WASHINGTON - March Madness kicks off this Thursday and with sports betting now legal across the DMV, restaurants, and bars are looking to cash in. But in the District, there's only one local business that is allowed to run its own sportsbook – Grand Central Restaurant in Northwest.
If everyone is trying to get in on the sports betting action, why is Grand Central the only one?
Well, it's pricey to run a sportsbook in the D.C. area. You have to apply for a license with the office of lottery and gaming, and just the application alone will cost you $100,000. The amount is non-refundable, so if the business is not approved, they're out of cash. A spokesperson for the D.C. government said they try not to let that happen.
"I think $100,000 is a lot for any small business," said Brian Vasile, the owner of Grand Central. "But you’re getting access to something that should be a large revenue stream. It should help you in the long term. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. And we’re the first to do it in the country, so it’s hard to tell whether $100,000 is worth it or not because we don’t have a lot of data and no one does. We’re the first."
Currently, there are three different ways to bet on sports in D.C. Gamblers can go to a major sports venue like the Capital One Arena or Audi Field, or stop by Grand Central.
The District also offers its own sports betting via the GameBetDC app and select kiosks.
"We are not trying to be Vegas.," said Nicole Jordan, spokeswoman for D.C. Office of Lottery and Gaming. "We are building sports betting in the District in a responsible way. And so we don't want to have lounge parlors, and you know a strip. That's not the District's model."
There's one more application for a sportsbook in process at the moment, but for now Grand Central is the only shop in town gamblers can place bets at. They say they're ready for a St. Patrick's Day tip-off on Thursday.