A questionable reality TV show that follows the career of sports gambler Steve Stevens will premiere in September on CNBC. The network describes the show as a “docu-soap,” a dramatic documentary of the professional lives of Stevens and his affiliates as they wager dangerous amounts of money in the nail-biting world of sports betting. “Money Talks” will be produced with the help of three different companies: All3 Media America, Turn Life Productions, and Lost Tribe Productions. The network on which the show will air, CNBC, normally features business-oriented programming with hit titles like “Squawk Box,” “Power Lunch,” and “The Kudlow Report.” Due to Stevens' controversial identity, “Money Talks” may prove to be a sharp departure from the network's normal fare.
A Controversial Star
Even before the show's debut, critics have expressed doubt over Stevens' suitability as the “Money Talks” star. Stevens currently operates one of the many sports book websites in Las Vegas, “VIP Sports,” in which he assumes the role of a foul-mouthed bad boy who knows everything there is to know about sports betting. In a video trailer for the website, a cigarette-puffing Stevens describes himself as the stock broker of the sports betting world. Interestingly enough, research performed by investigators at WagerMinds.com found that the VIP Sports site was initiated only eight months ago, leaving the public to wonder what Stevens was doing with himself before that time.
Investigators also found that VIP Sports is not actually registered to a man named Steve Stevens. The business is, in fact, registered to a man who looks an awful lot like Stevens named Darin Notaro. This discovery leads naturally to the assumption that Stevens is really Notaro acting under a pseudonym.
The notion that the TV star is Notaro parading under an alias is not, in itself, a big deal. Many celebrities shed their given names for more favorable titles upon entering the world of show business. Singer Elton John, for example, is actually Reginald Kenneth Dwight. Actress Meg Ryan was born Margaret Mary Emily Anne Hyra. Critics are not concerned by the fact that Notaro took a pseudonym; rather, they are concerned by the criminal history associated with Notaro.
Notaro/Stevens: A Checkered Past
Investigators who probed the personal history of Darin Notaro in Las Vegas came up with some alarming information:
1999: Notaro, then 25, was arrested for fraudulent telemarketing which took advantage of senior citizens to the tune of $234,000.
2001: After paying $12,000 in restitution and spending a year in prison, Notaro was arrested for running yet another telemarketing scam which, once again, preyed upon the elderly.
In addition to these crimes, investigators believe at least one other incident occurred in which Notaro was convicted of telemarketing fraud, possibly under the alias "Darin Sassar."
Sports Authority or Scam Artist?
Admittedly, these convictions took place when Notaro was in his 20s, and many people who make criminal mistakes in their 20s grow up to be respectable citizens. The fact that Notaro represents himself as a prodigal sports bookie with amazing predictive powers casts a heavy shade of doubt on his credibility, however, especially considering his history of scamming people.
Stevens claims that he can predict the outcome of sports matches with 69-70 percent accuracy. This comment alone has raised red flags among the sports gambling community. The odds of a person being able to do this, according to SportsInsights.com, are less than one in one billion. A tweet by Bob Voulgaris, a man made famous by his successes betting on the NBA, referred to Stevens as a “scam artist.” CNBC, however, maintains their belief that the public will find it worthwhile to tune in to the new reality show in September.
Bob Voulgaris: A True Sports Bettor
Voulgaris' comment on the credibility of Stevens is not without significance. Before the age of 30, Voulgaris earned millions from his wagers on the NBA. The rate at which Voulgaris won in the early days of his career was, in fact, around 70 percent. Voulgaris attributes his early success to patterns he noted in the way bookmakers set their totals at half time. An insanely wealthy man before the age of 30, Voulgaris used his cash to live a fast-paced fantasy life, dating gorgeous models and zooming around in fancy cars. Eventually, however, bookmakers caught on to Voulgaris' predictive tactics and changed their methods, ruining the young man's edge. Today, Voulgaris continues to bet on the NBA with a 57 percent success rate. Although he lost his initial winning streak, he still manages to slightly tip the odds.
Is Stevens the New Voulagos?
Voulagos called Stevens a “scam artist,” and perhaps he, more than anybody, ought to know. Whether Stevens has uncovered an edge similar to Voulagos' is difficult to say. He does indeed boast a high winning percentage and, come September, those sensational claims will be showcased for all the world to see and judge.
WagerMinds.com Expresses Doubt
Critics question CNBC's decision to employ Stevens as their newest star. David Wolf, spokesperson for WagerMinds.com, chuckled in a recent ESPN interview that, "They must not have Google there at CNBC." WagerMinds.com is an organization dedicated to bringing "high quality data, analytics, and transparency" to the field of sports gambling, according to its website. It works like this: Users submit fantasy bets to the site and managers track individuals' records. Users are ranked based upon their prediction performance. The higher the rank, the more trustworthy the source.
CNBC has stated that they endorse neither Stevens' business model nor his winning picks. They have also acknowledged Stevens' 1999 arrest and conviction. It appears that the business channel may be going more for the shock and entertainment value of “Money Talks” than anything else. While some critics have voiced disappointment in CNBC's decision to run a reality show starring an ex-con scam artist, the final result remains to be seen. Come September, viewer audiences will decide for themselves whether this self-proclaimed stock broker of sports gambling was a bet worth making for CNBC.