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MLB Superstar Shohei Ohtani Denies Sports Gambling

Biggest star on the planet faces scandal.

After waving goodbye to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and relocating to the LA Dodgers, it was supposed to be a fresh (and winning) start for international superstar Shohei Ohtani. Instead of concentrating on being the $700 million phenom he is, the two-way player has been forced to confront a sports gambling scandal. It seems he may have already cleared his name, so has Ohtani dodged a bullet, or is there another truth somewhere among the angels in the outfield?

Showtime for Shohei Ohtani

Shohei Ohtani spoke to the press for the first time since his longtime Japanese interpreter, Ippei Mizuhara, was accused of stealing from his bank account to gamble on sports. Following multiple contradictory reports for the past week, the modern-day Babe Ruth provided his side of the story.

For approximately 12 minutes in front of dozens of press members, Ohtani read off notes that confirmed he never gambled on sports and did not order Mizuhara to wire funds from his bank account to pay a bookie. According to the pitcher and designated hitter, Mizuhara “has been stealing money from us and has told lies.”

“I never bet on baseball or any other sports or never have asked somebody to do that on my behalf. I have never went through a bookmaker to bet on sports. Up until a couple of days ago, I didn’t know that this was happening,” he said through his new interpreter, Will Ireton, the former manager of performance operations at the Dodgers. “On a personal note, I’m very sad and shocked that someone who I’ve trusted has done this.”

His longtime associate claimed that Ohtani had sent several transactions in increments of $500,000 to a Southern California-based bookmaker named Mathew Boyer over the past year. “That hasn’t been true,” the Dodgers star explained.

“And it was revealed to me in that meeting that Ippei admitted that he was sending money, using my account, to the bookmaker. At that moment, obviously it was an absurd thing that was happening, and I contacted my representatives at that point. When I finally was able to talk to my representatives, that’s when my representatives found out Ippei had been lying the whole time. And that’s when I began contacting the Dodgers and my lawyers. The Dodgers and the lawyers at that moment found out as well that they’d been lied to.”

With the air cleared, Shohei Ohtani concluded that he is looking forward to concentrating on the 2024 MLB season that gets underway this week (technically, the Dodgers’ season started a week ago).

The Ohtani Scandal Timeline

For non-baseball fans, this might be a complicated tale of betrayal, deception, and coverups. So, here is a timeline of events since this affair became the top baseball story in the world.

During the much-anticipated two-game series between the San Diego Padres and LA Dodgers in Seoul, South Korea, on March 18, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred learned something involving Ohtani was occurring. ESPN, which received a related tip several months ago, inquired with MLB the next day about information regarding Ohtani’s name appearing on two wire transfers totaling $1 million. Ohtani’s camp then engaged ESPN with questionable communications, including Ohtani admitting, “Yeah, I sent several large payments. That’s the maximum amount I could send.” The sports news network then found that the gambling debt totaled at least $4.5 million.

Shohei Ohtani to speaks in wake of allegations against ex-interpreter at Dodger Stadium...Los Angeles, CA - March 25: Shohei Ohtani to speaks in wake of allegations against ex-interpreter at Dodger Stadium on Monday, March 25, 2024 in Los Angeles, CA. (Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

(Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

Mizuhara then participated in a 90-minute telephone interview with ESPN, explaining how he met Boyer, how he placed wagers on several sports (not baseball), and how he struggled to keep up with Shohei Ohtani’s lifestyle. “I explained my situation. And obviously, he wasn’t happy about it, but he said he would help me,” Mizuhara stated. “I just told him I need to send a wire to pay off the debt. He didn’t ask if it was illegal, didn’t question me about that.”

Ohtani’s ex-interpreter iterated that Ohtani never gambled and “thinks gambling is terrible.” He, according to Mizuhara, moved on from the incident and focused on baseball.

As the story traveled across social media, MLB attempted to find additional answers from federal authorities. In the meantime, the Dodgers hosted a clubhouse meeting and noted that a negative story about Shohei Ohtani had been coming. Mizuhara would tell everyone that he had a gambling addiction. Andrew Friedman, a Dodgers executive, stood up and said Ohtani helped cover Mizuhara’s debts. However, Ohtani disagreed with Mizuhara’s version of events after asking what had transpired during the meeting. It turned out that all communications between Ohtani and the rest of the camp had gone through Mizuhara.

Ohtani’s legal team issued a statement on March 20, claiming that he had “been the victim of a massive theft, and we are turning the matter over to the authorities.” Mizuhara admitted to lying in his interview with ESPN and was fired by the Dodgers.

In recent days, the IRS has confirmed that Mizuhara and Bowyer are under criminal investigation, and Ohtani was not accused of gambling at any point during the probe. MLB also announced that an official investigation is taking place. Is it case closed? Time will tell, but Ohtani will continue playing throughout the investigation.

Time to Ditch Gambling?

Will it be proved that Shohei Ohtani is the victim of fraud and betrayal? Fyodor Dostoevsky wrote in The Gambler: “People really do like seeing their best friends humiliated; a large part of the friendship is based on humiliation.” However, Ohtani is a man who will collect $680 million once he retires from Major League Baseball, so his problems will be solved. What about the millions of impoverished addicts?

Gambling has become integral to baseball and the broader sports arena. Fans will watch a broadcast and be inundated with betting ads. It has become so egregious that some hosts say participants could win [insert dollar amount here] if a player accomplishes a particular hit. Of course, everyone is encouraged to bet responsibly. However, for a problem that affects four to six million people, why legitimize any gambling platform to mainstream audiences? At the same time, as Dostoevsky also wrote in the novel, “For why is gambling a whit worse than any other method of acquiring money?”

Read More From Andrew Moran

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