Shohei Ohtani Denies Betting on Baseball, Other Sports

Sportsbooks/Bookmakers Crime
Edward Scimia

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Edward Scimia

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Last Updated on 25th March 2024, 11:58 PM

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Shohei Ohtani Denies Betting on Baseball, Other Sports

Shohei Ohtani (right) and former translator Ippei Mizuhara (center) during the MLB opening game against the San Diego Padres at the Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul, South Korea, last week before Mizuhara was fired due to alleged illegal gambling. (Image: The Yomiuri Shimbun / Associated Press / Alamy)

Los Angeles Dodgers star Shohei Ohtani talked to reporters for more than 10 minutes on Monday to discuss the allegations surrounding his former interpreter and a series of wire payments made to an illicit sportsbook from Ohtani’s bank account. 

Ohtani did not take questions during the Los Angeles press conference, and used Dodgers Manager of Performance Operations Will Ireton to translate his statement. 

Ohtani: ‘I’ve Never Bet on Baseball or Any Other Sports’

Throughout that time, Ohtani read from a document in front of him. He spent much of the press conference confirming the stories that former interpreter Ippei Mizuhara stole money from him to cover gambling debts incurred with a Southern California sports betting operation. He also denied ever betting on sports himself.

“I’ve never bet on baseball or any other sports or never have asked someone to do it on my behalf,” Ohtani told reporters. “I have never [gone] through a bookmaker to bet on sports.”

This marked the first time that Ohtani spoke publicly since the scandal broke last Wednesday. That’s when the Dodgers fired Mizuhara after investigating questions surrounding $4.5 million in wire transfers that originated from one of Ohtani’s bank accounts and were directed to alleged California bookmaker Mathew Bowyer, who is under federal investigation.

When the story first came to light, a spokesperson for Ohtani told ESPN that the two-time American League MVP had transferred the funds to cover Mizuhara’s events. However, that account was soon disavowed, with Ohtani’s lawyers saying that he had instead been the victim of a massive theft.

According to Ohtani, he learned about the situation when Mizuhara addressed the team at a meeting before Wednesday’s game between the Dodgers and the San Diego Padres in Seoul, South Korea. During the meeting, Mizuhara revealed that he had a gambling problem. 

“Up until that team meeting I didn’t know Ippei had a gambling addiction or was in debt,” Ohtani told reporters on Monday. 

‘An Absurd Thing That Was Happening’

Ohtani says that media outlets began asking questions about the wire transfers sometime last week, but Mizuhara failed to relay those messages to him. In a conversation between Ohtani and Mizuhara Wednesday night, it became clear that the translator had accumulated a substantial debt. Ohtani says that this is when Mizuhara also admitted to using his accounts to make payments to the bookmaker.

“At that moment, it was obviously an absurd thing that was happening, and I contacted my representatives at that point,” Ohtani said.

According to Ohtani, he never agreed to make any payments on Mizuhura’s behalf.

“I am very saddened and shocked someone whom I trusted has done this,” Ohtani said.

While some in the public have speculated as to whether it was Ohtani himself that made some or all of the bets, there is reporting that appears to corroborate the account the two-way star is providing. ESPN reported that sources close to Bowyer’s operation say that the bookmaker has dealt directly with Mizuhara since 2021. According to at least one of ESPN’s sources, Bowyer saw Ohtani’s name on the wire transfers, but didn’t ask questions, instead allowing people to think Ohtani was betting with him to raise the profile of his business.

Ohtani began his Major League Baseball career in 2018, joining the Los Angeles Angels as both a pitcher and a designated hitter. He has excelled in both regards, earning himself the American League MVP Award in both 2021 and 2023. In December 2023, Ohtani signed a 10-year, $700 million contract to play with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

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Edward Scimia
Edward Scimia
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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 About.com, Gambling.com, and Covers.com, 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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