Oklahoma Tribe to Launch Real Money Online Poker Site

Iowas of OklahomaThe Iowa Tribe of Oklahoma has received the green light to launch a real money online poker site – pokertribe.com – which is expected to go live in August.

Last November, the small 800-member Iowa Tribe of Oklahoma got provisional approval to go ahead with the real money online poker site when the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma ruled that the provision of online poker would not violate the tribe´s existing Class II gaming compact, state regulations or federal law.

Mindful that a previous attempt by the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma to launch a similar site had fallen foul of the U.S. Interior Department in 2014, the Iowa tribe sought certification of the ruling from the Federal Court. Last week that certification was issued, and the Tribe immediately released the intended timeline for pokertribe.com to go live.

Play Money in May – Real Money in August

In partnership with Florida software company Universal Entertainment Group (UEG), the Iowa Tribe of Oklahoma will launch pokertribe.com for play money poker on May 17. Once the reliability of the software is established, and any last minute wrinkles ironed out, the site will start accepting deposits and host real money games of online poker on August 1.

According to a press release from pokertribe.com, the site will be available to players in all jurisdictions in which online poker is legal. This should include Delaware, New Jersey and Nevada. However, as the online poker regulations in the three regulated states insist on gaming servers being located within the state´s borders, it is unlikely that any US poker player will be able to play at pokertribe.com.

Inflight Casino to Follow

Once the online poker product is up and running, the Tribe has plans to extend its portfolio to include other Class II games such as Bingo, Blackjack, Baccarat and Slots. No dates have been proposed for when this might happen – although the date of January 9, 2017, has been announced for the intriguing “Iowa Tribe’s International In-flight Real Money Play Online Casino.”

It is not known how the inflight casino might work on flights with Internet restrictions; nor indeed about any opening offers the Tribe may use to tempt online gamblers away from their existing sites. Indeed, many observers – particularly those who have already seen the UEG software – are concerned that the venture will fail in a highly competitive environment.

Might Other Tribes Follow Suit?

Undoubtedly other Indian tribes in Oklahoma will keep a watchful eye on the success or otherwise of pokertribe.com. Whether tribes in other states attempt to launch their own online poker sites will largely depend on the open-mindedness of legislators.

In 2015 it was suggested that tribes holding brick-and-mortar casino licenses should be able to run sites providing online poker and other Class II games under the rules of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. Each tribe´s site would be regulated by its existing tribal authority and, although this does not sit well with state authorities, the tribes would not have to pay a cent in tax.

The problem with this suggestion is that, under a strict interpretation of the Indian Regulatory Act, Class II games become Class III games when it is played as an “electronic or electromechanical facsimile” version of the game. Fortunately for the Iowa Tribe of Oklahoma, state and federal authorities have taken into account that the Act was written in 1988 – long before anybody could have predicted the popularity of online gaming – and given the tribe the green light to launch pokertribe.com.

Would different jurisdictions be so open-minded if other tribes wanted to follow suit? We shall have to wait and see.

Jacqueline Packett
Jacqueline Packett