Ohtani Interpreter Involved In Alleged Illegal Sports Betting Scandal

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Major League Baseball superstar Shohei Ohtani is at the forefront of a sports betting scandal involving his now-fired interpreter. 

The Los Angeles Times reported Wednesday that attorneys for Ohtani accuse his former interpreter, Ippei Mizuhara, of stealing millions of dollars from the two-way star in order to make bets with an alleged illegal bookmaker. 

However, ESPN reported that at least $4.5 million in wire transfers were sent from Ohtani’s bank account to the bookmaker to cover his interpreter’s sports betting debt. 

How sports betting scandal evolved

Mizuhara told ESPN on Tuesday that he previously wagered with DraftKings Sportsbook. He assumed wagers through southern California bookmaker Matthew Bowyer, which reportedly comprise the vast majority of his bets, were legal.

Bowyer is currently being investigated by federal authorities. ESPN reported that a pair of $500,000 payments with Ohtani’s name on them were sent to an associate of Bowyer, marked as “loans.” 

Sports betting is illegal in California, where Ohtani played for the Los Angeles Angels, and now plays for the Los Angeles Dodgers

“Obviously, he (Ohtani) wasn’t happy about it and said he would help me out to make sure I never do this again,” Mizuhara told ESPN. “He decided to pay it off for me.

“I want everyone to know Shohei had zero involvement in betting. I want people to know I did not know this was illegal. I learned my lesson the hard way. I will never do sports betting ever again.” 

Mizuhara changes tune on payments

Yet on Wednesday, Mizuhara told ESPN that Ohtani had no knowledge of his gambling debts, nor had he transferred any money to Bowyer’s associate. 

The Dodgers fired Mizuhara on Wednesday. He said he never made any wagers on baseball.

“That’s 100%. I knew that rule … We have a meeting about that in spring training,” Mizuhara told ESPN. 

Bad reporting changed Ohtani odds

This is not the first time Ohtani’s name is in the news regarding gambling, but previously he was just the topic for an unusual circumstance.

Inaccurate reporting on Ohtani’s offseason signing with the Dodgers (10 years, $700 million) shifted the World Series odds. It again put a spotlight on the slippery slope that exists between sports journalism and the sports betting industry. 

A report by an MLB Network insider wrongly suggested that Ohtani was on a plane to Toronto and could sign with the Blue Jays.

Longtime Las Vegas bookmaker on free-agent situation

“It was a frenzy. Here we are thinking it’s gonna be Toronto. We had Toronto co-favorites (to win the World Series) with Atlanta at about 7-1, thinking that’s where he was gonna sign. The Dodgers were definitely higher there around 9-1, I believe. Then he ends up signing with the Dodgers. So now we gotta make a quick move and the Dodgers become the favorite at +475. Toronto goes back to 18-1,” DraftKings Sportsbook director of racing and sportsbook operations Johnny Avello previously told Gaming Today.

“These are the type of things you really gotta stay on top of. I thought when I first saw the story that Toronto was for sure where he was going. But who knows, right? I mean, you just never know it until the papers are signed.”