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Who is Wayne Nix? How a bookie, former baseball player took down a former MGM exec

Updated January 27, 2024 - 7:57 am

Wayne Joseph Nix, the illegal bookmaker whose casino play at MGM Grand led former resort president Scott Sibella to plead guilty to federal charges in a California courtroom this week, is well connected.

The former minor league baseball pitcher who lives in Newport Coast, California, took sports bets from major league players of several sports who like to gamble, as well as their associates.

Among his customers: former Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig, who in 2022 pleaded guilty to a federal charge of lying to federal law enforcement officials about placing bets on sporting events.

Nix, who pitched for the Oakland Athletics minor league affiliate in Modesto, California, ran his bookmaking operation in the shadows for 20 years.

In court documents unsealed Thursday, federal officials identified Nix as the operator of an illegal bookmaking business they referred to as the “Nix Gambling Business,” detailed his operation and alluded to the players who placed bets with him.

Complimentary food, beverages and hotel rooms

Nix, 46, was a customer in Las Vegas well before he connected with Sibella, who hosted him at resort events at MGM properties from 2017 to early 2019 when he made the move to become president of Resorts World Las Vegas before it opened in June 2021.

According to court documents, Nix was assigned two unidentified marketing hosts. Those hosts were Nix’s primary points of contact at the casino and other affiliated properties, the documents say.

On numerous occasions, Nix was invited to “Scott Sibella Undercover Weekend” events, a reference to Sibella’s appearance on the reality television show “Undercover Boss.”

In court documents, federal agents documented six of Nix’s trips to these weekend events, detailing where he stayed, where he played and how he interacted with Sibella’s hosts.

In August 2017, Nix gambled at MGM Grand and The Mirage, which at the time was owned by MGM Resorts International. Now under new ownership, The Mirage was sold to Hard Rock International in late 2022 for $1.1 billion.

In May 2018, Sibella reserved a VIP suite for Nix at the MGM Grand and he gambled at that casino. In late June 2018, Nix gambled at The Mirage and Aria.

In late July 2018, Sibella approved complimentary food, beverages and hotel rooms at MGM Grand and spa services for Nix. On that trip, he gambled at MGM Grand and Aria. Nix also paid a $120,000 marker he owed to the casino. A casino marker is a short-term, interest-free line of credit extended to high-volume players allowing them to play large sums of money.

“When a customer wished to obtain chips on credit, the casino’s credit department would run a background check on the customer, which would include obtaining credit reports, calling banks and obtaining banking information, conducting public record searches, contacting marketing hosts, asking customers to self-identify their occupation and/or business position, and contacting unaffiliated casinos to determine the credit worthiness of the customer,” the court document says.

Court documents say Sibella deliberately avoided learning how Nix paid his marker and didn’t file any suspicious activity reports to authorities. Those are required whenever a transaction of more than $5,000 occurs.

In late August 2018, Nix attended an event and gambled at MGM Grand, The Mirage and Aria. During that trip, Sibella approved a complimentary limousine for Nix.

Also, in late November 2017, Nix was invited to an event in Palm Springs, California, hosted by Sibella.

Still awaiting trial

Yasiel Puig, the former Dodger, who also played in the major leagues in Cincinnati and Cleveland, most recently played professionally in the Dominican Republic. When he entered his guilty plea, he was playing for a team in South Korea.

According to his plea agreement, which was filed in August 2022, Puig began placing bets on sporting events in May 2019 through a third party — which is how Nix preferred to operate.

Puig called and sent text messages to a Nix associate who then submitted the bets to the Nix gambling business on Puig’s behalf. By June 2019, Puig owed Nix’s gambling business $282,900 for sports gambling losses. After pleading guilty in November 2022, he withdrew his plea. Puig’s case still hasn’t gone to trial.

Nix, meanwhile, pleaded guilty in federal court in April 2022 to one count of conspiracy to operate an illegal gambling business and one count of filing a false tax return. He is scheduled to be sentenced March 6.

Efforts to contact Nix on Friday for a comment were unsuccessful.

The Justice Department said the MGM Grand by 2020 had accepted more than $4 million in cash that were illicit proceeds from Nix’s illegal gambling business. MGM Grand and The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas were ordered to pay a combined $7.45 million fine as part of the money-laundering settlement connected to Sibella’s guilty plea on Wednesday.

Commenting on the settlement and fines, an MGM statement released late Friday said, “This resolution relates to past misconduct by former employees and does not represent the standards to which we hold our team. We take matters like this very seriously and have made significant updates to our compliance and reporting processes.”

Sibella is scheduled to be sentenced by U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee on May 8. He faces up to five years in prison and a fine of $250,000.

Contact Richard N. Velotta at rvelotta@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893. Follow @RickVelotta on X.

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