Winners & Losers: This Week, More of the Latter

If your idea of fun is seeing celebrities and their attaches exposed for extreme gambling, this past week would have been a pretty good one (until it wasn’t).

On March 14, the website NewsNation put out a report stating that the singer Bruno Mars is in debt to the tune of $50 million, having racked up major losses at unspecified MGM casinos.

famous gamblers Park MGM Vegas
Image credit: James Marvin Phelps/Flickr

Allegedly, Mars, who has a residency at Park MGM, is no stranger to gambling losses. In 2019, it had been reported that he was stuck $7 million to MGM.

This time, though, the casino fired back a response that the NewsNation claim was bogus and made it clear that the “Just the Way You Are” hitmaker is not a gambling degen.

It seems, though, that the same cannot be said for Ipei Mizuhara, well-paid interpreter and constant companion for the Japanese baseball phenom Shohei Ohtani.

Ohtani is a stunningly talented pitcher and hitter, who signed a $700 million deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Famous Gamblers - Shohei Ohtani interpreter
Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

Mizuhara is a stunningly untalented gambler. He got busted for betting sports (not baseball, apparently, but if he did a read of our guide on how to bet on MLB might have been useful – ED) and stealing some $4.5 million from his boss. The money reportedly went toward paying off an illicit bookie in Southern California.

Unlike MGM, Ohtani and the people around him did not explain away Mizuhara’s losses as a misunderstanding. In fact, Ohtani’s lawyers described their client as “the victim of a massive theft” and vowed that they are “turning the matter over to the authorities.”

Mizuhara may be the first interpreter to rack up such losses and steal millions from his boss to set things straight with the bookies. But, if his proximity to a baseball star left him feeling like a bit of a star himself, he was in good company. Plenty of big-time athletes and mega celebs have fired it up in Vegas and with the bookies. Usually, they pay the price, one way or another.

While Ben Affleck, whose card counting skills are sharp enough that he got himself backed off from the Hard Rock, may not be a casino sucker, he is an exception among well-heeled famous gamblers. Most celebrities blow money at the tables or in the books, get invited back (to their detriment) and discreetly make good on their losses.

One of the biggest celebrity gamblers in Vegas is homeboy Floyd “Money” Mayweather. The former boxing champ had been known to travel through casinos with a backpack full of hundreds and the security crew to keep anyone from trying to grab what is essentially a heavy-weight wallet.

He once bet $815,000 on the Denver Broncos to beat the New York Jets by more than 7.5 points. The Jets won and so did he. But there’ve also been plenty of losses. He’s admitted to dropping 900K on a Seattle Seahawks vs Dallas Cowboys game.

Then there’s Drake, a guy with enough net worth to shrug off an $8 million loss at online roulette.

Charles Barkley maybe would’ve done well to have a backpack full of cash. Instead, he did the typical high roller move of gambling off markers.

Famous gamblers Charles Barkley
Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

The NBA all-star wound up owing Wynn Las Vegas $400,000. When the casino threatened to have him arrested over the outstanding debt, Barkley wrote it off as “my mistake” and coughed up the dough.

It did not stop him from continuing to put his money at risk – he once dumped $1.65 million into a $5,000 slot machine – and he described his habit for courting financial risk with words that all rich guys ought to live by: “I do have a problem, but I don’t consider it a problem because I can afford to gamble.”


Michael Kaplan
Gambling Author and Journalist

Michael Kaplan is a journalist based in New York City joined Techopedia in November 2023. He is the author of five books ("The Advantage Players" comes out in 2024) and has worked for publications that include Wired, GQ and the New York Post. He has written extensively on technology, gambling and business — with a particular interest in spots where all three intersect. His article on Kelly "Baccarat Machine" Sun and Phil Ivey is in development as a feature film.