Sports betting king Walters resurfaces in insightful pre-Super Bowl interview By John L. Smith, CDC Gaming Reports February 16, 2022 at 7:38 pm Sports betting legend Billy Walters makes headlines wherever he goes. Sometimes it’s on the sports pages, sometimes the news pages. The controversial gambler and developer, whose prison sentence for insider trading was commuted in the final hours of Donald Trump’s presidency, has kept a low profile in recent months. That changed on Super Bowl Sunday in an interview with Brent Musburger on the VSiN.com sports betting network. Walters’ welcome-back party began with accolades from top sportsbook-industry professionals Chris Andrews, Nick Bogdanovich, Vinny Magliulo, and Michael “Roxy” Roxborough. When Andrews placed Walters in the company of the great Bob Martin and described him as “the Michael Jordan of sports betting,” he wasn’t overstating it. With longtime Las Vegas sports-betting insider Jimmy Vaccaro adding his own insights, Musburger landed a major catch that surely turned heads throughout the industry. He didn’t exactly put Walters on the hot seat, but it was a must-see chat for those who follow the remarkable story of sports betting and bookmaking in America. I am guessing some sports touts who rely on smoke and analytics to cover for their mediocre track records grumbled when Walters parted the curtain on the overuse and lack of understanding of the math and algorithms of the industry. Sports betting has always been a craft riddled with jargon, and you’ll find a gambling expert on every other barstool. When Walters talks, people listen. Or at least they should. After 64 years and “a lot of knots on my head,” he’s risen from humble beginnings in Kentucky through fast-living years in Las Vegas, the Computer Group sports betting investigation and trial, other brushes with law enforcement, success as a golf-course developer, and an insider-trading investigation that landed him behind bars. It’s little wonder Walters is cooperating on a book about his life and his choice of author and investigative reporter Armen Keteyian was an inspired one. It’s tentatively titled Chicken or Feathers, a feeling that professional gamblers know well about the ups and downs of the action. Reminiscing about his early breakneck life, Walters laughed and said, “Before I ever came to Las Vegas, I bet on anything that would move and it didn’t make any difference what it was.” Like all action junkies, he careened from boom to bust many times before focusing on the business end of sports betting. He began to build a network of providers of good information. “What is gambling?” Walters asked. “What is stock picking? What is anything? It’s all about useful information, and information that is obviously correct. Everybody’s got information. Identifying the correct information is sometimes the most difficult. What made Bob Martin Bob Martin was not that Bob Martin was the smartest guy there was, because he wasn’t. But he knew the smartest people there were. And he had a relationship with them and they all bet him. As a result, Bob ended up with a pretty good opinion on things.” Not every sportsbook boss has appreciated Walters’ winning ways and gaming regulators became concerned enough about his network of bettors and agents that it disallowed messenger betting. He managed to get around the ban, but the topic provided him with an opportunity to remind his critics: “This idea that if you’re a bookmaker, and all you’re going to do is book losers and anybody who wins, we’re not doing business with? Imagine what would happen if you took that approach in blackjack or craps or baccarat. Or slot machines. You’d be looking at an empty casino out there, because people are going to win from time to time. If you throw out everyone who wins, you’re not going to have many customers left. The last thing in the world I’ve ever wanted to see is any bookmaker go out of business.” One of my favorite moments came when he cut through the fog of what often passes for analysis in sports gambling. “Analytics has been around for a long, long time,” Walters said. “It’s like common sense, so to speak. It’s not so common. Frankly, having somebody who understands risk-reward from a gambler’s standpoint, you may be much better served if they made those types of decisions, and I’m trying to be kind. … Some of the decisions being made today that people are trying to use so-called analytics, they’re unbelievable to me.” The spread of sports betting is the biggest story in American gaming, about which Walters notes, “I don’t think we’ve scratched the surface for what the opportunity is there.” That’s hard to believe, but who is going to doubt Billy Walters?