The Iowa Tribe of Oklahoma, formally known as Bah Kho-Je, or People of the Grey Snow, is looking to take its gambling operations online by offering Internet poker and eventually bingo, blackjack, slots, baccarat and more.
In November, an arbitrator appointed by the Tribe and Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin (R) ruled that federally recognized tribes would not be in violation of any federal or state laws should they decide to offer online gambling to persons abroad or to American citizens residing in states with legalized Internet gaming.
Retired state appellate court judge Charles Chapel declared that the “use of the Internet is merely using technology to … increase Tribal revenues.
It does not extend or restrict the scope of the games and does not amend the Compact in any way.”
Ready to Deal
Now armed with the blessing of a former court judge, the Iowa Tribe will need to have the ruling endorsed by a presiding US Western District of Oklahoma Court justice.
Once it receives that critical backing, the Iowa Tribe would be ready to launch its newly acquired domains, Pokertribe.com and Pokertribe.gov.
Obtaining the support from a district judge is anything but certain, however leaders of the Iowa Tribe are optimistic.
“Every tribe has the same opportunity as the Iowa Tribe to engage in Internet gaming,” Chairman Bobby Walkup said in a statement. “We look forward to moving forward and launching the site as soon as possible in 2016.”
Software Partner Raises Concerns
As has been the case in Nevada, New Jersey, and Delaware, the three states where Americans can play online poker, location-based technologies and underage and addiction-prone safeguards will need to be implemented.
In order to satisfy those conditions, the Iowa Tribe has partnered with Universal Entertainment Group’s (UEG) Digital Division to implement its software should the native group acquire final approval. UEG has no ties to Universal Music Group or Universal Studios.
UEG has been trying to lead the Native American online gambling push for some time, an earlier deal with the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes failing in 2014. UEG boasts various websites in its online portfolio including the play-money platform UEGPoker.com.
“If the judge agrees … it could be launched within a matter of weeks,” UEG Managing Director Isaias Almira told The Oklahoman. “I and our entire team have been working on this for many years.”
Several of the other UEG web properties highlighted on the company’s homepage leave little to be desired, with some even displaying error codes.
Almira’s legal past could also possibly sway a judge’s decision in allowing the pact between the software company and Iowa Tribe to move forward.
After spending what he claimed to be some $40 million on the Cheyenne and Arapaho iPoker launch, a personal complaint was filed against Almira alleging he wasn’t a US citizen and was posing as an imposter.
Almira said the tribal resident was politically motivated and has since posted proof of his citizenship, however the allegations are still available for review on the Department of the Interior’s official website.