Shohei Ohtani Says He 'Never Bet on Baseball or Any Other Sports' amid Link to Illegal Gambling

The MLB star spoke to media for the first time since the Dodgers dismissed his longtime interpreter after allegations of "massive theft"

<p>Meg Oliphant/Getty</p> Shohei Ohtani is introduced by the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium on December 14, 2023 in Los Angeles, California

Shohei Ohtani said he has "never bet on baseball or any other sports" and was "saddened and shocked" by the accusations that his former interpreter Ippei Mizuhara used the pitcher's funds to bet on sports with an illegal bookmaker.

Speaking to the media on Monday, the Los Angeles Dodgers star, 29, read from a prepared statement and took no questions.

“I never bet on baseball or any other sports and have never asked someone to do so on my behalf and have never bet through a bookmaker,” Ohtani said through interpreter Will Ireton. "Until a couple of days ago, I didn’t know this was happening... Ippei has stolen money from my account and told lies.”

Ohtani said the media contacted his representatives about his "potential involvement" in sports betting while he was in South Korea with the Dodgers last week. He said he did not know Mizuhara was in debt and had a "gambling addiction" until he spoke with his former interpreter in a private meeting after the first game.

"Ippei told to the media and to the representatives that I, on behalf of a friend, paid off debt," Ohtani said Monday. "Upon further questioning, it was revealed that it was actually in fact Ippei who … was in debt and told my representatives that I was paying off those debts.” 

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The statement is Ohtani's first comment to the media since Mizuhara was fired by the baseball team after he was accused of “massive theft" by Ohtani's lawyers last week.

Muzuhara, 39, who served as Ohtani's interpreter since his MLB debut in 2018, allegedly used the athlete's for gambling bets with an alleged illegal bookmaker who is currently under federal investigation, reports The Los Angeles TimesESPN and The Athletic.

“In the course of responding to recent media inquiries, we discovered that Shohei has been the victim of a massive theft, and we are turning the matter over to the authorities," Ohtani's attorneys at Berk Brettler LLP said in a statement to ESPN and The Los Angeles Times.

On Sunday, a reporter for The Athletic approached Ohtani at his locker before the Dodgers played his former team, the Los Angeles Angels, but the pitcher said he would speak on the matter "tomorrow."

According to the report, Ohtani, Ireton, and a spokesperson for the Dodgers confirmed that a statement would be made on Monday.

The outlet also confirmed that Ohtani would not be taking questions from reporters during the conference.

<p>Meg Oliphant/Getty</p> Shohei Ohtani is introduced by the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium on December 14, 2023.

Meg Oliphant/Getty

Shohei Ohtani is introduced by the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium on December 14, 2023.

On Sunday, Dodgers general manager Dave Roberts told The Athletic that addressing the situation is "the right thing" for Ohtani to do amid the ongoing reports. “I’m happy he’s going to speak, speak to what he knows and give his thoughts on the whole situation. I think it’ll give us a little bit more clarity," Roberts added.

Roberts told the outlet that there are no plans in place for Ohtani to discuss the situation separately with his teammates, which Mizuhara reportedly did in the club before his departure.

According to The Athletic, Mizuhara admitted to having a gambling problem during the meeting with the club.

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The Los Angeles Times first discovered Ohtani's name in an investigation involving an Orange County resident named Matthew Bowyer. It was reported that Mizuhara allegedly placed illegal bets with Bowyer, with wire transfers in Ohtani’s name.

Bowyer's attorney, Diane Bass, told the Los Angeles Times, "Mathew Bowyer never met, spoke with, or texted, or had contact in any way with Shohei Ohtani." Bass said her client has not been charged with a crime.

According to ESPN, Mizuhara began placing sports bets — which are illegal in California — in 2021 on international soccer games, the NBA, the NFL and college football, but never baseball.

<p>Chris Coduto/Getty</p> Shohei Ohtani during workouts at Camelback Ranch on February 14, 2024 in Glendale, Arizona.

Chris Coduto/Getty

Shohei Ohtani during workouts at Camelback Ranch on February 14, 2024 in Glendale, Arizona.

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Although Ohtani’s name was on the wire transfers, Mizuhara and multiple other sources told ESPN that the MLB star does not gamble.

Mizuhara reportedly told ESPN that his gambling debts totaled $4.5 million.

A spokesman for Ohtani first told ESPN that the pitcher transferred funds to help his interpreter’s gambling debt on Tuesday. However, Ohtani's spokesman "disavowed Mizuhara's account and said Ohtani's lawyers would issue a statement," ESPN reports.

In an interview with ESPN, Mizuhara claimed that Ohtani did not know of his gambling debts after he previously claimed that Ohtani was aware of his debts.

"Obviously, this is all my fault, everything I've done," he told ESPN. "I'm ready to face all the consequences."

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