MLB Commish Explains Evolving View on Gambling Policy, Ohtani Translator Betting Scandal

Sportsbooks/Bookmakers Crime
Edward Scimia

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Edward Scimia


Last Updated 8th May 2024, 02:10 PM

MLB Commish Explains Evolving View on Gambling Policy, Ohtani Translator Betting Scandal

Rob Manfred spoke Monday about the importance of regulation in sports betting and answered questions about the Shohei Ohtani translator’s gambling scandal. (Image: © Tampa Bay Times via ZUMA Press Wire/Alamy)

Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred told reporters Monday that the league is content to wait out the legal process surrounding the sports betting scandal involving Shohei Ohtani’s former interpreter Ippei Mizuhara.

Federal authorities have charged Mizuhara with bank fraud and other charges after he allegedly stole from Ohtani more than $16 million to pay gambling debts to an illegal California bookmaker. 

MLB Defers to Feds in Mizuhara Investigation

According to Manfred, the best way for MLB to proceed at this point is to see what the federal investigation turns up throughout the legal process.

“Realistically, what makes the most sense for us is just to kind of let the criminal process play out a little bit,” Manfred told reporters during his annual meeting with the Associated Press Sports Editors. “Rarely are we fortunate enough to find ourselves in a position where a criminal process plays out in a way that cannot be the need for us to do the investigation. This could be one of those. Law enforcement officials have tools available at their disposal that are a lot more powerful than what we have.”

When the story broke in late March, attention turned to the fact that $500,000 payments were wired from one of Ohtani’s bank accounts to a bookmaker in Southern California. Ohtani went on to deny that he has ever bet on any sports

According to the federal indictment, Mizuhara had control over one of Ohtani’s accounts – the one where the Los Angeles Angels deposited the superstar’s salary. ESPN reported that the money wired from that account went to bookmaker Mathew Bowyer and his associates, after being funneled through casinos in Las Vegas and California

Manfred Comes Around on Regulated Sports Betting for League Integrity

While Manfred initially addressed the progress of the Mizuhara investigation, he was also asked to address MLB’s relationship with sports betting more broadly. Manfred said that while MLB now embraces the industry, it was an unwilling partner who is simply making the best of the current situation.

“We were kind of dragged into legalized sports betting as a litigant in a case that ended up in the Supreme Court,” Manfred said, referencing the Murphy vs. NCAA case that ended a federal prohibition on sports betting in 2018. “Having said that, I recognize – probably better today than when we were involved in that litigation – that one of the advantages of legalization is it’s a heck of a lot easier to monitor what’s going on than it is with an illegal operation.”

Partnerships with regulated sports betting operators have helped leagues detect and punish players who have bet on their respective sports. Recently, the NBA handed a lifetime ban to former Toronto Raptors forward Jontay Porter for betting on basketball and providing inside information to bettors. Similarly, the NFL suspended Isaiah Rodgers for making bets with a regulated sportsbook in Indiana, a punishment that was recently lifted after nearly a year.

Even now, however, Manfred says MLB continues to lobby for limits on certain aspects of sports betting. In particular, he says that the league is against the wide variety of prop bets available on its games.

“We’ve been on prop bets from the very beginning,” Manfred said. “When we lobby in states, there’s always certain types of bets that we have lobbied against. I mean, the first pitch of the game, we really don’t want that available as a prop bet.”

Meet The Author

16 Years
Edward Scimia
Edward Scimia
Journalist Journalist

Ed Scimia is a freelance writer who has been covering the gaming industry since 2008. He graduated from Syracuse University in 2003 with degrees in Magazine Journalism and Political Science. In his time as a freelancer, Ed has worked for,, and, among other sites. He has also authored multiple books and enjoys curling competitively, which has led to him creating curling-related content for his YouTube channel "Chess on Ice."

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