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Inside Vegas - Steve Miller

Steve Miller is a former Las Vegas City Councilman. In 1991, the readers of the Las Vegas Review Journal voted him the "Most Effective Public Official" in Southern Nevada. Visit his website at:

Par For The Course - Part Two
Professional gambler and golf course developer
Billy Walters arrested for insider trading

INSIDE VEGAS by Steve Miller
May 23, 2016

LAS VEGAS -  On May 18, 2016, the FBI arrested Las Vegas sports bettor Billy Walters for what they described as an insider trading scheme.

The May 19, 2016 New York Times front page story, "Insider Trading Case Links Golfer, Banker and Gambler," described Walters as a high-rolling Las Vegas kingmaker, often considered the most successful sports bettor in the country.

"Federal prosecutors in Manhattan on Thursday unveiled criminal charges against Mr. Walters, saying that illegal stock tips from Mr. Davis helped him generate some $40 million in profits and avoided losses. They also charged Mr. Davis, who has agreed to plead guilty and who is cooperating against Mr. Walters," stated the NY Times.

KTNV TV News in Las Vegas headlined their May 19 lead story, "Sports gambler Billy Walters released on $1M bond," and showed a video of a disheveled Walters leaving jail.

The May 19 Daily Beast headlined: "Las Vegas Bigshot Billy Walters Is Accused of Insider Trading."

The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported: "FBI arrests Las Vegas sports bettor Bill Walters in insider trading scheme."

Inside trader? Las Vegas kingmaker?

Long time INSIDE VEGAS readers will recognize Billy Walters' name from columns I penned in 2005 including "Par for the course."

I wrote about Walters having an ungodly influence over local politicians. To his dismay, I had written how he held political fund raisers at his Bali Hai Golf Club at the south end of the Las Vegas Strip. There, he would invite his moneyed friends (including his business partner Las Vegas Sun publisher Brian Greenspun) to contribute to the political candidates of his choice while enjoying a lavish dinner.

I alleged that Walters' invited guests to his golf club to contribute cash or post dated checks to his select group of politicians in order to avoid being accused of "bundling" political contributions, money that may not have been declared on the candidate's financial disclosure form, or was deposited at a later date to hide the fact that the funds were all collected on the same date in the same place.

His favored candidates would only disclose on their campaign contribution form that Walters contributed an "In kind" donation for what he called "food and beverages," usually in the range of several hundred dollars.  However, his politician friends were greatly indebted to him knowing that the cash and checks received at Bali Hai Golf Club were because of Billy Walters' sole efforts, and many paid him back generously while they were in public office - often at taxpayer's expense.

In ex-LV city councilman Michael McDonald's case, the then-city official spearheaded the sale of 160 acres of city owned land to Walters for pennies on the dollar, and is now living in a Pinto Lane mansion owned by one of Walters' companies, CLUB BR, LLC.

This was one of Walters' biggest scores in his Sin City history.

In 2005, I also authored several articles for Travel Golf Magazine about Billy. He tried to have the articles removed, but the publisher of Travel Golf, a national publication, refused. In a desperate move, Walters acquired Travel Golf, changed its name, and removed my articles. Below are links to the articles he removed. Please read them because they were a harbinger to this month's national headlines about the man (Editor's Note: Why is it that so many people Steve writes about in his column end up in the slammer?):

The above banned articles describe in detail what many in Las Vegas believe is just another example of Billy Walters' insider trading, and the ill-effect it has on average citizens.

In 1999, when Walters bought the city land, "Councilman" McDonald's only income was his $33,000 per year council salary, and he lived in a tiny bungalow valued at $46,140 by the Clark County Assessor.

Today, Michael McDonald is Chairman of the Nevada Republican Party, and lives in Billy Walters' luxurious 2520 Pinto Lane house.

The house is valued at over one million dollars, features a twelve car garage, and sits on an acre in one of Las Vegas' most plush neighborhoods near Rancho and Alta Drives. McDonald's salary as chairman of the state GOP barely covers the estate's utility bills, and he has no other known income.

McDonald purchased the home in 2005, but was about to lose it in a 2009 bankruptcy when Walters stepped in to buy the property while allowing McDonald to remain its sole resident. Its not currently known whether McDonald pays Walters rent for living in the rescued house.

In 1999, Michael McDonald. as a LV Councilman, fought for Walters' ability to purchase the 160 taxpayer-owned acres for only $894,000 ($5,600 per acre) when adjacent land was selling for $30,000 - $40,000 per acre according to county records. McDonald did so based on the promise that Walters would charge low green fees for locals, and accept a permanent deed restriction to limit the land's use to golf course only. McDonald argued vehemently that the $894,000 was desperately needed for parks. He and then-Mayor Jan Jones scoffed at protesters including a certified land appraiser who testified that multiple parks could be built if the city would sell the 160 acres at fair market value.

After the land appraiser told the council that the land was worth more than $40,000 per acre at the time of the hearing, Jones angrily held up a front page article I authored, and said, 'I know what ex-councilman Steve Miller thinks is true, and I take exception. Land is worth what land is worth. You can speculate. Maybe someday this will be worth a lot of money. Maybe it won't."

Soon thereafter, Walters was charging everyone, including locals, $200 - $260 in green fees. Then to add insult to injury, he began selling "golf course frontage" for $130,000 per acre, and later on was accused of letting the fairways and other facilities deteriorate, claiming the golf course was a failure and he needed to have the deed restriction removed so he could redevelop the land into a higher and better use.

In 2005, after many more Bali Hai political fund raisers, Bill Walters was allowed to sell the once-city-owned land for $54 million, the same year Michael McDonald moved into his Pinto Lane estate.

Insider trading?

Five times over the]  past two decades, state and federal law enforcement agencies have investigated Walters, but on all occasions he got off. Previously, all the investigations were conducted by Nevada based agencies where Walters is known to wield powerful influence. In one case, former Nevada Attorney General George Chanos paid a San Francisco based law firm $250,000 to investigate Walters and his ties to Michael McDonald,  then-City of Las Vegas Public Works Director Richard Goecke, and former LV Mayors Jan Jones and Oscar Goodman. Chanos requested all of my stories about Walters, and I was interviewed twice in person by his investigators.

In 2007, Chanos opted to not run for re-election. Catherine Cortez-Masto was elected to replace him as Nevada A.G.  Cortez-Masto's first order of business after being sworn in was to drop the Walters investigation.

The current indictment was issued by the New York office of the FBI, and is not expected to be influenced by Nevada politics.


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