Internet gambling plan eyes international players

Jan 6, 2014 7:10 PM

While three states permit intrastate online gambling, an Oklahoma-based tribe is looking to conduct Internet gambling involving international players.

The Cheyenne and Arapahoe Tribe of Oklahoma has an agreement with the state whereby they would operate an Internet site called pokertribes.com that would attract players from around the world. But, even though state officials approve of the idea, the federal government does not.

Last month, the U.S. Department of the Interior blocked the activity saying Oklahoma can’t offer exclusive access to a market outside the U.S.

The tribe, agreeing the compact with Oklahoma is “pretty groundbreaking,” filed suit in federal court, naming Sally Jewell, secretary of the Interior, and Kevin Washburn, assistant secretary of Indian Affairs, as defendants.

It was Washburn’s intervention that stopped the tribe from enticing foreign gamblers.

Tribal leaders point out that the Cheyenne and Arapahoe Tribe is the only Native American tribe that has an agreement to operate a gambling website from tribal lands with international players. They have spent some $9 million in setting up the website.

Their plan differs completely with the Internet gambling currently taking place in Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware. In those states, online gambling is restricted to people who are physically within the states’ borders. Their hope has been that Congress will act to permit Internet gambling across state lines.

“In Oklahoma,” said Richard Grellner, an attorney representing the tribe, “we have the Native American culture we can sell to the world, and the state and the tribes can really benefit.” It was estimated the tribal plan could generate $132 million annually by 2018, if the website attracts just 2 percent of the worldwide online gaming market.

And the benefits to the state would be substantial, as well, they noted. The agreement calls for the tribe to pay the state 4 percent of the first $10 million in annual net revenue, 5 percent of the next $10 million and 6 percent of any subsequent amount, plus a monthly 10 percent from non-house banked card games, or games in which the casino or host has no stake in the outcome.

Ray Poirier is the longtime executive editor at GamingToday.

Contact Ray at [email protected].

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