Controversial betting legend Billy Walters’s bestseller, Gambler: Secrets from a Life at Risk, remains the sports book of the summer. Now that the National Football League season has begun, it’s likely to stay there all the way to Super Bowl LVIII.
One writer who read the book with particular interest is investigative reporter and author Dan Moldea, who you might say is a legend in his own right. For decades, Moldea’s intrepid efforts have documented the undeniable dance of American business and politics with organized crime in its many permutations.
Back in the late 1980s, Moldea began digging into the troubling associations of NFL players and owners to illegal gamblers and bookmakers, many of them directly associated with mob families from across the country. The result was Interference: How Organized Crime Influences Professional Football, a tough and thoroughly documented reporting effort that included interviews with dozens of sources, from the street to the front offices of the NFL.
The blowback from the book’s publication was immediate. The generous reviews were quickly eclipsed by a bull-rush job from the league’s innumerable friendly reporters. Moldea’s documentation and first-hand reporting were shoved out of bounds despite the league’s historical ties to big sports gamblers and bookies.
Moldea was scoffed at by the league’s so-called security experts when he predicted sports betting would spread well outside Nevada’s legal and regulated books.
The NFL could stiff-arm Moldea, but Walters writes in his new book that the publication of Interference did more than interfere with his action as the leader of the Computer Group betting ring. It embarrassed the Department of Justice into pressing the gambling case to indictment after it appeared to have been shelved by the FBI.
The Computer Group was an enigma from its start in the early 1980s with Walters, Dr. Ivan Mindlin, and an array of characters and investors, including some top Las Vegas business moguls. The arc of success and controversy of the Group was accurately documented by Moldea.