CNBC Original Reported by CNBC's Melissa Francis to Premiere on Wednesday, December 16th at 9PM ET/PT on CNBC

ENGLEWOOD CLIFFS, N.J., December 10, 2009-Beyond the Las Vegas strip there's a thriving underworld of illegal gambling. It's a multi-billion dollar business and millions of Americans are in on the action...

On Wednesday, December 16th at 9PM ET/PT, CNBC presents "CNBC Investigates: The Big Business of Illegal Gambling," a CNBC Original reported by CNBC's Melissa Francis that takes viewers inside this high-stakes business that brings some people immense wealth, while others pay the ultimate price.

The one-hour program delivers an in-depth look at just how mainstream illegal gambling has become. From sports betting to online casinos to high-stakes poker, a high percentage of the betting is placed illegally. Interviews with "Paul," an illegal sports bookmaker who knows each bet he takes can land him in jail; professional gambler "Vegas Runner" who takes his job as a gambler as serious as any Wall Street trader takes his job; and the dangerous case of Nick Sarillo, a restaurant owner who freelances as a bookie, crosses the Mob and pays a heavy price; shed light on this lucrative, but risky activity.

CNBC also looks at how illegal gambling is moving out of the basement and onto the Internet where it's more difficult for law enforcement to stop. Technology has made illegal gambling much more accessible and the same computer used for work or to connect with family and friends can also be used to wager outside the law. CNBC speaks with Jay Cohen, an Internet entrepreneur who starts a 200 million dollar offshore gambling website and becomes the first American prosecuted for running an online bookmaking operation.

The program concludes with the debate over legalizing gambling. It's an argument that is gaining traction in Washington and CNBC speaks with congressmen from both sides of the argument-Congressman Jim McDermott, a Democrat from Washington State and the sponsor of a bill that would regulate and tax online card games and Congressman Bob Goodlatte, a Republican from Virginia and author of "The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act."

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Melissa Francis is co-anchor of CNBC's "The Call" (M-F; 11AM-12PM ET).

"CNBC Investigates: The Big Business of Illegal Gambling" is produced by Kurtis Productions. Sharon Barrett is the Executive Producer and Mike West is the Senior Producer for Kurtis Productions. Charles Schaeffer is the Executive Producer for CNBC. Ray Borelli is the Vice President of Strategic Research, Scheduling and Long Form Programming.

"CNBC Investigates: The Big Business of Illegal Gambling" will re-air on Wednesday, December 16th at 10PM & 1AM ET; Friday, December 18th at 9PM & 12AM ET; Saturday, December 19th at 7PM ET; and Sunday, December 20th at 10PM ET.

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