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MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred hoping for ‘short’ Shohei Ohtani gambling investigation as new season begins

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MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred is hoping the league’s investigation into Shohei Ohtani and former Los Angeles Dodgers interpreter Ippei Mizuhara is swift. 

As MLB kicked off the 2024 campaign, the biggest story line heading into the season is last week’s bombshell. Ohtani alleges Mizuhara stole $4.5 million from him to cover gambling debts. 

Ohtani issued a statement this week saying he has never bet on baseball or any other sport and had no clue what Mizuhara was doing until the team’s Seoul Series exhibition games against the San Diego Padres in South Korea last week. 

“Given the way the story unfolded, it’s important in terms of assuring our fans about the integrity of the game that we verify the things that Mr. Ohtani has said, and it’s really that simple,” Manfred told MLB Network. 

MLB and the IRS opened their own investigations into this matter. The IRS confirmed Mizuhara and the alleged illegal bookmaker he had debts with, Orange County, California, native Mathew Bowyer, are both under criminal investigation. 


“It’s really difficult for the federal authorities to cooperate with us fully when they have their own ongoing investigation, so I think this is one where we’ll have to proceed on our own,” Manfred said. 

“We never have the kind of authority that law enforcement people have, but we manage to get these investigations done and find the facts, and I’m sure we will on this one.”

Ohtani and interpreter at conference

Manfred said he hopes the investigation will be “short.”

Legalized sports gambling has been a controversial topic, especially since professional leagues like MLB have partnered with sportsbooks to advertise it. 

“Sports betting is going to go on in the United States, whether we have a relationship with any particular company, any gambling enterprise, or not,” Manfred explained. “I don’t think it’s unusual to have a set of rules that apply to fans and executives and private citizens out there on the one hand and players and people who have the ability to affect the outcome of the play on the field.”

Mizuhara initially said Ohtani was helping a friend pay off his debts, but Ohtani’s attorneys quickly recanted that statement. Instead, they said Ohtani was the victim of a “massive theft.”

Rob Manfred speaks to the media

Ohtani remains on the Dodgers’ roster to start the season while the investigations are ongoing. He went 2-for-3 with a walk and a run scored in the team’s opening day win over the St. Louis Cardinals. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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