The most intriguing, conspiracy laden story – but absolutely true – in Las Vegas history is of The Computer Group. Who can figure how three people with such different backgrounds and motives were united to form the most successful sports betting operation in Las Vegas history as well as the country.
It begins in the late 70s with computer genius Michael Kent sitting in Pittsburgh, working for Westinghouse. He becomes bored and tinkers around with a program to aid his company softball team vs. opponents. It’s so efficient it predicts who will win if the program is followed.
He dabbles in football betting and is successful enough that in 1979 he moves to LV. A year later he partners with renowned orthopedic surgeon Dr. Ivan Mindlin, who had the NY Giants in his practice before the good doctor moved to Vegas to pursue his sports betting passion. Dr. Mindlin got the bets down from Kent’s computer program and agreed to split profits 50-50. In a couple years they were betting millions with offices in NY and LV.
Billy Walters, super sharp Kentucky gambler, was brought in as the third partner to handle the millions they were wagering and winning. Billy had outs all over the country and could move huge sums nationwide. He was the master in getting down at the number he was looking for.
The Computer Group had thousands of followers in LV and around the country. Billy played them like a harp. At the Stardust we put up the first line and from there our numbers went out to other Vegas sportsbooks and ultimately around the country.
Often Billy had his beards bet the opposite side he really wanted just to move the number to where he wanted it so when others copied our worked over line he hammered them at the inflated number looked for. It was beautiful for us at the Stardust. He wanted us to win his initial diversionary bets and then beat the rest of the country.
We got two-way action. The followers piled on the original side he bet, the number moved to where he wanted it then he cherry picked books all over town and the rest of the country. We had money on the number going to its apex and back to close to our opener. We just wanted to juice out.
The Feds got involved around the Super Bowl in January 1985 and busted 45 of the Computer offices in 23 cities. Not a single indictment came from these raids. In LV a young FBI agent, who was obsessed with getting a bookmaking conviction on Walters, spearheaded a half decade of relentless pursuit and three indictments that were all thrown out.
This young agent was woefully uninformed on sports betting. Billy was betting not booking and eventually our young agent was forced to give up when the statute of limitations ran out, and he ended up in a new assignment in Alaska or somewhere. I was never so happy to see someone get the boot. He was a very real pain.
Dr. Mindlin, the mastermind behind this story, was an accomplished surgeon before a car wreck sidelined him. We were friends from the Churchill days before all this began. He actually operated on my leg at Sunrise Hospital and helped my son with a medical emergency. But of course when $$$ is involved in anything it’s the favorite to go South. It did. The group broke up in 1987.
Dr. Mindlin and Michael Kent ended up in court. Kent won a measly $169,000 settlement from Dr. Mindlin. Kent and his brother alleged they got shorted out of their end of the millions the group won. They were running with the big dogs.
Walters is still in Vegas. He’s a philanthropist giving millions to worthy charities, especially Opportunity Village. Dr. Mindlin just gave a speech in London along with other high profile sports bettors covering what he says is still a lucrative business. Kent, I know nothing.
Where do computer gurus hang out?
Scotty Schettler began his Las Vegas journey in 1968. By the time he quit the race and sports book business he had booked over $1.5 billion for different employers. He says he knows where most of the cans are buried. His book, is available on amazon.com. Contact Scotty at [email protected].