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Tuesday, April 16, 2024
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Bookie at Center of Ohtani Scandal Reportedly Encouraged Belief Star Was a Client

  • Bowyer’s attorney has said that he never met or interacted with Ohtani. 
  • It’s unknown whether Ohtani knew he was used for potential business.
Kim Hong-Ji/Reuters via USA TODAY Sports

Was Shohei Ohtani a client of an illegal Orange County bookie? The bookie, Mathew Bowyer, reportedly encouraged that idea, according to ESPN

Bowyer, the bookie at the center of the betting scandal surrounding Ohtani and his former translator, Ippei Mizuhara, “allowed people to believe” the Dodgers’ two-way star was a client as a way to improve business, ESPN’s Trisha Thompson wrote, citing a source close to the gambling operation. 

Bowyer’s attorney, Diane Bass, told ESPN that Ohtani had never met or spoke to Bowyer. She did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Front Office Sports. Ohtani’s camp says he has been a victim of theft by Mizuhara and denies that he did anything wrong.

Mizuhara was fired by the Dodgers on Wednesday after two stories were published on wire transfers from Ohtani’s accounts to Bowyer. California is one of the 12 states in which sports gambling is illegal, making any of Mizuhara’s bets in California against the law. MLB has yet to announce an investigation on the matter and Ohtani hasn’t spoken to reporters since the news became public. 

The story is murky: Mizuhara initially claimed that Ohtani made the wire transfers himself, after Mizuhara racked up millions in betting debts, before the story changed. A day after Mizuhara told ESPN that Ohtani made the transfers, both Mizuhara and Ohtani’s camp said that the interpreter had actually stolen the money and Ohtani only became aware of the missing funds this week. 

It’s also unclear how exactly Bowyer may have used Ohtani’s name to drum up business. 

Mizuhara’s bets were on international soccer, he told ESPN, in addition to other sports—but not baseball—and started in 2021. MLB players and employees are allowed to bet on sports other than baseball, but not with illegal bookmakers or offshore accounts. Bowyer’s house was recently raided as part of a federal investigation into an alleged bookmaking operation in California, but he has yet to be charged with a crime. 

Baseball has a long history of cracking down on even minor associations with gamblers. At a minimum, If Ohtani knowingly paid off Mizuhara’s debts to an illegal bookie, as Mizuhara initially claimed, he may have broken federal law. Until more is revealed, speculation will continue to fill the vacuum created by the silence of all involved parties. 

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