• Kyodo

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Former Yomiuri Giants pitcher Shoki Kasahara, banned indefinitely by Nippon Professional Baseball for betting on baseball, told Kyodo News that gambling in general was customary within his team before he bet on his own sport.

“We players were betting money on cards and mahjong in the first place, and our recognition that it was illegal was low,” Kasahara said. “I took part in that.”

Kasahara said the habit of gambling, at the team dorm and in the clubhouse, already existed when he joined the team in 2009, and claimed “¥100,000 (roughly $895) would sometimes change hands on a single bet.”

The 25-year-old, released by Yomiuri along with three other pitchers, revealed he was informed of the odds, or “handicaps,” for games through his mobile phone by a university graduate student and a restaurant owner, both identified as habitual baseball gamblers, which is illegal in Japan.

“I got close (to the restaurant owner) when I went to his place to eat three years ago. My acquaintance introduced me to the graduate student.

“I became interested when the owner showed me the handicaps around the spring of 2014.”

Kasahara said the odds were decided by the two, the bankers, and he was predicting the outcome of games. He added he was paying his debts to the graduate student by hand and through his bank account for the owner.

Kasahara has admitted his involvement in voluntary questioning by the Tokyo metropolitan police, which is looking to charge the former pitcher with gambling by collecting records of communications and bank account transfers in its investigation.

Kasahara denied betting on his team’s games, or being involved in any match-fixing.

“I didn’t bet (on the Giants’ games), because I wouldn’t be able to concentrate on the game,” Kasahara said.

“I didn’t (fix matches), and wouldn’t have been able to do so in the first place. I was relieving most of the time and wasn’t able to tell when I was pitching.”

NPB is offering lenience to players who confess to betting on baseball before Monday, but Kasahara said he didn’t know any more players engaged in betting on baseball.

“I’ve besmirched the history of Yomiuri. I’m sorry for my family, classmates, team staff and fans,” Kasahara said. “I’m taking a hard look at myself and regret betting on baseball.”

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