Pro Athletes Caught Up in Major California Illegal Sports Betting Ring

  • The illegal operation dates back 20 years; the ring’s leaders plan to plead guilty to charges
  • Former Oakland A’s minor league pitcher Wayne Nix started the operation
  • A pro football player, MLB coach, and baseball analyst had major gambling debts
  • One of the informants in the case cooperated to get away from a $6m gambling debt
Baseball glove holding a ball and cash
Federal authorities have revealed details about a major illegal betting ring that took wagers from active pro athletes. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

A long-running operation

Former and current professional athletes were allegedly involved in an illegal sports betting ring in Southern California that dates back two decades. Federal authorities announced on Thursday a number of cases relating to the illegal operation, explaining that athletes placed big wagers on games, as well as being a part of the ring’s operations.

The leaders of the ring reportedly will be pleading guilty to the operation of the illegal gambling business. It was revealed this week that Howard Miller, Edon Kagasoff, and Wayne Nix have each received charges.

started the bookmaking operation about 20 years ago

Nix was previously a pitcher for one of the Oakland Athletics’ minor league teams. The 45-year-old allegedly started the bookmaking operation about 20 years ago, expanding it through his professional sports contacts. Kagasoff allegedly came on board in 2014 and looked after the online side of the operation. Each of the three men will appear in court in the coming weeks.

Taking major action

Nix allegedly hired three unnamed former Major League Baseball (MLB) players to help with the operation. He would hire people as agents who would then look for customers. New customers would get an account on the website and have betting limits in place. Agents would then pay gamblers their winnings or collect their losses. Nix’s plea agreement outlines many details about the operation, including information about a pro football player, baseball analyst, and an MLB coach having significant gambling debts.

One of the clients placed a $5m wager on Super Bowl LIII

One of the clients placed a $5m wager on Super Bowl LIII in 2019 between the Los Angeles Rams and New England Patriots. A pro basketball player’s business manager was able to place bets of as much as $25,000 per NBA game. There was no indication given as to whether or not any active pro athletes placed wagers on their own games.

The plea agreement outlines how a sports broadcaster was planning to refinance his house in order to pay back gambling debts. Nix admitted that the operation’s gross revenue was “well over $2,000 per day.” He also confessed to not reporting income of almost $1.5m on his 2017 and 2018 tax returns. He will have to pay back the taxes for these two years.

Investigation into the matter

The Justice Department announced cases last month involving two other people who were part of the illegal scheme. Both Joseph Castelao and Kenneth Arsenian have pleaded guilty in their cases. The former was allegedly the gambling site owner.

IRS and Homeland Security investigators are continuing to look into the illegal operation. The original investigation began in 2017 when informants gave tipped off the Homeland Security Investigations division.

One of the informants admitted that one of his goals in cooperating was to avoid paying back a $6m gambling debt. Investigators received permission to tap the phones of suspects, including Nix. Through the surveillance, investigators captured numerous recordings of people placing bets.