One of the more unique Ohio sports betting applicants has been granted a license from the Ohio Casino Control Commission to open a retail sportsbook in Youngstown.
The commission on May 17 approved Phantom Fireworks for a Type B sports betting license. The fireworks retailer also owns the Youngstown Phantoms hockey team and intends to open a sportsbook at the Covelli Centre, where the Phantoms play.
Phantom Fireworks retail sportsbook to bring jobs, business to downtown Youngstown
The Phantom Fireworks sportsbook is part of a plan to add entertainment and jobs to the downtown Youngstown area, said Michael Podolsky, deputy general counsel at Phantom Fireworks.
Speaking to the commission, Podolsky acknowledged that the company is a “nontraditional” applicant. Phantom Fireworks has 85 brick-and-mortar fireworks stores across 15 states, including two in Mahoning County. The company’s corporate headquarters is in Youngstown.
“We see this as an interesting opportunity to bring a business to downtown Youngstown,” Podolsky said.
Covelli Center hosts USHL hockey, other events
Phantom Fireworks has been discussing its Ohio sports betting plans for nearly a year. Last summer, the company’s vice president, William Weimer, said the initial plan was to add a sportsbook inside the Covelli Center, a 7,000-seat arena that hosts sports and concerts, to add to the area’s increasing entertainment options.
“The idea is to put kiosks in the concourse and do some remodeling at the Huntington Club on the second floor to provide for a betting area and TVs,” Weimer told the Youngstown Vindicator in July. “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.”
The Covelli Centre is home to the Youngstown Phantoms, a USHL hockey team that happens to be playing for the league championship this weekend.
Ohio’s sports betting catalogue does not allow betting on the USHL, but that does not preclude the addition of a sportsbook inside the arena.
Phantom Fireworks becomes second Mahoning Valley retail sportsbook
Phantom Fireworks does not currently have a sportsbook partner listed, but the company will need to find a partner to operate the sportsbook.
Phantom Fireworks is the second (and final) retail sportsbook license to be granted in Mahoning Valley, joining Hollywood Gaming at Mahoning Valley Race Course.
Like the other three Penn Entertainment-owned gambling properties in Ohio, Hollywood Mahoning Valley is partnered with the Penn-owned Barstool Sportsbook on its retail location, which opened just before the Super Bowl in February.
Phantom Fireworks is Ohio’s 24th fully licensed retail sportsbook. The state allows up to 40 retail sportsbook licenses, and more are on the way.
The Cincinnati Bengals are likely to apply for a retail license after the NFL rescinded a rule banning in-stadium betting. And Ohio’s new 2024-25 budget would allow two new licenses each for Cuyahoga, Franklin and Hamilton counties, for a total of seven licenses in each county.