The Iowa Tribe of Oklahoma has announced that it has been granted an online gaming license in the Isle of Man, a huge step forward in its efforts to become the first Native American tribe to launch a legal real money online poker site.

The Tribe had intended to launch real money online poker on on August 1st, 2016, but decided to delay takeoff, citing the need to “continue(s) to coordinate with foreign governments on the worldwide launch.”

This venture dates back two years to September 2015, when the Iowa Tribe, along with its software developer, Universal Entertainment Group (UEG), first set forth to get an online poker site up and running. Oklahoma’s Gambling Compliance Unit said it would be illegal, but an independent arbitrator, Charles Chapel, actually ruled in favor of the Tribe.

“The use of the Internet,” Chapel said, “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 compact and all its terms shall remain in force.”

Both the state and federal government accepted the ruling, so the Tribe and UEG pushed forward. In the August press release about the delayed launch, the Iowa Tribe and UEG said that they were “working to finalize the international country by country gaming licenses and international merchant processing banking. Banking partners will include Visa, MasterCard, Discover, American Express and more, plus our European banking partners.”

And now they have one of those licenses.

In a press release, the Tribe said that should go live this fall, but would not give an exact launch date. It also said that was in the process of selling the poker software company jointly owned by the Tribe and UEG to “an internationally-recognized company.”

“We are in the final stages of the sale and have been working diligently with Universal Entertainment Group to finalize the transfer of the online gaming assets, which includes the software license agreement, to the company that has an internationally-known brand,” Iowa Tribe Chairman Bobby Walkup said. “This new relationship will be beneficial to the Tribe and the new software owner as enters the international online gaming market.”

“The Iowa Tribe of Oklahoma is proud to be the first Native American tribe to secure an international online gaming license,” Walkup added. “The process has taken longer than we may have envisioned when we began this journey, but, because we are a Native American tribe and held to higher gaming legal and regulatory standards, we had to ensure that we met all these standards.”

Walkup said that tribal representatives traveled to the Isle of Man in August of last year to meet with gaming regulators. Upon returning home, the Tribe and UEG created Ioway Internet Gaming Enterprise Limited within the Isle of Man; it was that new company that applied for a gaming license in February 2017. The application was approved in June, though the company had to meet four conditions in order to actually receive the license. Ioway did and the license was granted on September 7th.

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