Oklahoma tribes sue over failed poker website venture
2 October 2017
PokerBrave (3284 articles)
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The Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes claim in a lawsuit that fraudulent gaming deals, including a failed internet poker venture, cheated their people out of $13 million.

“The transactions were marked by deceit, greed and utter disregard for the laws and economic well-being of the tribes,” the lawsuit claims.

Gov. Eddie Hamilton filed the lawsuit Thursday on behalf of the tribes in Cheyenne and Arapaho tribal court in Concho. The list of defendants included Florida businessman Fred “Prince Fred” Khalilian, who helped sell a never-realized gaming venture to the tribes called Pokertribes.com.

The Cheyenne and Arapaho claim that Khalilian and his business partners from the Florida company Universal Entertainment Group cheated the tribes out of $9.45 million for the gaming website, which was never fully functional.

The lawsuit claims Khalilian and Universal Entertainment Group actually had no legal right to sell the Pokertribes.com software to the tribes.

The gaming software was allegedly owned by one of Khalilian’s former business partners, who later successfully sued him in state court in Georgia over the rights to the product, according to the lawsuit.

The judgment was later overturned in Khalilian’s favor.

Multiple people named as defendants, including Khalilian, told The Oklahoman they believe the legal action is politically motivated. Hamilton is up for reelection this year and faces several challengers.

The Cheyenne and Arapaho folded plans for Pokertribes.com in 2014.

Universal Entertainment Group has since partnered with the Perkins-based Iowa Tribe to launch a new poker website. The Iowa Tribe’s Pokertribe.com domain is only one letter off from the Cheyenne and Arapaho’s failed Pokertribes.com.

The Iowa Tribe announced in September that it had obtained a license from the Isle of Man in the British Isles to launch Pokertribe.com as an international gaming venture this fall.

‘A sore loser’

“Eddie Hamilton is a sore loser — that’s what he is,” Khalilian said. “The Iowa Tribe has gone further than the Cheyenne and Arapaho ever did and Hamilton has egg on his face now.”

Brian Foster, former head of gaming operations for the Cheyenne and Arapaho, is also named as a defendant in the lawsuit.

“I believe it’s definitely politically motivated,” Foster said.

Foster said he believes Pokertribes.com was a viable website and a good opportunity for the Cheyenne and Arapaho to dramatically increase its gaming revenues.

“It’s unfortunate they didn’t stick with it. They would have done very well,” Foster said. “My position was to create business for the tribes and this was obviously a technological advancement.”

In a statement, Hamilton said the lawsuit was the culmination of a lengthy investigation into the tribes’ past business dealings.

The tribes continue to work with law enforcement to seek criminal prosecution of several individuals named in the lawsuit, Hamilton said.

“We continue to aggressively work with federal regulators and law enforcement authorities to bring about the indictment of those who have taken advantage of our tribes and misused our tribes’ gaming revenues,” Hamilton said. “We are appreciative of the cooperation and interest shared by those federal authorities and are proud of the strong partnership we have developed — particularly with our federal regulatory partners.”

Also named as defendants in the lawsuit are Universal Entertainment Group partners Isaias Almiras and Tatiana Vlasenko; Thomas Fox and Barbara Paukei, who previously managed the Cheyenne and Arapaho’s casinos in various capacities; attorney Richard Grellner, who helped negotiate the Pokertribes.com deal, and former Cheyenne and Arapaho Gov. Janice Prairie Chief-Boswell.