Bankroll: Paul Martino, Stephen Starr break ground and bet on nation's most opulent, high tech sports bar
Artist's rendering of the front of Bankroll, at 19th and Chestnut streets.Bankroll

Bankroll: Paul Martino, Stephen Starr break ground and bet on nation's most opulent, high tech sports bar

The heavyweights behind the $20 million, ultra-posh, mobile-betting-focused hangout in Center City Philadelphia, promise a new direction for the sports-bar concept.
Bankrollers: Venture capitalist Paul Martino (left) and superstar  restaurateur Stephen Starr have teamed up to create Bankroll, a high-end, sports-betting-focused restaurant and lounge scheduled to open this fall in Center City Philadelphia.
Bankrollers: Venture capitalist Paul Martino (left) and superstar restaurateur Stephen Starr have teamed up to create Bankroll, a high-end, sports-betting-focused restaurant and lounge scheduled to open this fall in Center City Philadelphia.Chuck Darrow

As the creator of numerous dining concepts covering a variety of cuisines and formats, Stephen Starr has been a gambling man for a very long time. After all, the restaurant business is as dicey as it comes, even in non-pandemic times. But for the first time, he’s gambling on gambling.

The Philly-based megastar restaurateur was front-and-center Wednesday morning as ground was officially broken on Bankroll, Philadelphia’s – and the nation’s – first sports bar whose raison d’etre is mobile wagering, as well as the first to target more affluent sports fans/bettors.

Starr, whose Starr Restaurants will handle the dining end of the adult playpen located inside what was once the Boyd Theater, an early-20th century movie palace, was joined by venture capitalist Paul Martino, who helped fund online wagering behemoth FanDuel, and other VIPs to celebrate the $20 million, high-tech salon expected to open this fall.

Artist's rendering of a Bankroll interior, at 19th and Chestnut streets.
Artist's rendering of a Bankroll interior, at 19th and Chestnut streets.Bankroll

While Wednesday’s event was focused on what the 18,500-square-foot Bankroll will be, Martino was most emphatic about what it won’t be. “We will never be a casino or have a gaming license,” he told those assembled inside the building located on Chestnut Street just west of 19th. That pledge was confirmed by another speaker, Rick Gross, of the Center City Residents Association, a powerful community group that vehemently opposed any kind of gaming license for the property, but which fully embraced the concept of a top-tier restaurant and lounge with multiple TV screens on which guests can watch everything from baseball games to cricket matches while placing legal, real-time bets on their smart phones.

As for what the bi-level facility will offer, Bankroll CEO Padma Rao used words like “opulent” and “sophisticated” – which generally are not applied to sports bars – when describing it.

Martino promised Bankroll would offer a “world-class luxury sports bar experience [the likes of which] the world has never seen.” He added it will “seamlessly combine” the mobile sports betting experience and hanging out with friends.

Starr, who admitted it took him a while to grasp the sports-betting aspect of the concept, had virtually no details to offer about the menu other than to say that while such standard sports-bar fare as wings and burgers will be offered (he compared them to “turkey at Thanksgiving”), more upscale (read: pricey) items will also be on the menu.

Artist's rendering of a Bankroll interior, at 19th and Chestnut streets.
Artist's rendering of a Bankroll interior, at 19th and Chestnut streets.Bankroll

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