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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