Another California sports betting scandal has come to light.
To be clear, this isn’t a caps-lock, bold-text SCANDAL. That term is typically reserved for gamblers using inside information, or for participating athletes, coaches and team employees wagering on their own events or on the same leagues in which they play. Still, this latest divulgence is a humdinger in its own right.
Maverick Carter, best known as a longtime business partner of NBA megastar and potential greatest-player-of-all-time LeBron James, recently admitted that he placed illegal wagers. What’s more, these transactions included betting on the NBA, thereby representing a potential conflict of interest.
Plenty of questions are left to answer. Did LeBron know about Carter’s wagers? Did Carter bet on any of the NBA games in which LeBron played? Why were these transactions considered illegal when retail operators and online sportsbooks in the United States are allowed in more than two-thirds of the country? Why did Carter admit to his bets in the first place? Will there be any recourse?
The onrush of questions are readily answered in the initial report from The Washington Post’s Garcia Roberts. Mr. Carter allegedly placed his wagers in November 2021 and doesn’t recall submitting any bets on LeBron’s team at the time, the Los Angeles Lakers, or any of the games in which they played.
Maverick Carter Places Bets on NBA and NFL Games Ranging from $5,000 to $10,000 Apiece
Tom Dierberger of SI.com provided a comprehensive summary of The Washington Post’s findings:
Maverick Carter, LeBron James’ business manager since 2006, admitted to betting on NBA games through an illegal bookie, according to The Washington Post. Carter admitted to betting on games in a November 2021 interview with federal agents investigating bookie Wayne Nix, per The Washington Post. [He] told agents he couldn’t recall placing any bets on the Lakers, who James has been playing for since 2018. Carter told investigators that he placed around 20 bets on football and basketball games over a one-year span, with individual bets ranging from $5,000 to $10,000. ‘Mr. Carter was not the target of the investigation, cooperated, was never charged, and never contacted again on the matter,’ a spokesperson for James and Carter told The Washington Post. The spokesperson also said Carter’s bets have nothing to do with James.”
Naturally, everyone wants to know whether LeBron knew. The four-time NBA champion told reporters he did not. In fact, he claims not to have found out until The Washington Post report was released, per The Athletic’s Jovan Buha:
LeBron James said he wasn’t aware of Maverick Carter, his longtime friend and business partner, telling federal agents that he placed NBA bets with an illegal bookie in 2021, as @washingtonpost reported. James said he found out in the last 24 hours.
Here’s James’ response to if… pic.twitter.com/ZZwnswZGdq
— Jovan Buha (@jovanbuha) December 1, 2023
LeBron, of course, has a point. People, yours truly included, are only writing about this because of Carter’s ties to the four-time NBA MVP. And if LeBron says he didn’t know, we should believe him.
What Made Maverick’s Bets a Violation of California Sports Betting Laws?
Granted, this isn’t only a story because of Carter’s relationship with James. Mr. Carter has made a name for himself in the entertainment industry beyond LeBron, so this always would have generated some kind of news. It is notable because the bets were illegal.
What made them illegal? Location and licensing.
Because sports betting in California remains illegal, any wager Carter placed would have technically been disallowed. Legally gambling on sports would have required him to leave the state and use a licensed sportsbook. As the report states, he did neither.
Wayne Nix was an entertainment industry accountant who resided in California. That is also the state in which the SpringField Company, an entertainment venture co-founded by LeBron and Carter in 2020, has their primary base of operations.
Anyway, on July 25, 2023, Nix pleaded guilty to a “felony charge of lying to federal law enforcement officials about his role in laundering illicit proceeds from an illegal gambling operation.” So, not only did Carter place bets in a state that doesn’t allow sports gambling, but he used an unlicensed bookie to do it.
Will There be Any Repercussions for Maverick Carter’s California Sports Betting Admission?
Unless you’re Wayne Nix himself or one of his associates, this story shouldn’t wind up having an impact on either Carter or LeBron.
The NBA prohibits players, coaches, employees, etc. from betting on games. There is no rule against agents, family members and the like placing their own wagers. Now, because betting on sports in California is illegal, Carter’s admission could technically land him in hot water. But authorities never appeared interested in going after him. Nor should they.
Yes, sports betting throughout California is illegal. But you can’t penalize one person without punishing many, many, many more. Even though The Golden State doesn’t have legal sports betting, it is still considered one of the most lucrative gambling markets in the United States. California’s sheer population coupled with a bevy of pro sports franchises no doubt leads to a plethora of residents seeking alternatives.
Those contingencies could include crossing state lines and betting on sports where it’s legal. It may also include using an offshore online sportsbook. Or, as was the case with Carter, the search for sportsbooks in California could lead interested gamblers to an entirely illicit operation. So many people are partaking in at least one form of betting that it doesn’t make sense trying to prosecute anyone.
Could This Impact the Future of Sports Gambling in California?
To that end, Carter’s involvement can be written off. Gambling is legal in most of the United States these days. This should not be held against him.
The bigger issue lies with the push for California sports betting itself.
Could a high profile issue such as the Wayne Nix case drive officials further away from the legalization of sports gambling as they gear up for 2024 legislative sessions? It’s possible.
Whether it’s likely, though, will be a matter of course.
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