Lawmakers say Shohei Ohtani translator controversy sheds light on unregulated sports betting market.

Two lawmakers, who are advocating for bills to regulate the sports betting industry, believe that the recent scandal involving the Japanese interpreter of Los Angeles Dodgers player Shohei Ohtani has a positive aspect: it brings attention to the issue of gambling addiction.

“This situation serves as a clear example of the devastating consequences of gambling addiction,” stated Rep. Paul Tonko, D-N.Y. In response to this pressing issue, Rep. Tonko recently introduced the SAFE Bet Act, aiming to address what he describes as a “public health crisis.”

Both Tonko and Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat from Connecticut, introduced their bills prior to the revelation that Ippei Mizuhara had purportedly embezzled $4.5 million from Ohtani. The stolen funds were allegedly used to settle debts with bookmakers in Southern California who were under investigation by the U.S. government.

According to Tonko, the growing legalization and promotion of sports gambling will lead to an increase in similar incidents in the future. In an email response to NBC News, Tonko emphasizes the need to address the predatory practices within the industry and protect consumers. This is the primary goal of his SAFE Bet Act.

States would be required to meet specific rules concerning sports betting under the proposed legislation. These rules would cover various aspects, such as advertising, money deposits, and the utilization of artificial intelligence.

The American Gaming Association, an advocate for the industry, emphasized that the Ohtani case centered around illegal gambling, highlighting the need for lawmakers to address this issue.

According to a statement from AGA spokesperson Cait DeBaun, it is not surprising that the illegal gambling market continues to thrive and exploit Americans. DeBaun emphasizes the urgency for federal intervention to combat these illegal operations that specifically target vulnerable individuals, siphon tax revenue from local communities, and undermine the regulated gambling industry. DeBaun commends Congress for urging the Department of Justice to take action and enforce the law against these illicit activities.

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The Dodgers made the decision to terminate Mizuhara, who served as Ohtani’s interpreter and close friend. This action was taken in response to allegations made by Ohtani’s attorneys, who claimed that Mizuhara had fallen victim to a significant theft.

Major League Baseball has initiated an investigation into Mizuhara and his alleged involvement in illegal gambling, as announced on Friday. The focus of these allegations, as reported by NBC News, revolves around wire transfers amounting to a minimum of $4.5 million from Ohtani’s account to a bookmaking operation in Southern California. It is important to note that this operation is presently under federal investigation.

The Ohtani situation, which revolves around illegal gambling, has emerged at a time when there is increasing attention on the expansion of legalized sports gambling in the United States. With the easy accessibility of sports betting through mobile apps and the constant advertising of these apps, there are growing concerns about the need for stricter regulation within the industry.

Some players and coaches have recently expressed their concerns about gambling in sports. Cleveland Cavaliers head coach J.B. Bickerstaff stated that he believes sports gambling has become excessive and even shared that he has received threats from gamblers. Tyrese Haliburton, a promising NBA player, shared his feelings of being used as a “prop” by gamblers and mentioned that his social media is filled with discussions about gambling.

This has resulted in some action being taken.

In January, Senator Blumenthal took action by introducing the Gambling Addiction Recovery and Treatment (GRIT) Act. This legislation is designed to address the issue of sports betting companies targeting problem gamblers. Additionally, the GRIT Act proposes the allocation of federal funds towards the study and treatment of gambling addiction.

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In an email response, Blumenthal emphasized that high-profile cases of gambling addiction serve as a critical reminder and warning about the issues associated with gambling. However, he expressed even greater concern about the silent epidemic of addiction affecting everyday Americans, particularly young individuals, as gambling becomes increasingly widespread in our society.

According to Blumenthal, it is crucial to invest in treatment programs without delay to address the issue before it worsens.

The senator emphasized the importance of gambling companies taking responsibility for protecting bettors from addiction.

According to Keith Whyte, the executive director of the National Council on Problem Gambling, the Ohtani sports betting scandal has garnered a lot of attention. In light of this, Whyte believes that now is the perfect time to pass a well-thought-out bill like the GRIT Act.

According to Whyte, there is currently a significant bipartisan interest among lawmakers to address the issue of sports betting.

According to Chris Cylke, the American Gaming Association’s point person for governmental relations, the organization is against the GRIT Act. However, Cylke also stated that they are willing to collaborate with Senator Blumenthal and other lawmakers to tackle illegal gambling and address problem gambling. He emphasized the importance of finding solutions that do not reinforce ineffective tax policies or provide an advantage to criminals.

Six years ago, the federal statute that limited regulated sports betting mainly to Nevada was invalidated by the U.S. Supreme Court. As a result, legal betting markets have since been established in 37 states, as well as the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. The industry has experienced significant growth, with more than $337 million in bets being placed.

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According to Tonko, the sports betting industry has been operating in a largely unregulated environment since 2018, resembling the Wild West.

DeBaun held a different opinion.

Gambling addiction hotlines have seen an increase in calls in several states, with Florida being particularly notable.

“Mobile sports gambling, a highly addictive habit that can be accessed effortlessly through smartphones, poses a significant issue,” stated Krauss in a post on the Slow Boring website. He further highlighted the alarming statistics, revealing that a staggering $220 billion has been wagered in legal sports books since 2018, with an average annual increase of 22%. This accessibility to gambling has unfortunately contributed to a rise in addiction rates.”

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