Poker Player Pays $1.1m to Avoid Jail for Illegal Gambling Ops

  • Brandon Steven is a prominent businessman and poker player from Wichita, Kansas
  • He has pled guilty to being involved in an illegal gambling operation that went on for many years
  • Steven hid the ledgers detailing the winnings and debts of players to conceal his associates’ involvement
  • Steven has escaped a prison sentence, getting 3 years' probation and 200 hours of community service
  • He has already paid back the $1.1m he earned through his criminal activities
Man playing online game on smartphone
Poker player Brandon Steven has pled guilty to being involved in an illegal gambling operation, forfeiting $1.1m.

Background to this case

Brandon Steven is a 45-year-old poker player and businessman from Wichita, Kansas. He has pled guilty to being involved in an illegal gambling operation in Wichita. Because of his guilty plea, Steven will avoid jail but will be on probation for the next three years for his role in trying to hide the gambling ledgers from illegal poker games and bookmaking operations.

Steven made about $1.1m (£870,000) through these operations, which has been forfeited to the state. These illegal operations were running for a number of years and the FBI has been investigating and building a case for some time.

According to reports, Steven was on the FBI’s radar for four years or more. In 2015, the federal government put a phone tap on Steven and four other men. As a result of this investigation, nine people have been prosecuted so far.

On June 20, Steven told a federal courtroom in Wichita that he was hiding both computer and handwritten ledgers that contain details about the winnings, credit, and other obligations of an illegal gambling operation run by a bookie, Daven “Smoke” Flax. Steven was hiding the ledgers to conceal the involvement of Flax and other associates.

Steven pled guilty to being an accessory after the fact of unlawful transmission of wagering information. This offense is a misdemeanor; the maximum sentence is 12 months in prison and a fine.

Results of the case

Both JR Hobbs, the Kansas City defense attorney, and Aaron Smith, the assistant United States attorney, asked the judge for leniency for Steven. They simply asked for a probation period of three years.

Hobbs said that Steven had been very serious when dealing with his offense. They both spoke about how Steven has given a lot back to the local community as a sports coach for youths. He also has a lot of family support.

Steven might obtain unsupervised probation after 18 months. As part of his sentence, he will have to do 200 hours of community service and forfeit the $1.1m that he gained from his criminal activities. He has already paid this in full.

Federal Magistrate Judge Gwynne Birzer said that Steven has shown legitimate remorse and understood what he did was wrong. She said: “I do believe that the sentence is sufficient.”

Steven and his attorney were happy with the outcome of the sentencing. No indication was given as to the length of time that Steven had been seeking a plea deal. There will be no further charges against him as the case continues.

About Brandon Steven

Steven is a popular figure in Wichita. He is a business partner with his brother Rodney in a number of ventures, including car dealerships and health clubs. In 2015, he was part of a push to create a $147m (£115.7m) casino near the Missouri and Oklahoma borders in the south of Kansas. This attempt ultimately failed.

Steven is also a high-stakes poker player. He has played in the Las Vegas World Series of Poker event numerous times. He is also the number one player in the state of Kansas, having won over $3.1m (£2.4m) in tournament play. His largest win was in the 2016 $50k ARIA High Roller where he won $648,000 (£510,000).

He has links to people who have been in trouble for similar illegal operations in recent years. One of his brothers, Johnny, was implicated in another case involving an illegal gambling operation but was never charged with anything.