The founder of PokerStars admitted Wednesday to running an illegal online gambling business, nine years after he and other online poker executives were indicted by prosecutors in New York.
Isai Scheinberg and 10 other principals at three online gambling companies were charged by federal prosecutors in New York in March 2011 with bank fraud, money laundering and illegal gambling.
The other executives have all pleaded guilty and been sentenced. PokerStars agreed in 2012 to pay $731 million to settle the charges with the Justice Department, without admitting wrongdoing.
Scheinberg, 73, a dual Canadian and Israeli national, was arrested in Switzerland in June 2019 and was brought to the U.S. in January after dropping an extradition challenge. He faces as long as five years in prison at sentencing, which has yet to be set. Under his plea agreement, prosecutors agreed to seek a sentence of 12 to 18 months.
He’s pleased to put the matter behind him, a spokesman for Scheinberg said in a statement.
“Notably, all PokerStars players were paid back immediately and Mr. Scheinberg played an important role in ensuring that all of the players from other sites were repaid as well,” according to the statement.
PokerStars is an online poker cardroom owned by The Stars Group. It can be accessed through downloadable poker clients for the Windows, macOS, Android and iOS. It is the largest real money online poker site in the world, controlling over two-thirds of the total online poker market.
PokerStars launched its beta play-money-only site on September 11, 2001. The company began offering real money wagering on December 12, 2001. PokerStars was originally a Costa Rican company, Rational Enterprises, which was majority owned by the Israeli Scheinberg family.
PokerStars holds its licence with the Isle of Man Gambling Supervision Commission and also holds numerous licences in other jurisdictions (see Regulated Markets below). On February 10, 2012, PokerStars acquired a European Union license granted by the Malta Lotteries and Gaming Commission.
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