Gamblers usually target players for inside information


With a fourth Yomiuri Giants pitcher having admitted last week to betting on pro baseball, the question looms as to why gamblers are luring players into betting.

After all, none of the four Giants players who have bet on games were believed to have any connection with fixing games. The most likely answer is the search for inside information.

A forensic examination of pitcher Satoshi Fukuda’s smartphone revealed emails from a graduate student acquaintance of his containing spreads for games. In the betting scheme, players would assign “points” to games they wish to bet on, with each point equaling a wager of ¥10,000 (roughly $88). Rather than simply betting on one team to win, a winning bet has to beat “the spread,” or the handicap placed on one of the teams.

If the spread on a team favors it to win its game by 1½ runs, a bet on that team will only pay off if his side wins by two runs or more. Someone betting on the other club to win will collect even if his team loses by one run.

Instead of being asked to settle his gambling debts, Fukuda was told, “Because it’s just for fun, you can keep doing it more and more.”

But he quickly found himself over ¥1 million in the red.

Bookmakers try to ascertain a team’s form and strength in order to set spreads that will minimize risk. The individuals or groups who decide those figures are known as “handicap masters” and are a key to the business of baseball betting. An indispensable part of the process is gaining access to inside information.

Takeshi Natsuhara, who has written about betting on baseball thinks gamblers are engaging young players in order to get information in the future.

“It’s not really possible to fix matches in pro baseball today,” he told Kyodo News.

“That class of players (such as the four Giants minor leaguers who gambled) are probably not going to provide any useful information in setting handicaps. But in the future, it is possible some players will become front office staff or coaches. It’s the case that some farm team players become really connected.”

When Kyosuke Takagi spoke to the press about his gambling last Wednesday, he referred to the pub operator who took his bets as, “somebody I would consider a scary person.”

According to Takagi, the man tried to prevent him from cooperating with investigators by repeatedly threatening him until March 7 — the day before he admitted his gambling to the team.

“Temptations exist,” Natsuhara said. “In the end, whether an individual acts upon them or not is a matter of his personal disposition.”