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Bucks Investor Opens New Sports Bar, Vows to Improve PA GOP

Doylestown’s Paul Martino has gone from a venture capitalist who founded Bullpen Capital to an entrepreneur, opening an upscale Philadelphia sports bar called Bankroll.

It is described as the “ultra-posh, mobile-betting-focused hangout in Center City.” But Martino’s not just getting in the wagering business. He is also continuing to bet on the Pennsylvania GOP.

“I’m not trying to remake the party,” Martino told DVJournal. “I’m trying to fix some stuff that’s broken, which Pennsylvania GOP has a lot broken to fix.”

Opening the new bar is a return to his entrepreneurial roots. Even in childhood, Martino was earning money.  He wrote programs for games people could play on their telephones at the dawn of the internet age in 1988.

“I have been at the intersection of gaming sports and gambling for over 12 years,” said Martino. “I was the first investor in FanDuel, the fantasy sports company, in 2011. So, I’ve been very active, and that was when that company was seven people in a bedroom in Scotland all those years ago. Now it’s the largest sports betting company in the world.”

“So, I’ve been doing stuff at this intersection for many, many years with a lot of the leagues, the NBA, for example, with my co-investor, and we’re in companies that do a lottery. I’m in companies that do fantasy sports in India, Mexico, and Brazil. We have the largest fantasy company in Brazil.”

Mayor Jim Kenney encouraged Martino to start the venture. Five years ago, he was in Kenney’s office and suggested Philadelphia could be a big sports city.

“I said we need to show off that we’re the best sports betting city in the country,” said Martino.  He went to see the mayor as “a lark” when “Brownstone (a public relations agency) came in and had a discussion about how to brand the city. The (former) commerce secretary, Howard Epps, offered to help, and “that began a brainstorming process that led to the formation of what I think is the premier sports entertainment venue anywhere in the United States.”

“And it happens to be right here in my hometown,” said Martino. “So, I’m excited.”

The $25 million venue at the former Boyd Theater includes TV screens showing live sports, betting information, dining, comfortable couches, and a bar. What more could a sports maven want?

South Philadelphia is the wrong location for the sports stadiums, said Martino.

“Let’s say you work at Duane Morris (a major law firm), and you get tickets from your boss to go to the Phillies game. You’re not quite sure if you should thank the boss or if you should curse the boss because it’s a drive. It’s a pain. Don’t get me wrong. Everyone loves the team.”

But with Bankroll, it’s “literally across the street, and you would be fighting for those tickets instead of drawing the lottery to see who has to go to the actual game.”

“So we did it downtown,” he said. “We want those people to be watching the games live, and it’s too much of an investment to actually go to the stadium if you can literally walk right across the street.”

And at Bankroll, he intends to teach people how to bet on sports. For example, Martino said celebrity endorser Seth Joyner, who played for the Eagles, would run a seminar about the finer points of football.

“We’re going to have expert coaching and advice, and we’re going to teach you how to be a better sports bettor,” he said.

Martino, who grew up in Lansdale, said he was always politically conservative.

“I was a geek writing computer games in my bedroom in 1988 when no one knew what those things were. How crazy is that?”

After he graduated from North Penn High School, Martino, who holds more than one dozen core patents for social networking and big data, went to Lehigh University, where he earned a degree in math and computer science and a master’s in computer science from Princeton.

Martino and his wife, Aartai, met while living in Silicon Valley. They have two children in the Central Bucks School District, Vanessa, 13, and Zach, 12.

Like many parents during the COVID lockdowns, the Martinos looked at their children’s curriculum and decided they needed to improve how their district was run. Martino began talking to other parents on Facebook. One was Clarice Schillinger, who founded the Keep Kids in School PAC. She successfully backed like-minded candidates in the primaries, mainly in the Delaware Valley. The two parent advocates teamed up to found Back to School PA PAC, funding school board candidate PACs across the state who promised not to shut schools down. Martino put up $500,000 for the effort.

Schillinger went on to run for lieutenant governor. She lost in the primary.

But Martino, who is continuing the Back to School PAC effort this election cycle, isn’t done. He hopes to improve how the Pennsylvania Republican Party operates.

“I’m pretty good at fixing stuff,” Martino said. “My primary objective with the Pennsylvania GOP is to get better leadership and a business model in place. We need stronger leadership and have to stop charging our candidates to attend events. Pennsylvania is a big place with 60-plus counties; campaigning here is hard, and our infrastructure makes it harder and expensive.”

By infrastructure, Martino said he means the party infrastructure, the numerous committee people who report to county chairs.

Martino admits he needs little sleep.

“The reason I get so much done is when your hobby is work, it’s amazing how much stuff you get done,” Martino said.

Now Aarthi Martino, a longtime Google software engineer, is running for school board in Central Bucks. The couple moved to Doylestown from Silicon Valley to raise their children in a “normal” community.

While not a gaming venue per se, Bankroll (1910 Chestnut) will partner with a sports gaming company. It’s currently open from 5 to 11 p.m. and will soon open for lunch during March Madness. In about two weeks, it will serve lunch daily, said Martino.

Asked about the menu, Martino said, “High-end food–steaks, caviar, and fun stuff, too, like burgers and wings.”

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“Back to School PA” Funder Says Union-Backed School Board Members Should Recuse From Contract Approvals

The man who fueled a political action committee boosting school board candidates committed to in-person instruction took his fight directly into the heart of the arena [March 8], arguing that board members who accepted election funding from teachers’ unions should recuse themselves from upcoming contract negotiations.

Paul Martino, the multimillionaire funder behind “Back to School PA,” made his remarks in person at a Central Bucks School District board meeting, the district where two of his children are enrolled.

He set the table for allegations of hypocrisy by saying his own activism in school board races in 2021 had frequently been referred to as “unheard of” or unprecedented.

“Also of note: $40,000 was contributed in cash and in kind to the Democratic candidates by the PSEA [Pennsylvania State Education Association teachers’ union], the school board, the school teachers. This is a truly unheard-of amount of $8,000 per candidate,” he said.


“In my day job, I sit on a lot of boards of directors and that’s called conflicted interest,” he concluded while saying board members Dr. Mariam Mahmud and Dr. Tabitha Dell’Angelo should recuse themselves from the upcoming collective bargaining for a new multi-year contract.

Martino is a co-founder and managing general partner at Bullpen Capital, a venture capital firm.

After being frustrated with the at-home telelearning his children endured at the start of the pandemic, he began to pour some of his political discontent into the PAC, Back to School PA. BTSPA then took Martino’s contributions and doled them out in smaller increments to even smaller PACS across the commonwealth dedicated to races within a single school board.

BTSPA executive director Beth Ann Rosica told Broad + Liberty that 113 candidates supported by the PAC won their races in November.

In his runup to asking for the recusal, Martino tried to draw a contrast between how his own political activism had been treated in the press and elsewhere compared to monies raised and distributed by unions and their allies.

“I’m here to tell you that Democrat candidates raised $122,000 compared to our $95,000 — outspending us by $30,000 or by 30%. It was the Democrats who spent an unprecedented amount of money on this race, not the Republicans. And they did so in a convoluted way, through ten different PACS, hiding the ball.”

Martino put his claims in a white paper produced and published on the BTSPA website. Although Broad + Liberty has not had the opportunity to factcheck all of Martino’s assertions, campaign finance reports obtained and shared by BTSPA show that the PSEA did provide at least $38,000 to the PAC that supported the Democratic slate of candidates, CBSD Neighbors United. The PSEA also made smaller donations in the race to complete the $41,000 referenced by Martino in his remarks at the board meeting.

Neither the PSEA nor the Central Bucks School District returned requests for comment.

The current contract for teachers in Central Bucks expires on June 30, according to this copy of the contract posted online.

Meanwhile, the district has been without a contract for support professionals since June, according to a January report from the Bucks County Courier Times.

“While specifics have not been discussed publicly, the stalemate appears to be at least in part due to pay increases that employees have said need to reflect the added work brought by the pandemic since 2020,” the paper said.

Martino’s activism last year drew even national coverage from outlets like Vice, amidst a year in which education was a pivot point for many voters nationally. Pundits pointed to the surprise victory of Republican Glenn Youngkin in the Virginia governor’s race as proof. That race seemed to hinge on a gaffe in which former Governor Terry McCauliffe said “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.”

Prior to last year’s fall elections, the Inquirer reported on Martino and his PAC, quoting critics who said his efforts were bringing “toxic politics to the local level.” A story in Philadelphia was headlined, “Inside the Ridiculously Vicious and Increasingly Nasty Local Elections in Bucks County.”

A podcast from the New York Times highlighted Martino’s influence.

“It’s a lot of money, but what may be most new and noteworthy is that so much of the money sloshing around in these races is coming from one guy,” Times national correspondent Campbell Robertson said. “Typically, a lot of the money in school board races comes from small donors, though the local party will give some money to the teachers’ union sometimes. Well, this year, in Bucks County, just one local PAC had put $50,000 into the races in the county by mid-October. And almost all of that came from Martino.”

But at the Tuesday board meeting, Martino seemed clearly irked by how he thought campaign finances had been portrayed.

“I was not the source of dark money. My contributions were clearly marked,” he said. “It was the other team that was hiding the ball.”

This article first appeared in Broad and Liberty.