On March 3, 2023, Paul Martino opened Bankroll Club, a way cool sports betting palace, a block off Rittenhouse Square in Philly, the buzziest square in town. Martino and his partners invested $25 million to restore the historic Boyd Theater and transform it into a 13,000-square-feet, 350-seat sports venue, restaurant and entertainment viewing social experience. It is easily the best addition to Chestnut Street since Liberty Place opened in 1985.

By Theodore N. Beitchman

Sports betting has come a long way since Arnold Rothstein fixed the 1919 World Series.

And since Bugsy Siegel built the Flamingo in 1946 — the first luxury hotel on the Vegas strip.

It should be noted that both Rothstein and Siegel were organized criminals, and they were rubbed out by their competitors, shot dead.

Betting sports in those days was banned even in Nevada, which legalized it in 1949 after allowing casino gambling in 1931.

Only after the Supreme Court decision in May 2018 making sports betting legal outside of Nevada was the American betting public allowed in on the game.

Five years later, it’s hard to believe sports betting was ever illegal.

Pete Rose still doesn’t.

As Harry Truman once said:

“The only thing new in the world is the history you don’t know.”


Paul Martino would agree.

Martino is a tech investor who has made his bones time and again with ideas that seem contrarian, out of the box to many others.

His first business idea was in 1988 when he was 13, and he acted on it.


In 2011 he became the first American investor in something called FanDuel.

In 2019, Martino and his chums were at the MGM Inner Harbor Casino in Oxen Hill, MD. — a DC suburb in un-hip Prince Georges County — for the grand opening of the BETMGM Sportsbook and Lounge.

“Why can’t we have anything this cool in Philly?” Lansdale-born Martino asked, rhetorically, as it turned out.

So, on March 3, 2023, Martino opened Bankroll Club, a way cool sports betting palace, a block off Rittenhouse Square in Philly, the buzziest square in town.

And in only three months, the Bankroll buzz has been seismic.

On merit.

Martino and his partners invested $25 million to restore the historic Boyd Theater and transform it into a 13,000-square-feet, 350-seat sports venue, restaurant and entertainment viewing social experience.

It is easily the best addition to Chestnut Street since Liberty Place opened in 1985.

And, like the Bill Rouse-developed Liberty Place between 16th and 17th, Bankroll had to run the gauntlet of opposition that anything new in Philly faces.

Rouse pissed people off because he proposed breaking the gentleman’s agreement height limit of the 548-foot-tall Billy Penn statue atop City Hall. Rouse built the 945-foot Liberty Place, and when it opened in 1987 it won praise from Paul Goldberger, the New York Times architecture critic, among others.

In Philly, it’s not just NIMBY — Not In My Back Yard.

It’s what the late, great columnist Russell Byers of the Daily News coined:


Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything.


Back in 2020 Martino first considered the 24,000-square-foot Allan Domb-owned Drexel Building at 15th and Walnut.

When asked how they could hope to open a sports betting emporium without a state license, Domb said:

“All they’ll need are apps, not actual betting windows.”

When it comes to sports betting, Martino can see through the apps and windows, not to mention around corners.

He invested in FanDuel back in 2011 when it was strictly a fantasy sports company — “when it was seven people in a bedroom in Scotland,” he says over Mac and Cheese in a late-May interview in Bankroll’s Dining Room.

And that was seven years before the Supreme Court’s May 2018 decision that allowed sports betting outside of Nevada.

Today, FanDuel is the top online sports betting app in the USA with a 50% market share.

Martino’s investment of $250,000 turned into a windfall.

Last November, FanDuel, which was acquired by Flutter Entertainment, was valued at $20 billion.

And in the five years since the Supremes decision, USA sports bets have totaled $220 billion.

You can do the math.

When New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie filed the lawsuit (picked up by his successor Phil Murphy) that ultimately permitted sports betting in every state in the USA, his aim was to help the struggling casinos in Atlantic City.

What Christie couldn’t know is how the new sports betting business would evolve.

But Martino did.

Just last month, nearly 94%, or $536.2 million, of Pennsylvania sports betting, took place online.

And in Jersey the figures are similar.

Over 95% of the total gambled in March were online bets.

In other words, very few sports betting is being done in person.

It’s almost all online.

Hence, Bankroll Club.


Walk into any bar or restaurant in the 26 states that have legalized mobile sports betting and you’ll see young people playing with their food, sipping a drink and staring at the flat screens and their phones, betting on sports.

You can decry it if you want, but it’s life, especially in the big city for 21-to-49-year-olds.

And Martino has created a beautiful and welcoming environment in which those young sports bettors dine, drink and gamble, all at 1910 Chestnut Street in Philly.

Answering his 2019 question:

“Why can’t we have anything this cool in Philly?”

Not to put too fine a point on it, but older gamblers don’t bet online.

One, if they gamble they probably use bookmakers.

Two, most older people don’t have smart phones.


“We don’t put ourselves into the same category as the other sports bars you may find in the city,” Bankroll’s CEO Padma Rao told the Metro.

“While of course sports are a focus, we also plan to host events and private parties centered around awards shows like the Oscars, season finales of competitive television shows, and even presidential debates.

“With multiple seating areas, from large social areas like The Big Game Room and The Boyd to more private VIP spaces like The Club and The Lounge, the venue has options that cater to everyone’s preferences.”

“Paul and I met when I became an advisor for Bullpen Capital in 2011,” Rao said in an email. “We’ve known each other for over 10 years. After I left Grubhub and I reached out to him to share that I was looking for my next thing, I decided to start working on Bankroll with him.”

Rao worked in marketing for Zynga, Sephora, Gap, Netflix, Grubhub, and several others, and she’s an engineer by background.

After looking at the Drexel Building, Martino focused on 1910 Chestnut, which was occupied by the old and empty-for-20-years Boyd — a dumpy eyesore in the up-and-coming neighborhood, which is thriving after recovering from the bad old days when it was a pedestrian mall.

Chestnut Street, once home to the finest stores (Bonwit Teller) and movie emporiums (the Boyd, the Aldine — now a CVS) has become a hip street for shopping like Boyds and DiBruno’s and dining like Gran Caffe L’Aquilla and Del Frisco’s.

Thanks in part to the sky-high rents property owners started charging on Walnut Street, a lot of retailers like Joan Shepp and recently Barnes & Noble left Walnut for Chestnut, and the foot traffic has followed.

One would think that what passes for city government would jump at the chance to help a beautiful new venue and its $25 million investment.

But this is Philly, where the Quaker ethos resisting change still reigns supreme.

Keep your head down, don’t brag, slow and steady.

If you doubt that, ask yourself why it took 28 years for the empty mud flat on Walnut between 19th and 20th to evolve into the Laurel.

Or why the proposed new Sixers arena on East Market has been met with so much phony opposition.

So, Martino cut a deal with Boyd owner Pearl Properties, hired a great Philly architect, JKRP, a primo attorney, Ron Patterson, co-chair of the zoning practice at Klehr Harrison, and prepared to face the beast that is city government approval agencies:

The City Planning Commission, the Zoning Board of Adjustment and the Historical Commission.

It didn’t hurt that Philly Dining God Stephen Starr was announced as a consultant — and the ZBA unanimously ruled in Bankroll’s favor in January 2022, granting a permit to operate a “sit-down restaurant.”

Then the neighbors across Chestnut Street at the William Penn House took an appeal to Common Pleas Court.

In late April 2023 Judge Anne Marie Coyle, sided with the neighbors, who complained about the noise:

“The ZBA did not diligently assess expected public safety and traffic congestion impacts upon the community, especially from the overwhelming volume of existing Bankroll bar and restaurant patrons particularly in the wee hours of the morning.”

Despite Coyle’s ruling, Bankroll has stayed open because Patterson had the foresight to secure a new zoning permit for “assembly and entertainment,” a use allowed under the zoning rules.

“Unbelievable,” Martino says during our late-May interview, rolling his eyes. “The judge said that she had read something,” which is why she sided with the neighbors.

It’s likely that what she read was that Starr was no longer involved in Bankroll, which made the news in early March 2023.

The kitchen is led by Scott Swiderski, a former executive chef at Starr’s Buddakan, and Steve Kim, who has previously held positions at Jose Garces’ Amada and Village Whiskey.


Philly is a world-class sports town and a nationally recognized sports bar town.

ESPN has chosen Chickie’s & Pete’s as the top sports bar in the country so often Pete Ciarrocchi may have to retire the trophy.

But to compare Bankroll to Chickie’s & Pete’s gives the apples and oranges comp a bad name.

Sort of like comparing Chickie’s Crab Fries with Bankroll’s tuna tartare.

I have had them both, and I love them both.

But they appeal to different tastes.

And Bankroll has proven that you can serve fine food in a sports and betting environment even without Stephen Starr.

Bankroll’s steaks range from $50 for a 6-ounce filet up to $210 for a 48-ounce Tomahawk, with an additional array of Wagyu steak from $95 and $195.

And during Happy Hour the menu includes Buffalo Wings at $8 for 6 and a Smash Burger with cheese for $10.

“Our steaks are sooooooo good,” Martino gushes as he eats his Mac and Cheese ($16).

He’s a master of the universe now, with a Bentley and what Philly mag derisively (what else would you expect from Philly mag??) calls a “McMansion” in Doylestown, where he lives with his wife Aarati and teen-agers Vanessa and Zach.

But he grew up decidedly middle class in Lansdale. His father was a computer programmer, and Paul wrote his first program at the age of 6 and started his first business when he was 13 — creating pre-internet bulletin-board games that linked players via software and phone lines.

He graduated from North Penn High, got math and computer science degrees at Lehigh and a PhD in computer science from Princeton when he left for a job a programming job at Netscape in Mountain View, CA, the heart of Silicon Valley, where he and two Princeton classmates made $250,000 for six months work.

“That consulting gig gave us the money to move the company to the west coast,” Martino says.

“I was awarded my Master’s degree a year or two later as a parting gift as I had done everything for my Ph.D except the thesis. So it was the consolation prize of sorts. I never did return to Princeton.”

In 2010, Martino launched Bullpen Capital as a second-stage investor into fledgling companies after they’ve gone through their initial round of startup cash.

That was another idea that Martino acted on because no one else had. Martino equates Bullpen’s role to that of a relief pitcher in baseball — a bridge to get to the endgame.

According to, a Silicon Valley web site:

In December 2010, Martino and a host of Silicon Valley contacts joined together, to address the Series A crunch by investing in what they felt was most lacking.

By way of friendship, former Phillies relief pitcher Chad Durbin became another of their limited partners.

“We told him that what we were doing for entrepreneurs is what he did for a starting pitcher: get them to the closer,” Martino said.

“So Chad said, ‘you should call it ‘Bullpen’ then.”

Paul and Aarati (Arthy) Parmar, an MIT-and-Stanford-trained senior engineer at Google he met in SV, married in 2006 and moved back to the Philly burbs in 2010 so they could have a family.

Although he also told the Inky he missed late-night Wawa hoagies.

The Martinos started that family, Vanessa and Zach, and like millions of other parents were frustrated when their kids were locked out of school because of COVID-mandated shutdowns.

That’s when Martino, a lifelong Republican with a libertarian streak, got involved in Bucks County politics in a big way. Which is how he does things.

Most notably, Martino was torqued off about how the Central Bucks school board was being run, including but not limited to curriculum.

He plowed a reported $500,000 into Pennsylvania school board races, and Aarati won the Republican nomination for the Central Bucks board — she’s on the ballot in November.

His high profile also caught the attention of the Inky edit board and especially baying-at-the-moon lefty blogger Will Bunch, who actually tweeted his disapproval of Martino’s politics and urged people to boycott Bankroll!

And you wonder why, in Philadelphia everybody who still reads the Inky thinks it’s anti-business?

Martino is thin as an athlete, but he didn’t play sports at North Penn or Lehigh, probably because he was too busy coding and starting businesses.

But he does play poker at PARX:

“I am the best amateur poker player you’ll ever see,” he said, and he headed to Vegas this week to play in the Aria Hotel’s Poker Classic.

He does bet the NFL, and is a “lifetime winner.”


Martino was booked wall-to-wall on this late-May Thursday, and our hour is up.

But not before he made sure to let me know:

“When I was on the board of FanDuel, and we had annual marketing meetings, figuring out how we would allocate our dollars. I told Nigel (Eccles, FanDuel’s founder), ‘Some day I am going to be the guy getting those marketing dollars.’”


“I’ve always wanted to open a sports bar that appealed to gamblers.”

On a slow-sports Thursday night with the Phillies game yet to start and the Celts and Heat still hours away, every seat at the bar in The Big Game room was packed with 20-somethings, sipping their beers, munching wings and hunched over, staring at their smart phones.


If only Arnold Rothstein, Ben Siegel and Bill Rouse could see what Paul Martino’s latest out-of-the-box idea has wrought.






















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