Shohei Ohtani Breaks Silence, Denies Responsibility in Gambling Scandal

Grant Mitchell
Grant Mitchell
Baseball news


  • Ohtani said the money was sent by his longtime interpreter, Ippei Mizuhara
  • Representatives of Ohtani told MLB he was the victim of a “massive theft”
  • Mizuhara claims that he bet on sports other than baseball

Los Angeles Dodgers megastar Shohei Ohtani on Monday denied any wrongdoing in a multi-million-dollar gambling scandal he claims was orchestrated by his interpreter, Ippei Mizuhara. 

News first broke last week that funds from Ohtani’s account were used to pay seven figures to an illegal bookmaker. That came immediately after his representatives informed MLB that he was the victim of a “massive theft” which he asserts was orchestrated by Mizuhara. 

Mizuhara told ESPN in an interview last week that Ohtani offered to pay off his $4.5 million gambling debt but changed his story the next day, claiming the Japanese slugger was unaware of the transactions.

Drama overseas 

News of the scandal first broke while the Dodgers were in Seoul, South Korea, for the league’s season-opening match against the San Diego Padres.

Ohtani met alone with Mizuhara last Wednesday after a team meeting gave him the impression that there was a problem. That’s when he says Mizuhara informed him that he had used his money to pay off his balances.

Ohtani, who is not always eager to address the media, spoke for the first time on Monday at a press conference where he denied any responsibility or knowledge regarding the payment of millions of dollars to bookies. 

“I wanted to be here to be able to talk,” Ohtani said through Dodgers interpreter Will Ireton. “I'm sure it was a tough week for fans and the organization. On a personal note, I'm very saddened and shocked that someone I trusted has done this. 

“I never bet on baseball or any other sports,” Ohtani continued. “I have never asked anybody to do that on my behalf. I have never gone through a bookmaker to bet on sports. Up until a couple of days ago, I didn't know this was happening.” 

The Dodgers fired Mizuhara the same day of the team’s first game and his meeting with Ohtani. 

The IRS and MLB are both looking into the situation. If Ohtani was the one gambling on games, he may be suspended for a year; if he gambled on games he participated in, he may be exiled from the league, thanks to MLB Rule 21. 

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred Jr. also has the power to reprimand a player who uses an illegal offshore bookmaker instead of any of the available legal sports betting sites.

Reacting to the news 

Ohtani shared that he was limited in what he could say to the media because of the investigation. However, he claims that he contacted his representatives as soon as he found out about Mizuhara's thievery.

“When I was finally able to talk to my representatives, that's when my representatives found out [Mizuhara] has been lying the whole time,” Ohtani said. “And that's when I contacted the Dodgers and my lawyers.

“In conclusion, I do want to make it clear I never bet on sports or have willfully sent money to the bookmaker. To summarize how I'm feeling right now, I'm beyond shocked. It's hard to verbalize how I'm feeling at this point.”

MLB players are allowed to be on non-baseball sports so long as they go through legal sportsbooks and betting apps. However, California is one of 12 states that have yet to legalize sports betting.

A lawyer representing the supposed bookmaker Mizuhara placed his bets with, Mathew Bowyer, said his client never spoke to or met Ohtani.

Mizuhara also said that he never bet on baseball and instead racked up his massive debt by gambling on other sports.

Ohtani, a two-time MVP and the league’s only two-way player, signed a 10-year, $700 million deal with the Dodgers on December 9, 2023, and immediately vaulted to the top of World Series futures odds

They also signed another Japanese phenom, 25-year-old Yoshinobu Yamamoto, on December 27.

Ohtani went 2-5 with an RBI and a stolen base in his Dodgers debut in a 5-2 win against the Padres last Wednesday. He followed it up by going 1-5 with a run and an RBI in a 15-11 loss on Thursday.