The book Bets, Drugs and Rock and Roll was released in early October and has been a great success, sitting in the number one spot at Amazon.com in its category for the past 3 weeks. The book, which talks about the rise and fall of SDB Global, has had many tongues wagging due to many disclosures in the book which may have been previously unknown to outsiders. For example, Budin claims that his father worked for mobsters that fixed a 1954 Oklahoma vs. Oklahoma State game by poisoning Oklahoma players prior to kickoff. Oklahoma, which was on a long undefeated streak, won the game but failed to cover the 21 point spread. As well, the book lists incidents with famed hockey player Jaromir Jagr, who apparently was a compulsive and losing gambler. The book illustrates how Jagr, during the intermission at a Pittsburgh Penguins game, called SDB Global to get down a bet on the New York Giants. His credit card was maxed out, so he waited in the dressing room while his team took the ice, setting up a conference call with his U.S. bank and Budin to extend his credit line so that he could place his wager. The book also mentions that the role Al Pacino played in the movie One For the Money was actually that of tout Stu Feiner.
In any case, I decided to interview Steve Budin with a focus on the reasons for the decisions he made about what information would be published in his book. I have been involved in the industry for almost 2 decades now and recall vividly SDB Global. That company, along with WWTS, which was recently bought out by Bodog, ESB and Post Time were the prominent offshore phone betting books, prior to the internet explosion. Bowman's International was arguably the largest book catering to North American bettors, but they were located in England and thus didn't really count as an offshore sportsbook. As many will recall after the explosion of offshore wagering, Janet Reno, the Attorney General in Bill Clinton's administration, issued arrest warrants to various individuals who were operating offshore for violating the Wire Act. These people included Steve Budin and Jay Cohen. Jay chose to return to the U.S. and fight the charges, while Budin turned himself in and pleaded guilty to all charges. While he was facing a felony charge, Budin's penalty was reduced to a misdemeanour. The obvious question I posed to Mr. Budin was whether he felt he was committing a crime by catering to the U.S. market from Panama and later Costa Rica.
"I was never trying to circumvent the law," Budin answered, "I believed I was operating legally."
That said, my next question was why he simply surrendered to the United States rather than trying to fight the charges. It seemed only logical that Budin would have discussed the pending arrests with others mentioned in Reno's charges in order to devise a strategy to keep SDB Global operating while at the same time fighting for what he believed in. Budin did mention in his book that he returned to the U.S. in an effort to keep his father from sitting in a jail cell for months after being arrested, but it still seemed only logical that he would pursue other options. After all, many have suggested that had all parties mentioned in the DOJ's lawsuit pooled their resources and presented a united front then there is a good chance they could have beat the charges levied against them.
"We were notified early," Budin answered "and by the time all the charges were announced against the others Janet Reno already made us an offer to surrender. By surrendering I could still go on with my life and travel the world. Also, I had to think about my father."
While the answer seemed reasonable, I still couldn't comprehend how someone could simply plead guilty to a charge they didn't believe was justified. Budin replied that it was the only viable option for him given his family situation.
"I was 28 years old, made mega millions and the U.S. made me an offer. I could pay a few million in fines and could live my life in the States with my family. I had a young child and a wife to think of. If I was on my own it may have been different, but I had kids to think about and it would have been unfair to them if I couldn't spend time with them because I was fighting a battle with City Hall."
My next question to Budin was why he decided to release the book now. It seemed somewhat opportunistic given the current battles going on in Congress and the fight by many such as the Poker Player's Alliance to overturn the UIGEA.
"It actually took me a year to write the book," Budin answered, "But it was only then that I was willing to deal with the pain again. I found a great New York Publisher who was willing to produce it and the timing was just luck. I didn't have a crystal ball that told me this would be the best time to release it."
Budin admitted that the book is probably going to appeal to a select part of the population, but he is pleased with its success thus far. "I'll never be on Oprah jumping on couches," Budin laughed.
Budin gave a surprising response when I asked about his opinion of the WTO battle between the United States and Antigua.
"The U.S. is the Sherriff of their citizens no matter what foreign country may be involved." Budin answered "and I support that."
At the same time he claims that the UIGEA will become a non-issue shortly and that it is only a matter of time before online gambling is legalized in Las Vegas and offered to U.S. citizens. Budin stated that he knows for a fact that Bellagio has already bought online software and that there is a three year timeline for online gambling to be legalized in the U.S.
"The U.S. is in stage 1 now," Budin stated. "They realize there is a lot of money to be made by the states from online gambling and clearly the internet has not affected Vegas." Budin added that stage 2, which will occur in the next couple of years will present Vegas with concessions that will allow them to set up some online gambling as a pilot project. Stage 3, which will occur within three years, will see other states running or managing their own online gambling sites.
Budin currently runs a tout service called Sports Advisors (www.sportsadvisors.com). He also owns whowillcover.com, sportsinfo.com and brandonlang.com. Budin seems pleased with his new career choice and claims he is making more money now with those websites than he ever did at SDB Global. More importantly, he claims to be pleased with how he changed that industry. "In the past touts were scammers. They would charge thousands for picks and there was no way the bettors could make money. I revolutionized the industry with an e-commerce model for picks. For $20 to $100, bettors can go online and get winning picks from people like Brandon Lang. In fact Brandonlang.com has 20,000 unique buyers every Sunday which shows just how good they are."
Asked whether he would consider moving back into the legal bookmaking business if his 3 year prediction came true, Budin was non committal. "I love what I'm doing now," Budin replied, "but I look at every opportunity."
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