Ohtani clears the air on sports betting and fraud allegations

MLB Shohei Ohtani
Image: Conor P. Fitzgerald / Shutterstock

MLB superstar Shohei Ohtani has denied any wrongdoing following allegations of his former interpreter Ippei Mizuhara stealing millions from him to wager on sports.

Ohtani spoke to the media on Monday for the first time since allegations were made against his former confidant, Mizuhara, who allegedly partcipated in an illegal gambling operation run by California resident and bookie Matthew Bowyer. According to the LA Times, Mizuhara allegedly siphoned at least $4.5 million from Ohtani’s bank account to cover gambling losses. Mizuhara had previously told authorities the money was transferred by Ohtani.

“I’ve never bet on baseball or any other sports or asked someone to do it on my behalf,” said Ohtani during Monday’s press conference. “I’ve never asked a bookmaker to do it on my behalf. Up until a few days ago, I didn’t know this was happening. In conclusion, Ippei has been stealing money from my account and has told lies.”

Ohtani was first informed of Mizuhara’s allegedly stealing last week during the Los Angeles Dodgers’ trip to South Korea. During the trip, Mizuhara notified the team of his alleged fraud and gambling addiction which ultimately led to his firing as Ohtani’s long-time interpreter.

“I’m very saddened and shocked that someone who I have trusted has done this. Up until that team meeting, I didn’t even know Ippei had a gambling addiction and was in debt,” continued Ohtani through a new interpreter provided by the Dodgers. “I never agreed to pay off the debt or make payments to the bookmaker.”

Last week, MLB announced that its Department of Investigations would begin a formal probe on the matter. Despite Ohtani’s name being included in bank transfers with Bowyer, the two-time American League MVP is expected to avoid any penalty handed by MLB.

Mizuhara’s alleged theft has drawn gambling concerns from decision-makers nationwide.

“This situation clearly demonstrates the impact and harm that gambling addiction can inflict,” said Rep. Paul Tonko. “The widespread legalization and promotion of sports gambling will only make this type of incident more common moving forward. We have an obligation to address the predatory practices of this industry and protect consumers.”

Recent gambling issues outside of MLB

The commonality of these types of incidents became a reality amid recent news that Toronto Raptors forward Jontay Porter is under investigation for alleged betting irregularities, per ESPN. The 24-year-old, who has been removed from the Raptors’ lineup, saw large amounts of money placed on the under of his player prop markets for two games. During those contests, Porter played limited minutes due to alleged injury and illness.

NBA players and personnel are prohibited from wagering on any league event or player.