Shohei Ohtani ‘Saddened and Shocked’ by Interpreter’s Illegal Gambling Allegations

Los Angeles Dodgers star Shohei Ohtani issued his first public comments since he became embroiled in a betting scandal involving his former interpreter, Ippei Mizuhara. The athlete said he was “saddened and shocked” by the illegal gambling allegations against his longtime interpreter Ippei Mizuhara, and denied placing bets on sports.

With his new interpreter Will Ireton by his side, Ohtani said that he did not discover Mizuhara’s gambling addiction until after a postgame clubhouse meeting in Korea last Wednesday.

“I never bet on baseball or any other sports, or never have asked somebody to do it on my behalf. I have never went through a bookmaker to bet on sports,” he stated on Monday afternoon.

He continued, confirming the timeline of events previously issued by his representatives. “During the team meeting, obviously, Ippei was speaking in English and I didn’t have a translator on my side, but even with that, I kind of understood what was going on and started to feel that there was something amiss,” said Ohtani. “Up until that team meeting, I didn’t know that Ippei had a gambling addiction and was in debt. Obviously at that point, I obviously never agreed to pay off the debt or make payments to the bookmaker.”

The ballplayer said that once they got back to the hotel, he talked with Ippei “one-to-one” and learned of his former interpreter’s “massive debt.” He added, “It was revealed to me during that meeting that Ippei admitted that he was sending money, using my account, to the bookmaker, and at that moment, obviously it was an absurd thing that was happening and I contacted my representatives at that point.”

The saga has engulfed the baseball world for over a week, casting a shadow over a special two-game series between the Dodgers and San Diego Padres in Seoul, South Korea, as well as opening day (set for this Thursday, March 28). The broad strokes include a $4.5 million gambling debt; Mizuhara’s firing last Wednesday; the involvement of an alleged illegal bookie in Orange County, just south of Los Angeles; and two contradicting explanations that emerged from Ohtani’s lawyers and Mizuhara himself, which fueled more questions than answers. 

The story first broke with a Los Angeles Times article on March 20. The paper said Mizuhara was fired amid allegations of illegal gambling, with Ohtani’s lawyers accusing the interpreter of stealing the baseball player’s money to place bets. The athlete’s lawyers made the claim after The Times learned that Ohtani’s name had appeared in a federal investigation into the allegedly illegal bookie, Matthew Bowyer. 

This early report also quoted sources who said Bowyer allegedly bragged to Las Vegas associates that he had a connection with Ohtani for “marketing purposes.” (Sports betting is still illegal in California.)

Shortly after The Times story, ESPN published its own report that included quotes from an interview with Mizuhara conducted the day before, March 19. Mizuhara claimed that he’d actually asked Ohtani in 2023 to pay off his gambling debts. He said he thought the bets he’d placed were legal, and claimed he only bet on NBA, NFL, college football, and international soccer game. “I never bet on baseball. That’s 100 percent. I knew that rule,” he said.

However, by Wednesday, Mizuhara had walked back his own interview and claimed Ohtani knew nothing about his gambling debts and didn’t transfer any money to Bowyer’s associate on his behalf. “Obviously, this is all my fault, everything I’ve done,” Mizuhara said. “I’m ready to face all the consequences.”


By Friday, Major League Baseball announced that it had opened its own investigation into the scandal. “Major League Baseball has been gathering information since we learned about the allegations involving Shohei Ohtani and Ippei (Mizuhara) from the news media,” the commissioner’s office said in a statement. “Earlier today, our Department of Investigations began their formal process investigating the matter.”

During Monday’s press conference, Ohtani accused Ippei of lying and said he “basically didn’t tell me about the media inquiry.” At one point, the player said, “To summarize how I’m feeling right now, I’m just beyond shocked. It’s really hard to verbalize how I am feeling at this point.”