Billy Walters, the famed sports bettor who went to prison in 2017, will be out in time to bet on the Super Bowl thanks to outgoing President Donald Trump.
Walters, 74, received one of the final pardons issued by Trump, as did the brother of Chicago Bears Hall of Fame linebacker Brian Urlacher. Casey Urlacher faced federal charges of recruiting for a multi-million dollar illegal offshore gambling ring.
Walters, by contrast, was known to have placed massive wagers in Las Vegas. He also developed a relationship with golfer Phil Mickelson that coincided with his legal problems.
In 2017, Walters was found guilty of insider trading in a scheme that brought to light his ties to Mickelson, who at one time owed owned $2 million in gambling debts to Walters, according to published reports.
Mickelson avoided criminal charges while Walters was sentenced to five years in prison and fined $10 million – but only after a protracted legal fight.
Walters was released from prison in May 2020 due to the COVID-19 crisis and was serving the rest of his five-year sentence at home. Trump commuted that sentence, meaning that the remainder, a little less than a year, has been wiped out.
According to a White House statement, several individuals sponsored the action on Walters’ behalf, including a handful from the golf industry. That included not only Mickelson but also swing instructor Butch Harmon and TV commentators David Feherty and Peter Jacobsen.
“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.”
Though parts of Walters’ gambling history remain unverified, his exploits allegedly included a 30-year winning streak that included a $2.2 million win in 2007 on USC beating Michigan in football and $3.5 million win in 2009 on Super Bowl XLIV.
In 2014, he told the Wall Street Journal that in a good year he could make up to $60 million betting sports.
On Tuesday he won back his freedom, as one of 144 people to receive last-minute pardons from Trump.