Ahem, Pardon me.
Billy Walters is about to be a free man again.
The world's most successful high-stakes sports gambler was pardoned by U.S. Presient Donald Trump in one of his final actions as the 45th chief executive earlier this week. Walters, age 74, has been in federal prison since 2017. Now, he will be out just in time to place a bet on the Super Bowl.
Walters, who was secretive about his wagers and wagering for many decades, still became a mythical figure in the sports gambling world. He was one of the very few gamblers who had the influence (and money) to move pointspreads on games. Walters was the consummate "wiseguy," the very definition of "smart money."
However, Walters has also been known for some questionable business deals, particularly with his golf courses in and around Las Vegas, some of which he still owns. That allowed him to develop a relationship with golfer and fellow high-stakes sports gambler Phil Mickelson, which led in part to his myriad of legal problems.
In 2017, Walters was convicted of insider trading in a scheme that brought to light his ties to Mickelson, who at one time owed $2 million in gambling debts to Walters, according to reports. The golf great avoided criminal charges. Meanwhile Walters was sentenced to five years in federal prison and fined $10 million – a drop in the bucket of his purported wealth.
Walters was thankful for the pardon, but also remains defiant:
"I am thankful to the President and extremely grateful for the longstanding support of friends and family, especially my wife, Susan,'' Walters said in a statement provided to USA TODAY Sports. "I have tried to lead a life marked by concern for others and I hope those qualities, along with the government misconduct that led to my wrongful conviction, convinced the White House to grant me clemency. I also hope this sends a strong message to law enforcement to refrain from illegal misconduct in pursuing their targets. I look forward to vindication as I pursue my civil damages case in federal court."
Walters' exploits in sports gambling are part-exaggeration and certainly part-truth. Some respectable sources insist that he's won in sports betting for 30 consectuve years. But the television news show 60 Minutes profiled him ten years ago and during an interview Walters admitted he lost one year, going 19 years as a winner with just one prolonged losing streak.
Nonetheless, no one can deny the Billy Walters aura in Las Vegas and in gambling circles. For instance, Walters cashed $2.2 million winner in 2007 on USC beating Michigan in football and $3.5 million win in 2009 on Super Bowl XLIV. He has hundreds of wins (and losses) in the six-figure category.
So, even though Walters has cashed millions in winning tickets since arriving on the gambling scene from his native Kentucky, it now appears that 2021 will be his best year ever.
Read more about Billy Walters HERE.
Headline Photo Credit: Steve Marcus, Associated Press