This Sunday night CBS’ 60 Minutes featured a segment on Internet gambling, focusing on the legal battles of Jay Cohen, founder of World Sports Exchange (WSEX.com), an online sportsbook. The segment, hosted by Morley Safer, portrayed World Sports Exchange as a legitimate offshore business run by former New York stock traders who find themselves at odds with outdated US law.
Two years ago Cohen and his business partners at WSEX, Haden Ware and Steve Schillinger, were charged by the US government with taking sports wagers by phone and over the Internet, in violation of the Wire Act. Cohen returned to the US to stand trial and was convicted by a New York jury. He was fined $5,000 and sentenced to 21 months in prison.
Cohen is currently free on bail, pending appeal. Ware and Schillinger continue to operate the business from Antigua, fugitives from American justice.
Safer described World Sports Exchange as the “Internet’s most popular and profitable online gambling site.” Although numbers were not revealed, Safer said that WSEX “makes multi-millions.”
With the Super Bowl just around the corner, this timely broadcast could make WSEX even more money.
Almost $400 billion dollars a year is bet on sports, most of it illegally. According to Safer, “on any given Sunday during football season World Sports will get in the neighborhood of 20,000 bets ranging from $10 a pop to $20,000.”
“Gambling exists,” said Ware. “It’s either going to be with a legitimate daftar disini business like ours or it’s going to go underground to the bookies in the bars, and we think this is a better way to do it.”
“Antigua doesn’t see us as criminals. We’re licensed and regulated by them to do what we do…. In Antigua I’m not a criminal…. I’m only a criminal to a bunch of fat cats in Washington.”
Safer asked why Cohen returned to the US, knowing he would be arrested. “He wanted to prove a point and we were not going to close up shop on something we really believed in with all our hearts,” said Cohen’s business partner, well-tanned from 4 years of Antiguan sun.
Cohen’s lawyer says that the Wire Act, passed in the 1960s, does not apply since the Act was written before the Internet even existed.
Senator Jon Kyl, who supports outlawing all Internet gambling, had this to say: “Mr. Cohen’s attorney said that this should be a test case. Well, the jury convicted him. And so presumably the test has [been] answered. The law prohibits him from placing a sports bet either electronically through a telephone or electronically through a computer.”
As for prohibiting Internet gambling, Cohen’s lawyer said, “the only way you’re going to enforce it is if you penalize the citizens who access the Internet for those purposes.” Safer: “There aren’t enough cops to do it are there?” “You’re right. There aren’t enough cops to do it.”
It appears that the case will ultimately be decided by the US Supreme Court. Cohen’s appeal is expected to be heard next year.