A screenshot of PokerTribe.Com, a new venture from the Iowa Tribe of Oklahoma. The Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes own the PokerTribes.Com domain.

Cheyenne & Arapaho Tribal Tribune: Gaming website resurfaces

Online gambling site resurfaces
Iowa Nation of Oklahoma announces launching of Pokertribe.com
By Rosemary Stephens
Cheyenne & Arapaho Tribal Tribune

The Iowa Nation of Oklahoma released a media statement announcing the launch of the Pokertribe.com online gambling website in 2016.

The statement refers to a previous agreement between Gov. Mary Fallin and the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes, who own Pokertribes.com It states, in part, “The State had previously determined that such Internet gaming was authorized under the Compact and had entered into a First Amended Settlement Agreement (“Agreement”) with another Oklahoma tribe that authorized the offering of the subject “covered games” via the Internet games to persons located outside the United States. The parties to that Agreement submitted it to the United States Department of the Interior (“DOI”) but the agency rejected the language determining the Agreement constituted an amendment to the Compact and would have to be approved by DOI. The Oklahoma Tribes involved in the Agreement initially brought an action in federal court challenging the agency’s decision but later dismissed the action and decided not to move forward with the concept.”

What this paragraph refers to is the original Pokertribes.com software initially purchased by former C&A Governor Janice Boswell from Universal Entertainment Group (UEG). In 2013, the state of Oklahoma made a stand against online gambling within the borders of Oklahoma, but later, revised that decision, signing an agreement with the C&A Tribes for 20 percent of revenue generated from the site, which would only be offered internationally, and not within the state of Oklahoma. Prior to launching the site inter- nationally, the DOI ruled this would be illegal and could not be launched.

The initial investment of $9.4 million by former Governor Janice Boswell to UEG remains in question by C&A tribal members, who had no knowledge of the transaction between Boswell and UEG.

In 2014 when the newly elected C&A Governor Eddie Hamilton came into office, his administration abandoned the plans to pursue online gaming outside the U.S. borders, stating spending more money on what was expected to be a costly and fruitless effort through federal court hearings was not worth the risk. He then proceeded to terminate several casino personnel and the attorney general responsible for pursuing federal approval of the website’s international operations, as reported by the Tulsa World.

A screenshot from the defunct PokerTribes.Com website. The Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes own the domain name.

“To be clear, this administration does not and has not ever opposed Internet gaming," Hamilton said. "However, we have questioned the troubling background of UEG, the dubious nature of the transaction, and the ridiculous attempt to alter our gaming compact to increase payments and give greater control to the State of Oklahoma. In our case, people employed by the tribes paid millions in our gaming revenues to a troublesome vendor for a speculative gaming deal, and several of them negotiated personal interests in the deal. Then they attempted to sell the tribes’ sovereignty to the state."

It was a great deal for those individuals and a great deal for the state, but not for the Tribes, so we put an end to it," Hamilton added.

It now appears the Iowa Tribe sees online gambling worth the risk and is moving forward with launching their recently purchased site from UEG of Pokertribe.com and Pokertribe.gov. The Iowa tribe determined after reading the state’s agreement that the offering of “covered games” via the Internet was authorized under the Oklahoma Indian Gaming Compact, and it would appear Governor Fallin agrees.

The State of Oklahoma invoked the arbitration provision within the Compact, and both the state and the Iowa tribe agreed to appoint retired state appellate court judge Charles Chapel as the sole arbitrator to resolve any disputes surrounding the tribes’ compact with the state. Chapel, who served 17 years on the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals, rendered his decision on November 24, 2015.

Chapel concluded, “that
 the 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.”

“The tribes are currently analyzing the arbitration decision, monitoring the pending federal suit and evaluating available options" Hamilton said of the Cheyenne and Arapaho. "These options could involve the use of the software acquired by the prior administration or exploring a partnership with a different vendor about whom we would have fewer concerns. From what we have seen of the arbitration decision, it confirms our longstanding position that our predecessors’ attempt to amend the gaming compact was completely unnecessary and the terms they were willing to agree to with the state to try to carry out their arrangement with UEG would have been devastating for the tribes."

“From what I’ve seen in the news, the Iowa Tribe does not appear to be burdened by any of the issues our tribes faced," Hamilton said. "We wish them the best while we continue to evaluate our legal options against the wrongdoers, and explore potential opportunities available to us as a result of the arbitration decision.”

The National Indian Gaming Commission’s only comment in reference to the media alert released by the Iowa Nation was, “Yes we are aware of the situation and we are continuing to monitor it,” Mark Gaston, NIGC communication specialist said.

Attempts to reach Iowa Nation Chairman Bobby Walkup for comment were unsuccessful.

Relevant Documents:
Iowa Tribe Arbitration Decision | Complaint: Iowa Tribe v. State of Oklahoma | Iowa Tribe Letter to State of Oklahoma | State of Oklahoma Letter to Iowa Tribe

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