Bill Walters’ book promises to deliver the skinny on legendary and controversial gambler

February 8, 2023 8:56 PM
  • John L. Smith, CDC Gaming Reports
February 8, 2023 8:56 PM
  • John L. Smith, CDC Gaming Reports

It won’t be available for six months, but the drum-banging has already begun over the autobiography of sports-gambling legend Bill Walters with the first press-release salvo going out just in time for Super Bowl LVII.

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In addition to the media push well ahead of the Aug. 15 release date of Gambler: Secrets from a Life at Risk, Walters has agreed to sit down with sports gambling site host Brent Musburger for what’s being billed as an exclusive interview. As Walters has previously been feted by the gang at VSiN, I presume he’ll have the best of it.

Sports-betting fans nationwide are sure to hope Walters actually dishes something more than trips down memory lane before the Big Game. From his earliest days as a gambler in Kentucky, through his controversial and highly successful decades in Las Vegas, and his tumble from the top as the central figure in an insider-trading case, there’s certainly plenty of ground to cover.

It’s also ground that’s been pretty well covered in the press, from the sports page to the front page. Frankly, I look forward to seeing what Walters’s talented co-author Armen Keteyian has done with some of the bigger bumps in the gambler’s road to the top.

The part guaranteed to turn heads: “Walters also breaks his silence about his long and complicated relationship with Hall of Fame professional golfer Phil Mickelson.”

Mickelson and Walters had a long and cordial relationship on and off the golf course that, according to published reports, included some jaw-dropping bets. Mickelson benefited from Walters’ well-connected insider information involving Dean Foods, but parted company after news of the federal investigation surfaced and eventually was forced to return more than $1 million in profits. Mickelson was not charged in the case and refused to testify on his pal’s behalf, but Walters was convicted after prosecutors convinced a jury he’d made $43 million in profits and avoided losses on the company.

Walters’s five-year sentence was later commuted by then-President Donald Trump, but for some unexplained reason, Walters failed to receive a pardon at a time they were flying out of the White House.

Did I mention this book promises to reveal some secrets?

“With an unmatched winning streak of 36 consecutive years betting on sports, Walters has placed hundreds of millions a year in gross wagers, including a $3.5-million bet on one Super Bowl alone,” the news release says. “After decades of avoiding the spotlight and fiercely protecting the keys to his success, Walters, 76, has reached the age where he wants to pass along his wisdom to future generations of sports bettors.”

I’m guessing giving up your parlay cards is somewhere on the list.

Part of what could make this book different from the usual fare is timing.

Sports gambling has exploded in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2018 decision repealing the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act. Where once Nevada had legalized sports betting all to itself, now 36 states are in the game and more are lining up. It’s understandable, considering Americans wagered $83 billion legally in the first 11 months of 2022, according to the American Gaming Association.

In the 1990s, Walters survived being targeted for his role in the Computer Group sports-betting ring. He bested other investigations in ensuing years and at 76 has lived long enough to experience the strange new world of legalization.

Gone are the days bookmakers were scorned for being the gaming industry’s fastest accountants. And sports gamblers, well, they’re proliferating the landscape whether in cyberspace, via phone, or at your local sports book.

When professional sports leagues that once vilified betting on games belly up to the trough for a super-sized slice of the pie, consider it a new day, indeed.

Given Walters’ stature in the sports gambling world, his autobiography is bound to find an audience.

What I want to know is, what are the odds Phil Mickelson buys the first copy?