No sports bettor has reached the prominence of Billy Walters. The 69-year-old has accomplished some remarkable betting feats, including the time that he won $3.5 million through the 2010 Super Bowl. But despite his success in the sports betting world – which earned him a feature on 60 Minutes – Walters is focusing on another passion of his: dealing cars.
The Kentucky native began selling cars in his first year out of high school, netting $56,000 in 1966, which is approximately $400,000 today when adjusted for inflation.
“Whatever success I’ve had in life I owe to the automobile business,” said Walters. “It was my MBA. It was my college.”
Working as a car dealer helped Walters move out of the impoverished town of Munfordville, KY and into the Louisville area, where he eventually worked his way into management.
The fact that he moved up so quickly is little surprise, given that Walters has always been a hustler. At age 7, he’d already taken out a $40 bank loan and started mowing lawns to raise money. Two years later, he was granted a $90 loan to begin a newspaper route. And he attributes much of his work ethic to his grandmother.
“My grandmother was my entire life,” he said. “She not only gave me the confidence to be a businessman, she was my role model.”
According to Automotive News, Walters now owns 18 car dealerships through the Walters Group, which is headquartered in Henderson, Nevada. His dealerships sold 28,800 new and used cars last year, and he’ll look to grow this number by purchasing more auto dealerships in the future.
But despite his major successes with dealing cars, Walters has always had a gambling streak in him.
This began when his uncle took him to pool halls at age 5, where he learned to play the game well. After just two years, he was already betting against other players. By the time he hit his 30s, the gambling itch had gotten to Walters so badly that he headed to Las Vegas to test his skills.
“The whole time I was in the automobile business, I had been working on a program to handicap sports,” Walters explained. “I wanted to gamble where it was legal and lawful and you could be a respected member of the community.”
Sports betting wasn’t the only thing that Walters dabbled in since he also bet heavily in other games like golf. As he told 60 Minutes, he’s won as much as $400,000 on a single hole, and $1 million on an entire golf round. Another thing that Walters revealed to 60 Minutes is that he used to have at least $2 million in play every week on sports games.
Considering all of the betting that Walters has done in his lifetime, one can’t blame him for being tired of it.
“That passion I had with gambling has faded,” he said. “I got burned out on it.”
It also doesn’t hurt that Walters is currently in trouble with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for allegedly giving insider trading secrets to pro golfer Phil Mickelson. The SEC charges that Walters got illegal tips from Dean Foods’ chairman, then passed them on to Mickelson to help him raise $1 million to repay a gambling debt. He’s since been forced to turn over $1 million in profits to the SEC while his case is decided.
In the meantime, Walters continues to build his auto business and remain involved in every aspect of it.
“There isn’t anything that goes on in our company, that I’m not aware of,” he said. “I interact with the stores’ general managers and with my partners multiple times on a daily basis.”
As for sports betting, it looks like this chapter of Walters’ life is mostly closed. But he at least made millions of dollars in profits over his betting career.