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Bookie in Shohei Ohtani betting scandal has Las Vegas ties

Updated March 26, 2024 - 8:55 pm

The bookmaker at the center of the Shohei Ohtani betting scandal was a high-stakes sports bettor in Las Vegas, a source told the Review-Journal.

Mathew Bowyer, the alleged illegal bookie who is the target of a federal investigation, reportedly was wired millions of dollars from the Los Angeles Dodgers star’s bank account to pay off the gambling debt of Ippei Mizuhara, Ohtani’s former interpreter who has been accused of a “massive theft” of the Japanese player’s funds.

A person who has worked at multiple Las Vegas sportsbooks confirmed to the RJ that Bowyer placed large wagers here.

Bowyer, 48, also was a high-limit baccarat player banned from several casinos in Las Vegas, according to The Washington Post.

When the Orange County, California, native filed for bankruptcy in 2011, he claimed to have lost $425,000 gambling at Aria and The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, according to bankruptcy records. He was listed as a divorced father of four daughters.

Aria sued Bowyer for $250,000 for an alleged bounced check, according to court records. The suit was later dismissed.

Bowyer also was sued by Foxwoods Resort Casino in Connecticut and accused of not paying back $1.2 million in casino markers extended to him in 2015, according to the Post. The casino was still trying to collect on the debt last year in Superior Court in Orange County.

In 2019, Bowyer founded a company called Picks Enterprises LLC out of a lawyer’s office in Las Vegas, the Post said.

The investigation into Bowyer comes at the same time as the federal investigation of former minor league pitcher Wayne Nix, another illegal bookmaker based in Orange County whose clients included former Dodgers star Yasiel Puig and Maverick Carter, Lakers star LeBron James’ longtime business manager.

Nix’s casino play at MGM Grand led former resort President Scott Sibella to plead guilty in January to federal charges for violating anti-money-laundering laws by allowing the illegal bookie to bet at MGM.

The Justice Department said the MGM Grand by 2020 had accepted more than $4 million in cash that were illicit proceeds from Nix’s illegal gambling business.

Sibella spent eight years as president of MGM Grand Las Vegas before leaving to become president of Resorts World in 2019. Sibella was fired by Resorts World in September for violating company policies.

In October, federal agents with a search warrant raided Bowyer’s San Juan Capistrano, California, home seeking materials “that relate to the placement of gambling debts, claims for payment, customer lists, ledgers of wagers, and address books.”

According to the Post, investigators also searched the property and scoured the cellphone of Resorts World casino host Jennifer Belcastro. Belcastro told the Post she didn’t know about Bowyer’s real occupation.

“I knew he bet sports,” Belcastro said. “I didn’t know he was a bookie.”

Belcastro said investigators suspected she knew about Bowyer’s bookie business because in 2022 she had emailed the compliance office at Resorts World and asked it to lift its ban on Bowyer. The casino, at the time run by Sibella, briefly allowed Bowyer back, she said. Belcastro said she has been barred from Resorts World amid the federal investigation.

Resorts World, in an automatic reply to an email Monday from the Review-Journal seeking comment, said to “please allow us 1-3 business days to reply.”

Bowyer has not been charged with a crime, his Irvine, California-based attorney, Diane Bass, told the Los Angeles Times. But the investigation into Bowyer involves the same prosecution team that has targeted Nix’s illegal bookmaking operation, according to the Times.

Bass confirmed that Bowyer was a bookmaker who took bets from Mizuhara, but she told the Times that Bowyer never had contact with Ohtani.

“Mathew Bowyer never met, spoke with, or texted, or had contact in any way with Shohei Ohtani,” she said.

But Bowyer had bragged to associates in Las Vegas that he had an Ohtani connection, a source told the Times. The source said Bowyer did so for “marketing purposes” in his alleged bookmaking business.

Mizuhara, who was born in Japan and grew up in Southern California, met Bowyer in 2021 at a poker game in San Diego, ESPN reported.

Ohtani, a two-time MVP, left the Los Angeles Angels in December to sign a record $700 million, 10-year contract with the Dodgers.

He said Monday that “I never bet on baseball or any other sports or never have asked somebody to do it on my behalf and I have never gone through a bookmaker to bet on sports.”

Contact reporter Todd Dewey at tdewey@reviewjournal.com. Follow @tdewey33 on X.

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