YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN)- The owner of Phantom Fireworks has applied for a license to operate a sports betting facility, and if the license is approved, the plan is to open a sports betting operation at the Covelli Centre in downtown Youngstown.
“More and more entertainment is coming to Youngstown’s inner city,” said Phantom Fireworks owner Bruce Zoldan. “We have a hockey team (Youngstown Phantoms) that plays at the Covelli Centre. We want to bring more dollars into the city.”
Zoldan said initially only one gambling license was allocated to Mahoning County, and it was assumed it was going to Hollywood Gaming in Austintown. But, Phantom lobbyists convinced members of the state legislature that a second license could work, and the Ohio General Assembly approved the second license for Mahoning County.
“Hollywood Gaming is in Austintown,” said Zoldan. “We thought one could work downtown.”
Zoldan said if the license is approved, he plans to partner with a company that knows sports betting.
“Maybe Bally’s, maybe MGM. Maybe we can partner with one of them,” said Zoldan. “Or maybe we could partner with a Cleveland entity, maybe Jack’s Casino. Also, I know the Cavs, Browns and Guardians have all applied for licenses, too.”
As far as where the sports betting operation would go in the Covelli Centre, Zoldan said that’s yet to be determined.
“Somewhere on the second floor is a possibility or an addition could be built,” he said. “We’d like to add a sports bar. Bets could be placed either by kiosks or windows. There are no definite plans.”
Eric Ryan, president of JAC Management Group, which operates the Covelli Centre, was asked if he was OK with a sports betting operation in the building. He answered, “Yes, I am.”
“It’ll be good for Youngtown’s economy,” said Youngstown First Ward councilman Julius Oliver, who has the Covelli Centre in his ward. “The more people downtown, the better. We can’t keep losing things to other cities and the suburbs.”
The Ohio Casino Control Commission is currently accepting applications for sports gambling licenses. Hollywood Gaming at Mahoning Valley in Austintown has applied to provide online betting and a retail sportsbook. Phantom Fireworks has not applied for an online license.
The Ohio Casino Control Commission will update the list every Friday afternoon.
The full list of applicants can be found here.
In June, the Ohio Casino Control Commission approved the universal start date for legal sports betting in the state as January 1, 2023.