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Native American Tribe In Oklahoma Snags Online Poker License From Isle Of Man

License Said To Be First Of Its Kind For U.S. Tribal Group

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A Native American tribe located within Oklahoma says that it has made history by receiving an internet gambling license from the Isle of Man, located some 4,500 miles away from its sovereign lands.

The Iowa Tribe of Oklahoma announced that its internet gaming company called Ioway Internet Gaming Enterprise Limited secured the license early last month by the Isle of Man Gambling Supervision Commission.

Iowa Tribe Chairman Bobby Walkup said in the announcement that securing the gaming license was the final hurdle before the tribe can launch a real-money online poker platform from its lands in Perkins, OK. The license came nearly two years after the tribe first announced its plans.

The tribe, which has two brick-and-mortar casinos within Oklahoma, said in August 2016 that it was delaying its poker site to look into international licensing agreements.

The tribe "is proud to be the first Native American tribe to secure an international online gaming license,” Walkup said. “The process has taken longer than we may have envisioned when we began this journey, but, because we are a Native American tribe and held to higher gaming legal and regulatory standards, we had to ensure that we met all these standards.”

There had been a dispute with Oklahoma over the plans, but that has been cleared up in court. In November 2015, an arbitrator held that the Iowa Tribe could offer the games approved under its compact with Oklahoma over the internet from its lands, to players located outside the United States and within a jurisdiction where internet gaming is lawful. A federal district court in Oklahoma City certified the arbitration award in April 2016.

In the U.S., online casino gambling is currently only legal in New Jersey, Nevada and Delaware, though a company can’t operate in any of them without a license from their respective regulators. The tribe will not be offering games to gamblers in those states under its Isle of Man license.

The Isle of Man, located between Ireland and the U.K., has licensed the likes of online gambling giant PokerStars, along with many others in the internet betting sector.

The tribe said that the site will go live “sometime this fall.” The games will be offered under the domain PokerTribe.com. “While we are excited about receiving the license,” Walkup said, “we really do not have time to celebrate. Our attention has now turned to going live.”

Walkup added that there’s a pending sale of the software company jointly owned by the tribe and its Florida-based technology partner, Universal Entertainment Group, to an “internationally-recognized company.” That, apparently, has also delayed the launch.

“We are in the final stages of the sale and have been working diligently with Universal
Entertainment Group to finalize the transfer of the online gaming assets, which includes the software license agreement,” Walkup said. “This new relationship will be beneficial to the tribe and the new software owner as PokerTribe.com enters the international online gaming market.”

Winners and losers

The Iowa Tribe isn’t the only tribal group from Oklahoma, one of the largest Indian gaming markets in the nation, to attempt a venture into the international online gaming realm.

The Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes, which tried to launch games via the nearly identical domain Pokertribes.com, have a new lawsuit against Universal Entertainment over its failed entry into the market. The nearly $10 million venture, which began in 2012, was abandoned several years ago.

NewsOK.com reported that a lawsuit was filed late last month over what the tribes say were business dealings “marked by deceit, greed and utter disregard for the laws and economic well-being of the tribes.”

The Cheyenne and Arapaho say that Florida businessman Fred “Prince Fred” Khalilian and his business partners from Universal Entertainment cheated them in their software deal, which preceded the technology firm’s partnership with the Iowa Tribe.

Khalilian denied the allegations, telling NewsOK.com that the lawsuit is the result of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes being “sore loser[s]” over their failed online poker site in the face of the Iowa Tribe’s success so far.