Isai Scheinberg Surrenders to US Authorities
April 15, 2011, was the day that online poker effectively died in the United States. Known as Black Friday, the US Department of Justice indicted 11 people on various gambling-related crimes and shut down PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker, and Absolute Poker for a time.
Over the years since that date, nearly everyone on the indictment list has been prosecuted. The only one that has remained at large was PokerStars founder Isai Scheinberg. That was until this past Friday. Forbes and other sources have reported that Isai Scheinberg surrendered to federal authorities and has subsequently been released on bond. It appears that he has struck a plea deal to finally put this saga to bed.
According to a report from Forbes, the US government was working with Switzerland on extradition proceedings involving Scheinberg. Instead of contesting the extradition, Scheinberg instead agreed to come to the United States to face charges.
Scheinberg flew into New York last week and surrendered himself to federal authorities. This is the first time that the 73-year-old founder of PokerStars has been in the United States in nearly two decades. He was the last of a group of men indicted on Black Friday in connection to operating online poker sites illegally in the United States.
Scheinberg appeared in a Manhattan federal court on Friday and entered a plea of not guilty. He then posted a $1 million bond and was released. Also, Scheinberg was forced to surrender his passport and must confine his movements between Washington D.C. and New York.
Agreement in Principle Already Set
If you have been following the Black Friday saga, then you know that the majority of defendants served no jail time. Most reached plea agreements which required fines and probation. It appears that Scheinberg will do the same.
According to the Forbes article, Assistant US Attorney Olga Zverovich announced that Scheinberg’s legal team and the DOJ have reached a plea deal, calling it “an agreement on the basic terms.” What this involves is unknown, but it will likely be a substantial fine considering that Scheinberg is one of the top defendants and the only one that has remained at-large since Black Friday.
What This Means for His Legacy
There are many in the poker world that consider Isai Scheinberg one of the most influential people in poker history. PokerStars became the #1 online poker site in the world and is one of the main contributors to what became the Poker Boom.
Chris Moneymaker won his 2003 entry into the World Series of Poker Main Event on PokerStars and his subsequent win of the Main Event attracted players from around the world to the game. If not for PokerStars, most feel that poker would have never grown to the heights it has reached today.
Despite his contributions to the game, Scheinberg has never been inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame. The primary reason behind this is that the PHOF is owned by Caesar’s Entertainment. Caesars is a licensed entity in New Jersey and Nevada. As such, it would raise a lot of eyebrows if someone considered at-large was enshrined in the Hall of Fame.
Of course, now that Scheinberg is finally resolving his legal issues with the US government, this could all change. It is likely that this matter will be resolved by the summertime, at which point there is a good chance we could see him become a finalist for the Poker Hall of Fame once again.
The Black Friday saga has been ongoing since 2011 and the prosecution of Isai Scheinberg will finally put the legal side of the darkest day in poker history to bed. Unfortunately, online poker is still only legal in six states and only operational in four. It may be decades before online poker in the United States rebounds to pre-2011 numbers, if it ever happens.