PokerTribe.com Mystery Continues Over Four Undisclosed Prerequesites
Last week, Flushdraw’s Dan Katz updated our readership on the latest happenings over at PokerTribe.com, the online-gambling venture fronted by the Iowa Tribe of Oklahoma and purportedly powered by a software platform created by Florida-based Universal Entertainment Group (UEG), a murky outfit whose co-founder, Fereidoun “Fred” Khalilian, has been the subject of at least two prominent Federal Trade Commission (FTC) cases centering on illegal and fraudulent telemarketing practices. (You can read more about Khalilian’s dark and quasi-legal background here, in our late May update on the PokerTribe.com and PokerTribes.com saga.)
The announcement by the Iowa tribe of Oklahoma that it had received an online gaming license from Isle of Man regulators wasn’t all that expected or unusual in itself. The tribe had an operator application in with IOM regulators for over a year, since August of 2016, and had prepped for the expected licensing by creating an IOM-domiciled corporation, Ioway Internet Gaming Enterprise Limited.
Ioway Internet Gaming Enterprise Limited was created back in January, according to its articles of incorporation, which shows that the IOM approval has been expected for some time. However, in May, it was announced that software partner UEG was under investigation by the NIGC (National Indian Gaming Council) over its prior deal with the Cheyenne and Arapahoe Tribes of Oklahoma — that’s the PokerTribes.com site that directly preceded UEG’s PokerTribe.com offering.
That certainly had to cloud the Iowa Tribe application, even if NIGC investigations and findings have zero legal impact for IOM regulators. In light of that, there are several parts of last week’s Iowa Tribe announcement about receiving IOM approval that raise more questions than answers.
We won’t reprint that presser, as it’s heavy on the fluff, but we will focus on a few excerpts, such as the IOM license being conditional. For instance:
“According to [Iowa Tribe Chairman Bobby] Walkup, following the June meeting, the Gambling Commission issued a letter stating the application was approved but that four conditions had to be met prior to the actual issuance of the license. Once the four conditions were met, the Isle of Man gaming commission issued the license.”
What those four conditions were wasn’t stated. However, this excerpt is telling:
“While the Iowa Tribe and its Isle of Man gaming company are not setting a specific launch date for the online poker site, known as PokerTribe.com, Walkup said PokerTribe.com will go live sometime this fall. Chairman Walkup said a major announcement will be made within the next two weeks concerning the sale of the software company jointly owned by the Tribe and Universal Entertainment Group to an internationally-recognized company.
“‘We are in the final stages of the sale and have been working diligently with Universal Entertainment Group to finalize the transfer of the online gaming assets, which includes the software license agreement, to the company that has an internationally-known brand,’ Chairman Walkup said. ‘This new relationship will be beneficial to the Tribe and the new software owner as PokerTribe.com enters the international online gaming market.'”
As other industry stories have noted, why would UEG be stepping out of the picture, and why are the “online gaming assets” being sold to an “internationally-known brand”? If one applies Occam’s Razor, the simplest explanation is the right one: One of the four conditions for IOM approval is likely that UEG and Fred Khalilian cannot be involved; the Iowa Tribe of Oklahoma is free to publish the four conditions in their entirety so such conjecture can be affirmed or disproved.
After all. if the IOM wasn’t aware of the NIGC investigation into UEG, this writer made sure they didn’t miss it. Said writer might have forwarded on to IOM regulators some FTC press releases as well regarding those previous Khalilian cases….
As we’ve commented on previously (in several earlier pieces), there’s still no ready, viable market for PokerTribe.com’s games. Having a real-money poker site available and online doesn’t mean that Euro players are going to flock to a US tribal site with few or no consumer-protection guarantees. As CalvinAyre.com’s Steven Stradbrooke recently wrote:
“UEG and its various tribal partners have never adequately explained why gamblers based outside the US would choose to patronize a little-known new site when they have literally thousands of rival sites – many based far closer to home with established reputations from years of reliable operation – from which to choose.
“It’s also unclear why UEG appears so eager to extricate itself from this gaming operation just as it appears to be finally delivering on years of unfulfilled promises to tribal operators. But we suspect that just as night follows day, dump follows pump.”
It seems a certainty that the next bit of “news” in this saga will be the sale of UEG’s portion of the business to this “internationally-known brand”. And that’s a good thing to the extent UEG exits the scene. Even now, the PokerTribe.com online presence is a (cob)web site that’s both a year out of date and contains blatantly fraudulent info: That ticker at upper left that claims to show 725 players and 3 running tournaments is fake and has been showing that fake info since 2016.
But players themselves shouldn’t be that concerned. In this writer’s opinion, the real marks in all this have been the two Oklahoma tribes — first the Cheyenne and Arapaho nation, and now the Iowa Tribe of Oklahoma. Various reports indicate the total expenditure by the two tribes now tops $20 million, a healthy chunk of which was paid to UEG and Fred Khalilian.
This next newsy development in all this is due any day, supposedly. We’ll be watching.
(Author’s Note: The opinions offered here are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of beliefs of Flushdraw and its owners.)