Thwarted by the fact that betting is cash only, Director of the DC Department of Small and Local Development Kristi Whitfield almost opened Grand Central's sports betting with a wager on college football, specifically the team on which her nephew plays. Instead, she made a promise to return to win -- or lose -- money and support the popular Adams Morgan sports bar that became DC's first independent sportsbook.
"You don't get to say you're the first in DC much," admitted Brian Vasile of Grand Central. But his bar in AdMo is the first in DC -- and in the nation -- to try its hand at adding sports betting to their usual activities and with their own license.
"Everyone is envious of the District because of the ability we have to do sports wagering," said Frank Suarez the new head of DC's Office of Lottery and Gaming. "Being the first in the country is amazing."
While sports betting was legalized in DC in 2018, and the first physical sportsbook in DC opened shortly thereafter adjacent to Capital One Arena, Grand Central is the first location to win a Class B license to operate a facility independent of a sports venue and without using DC Lottery's GambetDC-branded kiosks. Instead, Grand Central's kiosks are provided by Elys Game Technology Corp., a firm with experience in European sports betting operations.
The idea of sports betting coming to the District was a "huge, amazing, daunting idea" according to Whitfield, but Vasile has been working toward it for years in collaboration with the DC government and other partners. The challenge was to find a productive way to do it, in a way that promotes small business and doesn't obstruct commerce.
Grand Central offers a betting window and 2 Elys electronic kiosks, with hours of operation for sports wagering between 10:00 am to 1:00 am, daily. Food and beverage hours of the restaurant and bar -- a particular local favorite for Buffalo Bills fans -- are 11:00 am to 2:00 am Sunday through Thursday and 11:00 am to 3:00 am Friday and Saturday.
While patrons lined up to participate on its first day of sports betting operation, Vasile said that the sportsbook complements, but doesn't supersede Grand Central's restaurant and bar activities. The biggest differences have been extended hours of operation, new security and surveillance requirements, and additional staff with gaming experience.
On hand with Vasile to officially open the sportsbook and participate in a ceremonial ribbon-cutting were Whitfield, Suarez, and Matteo Monteverdi (Head of Special Projects for Elys Game Technology).
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