A Gambling Life / Migration and Tech

Hosted byGeorge Knapp

A Gambling Life / Migration and Tech

About the show

In the first half, Billy Walters shared his life story as one of the highest rollers, biggest spenders, and most dangerous sports gamblers. When he first moved to Las Vegas in the early 1980s, a lot of gambling was connected with organized crime and associated with various controversies, and now, all these years later, sports gambling is legal in the majority of the states, he pointed out. Walters explained how during the 1980s, he purchased a roulette wheel to take apart and study. He then used a program to analyze the activity of various roulette wheels, and confirmed potential biases and identified wheels with favorable odds for players. Using his knowledge, he won $3.8 million in a couple of days playing the roulette wheel at one of Steve Wynn's casinos in 1986.

Walters also described teaming up with a computer whiz named Mike Kent who developed the first computer software program using algorithms and data analysis to handicap sports betting. In order to break even on betting sports, you have to bet on 52.3% of winners, and Walters was winning 58% of the time, he revealed. Eventually, his success attracted the Mob, and Tony Spilotro (the main character in the movie "Casino" is based on him) tried to shake him down and get a cut of his profits. Walters and his wife promptly left town and only returned to Vegas after Spilotro had been murdered. After being profiled on a "60 Minutes" episode, in which he was critical of investing in the stock market and some specific companies, he was arrested on charges of insider trading and eventually served 31 months in prison.


In the latter half, lawyer and anthropologist Petra Molnar discussed migration and human rights. She detailed how technology is being deployed by governments on the world's most vulnerable people and how borders are now big business. Molnar highlighted the need to prioritize human rights and dignity in the face of increasingly heightened conversations around immigration and border security. The issue of migration has turned into a complicated political hot potato, used to rile up the electorate, she noted, and yet those who seek political asylum have an international right to do so-- a legal underpinning that the US has agreed to.

One of the reasons people are forced to flee their home countries is because of actions of the West, including imperialism and warmongering, she asserted. The increasing use of surveillance and technology at the borders doesn't stop people from coming but forces them into more dangerous terrain and leads to more deaths, such as in the Sonoran desert in Arizona, she said. The global "border industrial complex" will spend around $68-70 billion in the coming years, she cited, and has become an arena for experimentation, such as using AI lie detectors and military-grade robot dogs. Molnar cautioned that such technologies, which start with border issues, may eventually be used on the citizenry in general.


George Knapp shared recent items of interest, including an article about what humanity would do if an asteroid slammed the Earth in 2038:

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