Iowa Tribe of Oklahoma Receives Isle of Man Gaming License for PokerTribe.com
In the continuing “will this actually happen” saga of PokerTribe.com, the Iowa Tribe of Oklahoma has announced that it has been granted an online gaming license in the Isle of Man. This could be the catalyst that allows the Tribe and its gaming development partner, Florida-based Universal Entertainment Group (UEG), to finally launch a real-money version of its online poker room. Could be.
PokerTribe.com has been in the works for a couple years. It actually goes back even further, to an almost identical site called PokerTribes.com (note the “s”), an effort between UEG and Oklahoma’s Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes. That didn’t work out and I will refrain from getting into all the sordid details of the project’s history, but I will direct you to a few pieces by my colleague, Haley Hintze, if you want to dive into the drama.
Where things really got moving for the Iowas and PokerTribe.com was a ruling by judge David Russell on April 15th, 2016, who said that the Iowa Tribe could go ahead and launch its real-money online poker room. Previously, the Oklahoma Gambling Compliance Unit had said the site was illegal, violating the Tribe’s gaming compact with the state.
Independent arbitrator Charles Chapel, though, found in favor of the Iowas and UEG, saying, in part, “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.”
And so the Tribe and UEG hopped into action, announcing a May 17th, 2016 launch date for play-money poker and an August 1st, 2016 launch date for PokerTribe’s real-money offering.
Real-money online poker, still hasn’t launched. On the expected launch date, the Iowas and UEG issued a press release explaining that they were “….working to finalize the international country by country gaming licensees [sic?] and international merchant processing banking. Banking partners will include Visa, MasterCard, Discover, American Express and more, plus our European banking partners.”
“We have completed each phase thoroughly and precisely. The final phase is the most important for a successful launch with the real money play, which is why we are rescheduling our launch date,” said The Iowa Tribe’s Chairman Bobby Walkup in that same press release.
Well now, it seems, one of those long awaited international licenses has come to fruition. In a recent press release, the Iowa Tribe explained that Walkup and tribal representatives visited regulators in the Isle of Man in August 2016. After they returned home, they incorporated Ioway Internet Gaming Enterprise Limited, the company that would seek to secure the license. The application was submitted in February 2017 and was approved June 13th, 2017.
According to Walkup, the license was officially granted after the Tribe satisfied four conditions put forth by the Gambling Supervision Commission. What those conditions were was not revealed publicly.
“The Iowa Tribe of Oklahoma is proud to be the first Native American tribe to secure an international online gaming license,” Walkup said in the licensing announcement. “The process has taken longer than we may have envisioned when we began this journey, but, because we are a Native American tribe and held to higher gaming legal and regulatory standards, we had to ensure that we met all these standards.”
Interestingly, Walkup also announced that the software company jointly owned by the Tribe and UEG will soon be sold to “an internationally-recognized company.”
No specific launch date was given for real-money online poker on PokerTribe.com; the only time frame given was this fall.
While it would be great if PokerTribe.com became a major online poker site, as Haley has discussed previously, the chances of it even becoming a minor site are not good. The site will only be able to accept customers from jurisdictions where online poker is explicitly legal. Thus, within the United States, it only has the markets of Nevada, New Jersey, and Delaware from which to draw players. But those states only permit intrastate online poker and only on sites with servers within state borders, so the Iowas are very unlikely to get any players from those states.
But PokerTribe now has an international license, so it can expect a flood of players from Europe and elsewhere, right? Doubtful. International players already have an array of online poker sites at their disposal, including the big boys like PokerStars and 888. There is really no reason for anyone to try PokerTribe when it isn’t offering anything better than anyone else. PokerTribe will almost certainly offer less than the competition at the outset, as it simply won’t have the player base or financial resources to one-up anybody.
But hey, you never know. It’s not the gambling industry for nothing.