A former professional baseball player has pled guilty to running an illegal sports betting operation in Southern California, according to information released by federal authorities on Thursday.
Starting as early as 2002, Wayne Nix, a former minor league pitcher in the Oakland A’s organization, accepted bets from clients including a former professional football player, an MLB coach, and a broadcaster who does telecasts for a Major League Baseball team. The wagers, which numbered over $5 million on baseball and other sports, were fed through an offshore sportsbook in Costa Rica called Sand Island Sports. Offshore betting with unregulated, non-licensed sportsbooks from within the United States is illegal. Sports betting of any kind is currently illegal in California.
Plea Deal Shows Operation Involved Others Tied To MLB
According to the Department of Justice, an active investigation into Nix’s gambling ring is being performed by the Department of Homeland Security and the Internal Revenue Service. At least one associate of Nix, and Nix himself, have admitted to authorities that they received income from illegal sports betting that they failed to report.
In documents unsealed by Federal authorities that outline the plea deal arrangement, the Feds claim that Nix utilized his contacts from his professional playing career, including former MLB players, to forge relationships with customers seeking to place bets on sports. An MLB coach paid $4,000 for a gambling debt, according to the documents. Most of the associates who were customers of Nix’s gambling operation are unnamed in the Federal charges.
According to ESPN, Major League Baseball learned of the Nix situation on Thursday, and an investigation is underway by the Office of the MLB Commissioner. A current MLB broadcaster who has no relationship to Nix or the gambling ring, told Gaming Today that some media members employed by MLB teams have worried that the increased exposure of gambling to the sport of baseball might lead to situations involving personnel breaking league rules or the law. According to the source, one front office of an NL West team has said they will double efforts to educate staff and players on gambling restrictions and guidelines in the sport.
Government investigation revealed that Nix accepted bets from the “business manager of a professional basketball player” who reportedly bet as much as $25,000 on individual NBA games.
Nix, who is 45 years old and resides in Newport Beach, California, is one of five men who took plea deals in the government investigation of the illegal gambling ring. Nix last pitched professionally in 2001.
Sports betting is a hot topic in the United States, which sees more and more states opening their betting markets. Professional sports has embraced legal sports betting, seeing the benefits to the popularity of their sport as well as the addition to the bottom line. The American Gaming Association predicts that the NFL, NBA, MLB, and NHL could combine to see more than $4.5 billion in sports bets in 2022.
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