On Thursday, the Iowa Tribe announced that Ioway Internet Gaming Enterprise Limited had been issued an online gaming license by the IOM Gambling Supervision Commission earlier this month. Ioway, which was registered in the IOM in January, is co-owned by the tribe and its sketchy online technology partner, the Florida-based Universal Entertainment Group (UEG).
UEG has been trying to launch a tribal online gambling site for several years now, having first hooked up with Oklahoma’s Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes on a deal to launch PokerTribes.com, a real-money online gambling site that would accept customers from outside the United States.
That highly controversial deal fell through before the site took a single wager, leading to reports that the National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC) was investigating UEG, whose owner Fred Khalilian has been the subject of multi-million-dollar deceptive telemarketing judgments by the Federal Trade Commission.
UEG subsequently hooked up with the Iowa Tribe to launch PokerTribe.com, whose real-money operations received the blessing of Oklahoma state legislators nearly 18 months ago. However, while the site launched free-play poker operations, it repeatedly delayed its real-money launch based on its need to “coordinate with foreign governments.”
In a statement issued on Thursday, Iowa Tribe chairman Bobby Walkup said the licensing process had “taken longer than we envisioned” but said the delay was “because we are a Native American tribe and held to higher gaming legal and regulatory standards.”
Walkup didn’t offer a specific timeline for PokerTribe’s real-money launch, saying only that it would go live “sometime this fall.” However, Walkup did promise an announcement within the next two weeks regarding the sale of the software company jointly owned by the Tribe and UEG to “an internationally-recognized company.”
Walkup said the sale of the jointly owned online gaming assets, including the software license agreement, to “the company that has an internationally-known brand” was in its “final stages.” Walkup further claimed that this “new relationship will be beneficial to the Tribe and the new software owner.”
Walkup also promised the imminent announcement of the hiring of a new general manager with “experience in international online gaming” who will oversee PokerTribe’s real-money launch.
RUBBER, MEET ROAD
Whoever this experienced internationally-known third party is, they have their work cut out for them if they want to turn PokerTribe into a successful online gambling operation.
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.