Hall of Fame Resort sets sights on legalized sports betting in Ohio

CANTON Hall of Fame Resort & Entertainment Co. is talking with state legislators and lobbyists about legalizing sports betting in Ohio.

Michael Crawford, president and chief executive officer of the company that is developing Hall of Fame Village powered by Johnson Controls in Canton, mentioned the effort Thursday morning in a call with stock analysts following the release of the company’s 2020 financial reports.

Sports betting can help monetize the gaming segment of the company’s business, Crawford said. It’s an area where the company hopes to grow, but it needs Ohio laws to legalize sports betting.

Crawford also said that during the second quarter, the company will finalize a construction loan for the second phase of the village project. The loan will be for construction of a hotel, retail center and water park on the campus that will surround the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Hall of Fame Resort & Entertainment has finished remodeling the DoubleTree by Hilton and started other construction work, including the Constellation Center for Excellence, which also are part of the second phase of the project.

The company formed last July when Gordon Pointe Acquisition merged with Hall of Fame Village. The merger, subsequent stock offerings, and other moves have helped the company raise more than $100 million in new equity.

The company ended 2020 with a loss of $71.5 million compared with $55.9 million last year. The company reported revenue of $7.1 million, down 9.7% from $7.86 million in 2019.

Since joining the Hall of Fame Village project in December 2018, Crawford has established three business units. The village project is referred to as the destination, while the other business units focus on media and on gaming.

Crawford said the gaming segment will announce details March 30 about an inaugural fantasy football league with fans investing in a team. The home cities and names of teams will be announced, along with an online store where fans can buy merchandise.

Sports betting, which would be part of the company’s gaming business, enhances the way fans interact with sports, Crawford said. Establishing sports betting is a priority, he said. The company is seeking a partner for the sports betting business and hopes to have one signed before sports betting become legal in Ohio.

While sports betting isn’t legal in the state, Ohio has horse racing and casinos, a state lottery that includes Keno and video lottery terminals at some race tracks. Charitable gaming that includes instant bingo, bingo, raffles and other games of chance and are permitted.

Sports betting is legal in 25 states, although not up and running yet in five of those, according to the American Gaming Association. The Washington, D.C.-based group also noted that legislation is active in another 17 states.

During the presentation Crawford reviewed agreements and event announcements the company has made in recent months. The list included the NFL Alumni Academy training programs for NFL prospects, use of the National Youth Football and Sports Complex for events, a recent agreement to host the Women’s Football Alliance championship weekend, and non-sports events such as the Highway 77 concert.

More: Canton heads to the country: Highway 77 Music Festival set for Hall of Fame Village

Jason Krom, chief financial officer, said the company expects to see revenue increase this year. Events at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium will generate revenue, as will the Hall of Fantasy football league and sports documentaries that are being developed.

The DoubleTree hotel in downtown Canton is seeing increased use and the company will have revenue from tenants when the Constellation Center for Excellence opens later this year.

“This is an asset that will generate revenue for us,” Crawford said of the building under construction west of the stadium.

The coronavirus pandemic hurt revenue during 2020 because events were canceled, Krom said.

Crawford said the introduction of vaccines is bringing hope that restrictions linked to the pandemic will ease, and events planned for later will have large crowds. He said suites already have been sold out for the Highway 77 concert, which is set for Sept. 12.

Crawford and Krom said the company is looking for growth over the long term. The coming year, like 2020, with be a time for the company to invest and develop. “Investment for me does not equate to loss,” Crawford said.

Work to develop Hall of Fame Village powered by Johnson Controls started in 2015 with construction of Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium, as well as the sports complex south of McKinley High school and Don Scott Field.

The second phase currently under construction has an estimated cost of $300 million and scheduled for completion in 2023. A third phase, also estimated at $300 million, is planned.

Reach Edd at 330-580-8484 or [email protected]

On Twitter: @epritchardREP

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