EPISODE 218 | LSR Podcast

Maverick Carter Was Not The First Or The Last | Sports Betting News


21 min
Video preview

Maverick Carter Was Not The First Or The Last | Sports Betting News | LSR Podcast 218

Maverick Carter, one of LeBron James’s closest associates, admitted to betting on the NBA with an illegal bookie in California. But he’s not alone in betting in the shadows, which highlights the need for change. Plus, DraftKings launches a pick’em game with a twist and California’s sports betting initiatives get changes that do not impress tribal leaders.

Full transcript

Matt Brown (00:11):

Hello, and welcome to episode number 218 of the LSR podcast. My name is Matt Brown, joined each and every week by the brightest minds in all the gaming industry. With me, I have Adam Candee. Find him over on the Twitter, two E’s, no Y on that last name there, Adam Candee. If you hate yourself, you can follow me @MattBrownM2. We’re going to talk a little bit about a new pick’em game, but different from the ones that are available out there. We’ll talk some California stuff as well. But Adam, let’s kick things off here with, this is something that is new news, but this is from a few years ago, and whatever, but it is still news nonetheless.

Adam Candee (00:55):

It’s fascinating news coming out of the LA Times, and a story that we actually covered a while ago. We discussed the federal bust of a major bookie ring that was based out of Southern California run by a former minor league baseball player named Wayne Nix. And we’ve seen little details of this story come out over time. Yasiel Puig was caught up in this, a few other former minor leaguers who became bookies for Wayne Nix became caught up in this. But a lot of the details of this case were sealed up, and some great investigative reporting brought out the fact that a fairly major name was involved in betting on the NBA via this bookie ring.

Betting on NBA with illegal bookie in California


And that name is Maverick Carter, who is one of the business partners and one of the closest associates of LeBron James. Now, he was someone who talked to the feds during this investigation about having been a client of this bookie ring. He said he did not recall ever placing a bet on one of LeBron’s games. That included the time that he was with the Lakers, or should say covered the time that he was with the Lakers. And he also said that he did not believe that anything had been affected or anyone else had any knowledge of what he was doing.


And the reason that I think this story is so important for us to talk about beyond the obvious news value of one of LeBron James’ closest associates playing these illegal NBA bets through a bookie is for the crowd who likes to talk about sports betting as though it just started and treating it like 2018 was the very first time that we had sports betting going on in the United States, and I think it’s really important to remember that things like this have been going on for a very long time. We don’t even know the full breadth of the Wayne Nix bookie ring.


And that’s just one bookie ring, as opposed to God only knows how many else have existed. Maybe not at the scale and sophistication of this one, but they definitely have existed for a long time. And it’s important to keep in mind that, in this story, you can read a lot about the fact that Wayne Nix traveled in some circles in which Maverick Carter was not the only big-name celebrity, the only big-name NBA person that he was in the sphere of.


Scottie Pippen is named in this story as someone who might or might not have placed a bet with Wayne Nix in the past. And we don’t know the full scale of who was involved in it. But keep in mind here, we think the most important part of the story, or I’m not going to speak for Matt, but I think the most important part of the story is that we are talking about something that has gone on for a long time.


And it is one of the main reasons that the regulated market has been advocated for by so many as a way to keep these things in the light, as the way to keep them more closely monitored, so that you’re not finding out about them from an investigative reporter who has good law enforcement sources who happens to get inside a federal case, so that you’re having things happen the way that they’ve happened with NBA suspensions, I should say with NFL suspensions, and other players and associates who have been caught in the regulated market, as opposed to us finding out about these things behind the scenes.

Matt Brown (04:16):

Yeah. No, absolutely. And I mean, one of the things that it also brings to light, two different things, that there are, one, the obvious need for regulation in all of these states across the country. Because if not, the black market is just going to exist. But the other thing is that the black market still, Adam, will always have a place in all of this. I mean, there is a distinct advantage to the black market that is not available to the legalized market, which is, one, like we’re talking about, it can kind of be hidden until you get caught.


But I mean, it can kind of stay under the radar until someone gets finally caught and brought down. And then the other thing that we’ve talked about before, as well as the ability for them to operate and work on credit. And I mean, that’s another thing too, with some of these guys that are betting high limits and stuff. Yeah, they’re not Venmoing back and forth $1,000 every time. That’s not how this works. They’ll run up a number, and then when a settle number hits, then they’re able to do stuff like that and those are other things that are the advantage there too.


So we just have to continue to hone these laws, make these things more visible and make sure that everything is on the up and up, make sure that everybody has to adhere to certain little things. I mean, we know this is different. I mean, this is now just a business associate. But Adam, we saw in the UFC for example, we saw they had to not only outlaw fighters, but managers, and coaches, and everything as well, from betting on sports within the UFC. Because again, inside information, they can know things, whatever.


I do wonder how wide a net will eventually get cast in all this. Whether it’s like, “Hey, look, even if you are a close business associate of whatever.” I don’t know exactly how they would even be able to regulate that and how they would be able to do it, but it is at least interesting to note, because if you don’t think that Maverick Carter and LeBron talk about what’s going on with LeBron’s body and stuff, and whatever, and all of that, and when he may or may not sit, and all, I mean, you’re crazy. And so, that’s a whole new can of worms and a whole different thing here, but there’s at least something to it, I believe.

Adam Candee (06:31):

Take that even farther. Even if Maverick Carter never placed a bet on a Lakers game, think of the web of associates that LeBron James has. Think of all the people in the league that he knows. Think of all the people that Maverick Carter knows. Think of all the people that Rich Paul knows. There’s so much potential information that can be going back behind the scenes here, and it doesn’t even have to end up with Maverick Carter winning a bunch of money.


It’s just the perception of these games potentially being rigged by people who are really tight with one of the most recognizable athletes in the world. It doesn’t have to be at the level of LeBron James. It could be at any level, and it would still be the same kind of concern. I mean, I made a mess of explaining this story at the very beginning of this. But the ultimate point of the matter here is that we know that these sorts of operations have existed for a long time, with the advantages that you just mentioned.


And there is a concept out there, I think, that now that sports betting is legal, well, what’s the big deal? Either you played with a bookie, or you played with one of these legal sportsbooks, or whatever. No, the big deal is the transparency, or at least the perceived transparency of what goes on here. The idea is that the rules govern who can and can’t. And as you mentioned, there is no specific rule currently that prevents Maverick Carter, someone who is a business associate, from being able to place bets on the NBA.


However, there is a common-sense thing in all of our heads that says you should not be able to place bets on the NBA. And obviously, Maverick Carter had some idea of that, because we’re talking about wagers that were placed during the legal sports betting era. This is not something that happened prior to the availability of legal sports betting. We’re talking about something that happened during the legal sports betting era. However, we’re talking about someone who did it in a state that does not have legal sports betting available.


So more and more, as we hear about stories of people who have been involved in gambling, it kind of works two angles for me, one positive and one negative. The negative is obviously that there is a perceived risk to integrity. The positive is highlighting for everyone who doubted that this has been going on for the longest of times, and that people who you wouldn’t expect to be involved have been involved, that needs to be highlighted and that needs to be the motivator for change.

Matt Brown (08:57):

Side note this just kind of brings up, there is actually a new show on Max, which is the streaming version of HBO and whatever and all that is, called Bookie, actually. And it is a bookie that is located in California. And they got someone, Adam, to … Because a lot of times we get these gambling movies. And this used to drive me crazy during the poker craze, because there would be these poker shows or poker movies, and it was just completely inaccurate and stuff. They were having things happen that were just so crazy, and you’re just like, “Why didn’t you just talk to someone? There are so many people you could have talked to.”


They talk to somebody in this deal. The guy is sitting here talking about gambling and saying, they’re like, “Oh yeah, but legalized gambling is going to put you out of business.” The guy is like, “Oh no, the tribes will never let that happen,” and whatever, and blah blah. He’s literally talking about why his business in California, he feels fine with it, and will thrive or something. And it’s just interesting. So they talked to someone because they were actually able to get a nugget that is true, and inside information, and all of that into this show. And I’m sitting there watching, I’m golf clapping the producers right there. I’m like, “Hey, you talked to someone. That’s an intelligent line in a drama on HBO.”

Adam Candee (10:16):

So you’re telling me that Tilt on ESPN was wrong, that you’re not able to go place a wager on your dad to lose a poker game at the sportsbook, so that it balances out the loss that he just had? You’re telling me that wasn’t real?

Matt Brown (10:32):

Oh my God. The worst show ever. I mean, I’m not kidding, the worst show ever, ever, ever produced, ever, on anything and all things gambling or whatever. But hey, look, if you have some time to kill, it’s a free plug there on Max. It’s called Bookie. It’s kind of interesting. Anyway, it’s just something to take a look at out there. Adam, this is a new pick’em contest, and it’s a pick’em contest that is not structured, however, like the other ones that are out there.

DraftKings launches a pick’em game with a twist

Adam Candee (11:04):

Matt, this is very interesting, because it is a pick’em game that looks quite similar to what we’ve seen from DraftKings’ competitors in the DFS space. And I use that within air quotes from everything that we’ve discussed in Underdog, and PrizePicks, and Betr, and so on. But there are some key differences. And this game is a pick’em game, it’s an over/under game, but it’s a peer-to-peer game.


And I think that’s important to note, because one of the key elements that has been at issue in this entire discussion for the last year has been that the contests are against the house that are offered by Underdog, PrizePicks, and so on, under the DFS umbrella, such as it is right now. And two of the states of the six that it launched in have legal sports betting in Maryland and in Tennessee. Four do not.


And DraftKings made a point to say, “We have looked very closely and talked to regulators to make sure that this product meets muster.” Again, kind of a veiled shot at their competitors who have been getting cease and desist notices from regulators over the last few months here, because their products too closely mirror sports betting, and they’re being asked to shut down. Some have, some haven’t.


But ultimately, Matt, we talked a long time ago about the fact that if DraftKings, or FanDuel, or another large operator, but those two in particular, wanted to turn on a game that looked something like what Underdog and PrizePicks have been doing for a long time, that they would have the reach and the database to make that a pretty good competitor to what those other companies are doing. And it seems that DraftKings has picked markets where obviously they have the regulatory clearance to be able to do this, but also they didn’t go after any of the big markets quite yet.


They kind of went after some smaller markets here. Two with legal sports betting in Maryland and Tennessee, and then four others. Let me make sure I run through the whole list for everybody here. Minnesota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Wisconsin in particular. They kind of started small here. And maybe it’s just the beginning of where they turn it on in these six states, and maybe they get a feel for how this goes and then decide whether to move it to some of the larger ones. Or maybe this is just the very first warning shot across the bow of the other DFS companies that are in that space to say, “Listen, we’re starting small here. We could very easily make this bigger, and we could very easily make this a bigger problem for you.”

Matt Brown (13:40):

Yeah. I don’t know the real everything behind it all or whatever. But I mean, no matter what it is with any of the things that you just said, I do think it is a very real understanding, I think, from within DraftKings to the other people out there. I mean, there’s nothing proprietary about what you were doing. It was like, anyone could do this. We chose not to do it. We obviously have the capabilities of doing it if we want to do it. Here, let me show you we can do it and how easily we can do it. Yet we’re going to do it in a manner that’s not going to have regulators up our butt about it.


And so, that is something that’s, I think, the key here in all that. Because look, peer-to-peer, this is one of the things, Adam, we keep beating the desk about over and over again about all this stuff. I mean, it is different when you’re playing against the house and when you’re playing peer-to-peer. That’s the whole reason DFS, in the first place, whenever we’re going through all this stuff way back when, eventually gets legalized and all that.


Because at the end of the day, it’s me playing against you. I’m not having to … There’s no house edge over me. There’s no any of that. It’s like, “Hey, I can just be better than you at this.” There are things … And so, same kind of concept that goes along with this. I’m super interested to see how it all plays out. And certainly the article written over at legalsportsreport.com, if you want to go and take in everything over there.


Also something going to … This is on the sportsbook side of things, but at the bottom of the article, I see Sam mentions that they are going to be launching a progressive parlay product in the sportsbook as well next week. We’ll see how that gets received by the market. But we know, Adam, I can already tell you, the purists out there are going to scream and say that, “Look at this.”


They’re going to jump up and down and say how horrible it is, and then it’s going to be wildly popular amongst all the casual bettors, and it’ll be the same thing that we’ve been dealing with, with same-game parlays and whatever all along, which is, hey, people don’t understand that the 99% don’t care about the same things as the 1%, and we’ll just have the same discussion we’ve been having for the last three years with it all.

Adam Candee (15:51):

Why can’t this exist for everyone in different ways? That’s what the whole issue is for me here. When we hear the sports betting Twitterati getting all upset about things like a parlay where you don’t have to hit every leg in order to win, but the odds are worse for you, and they’re treating people like sheep saying, “How could you do this? Don’t you understand the odds aren’t as good?” They don’t care. They don’t care.


They just want to play this game that gives them a better chance of feeling like they’re going to win something when it comes out in the end. Not everyone is in this to try to win big money or to make a living or to become the most reputable sports bettor in the world, or at least on Twitter, because most of the most reputable ones aren’t on Twitter. So it doesn’t matter if you have things that fit for multiple ways of doing sports betting. Just let people enjoy it.

Matt Brown (16:42):

It’s so true. Like I said, the 99%, and it’s probably even higher than that, are just doing it for fun. They just want to sweat. They’re watching the games anyway, and they just want to have a little bit of something going on with it. It’s not really something that they’re worried about. And sometimes we let our own personal feelings get in the way, and we don’t really take a step back and realize what everybody else cares about. And so, just wanted to point that out. Adam, let’s coast things out here with California.

California sports betting initiatives get changes

Adam Candee (17:13):

Well, you mentioned earlier in the show that the producers of that Bookie show had done a good job of talking to someone and understanding the legal landscape in California. I feel like the two guys who are behind the sports betting initiatives could have benefited from doing the same thing, talking to somebody before they decided to launch two more sports betting initiatives in California after the ones in 2022 got 16 and 17%. OK?


That being said, amendments were filed to these proposals, and the two guys behind it essentially tried to take some feedback that they got from the tribes long after they didn’t consult them and came out with these sports betting initiatives in the first place, and tried to change the split as to how the revenue will be distributed and so on. Some of the dates are tweaked, and on and on and on.


The point of the matter is, as you can read at Legal Sports Report, Mike Mazzeo has talked to the leaders of tribal gaming in California, who have basically said, “Yeah, it doesn’t change anything. They went about this the wrong way. They’re still going about this the wrong way. They think they’re going to be able to divide the tribes by getting some for it and some against it, and they’re not going to be able to do that.”


And I can tell you, back in 2022, when they had three tribes who were not participating in the largest of casinos in California doing ads in favor of the sports betting initiatives, it did not move the needle whatsoever. So you’re talking about having to spend millions upon millions of dollars just for the signature-gathering effort to get these on the ballot in 2024, and I don’t understand what these guys think they’re going to be able to accomplish that DraftKings and FanDuel, et cetera, were not able to.


Don’t get me wrong. The whole idea of shrouding it with homelessness and not really being honest with people about what was being pitched to them wasn’t a great idea. However, let’s just say you get double what they got last time. You are still nowhere near winning. This was a fundamental breakdown in 2022 of understanding where the market is, what the power of the tribes is, and their desire to fight against this, to only do this the way that they want to do it. And for rando guys to come in and start pushing their agenda with the tribes not being on board, in the end, it’s probably just going to set the market back even farther in terms of the timeline for being able to do something legally.

Matt Brown (19:45):

We will be talking about California on this podcast until this podcast goes away. It will always be something that we’ll be talking about here, and probably us just going, “Man, still can’t get anything done over there. Man, that’s crazy. Still can’t get anything done over there.” Not that Nevada really hates that or anything. They actually love what’s going on with all that.


Adam, you and team have awesome stuff over at legalsportsreport.com. Of course, absolutely free, everything over there, so please go in, take in all of that great content. And of course, this podcast, absolutely free. So if you haven’t done so already, do appreciate hitting the subscribe button. We like to get those numbers up there. And if you want to leave a review, we will take that as well. For Adam, I’m Matt, talk to you guys next week.

More Episodes