In Oklahoma, efforts by the federally-recognized Iowa Tribe of Oklahoma to launch an international online gaming website could be in jeopardy after the National Indian Gaming Commission reportedly revealed that it is continuing to investigate the firm helping to develop the domain.
According to a report from The Oklahoman newspaper, the regulator is looking into Miami-based Universal Entertainment Group after it received about $9.4 million from the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma in 2012 to assist in the development of an online gambling domain at PokerTribes.com. Despite handing over the cash, the Concho-based tribe allegedly never saw their site launch and the project soon became mired in litigation with the United States Department of the Interior.
Reggie Wassana, Speaker for the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma, reportedly told the newspaper that the National Indian Gaming Commission recently asked his office for additional information regarding the deal with the Florida developer for the failed domain at PokerTribes.com.
“A lot of money was paid and nothing was ever received,” Wassana told The Oklahoman. “Nothing became of it. It was $9.4 million for a website basically. There was no realization of profits and no actual working Internet gaming.”
In a statement released through attorney, Eddie Hamilton, Governor for the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma, reportedly explained that he was not able to divulge any more details about the deal behind PokerTribes.com “in light of continuing investigations.”
“I remain committed to carrying out the directive of the Tribal Council to bring to justice, hopefully with the support of federal authorities, everyone who played a role in the PokerTribes.com scheme to take advantage of the tribes,” read the statement from Hamilton.
However, entrepreneur Fereidoun “Fred” Khalilian, who reportedly works as a consultant for Universal Entertainment Group, purportedly told The Oklahoman that he believes no action will be taken against the company as 2014 saw it endure months of scrutiny by the Federal Bureau of Investigation regarding the deal with the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma with no charges filed.
“The [Federal Bureau Of Investigation] went through all of our financials dollar by dollar,” Khalilian told the newspaper. “We did nothing wrong.”
For its part, the Iowa Tribe of Oklahoma, which reportedly has about 800 enrolled members, had initially hoped to launch its similarly-named PokerTribe.com online gambling domain complete with games of real-money poker last year after an arbitrator ruled that the venture fell under the precepts of the Oklahoma Tribal-State Gaming Compact and did not violate federal or state laws. The Perkins-based tribe allegedly handed over $10 million to Universal Entertainment Group in 2015 and detailed that it is currently in the process of applying for a license from the Isle Of Man’s Gambling Supervision Commission.
“The site will launch once we secure the license,” David McCullough, an attorney for the Iowa Tribe of Oklahoma, told the newspaper. “It has been a long process and an interesting process because it just hasn’t been done before; so everything is new.”
The Oklahoman reported that the Iowa Tribe of Oklahoma has not announced a new launch date for PokerTribe.com after missing several previously announced debuts while McCullough allegedly proclaimed that he does not envisage that the National Indian Gaming Commission investigation will have any impact on his client’s coming online gambling venture.
“The National Indian Gaming Commission does not comment on any potential or ongoing legal investigations but has the authority to make referrals to other federal, state or tribal authorities when potential criminal activity occurs,” read a statement from the National Indian Gaming Commission. “We are unable to comment whether this action has taken place.”