Former PokerStars owner Isai Scheinberg has pleaded “Guilty” to operating an unlawful internet gambling business leading up to 2011. Veteran industry representatives are reacting to the news.

PokerStars co-founder and former owner Isai Scheinberg is currently awaiting sentencing after entering a “Guilty” plea in New York before U.S. Magistrate Judge Sarah L. Cave, according to a March 25th press release published by the U.S. Department of Justice.

Ten years ago, this Office charged 11 defendants who operated, or provided fraudulent payment processing services to, three of the largest online poker companies then operating in the United States – PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker, and Absolute Poker – with operating illegal gambling businesses and other crimes,” said Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman in an official statement.

As Isai Scheinberg’s guilty plea today shows, the passage of time will not undermine this Office’s commitment to holding accountable individuals who violate U.S. law.”

Industry Veterans React to Isai Scheinberg Guilty Plea

Several well-known current or former industry insiders have expressed their opinion on Isai Scheinberg’s recent Guilty plea, communicating via the TwoPlusTwo NVG board that they are hopeful the 73-year old former PokerStars owner will manage to avoid imprisonment.

Former PokerStars security analyst Michael Josem:

To be clear, I now think:

  • at the time of his arrest in Switzerland, there was no plea deal
  • at some time before his guilty plea, there was a plea deal.

TwoPlusTwo forum contributor JohnFR:

Good luck to Isai, hope this all works out in the end. He was so influential and great for poker.

TwoPlusTwo forum contributor Sect7G:

There is virtually no chance he’s facing anything more than a slap on the wrist and at his age there’s no doubt that the outcome wasn’t pre determined, either on the books or not. Look at David [Baazov]… he got the special treatment off the record, and to top it off the pos has the audacity to sue the Canadian government for a few more million due [to] his name being besmirched. If that pos is walking freely Isai deserves an international airport named after him.

Former PokerStars Director of Poker Communications Lee Jones:

Sect7G is correct. Naming the IoM airport after Isai would be amazing. I mean, who’s ‘Ronaldsway’ anyhow?

When you see who’s walking free and who is in positions of power around the world, yes, we should be naming airports and first-borns after Isai Scheinberg.

TwoPlusTwo forum contributor JSpazz:

Blah someone PM me when they grab Baazov.

More reactions from players, fans, and industry insiders can be found in our January 2020 article here.

Isai Scheinberg Awaits Sentencing (Editorial Commentary)

* All commentary belongs solely to the author unless otherwise specified.

The thought of Isai Scheinberg spending time behind bars for operating an illegal internet gambling site (even considering the “Guilty” plea) is appalling. Especially when compared to Ray Bitar’s seven days “time served” sentence in 2013 after his role in a Ponzi scheme; or Scott Tom’s $300,000 misdemeanor fine after he and his cohorts defrauded American players out of millions via Ultimate Bet and Absolute Poker.

Unlike other individuals and companies that were charged in the 2011 indictments, Scheinberg’s PokerStars correctly segregated player funds from operating expenses well before such common sense guidelines were ever implemented into statewide “i-Gaming” regulations. PokerStars quickly made players “whole” in 2011 when the site was shut down by the U.S. federal government, and eventually funded bailouts for players who patronized then-competing services Full Tilt Poker and the CEREUS Network.

And while David Baazov‘s lamentable reign as the “King of Online Gambling” had very little impact on United States customers (since PokerStars only operated in the state of New Jersey in 2014 when Amaya Gaming acquired the world’s largest poker site), it devastated a proud community of players, media, and industry representatives who had relied on internet poker’s marketing and budget independence from online casino products.

U.S. Online Poker Editorial Update (March 29, 2020)

United States online poker today is an irritating collage of:

  • “Regulated” state sites that are artificially hindered by ring-fencing requirements, overburdened by regulatory/taxing infrastructures, hell-bent on cross-vertical promotion into online sports betting/i-casino, and are an evergreen target for government restrictions/crackdowns/enforcement, or…
  • “Offshore” sites that contribute nothing to official “national” or “statewide” interests (in times of crisis or otherwise), perceive themselves as “exempt” from regulatory mandates that their licensed counterparts are forced to comply with, boast customer bases comprised of 90% American players, and are an evergreen target for government restrictions/crackdowns/enforcement.

Despite this temporary online gambling “boom,” both models are at risk without further clarification from statewide and/or federal authorities as the COVID-19 pandemic endures and U.S. budget allocation pressures mount in upcoming weeks/months.

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