A judge in Oklahoma has given approval to a Native American tribe to launch an online poker website for international players and for those players in U.S who reside in states where online gambling is legal.
The Iowa Tribe of Oklahoma is a small tribe comprising of 800 enrolled members and has been planning to roll out its online gaming website PokerTribe.com for over a year now.
The tribe currently runs three brick-and- mortar casinos in the state.
The tribe had sued the state last year after it questioned the tribe’s right to operate an online gambling site. According to the state, an online venture would be outside the bounds of the existing gaming compact. An arbitrator was asked to step in to resolve the matter and in the end found that running an online gambling website would not violate the compact provided the games are controlled and operated by a computer server located on tribal lands.
The arbitrator Charles Chapel is a retired Oklahoma Criminal Court of Appeals judge ruled that using the internet was normal and utilizing technology to play approved games did not materially change the compact.
The tribe subsequently approached a federal judge to certify the ruling. Last week U.S. District Court Judge David Russell issued an order stating that there were no significant issues that stood in the way of a judgment in favor of the tribe going ahead with the launch of PokerTribe.com
The state has also given its go-ahead saying there was no reason to withhold approval. This ruling has now unequivocally removed all regulatory hurdles in launching the online poker website and also clears the way for other tribes to follow suit if they so desire.
When the website goes live, pokertribe.com will become the first U.S. poker site to offer online poker to international markets. The tribe will be working with Universal Entertainment Group (UEG) a Florida based software provider who will provide the necessary technological solutions. UEG had approached the tribe after plans for a similar venture with two other tribes in Oklahoma fell through.
The Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribe of Oklahoma had worked with UEG to launch pokertribes.com which had received approval from the state. The Federal Department of Indian Affairs however disallowed it saying it was against provisions of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA). Subsequent counter action by the tribes did not take place because the project had to be shelved as a result of change in tribal leadership. The plan was later completely abandoned despite the tribes investing close to $9 million into the project.