Iowa Tribe of Oklahoma Claims August 1st Real-Money Online Poker Launch

More interesting developments in the latest edition of a US-based tribal nation attempting to assert that sovereign gaming right extend to the online world.  The Iowa Tribe of Oklahoma has forged ahead following a favorable arbitration ruling last week and now lists a launch date of August 1st, 2016 for its planned real-money online poker at PokerTribe.org.

Iowas-of-Oklahoma-emblemHow PokerTribe.org came to this juncture involves a separate winding tale, courtesy of a second Oklahoma tribe (the Cheyenne and Arapahoe Tribes) and a slightly-altered domain name (from pokertribes.org, the online site first floated by erstwhile gaming developer, Florida-based Universal Entertainment Group.  But for this update, it’s more about the latest legal and promotional developments, plus a look at whether this site really has a chance of getting off the ground.

First, the recent ruling.  Following meetings between the Iowa nation’s leaders, Oklahoma state gaming officials, and court-ordered arbitrator Charles Chapel, presiding judge David Russell announced his plans to issue a ruling last Friday, April 15th.  That the ruling would go in favor of the Iowas and their asserted right to launch Internet-based online gaming was clear after arbitrator Chapel asserted that an online site run by the Iowas would not violate the existing gambling compact between the tribe and the state.

Wrote Chapel, as part of his findings, “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 compact and all its terms shall remain in force.”

The Iowas and UEG wasted no time following the issuance of the ruling by Russell to name several launch dates at PokerTribe.org.  First up, theoretically, is a play-money offering, set to debut on May 17th.  Then it’s the live date for the real-money online poker, tabbed as August 1st as mentioned above.

Stage three — assuming there aren’t some interesting roadblocks to the grand plan before then — is the launch of the “Iowa Tribe’s International In-flight Real Money Play Online Casino.” That’s slated for January 9th, 2017.

Maybe.

There are a lot of hurdles in the way of this potential offering, some legal and others practical.  First, the site will be available only to non-US-based players for the foreseeable future.  And that brings its own caveats: The Iowas will be able to offer gaming to players outside Oklahoma and where it is already legal to play.  In the US, that’s only three states — New Jersey, Nevada, and Delaware.  Yet each of those states licenses intrastate (within that state) online gaming only, with the hardware and software needed to run the show necessarily being housed within those states.

Shake it all out, and the answer is this: No US players.

Let’s consider the international possibilities, then.  Suppose PokerTribe.org does go live with a real-money offering in August.  Exactly who is going to rush to play on a site that looks like this or this?  That second site is the play-money offering of site developer UEG as it exists today at uegpoker.com.

Given that level of graphical inexpertise, it’s hard to envision this is a quality operation, albeit with the traditional disclaimer that looks can, indeed, be deceiving.

Yet that’s never been the big issue.  And despite the Iowas winning that favorable ruling last week, the real issue here hasn’t changed.  The site will be able to be marketed only to international jurisdictions where online poker, etc., is already legal.  However, the residents of all those international locales already have access to dozens of much larger, well-proven sites that are happy to provide the service.

There’s simply no reason for Sven from Uppsala or Tony from Liverpool to bother playing on what’s all but certain to be a sparsely-populated, low-stakes site.  Even assuming the Iowas opened up their site by creating some sort of ultra-generous deposit bonus, there’s just no meat on this bone.  In Europe, the most established, regulated space, even the established operators have been forced to fine-tune their operations and focus on winning market segments.  The odds are infinitesimally against this Iowa/UEG project being able to capture a worthwhile share of these already-legal markets.

Winning a legal decision is miles apart from making a sound business decision.  That’s a lesson that the Iowas and UEG are poised to find out the hard way.

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