23, allows sports gaming through licensed operators of online sportsbooks and brick-and-mortar establishments.

The bill sets a licensing and regulatory framework under the jurisdiction and rulemaking authority of the Ohio Casino Control Commission. The bill also creates the Ohio sports gaming lottery, operated by the Ohio Lottery Commission through terminals at certain liquor permit establishments. The bill requires all forms of sports gaming be allowed to start accepting wagers on the same date. The commission has announced that the universal start date for sports gaming will be Jan. 1, 2023.

The deadline for applications was July 15. Applications postmarked by that date still will be considered.



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