California Home To Biggest Sports Betting Scandals

What’s in the water in California? Yet another baseball-related betting scandal has hit a pro player in the state, and this time, the consequences are severe.

Tucupita Marcano just became the latest player to get into hot water due to gambling in sports. Not just hot water, but boiling-hot water because MLB just “Pete Rose’d” Marcano, who is now banned for life. It’s a historic moment too. Marcano is the first active MLB player banned for gambling since New York Giants (yes, they were the Giants back then) outfielder Jimmy O’Connell in 1924 — exactly 100 years ago.

This is a pretty darn crazy story. Crazy because of the type of bets Marcano was making. Before joining San Diego this season, Marcano was with Pittsburgh for the last two seasons. This is where he landed himself in trouble.

MLB discovered that Marcano placed 387 baseball bets from October 2022 to November 2023. These wagers amounted to over $150,000 in spend. Of those bets, 231 were on MLB games — a clear violation of the league’s rules.

Even worse, he was betting on his own team. The investigation found 25 wagers were on the Pirates — both for and against them. To Marcano’s credit, he was injured and out of the lineup in all of these 25 games. Still, he was slinging money on his team, sometimes while even inside the stadium.

Marcano’s betting habits teetered on the side of degeneracy too. He bet more than $60,000 on Korean pro baseball, a league we can’t imagine he’s in the know about. Cricket was also a fixture in Marcano’s betting spend. Perhaps most surprising, Marcano lost 96 percent of his bets. Why so bad? Because Marcano almost exclusively bet parlays.

The lesson here, loyal readers? Be careful betting parlays because the win rates are low. No, in all seriousness, Marcano’s story might become all familiar with sports betting becoming more and more widespread. It adds fuel to the fire that was started by Shohei Ohtani.

Ohtani Interpreted Staring Down Severe Punishment

Ippei Mizuhara, the disgraced interpreter of Ohtani, is in even bigger problems than Marcano. His actions might end up in a 30-year prison sentence.

On June 4, Mizuhara pleaded guilty in federal court in Santa Ana to bank and tax fraud. It’s believed he swindled $17 million to fund his gambling habits with an offshore bookmaker — remembering California is one of few states without legal sports betting.

When the news first hit, many believed Mizuhara was a “fall guy” for Ohtani, who was actually behind the bets. That theory is starting to fall apart because Mizuhara’s scheme is becoming more and more clear.

Federal prosecutors have gotten to the bottom of the plot, which began in 2021. They say Mizuhara switched Ohtani’s bank account’s contact information to his own. This made Mizuhara the point person for the banks. Using this power, he plundered $17 million.

Prosecutors say Mizuhara never bet baseball, but practically everything else — soccer, NBA, NFL and college football. Mizuhara’s banked $142 million in wins, but a staggering $183 million in losses for a net loss of $41 million. If true, Mizuhara was a way better con man than gambler, that’s for sure.

To be clear, Mizuhara’s issues stem from the stealing — not necessarily the offshore gambling. Going offshore is the only way to bet inside California until the state legalizes it, which doesn’t appear to be anytime soon. That leads us to our next section.

Would Legal Sports Betting Stop These Scandals From Happening?

Let’s imagine a world where California does have legal sports betting. A world where Californians can freely bet on their home teams like the Dodgers, Lakers, Rams, Trojans, and more? Would that curb these athlete-related scandals?

Eh, probably not. Both Marcano and Mizuhara made fatal mistakes that were nothing like one another. Marcano was betting in Pennsylvania and he was using licensed bookmakers. Unbeknownst to him, these licensed bookies are in cahoots with the leagues. If they recognize pro players betting, they report them, as they did with Marcano who isn’t even well-known.

Mizuhara was betting in California through an offshore bookmaker. However, federal investigators caught on to the bookie, who operating in the Golden State, was breaking local laws. In that investigation, they discovered the bookie’s clients, which included Mizuhara and former Los Angeles Angels outfielder David Fletcher, among others. That’s when Mizuhara’s scheme began to unravel.

There are two takeaways we’re seeing from both stories. One, sports leagues will stop at nothing to snuff out betting from players, coaches, and team personnel. They can’t risk the “integrity” of the game to be questioned by this betting activity and Marcano was made an example of with a lifetime ban.

The second takeaway is offshore sports betting is still the go-to route for betting in California — unless you’re slanging millions of dollars like Mizuhara was. That’s a paper trail that’s too hard to hide. But for the “average Joe” wagering a few hundred bucks here and there on offshore bets? It’s a non-issue. State investigators simply have bigger fish to fry — whale-sized fish like Mizuhara who was swindling millions.

Eric Uribe

Hailing from the US, Eric has channeled his passion for sports into a career in journalism. Building on his experience as a sports editor, he now focuses his expertise on reviewing sportsbook promos to find the best offers. With years covering sports from high school to the pros, he provides expert betting insights, especially fighting and football. When he's not giving advice, you'll find Eric at the sportsbook with a Red Bull vodka in hand, enjoying the thrill of the big game!