Shohei Ohtani Betting Scandal: Is Interpreter Taking Fall for MLB Star’s Gambling?

  • Illegal bookmaker Matthew Bowyer received $4.5m from Shohei Ohtani
  • The story has changed from paying an interpreter’s debts to “massive theft”
  • Some are questioning how the interpreter would steal funds or rack up such a debt
  • Ohtani will meet with reporters on Monday to shed more light on the situation
Baseball with money
Some aspects of the Ohtani sports betting scandal are raising eyebrows. [Image:]

Scandal grips sports world

MLB has become engulfed in one of sport’s biggest ever betting scandals over the past week. That story centers around Los Angeles Dodgers star Shohei Ohtani, who transferred to the baseball team last year by signing a staggering $700m contract – the largest amount handed out by any team in sports history.

Ohtani’s bank account transferred $4.5m to an illegal bookmaker in California

It has come to light that Ohtani’s bank account transferred $4.5m to an illegal bookmaker in California. This might seem like an open and shut case – if Ohtani placed the wagers, he is guilty of breaking not only MLB policy, but also Californian law. However, there seems to be more to this story than first meets the eye.

Ohtani’s translator Ippei Mizuhara has taken the fall, claiming that he placed the bets and Ohtani was simply helping him out with his debts. The translator was fired by the Dodgers last week, ending a decade-long partnership with Ohtani. But that certainly hasn’t ended the controversy.

Flip flopping stories

While Mizuhara has admitted that he placed the bets, it is clear from changing narratives that not everyone is telling the truth.

The story first came to light because of Matthew Bowyer, an illegal bookmaker currently under investigation by the FBI. ESPN and the LA Times uncovered that Ohtani’s name appeared in some of the files relating to that case, with the baseball star responsible for two $500,000 payments to Bowyer.

When EPSN then questioned Ohtani directly about the payments, his representative said it was Mizuhara who bet on sports and Ohtani had to cover his losses. In a 90-minute interview, the interpreter confessed to ESPN that he started placing bets on credit with Bowyer after meeting him in 2021. His losses reached $1m by 2022 and ballooned from there, but he claimed he never bet on baseball.

Ohtani’s representatives backtracked on their initial story

Supposedly unconvinced that he wouldn’t gamble the money away, Ohtani sent the money to Bowyer directly from his own account, according to Mizuhara.  However, upon hearing that Mizuhara had provided this revelation, Ohtani’s representatives backtracked on their initial story. They claimed Ohtani didn’t send the money, and was instead the victim of “massive theft” at the hands of his interpreter.

Fact or fiction?

While it is difficult to gauge the truth of either side’s story in this case, there are certainly points that have raised an eyebrow or two among the press and baseball fans alike.

Firstly, we know from the case files that Ohtani sent money to Bowyer directly from his bank account. It is unlikely that an interpreter would have access to the bank account of his sports star employer, no matter how closely they work together.

It seems more likely that Ohtani changed his story because sending money to an illegal bookmaker violates the US criminal code, possibly resulting in a fine or even jail time. This theory gained more traction when videos surfaced of Mizuhara and Ohtani acting friendly during a game on Wednesday last week, after the revelations had come to light.

Mizuhara was paid between $300,000 and $500,000 annually by the Dodgers

It is also important to note that Mizuhara was paid between $300,000 and $500,000 annually by the Dodgers, and made just $85,000 at the start of his betting streak, according to his ESPN interview. While illegal bookmakers are certainly shady, it would be a foolish decision to accept $4.5m worth of bets from the translator knowing that there is most likely no chance of him paying them back – that is, unless he made it clear that he had the financial backing of one of the world’s richest sports stars.

There are also serious questions regarding Mizuhara’s past. According to The Athletic, despite what is reported in his public biography, Mizuhara did not graduate from the University of California-Riverside. In fact, upon questioning, the school said that they had no record of him attending at all. The Red Sox also claimed that Mizuhara never worked for them, despite the interpreter’s biography reporting that he had his first job with the team from 2007 to 2011.

What is next?

Speaking in the Dodgers’ clubhouse on Sunday, Ohtani said he will meet with reporters on Monday to address the controversy. Dave Roberts, Dodgers coach, said that Ohtani has taken the decision to talk and this is not a choice made by the team.  Meanwhile, the Dodgers are supposedly investigating the “massive theft” claims made by Ohtani.

There are three main possibilities in this case. Either Mizuhara placed the bets and Ohtani covered his losses, Mizuhara stole the cash from Ohtani to place the bets himself, or Ohtani placed the bets and Mizuhara has taken the fall in the public eye. Whatever the case, baseball fans are hoping Ohtani’s comments on Monday shed a little more light on the situation.

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