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PokerStars founder Scheinberg surrenders to US authorities


Isai Scheinberg, the founder of online poker giant PokerStars, has travelled to the US to face charges of gambling, bank fraud and money laundering first filed in 2011. 

According to Forbes, Scheinberg flew to New York from Switzerland, where he is based, earlier in January after the US authorities began extradition proceedings against him. He has been released on $1m bail, and has agreed to remain in the US until the case is heard. 

He is the last individual to be indicted in the crackdown against igaming sites targeting US customers in April 2011 to face the charges against him. All others have pleaded guilty to either misdemeanours or felonies.

The original indictments, which led to the shut-down of US-facing sites such as PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker and Absolute Poker and Ultimatebet operator Cereus, were unsealed on April 15 2011, a day that became known as Black Friday by the poker community.

Among the others indicted were PokerStars director of payments, Raymond Bitar, chief executive of Full Tilt parent TiltWare, alongside its payments director Nelson Burtwick (a former PokerStars employee) and Absolute Poker part-owner Scott Tom.

The seizure of the domain names and freezing of bank accounts – 76 bank accounts in 14 countries were frozen – led to Full Tilt’s collapse. PokerStars, on the other hand, reached a $731m settlement with the Department of Justice in July 2012. 

This saw it forfeit $547m to the US government, to be used to refund players affected by the shut-down. PokerStars also forfeited $184m to reimburse non-US players. As part of the deal it acquired Full Tilt’s assets.

Scheinberg was banned from serving in a managerial or directorial role for the operator as part of the settlement, which resulted in his son Mark taking charge of the business. Mark Scheinberg agreed to hand over $50m, to be released from any future claims relating to the Black Friday indictments, in June 2013.

Under Mark Scheinberg’s control, PokerStars’ parent company Rational Group was ultimately sold to Amaya Gaming Group in June 2014, for $4.9bn. 

The business went on to acquire Sky Betting & Gaming in in April 2018, before striking a deal to merge with Paddy Power and Betfair operator Flutter Entertainment in October last year, to create a new gaming giant with annual revenue of £3.8bn.