Shoki Kasahara, a former pitcher for the Yomiuri Giants, has admitted to participating in illegal gambling.
The 25-year-old arrested in April on charges of placing wagers on 15 Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) and Japanese high school games. Kasahara admitted to the charges during Monday’s hearing at the Tokyo District Court, Reuters reported.
The former professional baseball player allegedly helped Satoshi Saito, a former restaurant operator, with his betting scheme by collecting money from several former Giants players, including Satoshi Fukuda and Ryuya Matsumoto. Kasahara reportedly encouraged Kyosuke Takagi to bet on eight or nine games between April to May 2014, while he himself bet on between 10 and 20 professional and high school baseball games that year as well as played mahjong and golf for money.
Kasahara, Fukuda, and Matsumoto were banned indefinitely from playing after admitting to betting on games, while Takagi received a one-year ban—a relatively lighter sentence “due to the brief period of his involvement after cutting off ties with Kasahara,” according to Japanese media outlets.
Takagi previously told police he stopped wagering after he lost between ¥500,000 and ¥600,000.
But the discovery of illegal gambling on baseball has far reaching ramifications. Yomiuri Giants, the oldest professional baseball club in Japan, has been ordered to pay a total of ¥15 million in fines. Three of the club’s top executives—owner Kojiro Shiraishi, team chairman Tsunekazu Momoi, and team adviser Tsuneo Watanabe—also resigned following news that four of their players have bet on baseball.
The scandal also left many sports executives reeling, including the officials working to get baseball reinstated to the Olympics in 2020. Hidetoshi Fujisawa, executive director of communications for the Tokyo Olympics, told Agence France Presse the gambling issue is a threat to “the integrity of the sport and the trust of baseball fans and society in general.”
Gambling, including most sports betting, is illegal in the country except for horse racing and “keirin” bicycle racing. Those who were found guilty of gambling charges face a maximum jail time of five years.