On Wednesday night at 9:00pm ET, CNBC will air a one-hour exposé entitled, “The Big Business of Illegal Gambling.” The report from CNBC’s Melissa Francis will put the multi-billion dollar industry into focus and include a segment on internet gambling.
Wednesday’s show marks one of the most high-profile television programs about internet gambling since “60 Minutes” aired a feature on the cheating scandals at the online poker rooms Ultimate Bet and Absolute Poker one year ago. According to a preview found on CNBC’s website, the show will “take viewers inside this high-stakes business that brings some people immense wealth, while others pay the ultimate price.” Francis is co-anchor of the CNBC show “The Call,” which airs for one hour beginning at 11:00am ET during the week.
The CNBC description begins, “The one-hour program delivers an in-depth look at just how mainstream illegal gambling has become.” Francis will speak with a bevy of industry representatives, including a bookmaker simply named “Paul” and a professional gambler named “Vegas Runner.” Among those CNBC will speak to with a first and last name is Nick Sarillo, whom the show describes as “a restaurant owner who freelances as a bookie [and] crosses the Mob and pays a heavy price.” These three will likely be offline gamblers.
Then, Francis and company will explore the world of internet gambling. The preview of the CNBC special explains, “Technology has made illegal gambling much more accessible and the same computer used for work or to connect with family and friends can also be used to wager outside the law.” Among those to be interviewed is Jay Cohen, the co-founder of the World Sports Exchange who was found guilty of violating the Wire Act of 1961. He was sentenced to 21 months in jail and fined $5,000; World Sports Exchange boasted revenues of $200 million and he was freed in 2004.
Also featured is Scott Damiani, the Executive Director of the Outreach Foundation. The show’s website explains, “Illegal gambling costs Scott Damiani is home, business family… and almost cost him his life. After hitting rock bottom, he picked his life back up and now devotes his time to helping other gambling addicts as the Executive Director of the Outreach Foundation.”
Poker News Daily has also learned that Tokwiro Chief Operating Officer Paul Leggett filmed an interview for the CNBC program. The two Tokwiro-owned online poker rooms, Ultimate Bet and Absolute Poker, were at the heart of a ten-minute feature by the CBS news program “60 Minutes” over Thanksgiving weekend in 2008. The report questioned why no one had been prosecuted in the case and ended with segment reporter Steve Kroft calling Russ Hamilton’s home in Las Vegas. Hamilton, who won the 1994 World Series of Poker (WSOP) Main Event, was fingered as the main man responsible in the Ultimate Bet cheating scandal. To date, no one has been convicted.
Finally, Francis will dive into a high-spirited internet gambling debate featuring Congressmen Jim McDermott (D-WA) and Bob Goodlatte (R-VA). Online poker players can thank the latter for helping to bring the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) to life back in 2006. McDermott, meanwhile, has authored legislation seeking to extract 2% of deposits from licensed internet gambling companies in the United States under legislation proposed by Congressman Barney Frank (D-MA). Curiously, Frank’s name does not appear on the preview for the CNBC program despite being legalized internet gambling’s number one proponent on Capitol Hill. Also absent is the Poker Players Alliance (PPA), the industry’s main lobbying group.
Poker News Daily will have a recap of the show after it airs on Wednesday night. Video clips, slideshows, and even an illegal gambling quiz can be found on CNBC’s website.