If given final approval the Iowa Tribe of Oklahoma will soon become the first tribe in the state to operate an international gambling website.
Players from other countries would play real money casino games if everything goes according to schedule for the Iowa Tribe, which hopes to have its pokertribe.com up and running sometime in 2016. Games planned for the online site include baccarat, blackjack, slots, bingo and pull-tabs with an initial offering of poker only.
No federal or state laws would be violated and the venture falls under the Oklahoma Tribal-State Gaming Compact, according to a ruling by an arbitrator in November. The Iowa Tribe of Oklahoma want the arbitrator’s award certified and last week asked a U.S. District Court Judge in Oklahoma City to do so. The arbitrator’s ruling could initiate similar international gaming websites by other tribes in Oklahoma, according to Michael McNutt, a spokesman for Gov. Mary Fallin. In an email to the Oklahoman, McNutt said just how much revenue could be generated for the state by the tribe’s online gaming operation is unclear. The state will get a percentage from the tribe based on the amount of traffic the site generates, said McNutt.
What is known is that an exclusive software leasing deal has been inked between the Iowa Tribe and Florida software company Universal Entertainment Group to get the Pokertribe website off the ground. Pokertribe.com, in addition to New Jersey and Nevada, will be available to the international market as well as to players who live in states where online gambling is legal, according to Isaias Almira, manager of Universal Entertainment Group. The website will also be available to players on some airline flights and cruise ships, said Almira. He went on to say that, “If the judge agrees to the thing, it could be launched within a matter of weeks. I and our entire team have been working on this for many years.”
Two casinos in Chandler and Perkins have been the tribe’s main business endeavors prior to pokertribe.com. The tribe that has approximately 800 enrolled members and is based out of Perkins, also has a travel plaza business with slot machines in Tryon in Lincoln County.
Governor Fallin and the tribe agreed in September to submit the issue of the legality of some Internet gaming operations to arbitration and if they fall under the tribe’s gaming compact with the state. A mutual agreement between the two appointed retired Oklahoma Criminal Court of Appeals judge, Charles Chapel, as arbitrator. Chapel’s November 24 ruling stated that the tribes use of the Internet for revenue in no way violated or amended its compact with the state. Tribal Chairman Bobby Walkup said the ruling makes it possible for all of the state’s tribes to expand into the area of international Internet gaming. No official position on the ruling has been taken by the Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association, said Sheila Morago, executive director of the industry group.
A shift in political power in February of 2014 led to a previous deal between the Concho-based Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes and Universal Entertainment Group for a similarly named pokertribes.com website being scraped. While it was previously determined that international gamblers were permitted by the two tribe’s website, the U.S. Interior Department tried to block Oklahoma’s agreement with the tribes saying it would be an amendment of the compact between them and the state. The decision was challenged by the two tribes in federal court, but after investing upwards of $9.4 million in the venture the lawsuit was dropped.