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It took several years to get there, but the Iowa Tribe of Oklahoma has finally launched its Grey Snow Poker (GSP) online poker room.
Gaming is nothing new for the Bah Kho-Je — or “People of the Grey Snow” in their native language. The group currently operates four land-based gambling venues in Oklahoma, including Cimarron and Ioway casinos. This venture, though, marks its point of entry into the digital realm.
Now for the bad news. While the GSP rules don’t exclude specific jurisdictions by name, they do contain a coverall prohibition against accessing the site illegally. That means US online poker players are not permitted to use the platform for real-money gaming.
It’s big step forward for the tribe, however, charting a course of innovation that deviates from the competition.
GSP is the first tribal online poker site legally accepting international players under a license from the Isle of Man.
The terms and conditions explain:
“GreySnowPoker.com is operated by the Iowa Tribe of Oklahoma with the servers located on their sovereign land and regulated by the Iowa Tribe of Oklahoma Gaming Commission. GreySnowPoker.com is licensed and regulated by the Isle of Man Gambling Supervision Commission, which has been regulating gaming activities since 1962.”
Local regulations permit gaming servers to be located on sovereign land, facilitating remote operations. The Iowa is the first Native American group to apply for gaming license in the Isle.
Before embarking on this project, the Iowa Tribe verified its legal grounds. It first consulted a state-appointed arbitrator, Judge Chapel, who ruled that online poker was not prohibited by state or federal law.
The tribe then secured federal certification in the local US District Court. The approval states that offering “covered games” under the Class III compact between the Iowa Tribe and the State of Oklahoma does not violate any existing law.
This all took a long, long time. After missing several potential launch dates, though, the product has finally hit the market.
Here’s chairman Bobby Walkup on the rollout, teasing the primary differentiator:
“We are thrilled to have launched a great new poker site that focuses on fairness. It’s time for a new type of poker room to come along, made by poker lovers, and recognizing what’s best for poker.”
Former PokerStars executive and current GSP managing director George McIntosh tacked on:
“We’re determined to make GreySnowPoker the world’s most reputable online poker destination, leading the way in integrity, innovation, fairness and fun.
A lack of rake on cash games is the most eye-catching feature at GSP. While most online poker sites skim a percentage of each pot, GSP charges a flat fee of three percent when players leave the table.
“This means that if two players sit down with $100 each in a cash game, the total service-fee will be $6 regardless of how many hands or hours are played. It is entirely possible then that these two players can play heads up indefinitely without rake eating up their stacks. Tournament fees are also targeted to be some of the lowest in the industry.”
Several startup poker rooms have tried to offer rake-free poker in the past, and all have failed. The GSP FairPlay system, though, could change that track record.
Here’s more from McIntosh:
“We hope to shake up the online poker scene by changing the playing experience for the better. Our FairPlay service fee and automatic table seating will make games more user-friendly for recreational players…
“All in all, our FairPlay model should lead to longer time at the table, giving longer to learn, and a longer time that your cash lasts for.”
If he’s right, GSP could rapidly pick up a significant market share. Of course, if he’s wrong, the site might not be around for very long.
The marketing focus for GSP is very clearly on the recreational player.
The lobby doesn’t allow for table selection, for example, so the client mostly bypasses scripts and third-party software like HUDs. And high-volume players that jump around seeking soft games are effectively penalized by the recurring exit fee. The more often a player changes tables, the more rake they’ll pay.
Mass multi-tabling is allowed, so GSP does offer an environment where skilled players can profit. But apart from anonymized nicknames, the site provides as much protection as it can for inexperienced and casual players. Even the VIP scheme is biased in favor of losing players. Everyone receives a flat one-percent rebate on the total amount they lose.
Messaging is responsible, too. The GSP blog is fairly thin, but four of the current 10 articles include advice related to problem gambling. The site also offers self-exclusion and self-imposed limits on losses and deposits.
Entering the global online poker market is certainly a bold move, and other tribes will be watching to see if the strategy pays off. At the same time, competing operators should be quite interested to see how FairPlay goes over with players.