In a press release, the Iowa Tribe of Oklahoma has detailed a new effort to boost its presence in the gaming industry and help boost the economic success of its members.
In a statement sent to The City Sentinel, Chairman Bobby Walkup said, “Business on the Internet is coming fast and furious to all of our lives and is taking over more and more of our daily activities, regardless of whether it’s business or personal.
“To this end The Iowa Tribe of Oklahoma (“Tribe”) is picking up on online gaming where others left off via the newly minted domain names of Pokertribe.com and Pokertribe.gov.”
In the release, tribal officials detailed recent steps: “On Wednesday, December 23, the Iowa Tribe initiated legal proceedings in the United States District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma seeking certification of an award entered by an arbitrator that found the use of the Internet to offer certain “covered games” under the Class iii Gaming Compact (”Compact”) between the Iowa Tribe and the State of Oklahoma (“State”) is not in violation of previous and present state or federal law.”
History of the issue
The State had previously determined that such Internet gaming was authorized under the Compact and had entered into an 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.
Opportunity for Iowa Tribe
The opportunity was then presented to the Iowa Tribe of Oklahoma by the online gaming software developers, Universal Entertainment Group, (“UEG”) for their nationwide and international air, land, and sea online gaming platform and marketing strategy.
The release from Chairman Walkup explained, “Once our Tribe had an opportunity to review all the facts, we were able to see this as a positive opportunity for our Tribe, including present and future generations of Tribal members. We also saw a possible new online marketing concept that would generate fresh revenue for us and all other federally recognized tribes in the State and possibly across the Nation.
“At that point my office was able to complete our due diligence on the previous situation and the present history of UEG its principle and its entire team involved. This result of our due diligence investigation uncovered nothing which the Iowa Tribe deemed to be an impediment to going forward with UEG.
“The Tribe then executed an exclusive licensing agreement with UEG for its online gaming software for free and real money play usage. We would rather be the first in the Nation than to allow some other state and/or enterprise beat us to the punch even though we know for a fact this concept can only be launched by a sovereign nation.”
Proceedings Thus Far
The Iowa Tribe of Oklahoma reviewed the Agreement and concluded that that the offering of “covered games” via the Internet was authorized under the Compact. The Tribe’s leadership decided to continue the pursuit of iGaming in the form the State had authorized in the (prior) Agreement.
The Iowa Tribe of Oklahoma then served notice upon the State that the Tribe intended to pursue iGaming in the same form as authorized under the Agreement. In its response, the State invoked the arbitration provision of the Compact to resolve issues raised in the previous objections made by the Interior Department to the Agreement.
The Parties agreed to appoint retired state appellate court judge Charles Chapel as the sole arbitrator to resolve the dispute. Chapel, who served 17 years on the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals, rendered his decision on November 24. 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 arbitrator’s decision applies to all tribes in the State of Oklahoma. Every tribe has the same opportunity as the Iowa Tribe to engage in Internet gaming consistent with the arbitrator’s decision and the Compact.
The chairman’s statement concluded, “We look forward to moving forward and launching the site as soon as possible in 2016.”
The Iowa Tribe of Oklahoma operates from tribal headquarters in Perkins, Oklahoma. In the Iowa language, the tribe is known as Baxoje (Bah Kho-je), or ‘People of the Grey Snow.’