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Internet Gambling

Why is Washington out to stop it?
By Bruce Schoenfeld | From Gene Hackman, Sep/Oct 00

It was football season, and one west Texas gambler named Chris was bored. Other than the trips he made to the Las Vegas sports books once or twice a year, betting on games had become more frustrating than fun for this recreational gambler.

His bookie wasn't around when he needed him. Sometimes he wouldn't handle action on games Chris wanted. And Chris, who runs a sports memorabilia business from his home, always wondered what would happen if he hit big, like a five-figure score on a four-team parlay. Would he ever see his winnings? Whom could he complain to if he didn't?

He'd heard about sports gambling sites on the World Wide Web, so he typed "sports" and "gambling" into his search engine. What he found was a virtual Strip of Web sites touting Las Vegas-style wagers and more. A list scrolled up his computer screen of sports books offering parlays, teasers, gimmick bets, tennis and golf tournaments, soccer, even odds on camel races.

One in particular intrigued him. It was called World Sports Exchange, and during certain events it operated like the stock market. You could buy stock in the Dallas Cowboys, for example, at $50 to win $100. As the game progressed, you could sell for a profit if the stock had gone up, buy more shares, even hedge your bet by buying the other side. "At any point in the game, you can buy shares on either team against the point spread for anywhere from $1 to $99 to win $100," Chris explains now. "That's what attracted me. Las Vegas doesn't have anything like that."

One Sunday evening, Chris turned on his television and his computer and settled in to watch New Orleans play Chicago. "The kind of game you couldn't possibly be interested in if you weren't betting," he says. The Saints were giving three and a half points, meaning they had to win by four to cover the point spread. Considering that unlikely, Chris invested $800 in the Bears, buying 20 shares at $40 each.

The game was stultifying. By the fourth quarter, with New Orleans ahead 10-6, television sets had been flipped off across America. Because Chris still held his shares, the game still held his interest. As the remaining minutes dwindled away, he watched his Bears move the ball into Saints territory and saw the price of a share move from $40 to $60. He could have sold for a tidy profit. He chose to wait.

The Bears scored a touchdown in the final minute. Chris cashed out at $87, making a profit of $47 times 20, or $940. But he wasn't finished. With only a few seconds remaining in the game, shares in the Saints had sunk to $10. Chris bought 20 on a lark. When the Saints returned the kickoff for a touchdown, the price shot to $100. Chris pocketed another $1,800. "All of that took 10 minutes," he says. "Ten of the most exciting minutes of my life."

Chris no longer uses his bookie. He also no longer makes his annual trip to Vegas. He wires money to World Sports Exchange at the start of the football season because it doesn't accept credit, and he attempts to keep it alive through the Super Bowl. Like many Internet gamblers, he requested payment shortly after his first win to make sure the virtual bookies were on the level. When the money arrived the following day, he sent it back to reestablish his account.

U.S. law enforcement officials are well aware of what gamblers like Chris are doing. Two years ago, the cofounder of World Sports Exchange, which has grown from 800 customers to more than 12,000 today, returned home to the United States from the Caribbean island of Antigua to face charges of violating the 1961 Interstate Wire Act by accepting sports bets over telephone lines. He was handcuffed, booked and fingerprinted.

In February, 32-year-old Jay Cohen was convicted, and faces a jail term of up to five years. Sentencing is pending.

The suit-and-tie world doesn't like Internet gambling. Many lawmakers consider gambling a vice rendered fit for public consumption only through careful monitoring and regulation. Perhaps no industry, neither alcohol nor tobacco and certainly not firearms, is regulated as stringently in the United States as legal gaming. You can buy a gun in all 50 states, but you can legally wager on most sporting events in only one.

The suits and ties in Nevada really hate Internet gambling. They've spent years building up the reputation of Las Vegas as a reputable place, controlled by the government and not the Mob. They sell Vegas as an orderly place where winners get paid and cheaters get thrown into the street, as opposed to the other way around. Conversely, unchecked Internet operators freely run casinos online, handle pari-mutuels like horse racing and take sports bets in the middle of games, all without U.S. government regulation. They could be mobsters, charlatans or anyone. The state government gets no cut of the proceeds, unlike when the gambling is sanctioned as in Vegas or Reno. And local businesses like restaurants and hotels show no earnings. Instead, the money flows offshore to the Caribbean, Costa Rica--and beyond.

Professional and amateur sports leagues like the NBA, NFL and NCAA, they hate Internet gambling, too. They fear gamblers with millions of dollars in play, that they'll pay players to shave points or throw games, although that was happening long before the Internet existed. And they loathe seeing so much money being made--reportedly up to $50 million annually for some offshore sports books--on their product.

In the halls of legislative power in Washington, the suits and ties are hard at work making Internet gambling even more illegal than it already is. "The Internet is an especially pernicious form of gambling because there is no check or balance on it," says Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona. "You get up in the morning and log on to your computer and start to gamble. It plays to the addictive nature of many people, especially kids. As one Harvard professor has said, it is the crack cocaine of gambling."

Kyl has sponsored a bill that would take the 1961 law and extrapolate it to the Internet era. The bill would attempt to make service providers cease carrying Web sites of accused gamblers once an indictment has been handed down. It remains unclear how this would be accomplished, but if nothing else, Kyl wants these sites to be forced to continually alter their Internet addresses. "It's possible that you can keep thwarting law enforcement by hopping around, but in order to be commercially viable, you have to be found," he says.

Kyl wants to be clear that he isn't necessarily morally opposed to gambling. His main purpose, he says, is to protect problem gamblers from themselves. Though sports gambling is readily available at Las Vegas casinos, Kyl points out that gamblers have to make a special effort to get to them. For most people, such bets are unavailable on a daily basis. However, the Internet allows gamblers to roll out of bed and get money down on the NCAA Tournament before the Pop-Tart is out of the toaster.

"You're sitting at a bar watching a game, and you say, 'Bet you $10 they don't score another touchdown,' that's one thing," Kyl says. "But you can get in serious trouble by logging on at your computer with nobody around. You can get in very, very deep."

Kyl is a conservative Republican. A strong backer of Kyl's bill in the Senate is the liberal Democrat Dianne Feinstein of California. When Kyl brought the bill to a voice vote in the Senate in its most recent incarnation this year, it passed unanimously. At press time, a similar bill was set for a floor vote in the House of Representatives.

Sitting in a booth in an Italian restaurant tucked into a suburban Virginia shopping mall, Geoff Bacino runs his hand through his hair. An engaging man in his late 30s and a lifelong sports fan, he has been hired by several Internet companies, including World Sports Exchange, to tell their side of the story to the right people. Given weeks to find a senator or representative to counter Kyl's arguments, this well-connected lobbyist produced none. (Some governors, however, oppose legislation as it would also apply to Internet lotteries.)

It's not Bacino's fault. Every possible interest group, from state tourism councils to sports franchises to gaming interests, is lined up on one side of the bill: Kyl's side. Bacino's only ally is an association of several small Indian tribes that see the bill as a possible assault on their sovereignty. They aren't actually running casino or sports gaming sites, but they might want to in the future.

Beyond that, he stands alone. "The casinos worked a long time to establish legitimacy," Bacino acknowledges. "They worked long and hard to ensure that when you walk into a casino in Las Vegas or Atlantic City, you're not going to get ripped off. And because of the explosion of these Internet sites, you can't make the same claim for all of them. It's a problem."

The solution, he is paid to believe, is regulation. Instead of attempting to enforce a ban on these sites, the better action is to sanction those that meet stringent requirements. "Every one of the legitimate sports books that operates on the Internet is saying, 'Regulate us!' 'Tax us!'" Bacino says. "They're not trying to escape the law, they want to be covered by the law."

The Internet is in its infancy. Technology will only get more efficient at bringing the wonders of the world into the home. "We're heading toward more things that raise these issues, not fewer," Bacino says. "Why not start regulating them now? You can get their tax dollars, and they'll even provide details of their transactions to the IRS so big winners can be taxed. The legitimate businessmen out there know you have to pay a price to be in business, and they're willing to do that. But so far, they've been told, 'You're money's no good here.'"

Bacino takes a sip of his soft drink. He has made the argument to one congressional staffer after another, in the overstuffed chairs of Senate conference rooms, in the closet-sized offices of legislative assistants, over countless iced teas in the malls and shopping centers that dot the Virginia countryside. He has combed his hair and knotted his tie and spoken eloquently, but he is up against people who have no reason to hear what he is saying. No reason at all, except the reality of the modern world.

"You want to outlaw 'em? Outlaw 'em," Bacino says. "But they're not going away. You can pass the bill. Meanwhile, click-click. I just took Utah State on Thursday. And it hasn't gone away."

The wind is blustering today, so Haden Ware has pulled on jeans instead of shorts with his white T-shirt. At 11:45 on a Wednesday morning, he is sitting under a thatched roof 10 yards from the Caribbean Sea, sipping on a beer and tugging at a Marlboro Light, waiting for his lobster-salad sandwich. Behind him, a woman sits at the bar in a yellow string bikini, sipping a rum punch. For the third time, the waitress calls out to Ware that a call has come in for him, the third in an hour. "I used to rule my world from a pay phone," Jimmy Buffett once sang. This isn't far off.

Ware, 25, has been a partner in World Sports Exchange since Cohen left Antigua to face felony charges in New York two years ago. He'd met Cohen and Steve Schillinger while working as a runner on the Pacific Stock Exchange during his freshman year at Berkeley. They were traders, and he'd go get them lunch.

Schillinger had grown up in Arlington Heights, Illinois, "by the racetrack," he says, and dropped out of college to work at the Chicago Options Exchange. He hustled backgammon with the traders and realized he was smarter than they were. Soon he was trading. He bought and sold stocks for nearly two decades in Chicago and San Francisco, but had more fun handling action on the side.

One year he ran an NCAA pool on the floor of the Pacific Exchange using stock-market methodology. Traders would come running over and ask him how much a share in UConn was going for. "There was incredible interest," Schillinger says. "It was everything I loved, with the numbers and the odds. But I also know a lot about sports, a lot more than about any of the companies I'd ever traded in."

When Schillinger and Cohen told Ware they were moving to the Caribbean to start a sports gambling Web site, it sounded like a grand adventure. They'd consulted lawyers and chose Antigua because sports books were legal there. Ware wasn't getting much done in college, so he figured he'd wander south for a year, help them set up and let the soft breezes and the rum punches clear his head. He'd be getting rich in Margaritaville. "All they had to say was, 'We're going to the Caribbean, are you in?'" Ware says. "That's all it took."

Cohen had the marketing insight to target stock traders who might not ever have placed a sports bet. This demographic was far more lucrative than that of the typical sports gambler, and stock traders innately understood the interactive methodology. He established the URL for World Sports Exchange because it was memorable and had a frisson of naughtiness. The Wall Street Journal wrote about them early on, and word of mouth did the rest. The betting volume exceeded their expectations almost immediately. Life was good.

Then the indictments arrived.

Cohen, a stock trader who'd been trained as a nuclear physicist, decided to return to the United States and go to trial. He would draw attention to the hypocrisy of prosecuting Internet gambling and call for regulation. Not yet 30, he looked and sounded good on television. He'd be the articulate voice of World Sports Exchange and the industry beyond. Besides, he didn't believe he'd done anything wrong. He was running a business in a country where that business was legal--like selling Cuban cigars on the streets of Havana. If he had customers who lived in the United States, that shouldn't be his problem. He had faith in the American criminal justice system, he said, and left for the airport. Hours later, he was in custody.

Schillinger was already in his mid-40s. His wife, two children and two step-children were in Antigua with him. He had no interest in returning home to face a trial. "I wouldn't spend one day in jail if you paid me $20 billion," Schillinger says. "I would not get off the plane and be handcuffed and fingerprinted like Jay was for any amount of money." For him, the decision to stay was easy. This was a job of a lifetime, the culmination of a career spent calculating odds. And the money was rolling in.

The country of Antigua, population 68,000, holds a certain cachet in the Internet gambling world. Currently, 57 Antigua-based sports books (and about 48 Antigua-based casino sites that don't include sports) operate on the Internet, making it by far the industry leader. All have been sanctioned by the Antiguan government, which gets a $75,000 annual licensing fee from each.

Nearly half the virtual casinos on the Web operate with an Antiguan license, which means there are plenty that don't. As of late 1999, according to several published sources, there were 40 gaming sites--including sports books, blackjack sites, electronic roulette and beyond--based in Costa Rica; 28 in Dominica; 10 in St. Kitts; 10 in Curaçao; and eight in the Dominican Republic. Australia and some small islands off the English coastline added several more. Many of these countries require no licensing application at all. Just pay a fee, and get approved.

Yet merely because an Internet casino claims to be sanctioned by Antigua doesn't mean that gamblers are necessarily safe, though winners who don't get paid or have other complaints can appeal to the Antiguan government. It promises to investigate and, if necessary, prosecute the violator. A toll-free number is provided for inquiries: 1-888-734-1919. "We pay for you to call up and tell us if our licensees are doing wrong," said Gyneth A. McAllister, who recently resigned the title of Antigua's Director of Offshore Gaming.

Sometimes, though, the money simply isn't there anymore, or the operators have fled to points unknown, although the $75,000 fee makes that less likely. Sometimes the Web site might have claimed to be licensed in Antigua, but in fact had nothing to do with the country. "People lie all the time and say that they're in Antigua," McAllister admitted. "There's nothing to stop you from doing that. All we can do is try to regulate the ones that are here." HBO's "Real Sports" traced one virtual casino that purported to be Caribbean-based to a row house in Philadelphia.

The most reputable sites provide verifiable local addresses in their country of origin and, most importantly, they stay active for years. "If we ever once stiffed a winner, you'd hear about it in chat rooms all over the Internet," says Schillinger. As with any product or service on the Web, a user's best protection is to inquire.

The Antigua sanction does carry some meaning, though perhaps not quite as much as the country might like to believe. "We have raised the standard higher than anywhere else," said McAllister. "We do background checks. We talk to the FBI, Interpol, Scotland Yard. We have one sports book on the island that was audited by PricewaterhouseCoopers. They want regulation. All those that don't meet our standards go to Costa Rica and other places, where you only have to write a check to set up an office. We're separating out the sheep from the goats."

McAllister made a name for herself and Antigua as the spokesperson for responsible Internet gaming. She appeared on numerous U.S. television shows in her immaculate suits and skirts, spreading the message of her island nation as a tiny David against the economic imperialism of the American Goliath. (Never mind that she was born in Hampstead, a posh London neighborhood, and educated in Switzerland.)

"We have understood something that is an alien concept to the U.S. government," she said in her educated London accent. "The Internet cannot be recaptured by the U.S. or any other government on this Earth. The U.S. is a power that has sought to alter, intervene and control every man-made event on this planet for the last 200 years, but this cannot be controlled and it drives the U.S. crazy."

Like any unregulated environment, the Internet runs on reputation. "If you see that there's a gaming seal from the Antiguan government, chances are pretty good that the site is OK," says Jerry Stein of "But remember that I can put anything on my site that I want to. So do your due diligence. Go to the trusted sites. Look around. Make sure the site you're going to use is advertising in a lot of places. Don't put all your bankroll into one casino on the first try. Make sure you talk to a live person, not just communicate through e-mail. And then bet a little and see what happens. If you get paid, chances are 99 percent you'll keep getting paid."

In the past year and a half, Stein says, he hasn't heard of a single bettor getting stiffed by an Internet gambling provider. "There's no reason for any of these companies to screw players," he says. "It's no different than Vegas or Atlantic City. Gambling is a form of entertainment. If you go to the movies and you're uncomfortable in your seat, you're not going back, whether you've paid $3 or $7. And I think you'll find that, in the long run, we'll treat you better than Vegas does."

Not every Internet proprietor is as easy to track down as Stein. If you called Costa Rica-based Bali Sports Book, before they went out of business, looking for information, for example, you were told to e-mail a certain Laura. Unsurprisingly, Laura never responded. MayanSports, out of Dominica, responded to an inquiry with an information stonewall. "There's nobody here who can talk about our site," one employee said, moments before hanging up. A site called InterBet offered a telephone number in the United Kingdom that rang unanswered for minutes. That number no longer exists. Some sites, like Antigua's World Wide Tele-Sports, offer no telephone information at all.

It's always wise to remember that much about the Internet isn't necessarily what it seems, and to take your risks accordingly. Many bettors are startled to learn that a single company, Antigua-based Starnet, runs or licenses software to as many as 300 different gambling sites, many of which purport to compete with each other. "If you look at actual sites out there, our licensees probably account for about 25 to 30 percent of them," says Jason King, the CEO of Inphinity Interactive, Starnet's development arm.

King doesn't argue that the huge number of gambling sites on the World Wide Web creates confusion for customers. Such confusion can only help the illegitimate operators, which hide in the fog of new and unfamiliar names.

"We're big proponents of regulation, as I think most of the legitimate people in the industry are," King says. "We want to weed out those people who aren't paying consumers or are running random-number generators that are less than random, and that will increase consumer confidence. Consolidation in the industry will lead to more recognized brands, and that will help raise consumer confidence even more. That's the goal, and we hope to be in the forefront. There are a lot of people who will only shop at Amazon because they recognize the name. There's not really anyone in Internet gambling in that situation yet, and Starnet can be that name."

Some virtual sports books and casino sites may seem to have Antiguan licenses, but they're actually fronts or dummy corporations. Their real owners may not want their identities known because they've run into trouble on the Internet, or perhaps beyond. "There's no way to definitively tell who you're dealing with," admits Stein. And the truth is, Stein isn't actually named Jerry Stein. He uses that pseudonym because he isn't Antigua-based, though his company is, and he doesn't want the Antiguan government or any other to know exactly where he happens to be located.

But despite such evasive maneuvers, Stein makes a persuasive case that he has taken safeguards to ensure consumer safety. handles credit card betting, but only through a third party, EFSC (Electronic Financial Systems Caribbean), which issues virtual money for use on his and other sites. "They use cryptic code, and we have no access to your information," Stein says. "The idea of an 18-year-old kid taking mama's credit card and running it up is almost impossible, and that's obviously what we want. I don't want somebody's house payment. I want entertainment dollars."

In addition, he doesn't let anyone lose more than $4,000 a month on his site without submitting financial information that verifies he or she can afford to. "I don't let people get stuck who can't afford to get stuck," he says. "It's not good for me and it's not good for the industry."

Like the proprietors of other Internet sites that appear to be reputable, Stein talks a lot about what is and isn't good for his industry. As a businessman, it's his only hope for legitimacy. In that sense, the Kyl bill worries him. "He's going to bring the criminal element into the industry," Stein says. "Right now, it isn't there. Ninety-nine out of 100 are trustworthy sites. But once he starts making these people like Jay Cohen run, and making them criminals, what stops them from becoming complete criminals? What stops them from just screwing the customer?"

Stein claims to know an Internet sports book--not the biggest or the smallest, but one of about average size--making a $5 million monthly profit. Based on the industry standard of 3 to 5 percent profit, that translates into an $80 million monthly handle, which is almost $1 billion a year. "And that's just one site," he says. "And they're just doing sports. I don't know what you multiply that by to get a total number, but the amount of money involved is unbelievable. Billions and billions of dollars."

While waiting out their exile, Ware and Schillinger have become millionaires several times over. Though World Sports Exchange is privately held and isn't required to submit its books to an auditor by U.S. or Antiguan law, Schillinger, who says he made a steady $250,000 a year trading stocks, expects each of the partners will make at least four times that this year. His estimates may be stunningly low.

You might want to believe that World Sports Exchange is two guys in beach chairs, making odds with their toes curled into the sand. In reality, though, the office is set in a strip mall outside Antigua's capital. Except for the palm trees in the parking lot, it could be anywhere. To enter, you walk past a video shop and a pharmacy, up a flight of stairs, then through an unmarked door.

Along one wall is a bank of half a dozen computer terminals, manned by locals. They take phone bets and monitor online action. The system is rigged so that a tone sounds each time a bet is placed online, and the tone chatters away at the rate of about one every two seconds. Since the average bet is about $100 and the average take at the end of a week is 5 percent, each tone means about $5 profit. It is the sound of money.

Schillinger and Ware spend about eight hours a day watching sporting events, working the computers, and supervising a staff of 12. Weekend days are somewhat longer, but not too onerous. "When we first got down here, we were working 14-hour days setting the whole thing up," Ware says. "It isn't like that now. This isn't rocket science, what we're doing. We need to be around, make sure nothing goes wrong, but it's nothing that hard."

It's not deep thinking for the consumer, either, which is why it's so enticing. In a sense, sports gambling via computer isn't too different than playing the stock market using E*Trade, Ameritrade or any of the other securities Web sites. A major difference is that E*Trade and Ameritrade are legal and advertise on television.

That's odd, in a sense, because sports betting actually has more transparency than securities trading. How many of those online traders buying 100 shares of this stock and selling off 500 shares of that really understand the fundamentals of the businesses they invest in? And balance sheets are notoriously ambiguous. A football or basketball game, on the other hand, is played in public. There's nowhere to hide.

Kyl is right that point-and-click betting is easy. So easy that it would be tempting to bet online from your hotel room even if you were staying at Caesar's Palace, an elevator ride above the most complete sports book in the world. It should come as no surprise, then, that the consumer base for online sports gambling is growing exponentially every year. "The Caribbean this year will book more sports bets than all the sports books on the Strip," Ware says. "And in another year, this island alone will take that."

All of it will happen silently, seamlessly, unobtrusively. "You're not bringing in flashing lights," Ware says. "You don't have some ugly riverboat going up and down the Charles. You have a box and an office and customers in the privacy of their own homes. Which is better?"

Today is the first day of the NCAA's Men's Basketball Tournament, so Schillinger and Ware are in early. Tip-off is half an hour away, but Schillinger can't find an unscrambled signal on the satellite dish. Normally this wouldn't be a problem because a cable hookup serves as a backup system, but today the cable is down. Every few minutes, Schillinger calls the cable company. Each time, he's told not to worry, that the repair order will be filled immediately.

The last time the television went down, Schillinger had to call his 11-year-old and ask him to describe a golf tournament to him off the television at home. Schillinger was offering stock-exchange odds on the various golfers and they'd shift with each shot. If he couldn't see the placement of the ball, he couldn't estimate the golfer's chance of gaining or losing a stroke. (For that reason, World Sports Exchange only offers such interactive betting on televised events.) "I was asking him, 'How's the putt? How far away is Tiger?'" Schillinger says with a laugh. "'Could I make that putt?'"

Schillinger couldn't do that now, at least with a local call. His wife and kids no longer live on Antigua. Last year, they returned to California, and a normal American life. For a while, his wife was traveling down once a month, but she has stopped doing that. With Schillinger in exile indefinitely, they have made plans to divorce.

Schillinger calls his children every day from Antigua. "I'm doing all of this for them, not for me," he says. "I'm not trying to make $20 million to put in my pocket or have a good time. I'm trying to make $10 million for my son and $10 million for my daughter. What I object is to Jon Kyl portraying me like I'm some kind of dangerous criminal. All I am is a businessman, like anybody else."

It turns out the cable had been turned off because the satellite temporarily went down. That and other crises are resolved by the end of the day, to the musical accompaniment of bets rolling in. Schillinger works an uneventful two-hour shift in a beachcomber shirt and bare feet, monitoring the golf tournament, shifting odds on a player several times a minute, slugging down Cokes. If these are high crimes he's committing, they're taking place in rather mundane fashion.

That hardly mollifies Kyl, who wants a message relayed to Schillinger and Ware. "What I say to these guys is, 'You come back to the United States, help us shut down all of these sites, and put your entrepreneurial skills to use in a law-abiding and productive way, and we'll say a good thing about you at the time of the sentencing,'" he says. It is hardly enough to disband this multimillion-dollar business.

No matter what Kyl might offer, Internet gaming isn't going away. "The majority of people in the game now aren't American, and they don't care about the U.S. market," said McAllister. "All the Kyl bill could possibly do is punish Americans for being American. That's what makes it so silly."

The amount of money bet on Internet gambling sites, both sports and casino games, continues to increase exponentially. As with any rapidly growing industry, virtual bookmaking attracts all types. The reputable operators fear the scam artists because only a crisis of confidence among consumers seems likely to stop the flow of money. That's why they crave regulation--and it might be precisely the reason that U.S. legislators don't want to give it to them. In a sense, the shysters and con artists who run gaming sites are Kyl's best friends. Every shafted consumer is a congressional witness waiting to happen.

That's a shame, says King. "I think there are very few operators who would want to have anything to do with problem gamblers," he says. "No one wants minors on the system. I think most people are playing by the rules because it helps their business. And once we get regulation and taxation, it will only get better. As soon as the U.S. government figures out a way to regulate this, you'll see a lot fewer operators moving offshore."

Schillinger doesn't see much difference between what he was doing legally on the stock exchange and as a fugitive today, except that sports oddsmaking is both more lucrative and more fun. He returns home to his darkened villa on a hillside overlooking the Caribbean, flips on the lights, and offers a plaintive sigh at the board games stacked on a shelf that were left behind by his children. His workday over, he heads off to bed. It's NCAA Tournament time, the Christmas rush in his business. Tomorrow will be a busy day.

Bruce Schoenfeld is a frequent contributor to Cigar Aficionado.