MLB embraced betting. Now it is smeared with the grimy underbelly of gambling

<span><een klas=Shohei Ohtaniright, and his former interpreter, Ippei Mizuhara, were in Seoul for the start of the MLB season. Photo: Lee Jin-man/AP” src=”–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTU3Ng–/ f566504505″ data src=”–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTU3Ng–/ 566504505″/>

This is Major League Baseball’s worst nightmare. The face of the league, its one and only international star, who joined one of the biggest teams last season with a $700 million contract, has been linked to allegations surrounding illegal sports betting.

The story so far: The Los Angeles Dodgers on Wednesday fired Ippei Mizuhara, the interpreter for the team’s two-way phenom Shohei Ohtani, after an investigation revealed that $4.5 million in wire transfers were sent from Ohtani’s bank account to a California gambling organization that is now active. under federal investigation.

Mizuhara had initially participated in an interview with ESPN, saying that Ohtani had paid the money to cover his interpreter’s gambling debts. However, after 24 hours, Ohtani’s representatives changed course, saying that Mizuhara had committed “massive theft” and that the case had been handed over to authorities.

ESPN reports that two wire transfers sent in September and October totaling $1 million included Ohtani’s name. Gambling is legal in most US states, but not in California. To date, no charges have been filed in the ongoing California Book investigation. Mizuhara says Ohtani himself did not place any bets and that the Dodgers star is not subject to any criminal or MLB investigation.

Earlier on Wednesday, before the firing was announced, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred attended the Seoul Series, two games in South Korea to mark the start of the new season. Manfred praised the commercial growth and international development of the competition. There was a passing nod to the Oakland Athletics’ move to Las Vegas, less than a decade removed from the stigma of gambling, which kept all major American professional sports leagues away from The Strip. Less than 24 hours later, these three pillars of the Manfred legacy had been combined and burned.

There are a lot of unknowns in this story: How did Mizuhara gain access to Ohtani’s account? How did he get a $4.5 million line of credit with bookmakers? What will be the consequences for Ohtani, one of the most famous people in Japan and one of the few MLB players known to non-baseball fans?

What we do know is that this is a terrible sight for the MLB, which, like all American professional sports leagues, has rushed to embrace legal gambling. While Mizuhara’s problems stemmed from betting with an illegal bookmaker, this week’s fiasco centers on a man with an apparent gambling problem, while at the same time the MLB is embracing legal betting.

Last year, MLB announced a partnership with FanDuel that will “bring fans’ viewing and wagering experiences closer than ever before.” Integrated, real-time gambling is coming soon to a sports streaming service near you. It’s not just MLB: On Tuesday, the NBA announced it would integrate real-time betting into its streaming service, NBA League Pass. With a click of the remote control you bet on who will grab the next rebound, who will miss the next free throw or who will win the third quarter. Needless to say, there are worrying signs that gambling addiction is on the rise in the US. “Calls to gambling hotlines in most states in America have increased dramatically,” Timothy Fong, co-director of the gambling studies program at UCLA, told the Guardian in December. He added that “more and more younger clients” – aged 25 and under – are seeking treatment.

According to Pew research, approximately one in five (19%) adult Americans will have placed a bet in 2022. Six percent of them placed bets on gambling apps – and 53% of those bets are placed in-game, according to CRG Global. Placing in-game bets lowers ratings and makes those viewers stick around longer, allowing leagues to negotiate stronger TV rights deals, the backbone of any league’s wealth.

No league has embraced the in-game market more than MLB. Given the stop-start nature of baseball and the number of MLB games – 2,430 in the regular season compared to the NFL’s 272 – there needs to be more bets placed and just enough time between pitches to click on an app before a user can think about the consequences. For many Americans, gambling has become a daily ritual – and no sport delivers dopamine as intensely as baseball.

Broadcasting doesn’t just plague gambling these days; it is ubiquitous. You’re not there to watch the sport, see who’s winning, you’re there to keep track of your app, keep an eye on your daily fantasy lineup, and play catch-up when your early-innings bets fail . Local cable broadcasts are saturated with gambling talk. There are lineup cards in collaboration with FanDuel. Pitching matchups presented by BetMGM.

A sport ostensibly governed and run by data experts isn’t trying to deliver information to its audience; it’s trying to force viewers to part with their money, and MLB doesn’t seem inclined to stop it. While leagues like the Premier League, based in England, have taken steps to restrict the visualization of gambling, in baseball it is ever-present. Fears for the league’s long-term commercial viability – with an aging fanbase and collapsing regional broadcasters – have led to the game’s adoption of gambling as a lifesaver.

And economically it has worked. Now that baseball has increasingly fallen into the hands of the gambling barons, interest in baseball among the younger population has increased. The idea is simple: take a sport tailor-made for in-game betting, give young people access to games and sportsbooks via smartphones, and watch your ratings and revenue soar. According to an analysis from the University at Buffalo, it doesn’t seem to matter that one in ten American students is a pathological gambler.

For those bee In practice, in-play betting is still feasible: In addition to the apps, seven MLB stadiums have a licensed sportsbook or sportsbook lounge. The sport no longer invites betting. It doesn’t just expect it. It’s a statement: if you’re going to go along, you better have some insight into the outcome.

It’s no wonder, given the landscape, that baseball would reach this day. One of the most famous events in the history of gaming is based on a game fixing scandal. More recently, in the age of legal gambling, we have seen crazy schemes by Iowa baseball players and former University of Alabama baseball coach Brad Bohannon to try to cheat the system and the game. If you invite the gamblers, few sports are as ripe for the dangers of addiction, corruption and misdeeds as baseball.

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