LAS VEGAS -- A phone call from CBS's 60 Minutes can mean the start of a bad day. Las Vegas gambler and businessman Billy Walters has put 60 Minutes on hold for more than 20 years. That's how long the venerable news program has been trying to land an interview with the man they call the most feared sports gambler in history.
60 Minutes may have had trouble getting Walters to sit down with them, but he's talked to 8 News NOW many times over the years, including Friday by phone. The first time 60 Minutes tried to get him on camera was 1986, and the reporter was Mike Wallace. Walters said no, again and again.
But last month, he said yes to Correspondent Steve Krofft who then turned the story over to Lara Logan. She and her crew spent many hours with Walters, focused on his philanthropic work with Opportunity Village, but mostly looked at his gambling.
Sportsbook managers told 60 Minutes that Walters is the most feared, most successful sports gambler in history -- that he single-handedly moves the betting line when he makes his picks and that in a typical weekend, he might put down $2 million in bets.
"I've had losing week, I've had losing month, never a losing year," he said.
"He's the most dangerous sports bettor in the history of Nevada -- history of the world," said oddsmaker Kenny White.
Why did he finally agree to talk to 60 Minutes? Walters said he wanted to get some things off his chest about Las Vegas and gambling, to let the rest of the country know that legal gambling is far more honest than the massive fraud that is so common on Wall Street.
"I lost $12 million on four publicly traded companies -- WorldCom, Enron, Tyco and PurchasePro. When I made my investments, I relied on audited financial statements from big six accounting firms, on analysts who looked at the companies and said everything was on the up and up. And I lost $12 million and all four of these deals were total frauds. I believe on Wall Street, in one millisecond, there's more dishonesty than has taken place in the entire history of sports betting, poker and casino gambling," he said.
Walters says he is tired of seeing Las Vegas and the gambling industry get raked over the coals, including a report just last week by 60 Minutes about slot machines, a story he says was one of the most unfair pieces of journalism he's ever seen.
He says he was reluctant to give them an interview because he simply didn't trust them to treat him fairly. That perception changed when a new executive producer took over the program and Walters now hopes the report Sunday night will be good for the town.
As you know, 60 Minutes airs Sunday evenings. This week, because of a football playoff game, it will air later than its usual time slot.