Federal officials block Oklahoma Internet gaming website, tribe sues

The Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma want to offer online gaming through the website pokertribes.com to international players.
by Jennifer Palmer Modified: December 31, 2013 at 1:00 pm •  Published: December 30, 2013

The Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes is betting on the outcome of a federal lawsuit to re-establish its Internet gambling website.

The tribe, based in Concho, wants to operate pokertribes.com with international players, which the state agreed to under its gaming compact. But the U.S. Department of the Interior put a stop to it last month. The site is currently inactive.

The tribe filed the lawsuit Thursday in federal court in Oklahoma City, asking a judge to prevent the Department of the Interior from interfering. Sally Jewell, secretary of the Interior, and Kevin Washburn, assistant secretary of Indian Affairs, are named as defendants.

A few states this year legalized Internet gambling, allowing private firms to open gambling websites, though they are restricted to in-state players. Tribes, too, are looking to cash in with similar ventures. In Oklahoma, the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes is the only tribe that has an agreement with the state to operate such games from tribal lands with international players, said Steve Mullins, general counsel for Gov. Mary Fallin.

“It's pretty groundbreaking,” said Richard Grellner, an attorney representing the tribe. “In Oklahoma, we have the Native American culture we can sell to the world, and the state and the tribes can really benefit.”

Tribe leaders estimate they could generate $132 million annually by 2018 if the website attracts 2 percent of the worldwide online gaming market, according to the court filing.

Under the tribal compact, it would pay the state 4 percent of the first $10 million in annual net revenue from electronic gaming, 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.


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