Former MLB Player Pleads Guilty In Illegal Sports Gambling Investigation

Written By Adam Hensley on November 21, 2022 - Last Updated on January 30, 2023

Yasiel Puig, a former MLB outfielder who spent most of his career with the Los Angeles Dodgers, pleaded guilty to lying to FBI agents in an illegal gambling operation investigation.

Puig faces up to five years in prison and a fine of at least $55,000 after he pleaded guilty to one count of making false statements.

Puig is no stranger to Arizona Diamondback fans. He hit .279 and 108 home runs over his six-year career with the Diamondback’s NL West Division rival. He spent the last season of his MLB career with the Cincinnati Reds and Cleveland Indians in 2019. Puig hit .277 and tallied 834 hits and 132 home runs throughout his seven-year stint in the majors. He was an All-Star in 2014.

Puig’s involvement in an illegal sports betting ring

Puig placed bets through third-party websites and a man who worked for Wayne Nix, a former minor league baseball player. The former Dodgers star totaled more than $280,000 in losses during just a few months in 2019.

Puig managed to pay off $200,000 of his losses. Once he regained access to Nix’s betting sites, the outfielder played 899 more bets on tennis, football and basketball games from July 4, 2019, to Sept. 29, 2019.

Nix’s illegal gambling organization operated for quite some time. According to prosecutors, it ran for 20 years. Nix’s ring included both current and former professional athletes, according to officials. Erik Hiljus, a four-year MLB player, is one of those involved.

Where Puig’s charges stem from

In January, federal investigators looked into Nix’s illegal sports betting operation. The FBI talked to Puig, and at the time, he denied placing any bets in Nix’s scheme.

What’s the MLB’s stance on players’ gambling?

The MLB’s stance on gambling is clear, even if the bettor wagers on unconnected events.

MLB rules state that players, umpires and club/league officials/employees caught betting on an unconnected event shall be declared for one year. The amount of money bet does not matter.

Should a player, umpire and club/league official/employee bet on an event in which they have a duty to perform, they are declared permanently ineligible.

It’s the MLB’s way of preserving the integrity of the game, plain and simple. It’s worth noting that the Department of Justice did not say any of Puig’s bets were made on baseball.

Pete Rose and Chicago Black Sox, for examples

Puig’s actions aren’t totally in line with Pete Rose and the 1919 Chicago Black Sox scandals, but they do involve gambling.

Should you look at who’s in the MLB’s Hall of Fame, Rose – the league’s all-time leader in hits – isn’t on the list. Rose accepted a permanent ban from the game for his actions. Earlier this month, though, he penned a letter to MLB commissioner Rob Manfred asking for Hall of Fame consideration.

The Chicago Black Sox scandal stands as one of the earliest attempts to compromise the MLB’s integrity. Eight members of the Chicago White Sox were accused of throwing the 1919 World Series against the Cincinnati Reds in exchange for money from a gambling ring. Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis banned all eight players, which included banishment from the hall of fame.

MLB’s Arizona sportsbook partnerships

Even though the league threatens to ban players and officials who bet on events tied to their respective clubs, sportsbook partnerships aren’t off the table.

Look no further than the Arizona Diamondbacks. Caesars Entertainment is one of the team’s official corporate partners. Caesars even has a sportsbook at Chase Field. The team made history on Sept. 9, 2021, when Chase Field became the first MLB stadium to allow in-person sports betting.

Additionally, players can partner with sportsbooks as long as they’re not betting. Colorado Rockies outfielder Charlie Blackmon became the first active MLB player to have a sportsbook partnership when he inked a deal with MaximBet earlier this year.

What’s next for Puig?

For starters, Puig will serve prison time and pay the fine.

Given the MLB’s stance on gambling, don’t expect to see Puig in a league uniform any time soon. He most recently played professionally in South Korea. Unless he attempts to sign a contract with an MLB team, the league will not investigate.

Photo by AP file photo
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Adam Hensley

Adam Hensley is a journalist from Des Moines, Iowa, who currently works for the USA Today Network. His byline has appeared in the Associated Press, Sports Illustrated and sites within the USA Today Network. Hensley graduated from the University of Iowa in 2019 and spent his college career working for the Daily Iowan’s sports department, both as an editor and reporter.

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