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Poker Site Operator Gets Slap On The Wrist For Charges Stemming From Black Friday

PokerStars Founder Isai Scheinberg Received No Jail Time And A $30,000 Fine


The nearly decade-long legal fallout stemming from poker’s Black Friday came to a close on Wednesday when PokerStars founder Isai Scheinberg was sentenced to time served and a $30,000 fine by a judge in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

Outside of getting off scot free from the bank fraud, money laundering, and illegal gambling counts the 73-year-old Israeli was facing, this was about as lenient of a punishment Judge Lewis A. Kaplan could dole out. Scheinberg will avoid jail time altogether, and considering the charges, the fine is nominal.

Scheinberg’s legal troubles stem from 2011 when the U.S. government seized the domain names and funds of the biggest online poker providers. Scheinberg was one of 11 people indicted in the process.

Authorities argued that any online poker room operating within its borders violated U.S. law. Scheinberg stayed out of the U.S. for nearly nine years until January 2020, when he was extradited to New York from Switzerland. When he landed in New York, he was immediately taking into custody, entered a not guilty plea, and was released on $1 million bail.

During his first court appearance roughly two months later, Scheinberg pled guilty to those charges. He was facing up to five years behind bars, but even at the time, prison seemed unlikely. Federal prosecutor told Forbes that the U.S. had “an agreement in principle on the basic terms” with Scheinberg.

PokerStars immediately repaid its U.S. customer base in 2011. The second-largest poker site at the time on the other hand, Full Tilt Poker, was insolvent and couldn’t pay back its players. In 2014, before Scheinberg sold the company to Amaya for $4.9 billion, PokerStars provided the cash needed to pay back players who were affected by Full Tilt’s incompetence.

Scheinberg’s attorney, Paul Shectman, used that gesture as an argument for a light sentence, according to the Inner City Press. Kaplan ended up agreeing.

“I don’t condone what you did but the world is made of fallible people,” said Kaplan. “It was a big mistake but should not ruin what remains of your life.”

Scheinberg will also have to pay a special assessment fee of $100, bringing the total fine to $30,100.

“I am pleased that Judge Kaplan has determined today not to impose a prison sentence in my case,” said Scheinberg in a statement. “PokerStars played an important role in creating today’s global regulated online poker industry by running an honest and transparent business that always treated its players fairly. I am particularly proud that in 2011, when PokerStars exited the United States, all of its American players were made whole immediately. Indeed, PokerStars reimbursed millions of players who were owed funds from other online companies that could not or did not repay those players.”

Though not currently owned by Scheinberg, PokerStars has a foothold in some of the regulated American markets. The company is operating in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, while having a partnership in place to launch a Michigan platform when the state rolls out its online market, likely early in 2021.

Photo Credit: Danny Maxwell/PokerStars Blog