Ohio Regulators Seek Discretion Over Use It or Lose It Rule

It might seem a tad odd that a fireworks company runs a sportsbook. Maybe that’s why they haven’t taken a bet yet. But the company hopes Ohio gaming regulators will give them the time to change their fortune.

Ohio Regulators Seek Discretion Over Use It or Lose It Rule

Not every company enjoys a torrent of money running a sportsbook. Phantom Fireworks of Youngstown, Ohio, has yet to accept a single wager and under the rules of the Ohio Casino Control Commission, the company faces revocation of its license by July 1.

Not to worry. The commission sympathizes with the plight of Phantom and other companies in a similar bind. A proposed rule change would permit the executive director to exercise discretion over withdrawing licenses under the “use it or lose it” regulation.

Phantom has developed a plan to end the shutout. The company hopes to target a location to construct a 20,000 square foot addition to the Covelli Centre arena. Ohio has three different licenses. Type A refers to sportsbooks that offer online licenses. Type B is for brick-and-mortar venues, of which five have not yet begun betting operations. Kiosks in bars and restaurants fall under Type C.

Phantom’s deputy general counsel Michael Podolsky priced the project at $7.5 million, with the city picking up the tab for $5.5 million. Phantom would spend approximately $1.5 million to $2 million to outfit the first two floors for a restaurant and sportsbook.

“We are working with consultants to put together financial projections and hope to have them finalized within the next two weeks and then present them to the city,” Podolsky told the Business Journal last week.

The comment period for the proposal ended May 7. If the agency moves forward, it could take up to six months to build.

The commission awarded its initial sports gaming licenses in 2022, and companies were eligible to accept wagers beginning Jan. 1, 2023.

Podolsky said the purpose of “use it or lose it” was to prevent firms “from squatting on licenses just to keep other potential sports gaming operators out of their area.”

Licenses for the betting parlors went to sports teams, casinos, and racetracks in the state. Phantom Fireworks owns the Youngstown Phantoms hockey team, which plays its home games at Covelli Centre.

In Phantom’s original application for a license, it listed Covelli Centre as the location for its sportsbook.