Bettors offer inside look at bookie linked to Shohei Ohtani: ‘The guy seemed to run a good shop’

by David Wharton and Nathan Fenno at


Bettors offer inside look at bookie linked to Shohei Ohtani: ‘The guy seemed to run a good shop’


For all its complexities, all its twists and turns, the gambling scandal that has engulfed Dodgers star Shohei Ohtani raises a simple question.

In this era of DraftKings and FanDuel, when so many people across the nation can place wagers with a few taps on the phone, why would anyone use an illegal bookie?

Two Southern California men who told The Times they bet regularly with the alleged bookmaking ring linked to Ohtani and his former interpreter offer an answer.

Like many gamblers, they saw no alternative in California, one of only a dozen states that prohibit sports betting. Speaking on condition of anonymity because of state laws, they contradict the stereotype of a bookie standing on the corner, scribbling numbers on a notepad and keeping a wad of cash in his pocket. The operation they describe was efficient and businesslike.

Customers were given a password to access an offshore website where they could scan odds and enter bets, they said. One bettor said he received his winnings and paid for losses through third-party Venmo accounts. The other recalled exchanging cash in face-to-face meetings with an “agent” who allegedly reported back to the ring.

“The guy seemed to run a good shop,” one said of the bookmaker, adding that he has used “dozens of different bookies and this is easily the best I’ve ever worked with.”

The Times linked one of the bettors to the alleged ring through online payment records; the other’s connection could not be independently verified. Their descriptions matched closely with what experts have seen of betting rings nationwide.

It was late last year when federal authorities raided the San Juan Capistrano home of Mathew Bowyer and allegedly discovered evidence connecting him to a sports betting ring that had received millions of dollars in bank transfers from Ohtani’s account, sources told The Times.

As federal authorities and Major League Baseball continue to investigate, Bowyer has not been charged with a crime, said his attorney, who declined to comment for this article.

The former interpreter, Ippei Mizuhara, initially told ESPN that he had amassed huge gambling debts and that Ohtani, his boss and friend, paid them off as a favor. But as The Times first reported, Mizuhara quickly recanted that story and Ohtani now claims the whole thing was a case of “theft and fraud” on Mizuhara’s part.

During a recent news conference, at which he read from notes but did not answer questions, Ohtani said: “I myself have never bet on a sporting event or asked someone to bet for me. And I’ve never asked anyone to send money to a bookmaker from my bank account.”

Based on details provided by the local bettors, the alleged ring operated by a “pay per head” arrangement that experts say is common in illicit bookmaking. It works like this:

The bookie contracts with an offshore gambling website that posts odds and records bets. These sites generally charge the bookie a flat fee for each customer that signs in, but don’t handle any of the money wagered.

The sites provide bookies a private page listing their customers’ activity. Bookies pay out winnings and collect losses. Agents might receive 10% to 20% of the losses accumulated by clients they handle.

The two local bettors — neither of whom claimed to know about alleged connections between Ohtani, Mizuhara and gambling — said they were introduced to the local ring by acquaintances. One said he was given Bowyer’s cellphone number and set up an account through text messages.

“I didn’t think it was a big deal,” he said. “To me, it was just a normal business.”