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Oklahoma Tribe Pursues Poker Website

Site will target gamblers in legal iGaming jurisdictions

On November 24, retired Oklahoma Criminal Court of Appeals Judge Charles Chapel, serving as an arbitrator, ruled the state’s gaming compact permitted the possibility of the 800-member Iowa Tribe of Oklahoma launching online gambling.

In his ruling, Chapel wrote, “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,” nor does it violate state or federal law.

Tribal Chairman Bobby Walkup said in a statement that the tribe on December 23 asked a U.S. District Court judge in Oklahoma City to verify Chapel’s ruling. If the judge approves the move, the 800-member tribe could become the first in the state to operate an international gambling website, to be called Pokertribe.com. The site would offer online poker, followed by slots, bingo, blackjack, baccarat and pulltabs. “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,” Walkup stated.

Governor Mary Fallin’s spokesman Michael McNutt said it’s not clear how much revenue the Iowa Tribe’s website could generate for Oklahoma. “The rate depends on how many take part in the tribe’s overseas gaming venture,” McNutt said.

A few years ago, when the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma unsuccessfully tried to launch a similar site, the tribes estimated the state would have received a 20 percent cut, or as much as $132 million annually by 2018 if the website attracted just 2 percent of the worldwide online gaming market.

However, at the time, the U.S. Department of the Interior said an online gambling website was beyond the scope of the tribal-state compact and also violated the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. The two tribes challenged that opinion in court, but newly elected leadership dropped the suit in 2014.

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