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AN INDEPENDENT STUDENT NEWSPAPER SERVING THE GW COMMUNITY SINCE 1904

The GW Hatchet

Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet

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Crime log: Subject barred after shoplifting at bookstore
By Max Porter, Contributing News Editor • February 26, 2024

New Western Market sports betting bar to bring gambling to Foggy Bottom

ExPat+will+replace+Bertucci%E2%80%99s%2C+which+closed+in+2020+to+the+delight+of+many+students.+
Grace Hromin | Senior Photo Editor
ExPat will replace Bertucci’s, which closed in 2020 to the delight of many students.

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

ExPat, a two-floored restaurant undergoing construction on the lower level and ground floor of Western Market, will feature a bar on its top floor and a podcast studio, arcade, shuffleboard and karaoke stage on the floor below. ExPat will be the first business with sports betting in Foggy Bottom, which some community members worry could lead to potential risks like gambling addiction and theft in connection to cash payouts to winning gamblers.

Owner Ben Sislen said he hopes the mix of activities in the restaurant will make ExPat one of the focal gathering points 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, bringing in GW bands and any talent that exists on campus here that wants to express itself in our space.”

Sislen said an ExPat-branded app currently in development will be the primary mode of sports betting in the restaurant, and bet sizes will be limited to $500 with a maximum $200 cash payout per day to protect gamblers from losing larger sums of money. Betting can be placed through the app or through five betting kiosks that will be placed in the restaurant.

“It can be fun,” Sislen said. “We can encourage the $5 to $10 to $20 bets, as opposed to the sportsbooks trying to get people to bet $3,000. Nobody wants to be sitting next to the person who’s losing a mortgage payment on a sporting event.”

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

The District 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 D.C. Council voted to legalize sports betting that same year.

GambetDC – the sole citywide betting app in D.C., operated by the city – has underperformed its initial projections by nearly $25 million, losing $4 million in 2021 because of marketing costs, according to DCist.

Sislen said he 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 for people carrying out large sums of cash and gambling addiction.

The ANC unanimously passed a settlement agreement in the special meeting last month to limit the amount of cash a person can withdraw each day to $200 with a maximum of $500 in wagers per person.

Sislen, who quit his job as a lawyer in 2014 to work at his friend’s restaurant in D.C., has opened other bars in the District, like The Crown & Crow and Kingfisher near Logan Circle.

Margaret McDonald, a junior and ANC commissioner who represents the district containing Western Market, said they were closely involved with brokering and writing the settlement agreement between Sislen and the ANC. McDonald said commissioners unanimously voted to limit cash payouts because of concerns that people may face security risks while carrying their winnings.

“There was some concern about the amount that people would have cash payouts,” McDonald said. “So we put a limit on that in the settlement agreement because of worries about people walking around with huge sums of cash from gambling.”

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

“GW understands that the students primarily are adults and should be treated as such,” Days said at the meeting. “We expect that we will provide the kinds of support that are needed if students run into issues.”

John George, the president of the Foggy Bottom Association, said although Western Market has been a boost to Foggy Bottom’s dining scene, he has concerns about noisy patrons that ExPat could attract and hopes they will not disrupt the neighborhood.

“What I’m hopeful is that there will be some ability to contain the amount of noise that comes out of a crowded space like that, so that the other retailers can still enjoy patronage and people sitting in that open air,” he said.

George said some community opposition to the new business may stem from concerns about McFadden’s, a former Pennsylvania Avenue bar near Washington Circle that Complex Magazine dubbed the “douchiest bar” in D.C. before it closed after a stabbing in December 2014 that left five people seriously injured.

George said he is optimistic about the arrival of the restaurant because of the experience that Sislen and other investors involved in the restaurant have gained opening bars across the city.

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

Faith Wardwell contributed reporting.

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