Sportsbook Bar to open at Western Market this Spring – The GW Hatchet


A sports betting bar and restaurant opening in late spring will be the Western Market’s newest addition, but some locals are wary of Foggy Bottom’s introduction of gambling.

ExPat, a two-story restaurant under construction on the basement and ground floors of Western Market, will feature a bar on the top floor and a podcast studio, arcade, shuffleboard and karaoke stage on the floor below. ExPat will be Foggy Bottom’s first sports betting business, which some community members fear could lead to potential risks such as gambling addiction and theft associated with cash payouts to winning players.

Owner Ben Sislen said he hopes the mix of activities at the restaurant will make ExPat one of the most important meeting places for students on campus.

“One of our missions is to be able to break down the walls between our bar and restaurant space and the GW community,” he said. “That means reaching out, including GW bands and any talent here on campus that wants to express themselves in our space.”

Sislen said an ExPat-branded app currently in development will be the restaurant’s primary sports betting mode, and bet sizes will be limited up to $500 with a maximum cash withdrawal of $200 per day to protect players from losing large sums of money. Bets can be placed through the app or through five betting kiosks set up in the restaurant.

“It can be fun,” Sislen said. “We can encourage the $5 to $10 to $20 bets as opposed to the sports book that is trying to get people to bet $3,000. Nobody wants to sit next to the person who loses a mortgage payment at a sporting event.”

ExPat will take the place of Bertucci’s, which closed in 2020, he said.

The quarter legalized Sports betting services in 2018, joining 30 States to legalize betting after the Supreme Court struck down a law banning sports betting outside of Nevada, Delaware, Oregon and Montana. The DC Council tuned to legalize sports betting later that year.

GambetDC – the only city-wide betting app in DC operated by the city – has below average according to DC, it’s up nearly $25 million on its original projections and lost $4 million in 2021 due to marketing costs.

Sislen said he has met with the Foggy Bottom and West End Advisory Neighborhood Commission at least four times since late last year, including at a special meeting to address concerns about the restaurant’s gambling, including safety threats to people carrying large sums of cash and gambling addiction .

The ANC unanimously passed a settlement approval in last month’s special session to limit the amount of cash a person can withdraw each day to $200, with a maximum of $500 in stakes per person.

Sislen, who quit his law job in 2014 to work at his friend’s DC restaurant, has opened other bars in the district, like The Crown & Crow and Kingfisher near Logan Circle.

Margaret McDonald, a junior and ANC commissioner representing the district with Western Market, said they were closely involved in arranging and writing the settlement agreement between Sislen and the ANC. According to McDonald, the commissioners voted unanimously to limit cash withdrawals over concerns that people could be exposed to safety risks while carrying their winnings.

“There was some concern about the amount people would receive in cash,” McDonald said. “So we capped that in the settlement agreement because we’re concerned that people are walking around with huge sums of money from gambling.”

Kevin Days, GW’s director of community relations, said at an ANC meeting last month that the university was “very happy” with the idea of ​​sports betting near campus.

“GW understands that students are adults first and should be treated as such,” Days said at the meeting. “We expect to provide the kind of support that is needed when students encounter problems.”

John George, the president of the Foggy Bottom Association, said that while Western Market has given a boost to Foggy Bottom’s dining scene, he has concerns about noisy patrons that ExPat might attract and hopes they won’t disrupt the neighborhood.

“What I hope is that it will be possible to contain the noise coming from a crowded space like this, so that the other retailers can still enjoy the patronage and the people sitting in the open air,” he said.

George said some community opposition to the new deal could stem from Complex Magazine’s concerns about McFadden’s, a former bar on Pennsylvania Avenue near Washington Circle synchronized the “dumbest bar” in DC before it closed after a December 2014 stabbing that seriously injured five people.

George said he’s optimistic about opening the restaurant, given that Sislen and other investors involved in the restaurant have had experience opening bars across the city.

“This is about a community, this is about people coming together and having a good time,” George said. “And then also responsible and appropriate in the context of the environment.”

Faith Wardwell contributed reporting.


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