“‘I never bet on the Ryder Cup. While it is well known that I always enjoy a friendly wager on the course, I would never undermine the integrity of the game.’”
That was golf star Phil Mickelson responding to allegations he wagered more than $1 billion on football, basketball and baseball over the past three decades, and attempted to bet on the Ryder Cup, too.
The claims were made by professional gambler and Las Vegas businessman Billy Walters in a book due out on Aug. 22, “Gambler: Secrets from a Life of Risk.” Walters said Mickelson placed hundreds of bets with him for exactly $220,000 and 1,115 bets for precisely $110,000 over the span of three decades. Walters claims that Mickelson also asked him to place a $400,000 bet on the U.S. team to win the 2012 Ryder Cup, a request that Walters said he declined, according to excerpts of the book reported by The FirePit Collective.
PGA Tour players are prohibited from wagering on events under the organization’s Integrity Program.
“I have also been very open about my gambling addiction,” Mickelson continued in his statement shared on social media. “I have previously conveyed my remorse, took responsibility, have gotten help, have been fully committed to therapy that has positively impacted me and I feel good about where I am now.”
Mickelson did not specifically address Walters’s claims that he wagered over $1 billion on sports, or that he lost more than $100 million on his bets during the multi-decade span.
Walters is viewed as one of the more successful professional gamblers in recent memory, with sportsbooks limiting the amount he could wager at their establishments. He was convicted of insider trading in 2017 and served five years in federal prison. Mickelson was named in that insider-trading case; he was not accused of wrongdoing but agreed to pay back close to $1 million earned on a stock tip he received from Walters.
Representatives for Mickelson did not respond to MarketWatch’s request for comment for this story.
Mickelson was one of the first professional golfers to leave the PGA Tour for LIV Golf last year. He was offered roughly $200 million to join the Saudi-backed league, according to the Golf Channel’s Brentley Romine. The PGA Tour, the DP World Tour and the Saudi-backed LIV Golf circuit reached a landmark merger agreement in June that aims to create a single operation that would “unify” golf.
Some fellow professional golfers reacted to the alleged gambling issues by taking a few swings at Mickelson.
“At least he can bet on the Ryder Cup this year because he won’t be a part of it,” golfer Rory McIlroy said on Thursday. McIlroy, one of the PGA Tour’s staunchest defenders in its battle against LIV Golf, has been critical of Mickelson and LIV on multiple occasions.
Golfers including Mickelson and Dustin Johnson have been criticized for joining LIV Golf and turning a blind eye to Saudi Arabia’s human-rights record. According to the U.S. State Department, Saudi Arabia has in recent years been linked to multiple human-rights violations, including unlawful killings; executions for nonviolent offenses; forced disappearances; torture and cases of cruel and inhuman or degrading treatment of prisoners and detainees by government agents, among other offenses.
Golfer Jordan Speith, a three-time major championship winner, said people in the golf world were “surprised” by the recent headlines about Mickelson.
Mickelson’s alleged gambling predates the summer of 2018, when the Supreme Court lifted a U.S. ban on sports betting, allowing states to create legislation to legalize gambling. Since then, 34 states allow some form of legal sports betting, according to the latest tally by the American Gaming Association.
“We didn’t have a good problem-gambling infrastructure in place prior to the expansion of sports betting, and we still don’t,” Keith Whyte, executive director of the National Council on Problem Gambling, was quoted as having told the Charlotte Observer in February.
U.S. sportsbooks accepted $93 billion in sports bets in 2022, according to the American Gaming Association’s Tracker, a massive jump from the $57.22 billion wagered in 2021.