Shohei Ohtani Denies Any Involvement in Sports Gambling or Paying Off Former Translator’s Gambling Debts

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Los Angeles Dodgers superstar Shohei Ohtani has utterly denied any involvement in sports betting of any kind or that he agreed to pay off former translator Ippei Mizuhara‘s gambling debt to a California bookmaker, reported to be some $4.5M. Ohtani’s statement came during a press briefing before the March 25 exhibition game at Dodgers Stadium against the Los Angeles Angels.

Reading in Japanese from a prepared statement, which he read in an animated albeit for the most part not overly emotional voice and was translated for those in attendance by Dodgers employee Will Ireton, Ohtani stated that he first learned of Mizuhara’s problem at a postgame meeting following the Dodgers’ 5-2 win over the San Diego Padres in Seoul, South Korea on March 20 in a special season-opening series. 

The story being presented at that time by Mizuhara contradicted Ohtani’s statement, as Mizuhara originally asserted that after he had accumulated the debt to bookie Mathew Boyer, he had informed Ohtani of the situation and Ohtani had reluctantly agreed to pay Mizuhara’s obligations. This account was challenged and changed the following day (March 21) to Ohtani not having agreed to pay Mizuhara’s debt and the matter now being investigated by the authorities. 

(NOTE: Ohtani’s statement, as translated by Ireton, has been lightly edited for clarity.)

To go over the result, in conclusion, Ippei has been stealing money from my account and has told lies.

Last weekend in Korea, the media reached out to a representative in my camp inquiring about my potential involvement in sports betting. Ippei never revealed to me that there was this media inquiry, and to the representatives in my camp and to the media, he said that I, on behalf of a friend, paid off a debt. Upon further questioning, it was revealed that it was, in fact, Ippei who was in debt. Ippei told my representatives that I was paying off that debt. This — all of this — was a complete lie.

Ippei lied about — didn’t tell me about — the media inquiry. He has been telling everybody he has communicated with me on this to my representative and the team. That hasn’t been true.

I first knew about Ippei’s gambling after the first game when we had a team meeting in the clubhouse.

Ohtani detailed his reaction during the clubhouse meeting and a subsequent private meeting with Mizuhara.

So, during the team meeting, obviously Ippei was speaking 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.

Just prior to the meeting, I was told by Ippei, “Hey, let’s talk one-on-one in the hotel after the meeting.” So, I waited until then.

So, up until that team meeting, I didn’t know that Ippei had a gambling addiction and was in debt. And at that point, obviously, I never agreed to pay off the debt or make payments to the bookmaker. Finally, when we went back to the hotel and talked one to one, that was when I found out that he had a massive debt. It was revealed to me during that meeting that Ippei admitted that he was sending money to the bookmaker using my account.

At that moment, obviously it was an absurd thing that was happening, and I contacted my representatives at that point. So when I was finally able to talk to my representatives, that’s when my representatives found out that Ippei had been lying the whole time. That’s when I started contacting the Dodgers and my lawyers. And the Dodgers, and the lawyers, at that moment, also found out that they had also been lied to. My lawyers recommended that since this is theft and fraud, we have the proper authorities handle this matter.

It’s worth noting that when the story first broke, Ohtani’s representatives made Mizuhara available to ESPN for a in-depth interview in which he stated Ohtani had agreed to pay off Mizuhara’s debt. As mentioned above, the following day this account was changed.

MORE: RedState Sports Report: Shohei Ohtani’s Interpreter Fired, Suspected of Swindling Millions From Superstar

Ohtani’s voice grew noticeably emotional as he finished his statement.

So, in conclusion, I do want to make it clear that I have never bet on sports or willfully sent money to a bookmaker.

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.

And the season’s going to start, so I’m going to let my lawyers handle matters from here on out, obviously. I am completely assisting in all investigations that are taking place right now.

I’m looking forward to focusing on the season. I’m glad we had this opportunity to talk, and I’m sure there’ll be a continuing investigation going forward. Thank you very much.

It requires notice that Mizuhara has worked with Ohtani for several years, and they have a deep friendship.

The case is far from closed. As I mentioned when I first wrote on the matter, either Mizuhara lied when he first said Ohtani agreed to pay off his gambling debt, or he lied when he said his first statement was a lie. Hopefully, the truth will come out sooner rather than later. 

In the meantime, all one can safely do is wonder.

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