Ohtani says he never bet on sports, had no knowledge of Mizuhara's gambling

March 26th, 2024

LOS ANGELES -- Shohei Ohtani sat back in his seat inside the press conference room at Dodger Stadium. He adjusted his cap and opened a folder that consisted of some of the points he wanted to make sure he relayed.

For the first time since Major League Baseball announced an investigation into the gambling allegations surrounding Ippei Mizuhara, Ohtani’s longtime interpreter and close confidant, the Dodgers’ star designated hitter addressed the situation on his own.

In the 12-minute press conference, which only consisted of Ohtani talking through interpreter Will Ireton and no questions from the 70-plus reporters in attendance, the two-time unanimous American League Most Valuable Player said that he has never bet on baseball or other sports and has not made any payments to an illegal bookmaker.

“I’ve never bet on baseball or any other sports or asked someone to do it on my behalf,” Ohtani said. “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.”

The initial story surrounding the sports gambling allegations surfaced early Wednesday morning in South Korea while the Dodgers were in the middle of a two-game series against the Padres.

Before the first game in Seoul, Mizuhara spoke to ESPN and claimed that Ohtani had wired money to the illegal bookmaker in order to cover Mizuhara’s debt, which was a reported sum of at least $4.5 million. Mizuhara later backtracked and said Ohtani had no knowledge of his gambling debts.

Ohtani recalled that before the opening game against the Padres on Wednesday, Mizuhara had approached him at the stadium, asking him to speak following the game.

“I was told by Ippei, ‘Let’s talk one on one in the hotel after the meeting,’ so I was waiting until then,” Ohtani said.

Mizuhara addressed the Dodgers inside the clubhouse following their win that night, and during that address, Ohtani said he was confused, explaining that it was the first time he had heard about Mizuhara’s gambling debts or his claims that he had willingly given him money in order to pay off the sum.

“Up until that team meeting,” Ohtani said. “I didn’t even know Ippei had a gambling addiction and was in debt. I never agreed to pay off the debt or make payments to the bookmaker.”

Once Ohtani and Mizuhara got back to the team hotel, Ohtani said, the two longtime friends sat down and talked through the situation. While Ohtani didn’t get into any specifics of that conversation, he did walk away understanding that Mizuhara had taken money from his bank account.

“When we went back to the hotel and talked one on one, that’s when I found out he had a massive debt,” Ohtani said. “It was revealed to me during that meeting, Ippei admitted he was sending money, using my account, to the bookmaker.”

Ohtani didn’t address how Mizuhara gained access to his account or why the former interpreter first claimed that Ohtani willingly lent him money to pay the bookmaker, though he did say that Mizuhara “never revealed to me” about the media inquiries. He also acknowledged that his talk with Mizuhara at the hotel led to him reaching out to his representatives with questions surrounding potential theft.

“When I was finally able to talk to my representatives, that’s when my representatives found out Ippei has been lying the whole time and I started contacting the Dodgers and my lawyers,” Ohtani said. “And the Dodgers and the lawyers found out as well that they have been lied to. My lawyers recommended that since this is fraud, that we have the proper authorities handle this matter.”

In the end, Ohtani wanted to reiterate that he never made bets, especially not on baseball. That, of course, is an important distinction.

Major League Baseball’s Rule 21 (d)(3) states that “Any player, umpire, or Club or League official or employee who places bets with illegal book makers, or agents for illegal book makers, shall be subject to such penalty as the Commissioner deems appropriate in light of the facts and circumstances of the conduct.”

In 2015, Marlins pitcher Jarred Cosart was fined and not suspended by MLB for violating Rule 21 (d)(3), though after it was determined by the league that Cosart had not bet on baseball.

“I’m just beyond shocked. It’s really hard to verbalize how I am feeling at this point,” Ohtani said. “I’m going to let my lawyers handle matters from here on out. I’m looking forward to focusing on the season. … I’m sure there will be continuing investigations moving forward.”

MLB announced on Friday that the league had begun the formal process of investigating the matter.