PokerStars Founder Gets Time Served for Illegal Gambling Charges Stemming from Black Friday

Prosecutions related to a case from 2011 when online poker sites were shut down in the United States have finally come to an end. The last person to be tried was PokerStars founder Isai Scheinberg, who has been sentenced to time served by Southern District of New York Judge Lewis A. Kaplan. Isai and his son Mark sold PokerStars six years ago to Amaya Gaming, earning $4.9 billion. The founder will now face no jail time and must pay a $30,000 fine.

The Last to Face Charges

Isai is the last of 11 individuals to face charges stemming from Black Friday, the infamous day in April 2011 when the online poker industry in the US was shut down. Isai decided to surrender last year and pled guilty to operating an illegal online gambling business in March.

He could have been sentenced to one year to a year and a half in prison, but the government decided to suggest a lesser sentence due to certain factors. Isai was happy with the ruling and spoke to the media, stating that he PokerStars played an important role in the global regulated online poker industry that is seen today across the globe by being transparent and honest.

Why A Shorter Sentence?

So why was Isai granted a shorter sentence? Attorney’s for Isai argued that he deserved a shorter sentence due to several factors. They said at the time, online poker was not in violation of federal law. They pointed out that their client had ongoing discussion with prosecutors and had surrendered voluntarily to authorities in the US. The attorney’s also commented that the attitude for online gambling has changed over the last decade.

On top of this, counsel pointed out that PokerStars assumed the debt of Full Tilt Poker and paid $304 million to players. When Black Friday took place and Full Tilt was shut down, players were left without their money from online poker accounts. PokerStars assumed the brand’s liability and paid the players a few years later.

Prosecutors were not impressed and they rejected the first three arguments. They did however, reference the repayment process for Full Tilt Poker. They saw this move as a reason to lessen sentencing.

Prosecutors stated that the fact that PokerStars made the right move and segregated players funds and the good deeds of the defendant led to the suggestion for a lesser sentence. When Isai arrived in the US, he turned over his passport and paid $1 million in bond money. He spent nine months in the US and now that he has been charged and sentenced, he is free to travel wherever.

The story of Black Friday and PokerStars role in the aftermath can finally come to an end after almost a decade. Some individuals charged faced the court immediately while others like Isai were able to avoid police for quite some time. Now the saga is over and something that will soon just become a memory or an old story told when remembering online poker’s beginning.

Jacqueline Packett
Jacqueline Packett