Bookmaker Cohen files against US conviction
By Paul
The debate over the legality or otherwise of Internet gambling in the US was given a new twist this week when Jay Cohen, co-founder of online sportsbook World Sports Exchange, entered a petition to the US Supreme Court, this according to

Cohen, who was convicted of illegal Internet and phone betting two years ago by a Manhattan district court, has lost previous appeals. Cohen was found guilty on Feb 28 2000 of seven felony counts of violating the Federal Interstate Wire Act of 1961, by accepting sports wagers over a wire transmission facility. He was also found guilty of one felony count of conspiracy to violate the Wire Act.

The sentence carried a maximum penalty of 19 years in prison and a fine of up to $2 million. Cohen was allowed to remain at liberty until his appeal was heard, and in early 2001, he was free on a $100,000 cash bond pending the appellate decision.

The significance of Cohenís case is that the Wire Act of 1961 is exactly what the Bush administration is examining to decide if Internet gambling does indeed contravene it. Gaming officials in Nevada, meanwhile, are waiting for the Attorney Generalís decision before finishing draft legislation on gambling. So the significance of Cohenís petition is thrown into sharp relief.

Cohen, meanwhile, is convinced that there is hidden agenda behind the prosecution. Before being indicted, Cohen said, the US Department of Justice had taken the position that offshore wagering was out of its jurisdiction. Cohen contended that the law firm of Debevoise & Plimpton, which represents the major professional sports leagues, had a hand in its change of opinion.

Cohenís conviction was upheld by a US appeals court panel in Manhattan on July 31, 2001, sentencing him to 21 months in prison Ė the first federal prosecution of Internet bookmaking.

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