Though the Iowa Tribe of Oklahoma is one of the smaller tribes in the state, this has not stopped them from making big plans. The most recent one is to open an international gaming website, which would allow players from other countries to play real casino games online with real money.
In November, an arbitrator ruled that the plan would not be a violation of federal or state law and that it is permissible under the Oklahoma tribal State gaming compact. Now, the Iowa Tribe of Oklahoma has asked a US District Court judge in Oklahoma City to certify the arbitrator’s award.
If everything works out for the Iowa Tribe of Oklahoma, it is likely that other Oklahoma tribes will also want to launch similar international gaming websites. As of now we cannot know how much money will be generated for the state of Oklahoma through the Iowa tribe’s new venture. The percentage that the tribe would need to pay the state will increase based on how successful the site ends up being.
Michael McNutt, a spokesman for Gov. Mary Fallin says, “The rate depends on how many take part in the tribe’s overseas gaming venture.” The tribe has already made a software licensing deal with Florida software company Universal Entertainment Group to prepare their new site. The site, which will be named pokertribe.com, will be available to players in any states that have already legalized online gambling as well as to the international market.
Isaias Almira, the manager of Universal Entertainment Group, explained 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.” It is true that the Iowa tribe has been working to get this license for quite some time. Last September when the tribe agreed to submit to arbitration, Charles Chappell, a retired Oklahoma criminal court of appeals judge, was set as the arbitrator. During the November 24 ruling, Chappell wrote that “use of the Internet is merely using technology to play covered games as a way to increase tribal revenues. It does not extend or restrict the scope of the games and does not amend the compact in any way.”
After the ruling, Tribal Chairman Bobby Walkup said that this decision has made it possible for all Oklahoma tribes to participate in international online gambling. Walkup’s statement said that “The arbitrator’s decision applies to all tribes in the state of Oklahoma. Every tribe has the same opportunity as the Iowa Tribe to engage in internet gaming consistent with the arbitrator’s decision.”
It turns out that this has been attempted in the past by the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes. They had a plan in place to build PokerTribes.com (just one letter apart from pokertribe.com). Universal Entertainment Group had been working on the site with them, but things didn’t work out due to changes in the tribe’s leadership. This was back in 2014, and tribe leaders had originally guessed that the site could generate over $130 million annually by 2018.
The Universal entertainment group still believed that the idea has merit, and they pitched the idea to several different Oklahoma tribes and the Iowa tribe eventually agreed to give it a try.
“We wanted to do this with the tribes because we have come up with a concept that we know is going to work,” Almira said.
If the judge does certify the arbitrator’s decision, then it looks like Universal entertainment group and the Iowa Tribe of Oklahoma’s new site will likely be the first of many.