Marty Derbyshire monster audio

An Oklahoma-based Native American tribe and a California audio components company appear poised to debut the first international poker site operating from inside the United States.

Earlier this month, Monster Technology Group announced it had acquired Universal Entertainment Group’s online gambling assets. These assets include software licensed to the Iowa Tribe of Oklahoma to operate an online poker site. Monster is headquartered in San Francisco.

Isle of Man licensed the site

In September, the tribe announced it had secured a gaming license for its site in the Isle of Man. It has been almost two years since the tribe first announced plans to operate the website from tribal lands.

The tribe says an arbitrator confirmed its right to operate the site in November 2015. The arbitrator was presiding over a dispute regarding the type of gambling allowed under the Iowa’s state gaming compact. According to the tribe, the arbitrator held that online gaming was not prohibited under state or federal laws. The tribe also says the arbitrator’s decision was confirmed in April 2016 by a federal judge in United States District Court in Oklahoma City.

The tribe and its new partners have yet to set a launch date for the online poker site, PokerTribe.com. However, the site itself says real-money play will be coming this winter.

“The Iowa Tribe Government is in process of getting all of their international gaming licenses & successfully doing so,” reads a note on PokerTribe.com’s front page.

Free play up and running

Free play is currently available on PokerTribe.com, allowing players to test the software before the real-money launch.

A feature story on the website Digital Trends cites the online gambling operation as led by Fred Khalilian. Khalilian, a former telemarketing giant and Paris Hilton nightclub partner, is Monster’s new COO. The executive says PokerTribe.com will launch on or before Dec. 15.

The tribe says securing a gaming license in the Isle of Man was the last step necessary before it can open the site. It will apparently operate from tribal land in Perkins, Oklahoma.

The Iowa Tribe of Oklahoma reportedly paid Khalilian’s Universal Entertainment Group $10 million to launch the online poker site under its gaming compact. The Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes of Oklahoma reportedly paid Khalilian $9.4 million to do the same thing in 2011. However, the deal fell through before a site ever launched. The tribes filed a lawsuit against Khalilian in September.

Open to US players?

Amid other questions, the most pressing uncertainty is whether PokerTribe.com will be open to US players or only those outside the country’s borders.

According to a press release, the afore-mentioned arbitrator’s original decision was that the site could offer internet gambling only to players located outside the US. Players must also be in a jurisdiction where internet gaming is legal.

However, the Digital Trends feature seems to indicate Khalilian has bigger plans. Khalilian supports the idea the tribe is a sovereign nation with the right to self-governance. This would mean US laws regarding online gambling wouldn’t apply to online poker sites operating on tribal land.

At the very least, it would appear Monster and Khalilian are in the camp of National Indian Gaming Commission General Counsel Michael Hoenig. Hoenig told Digital Trends online gambling on Indian lands represents a gray area for laws written well before the rise of the internet.

Marty Derbyshire
Marty Derbyshire - Martin Derbyshire is a veteran of the world of poker and gambling, having worked as a reporter, producer, and editor in the industry for more than a decade. He has traveled the globe interviewing high-profile personalities and contributes to a number of publications, including USPoker.com, PlayCA.com, and PlayNJ.com.