The Iipay Nation appear poised to vigorously defend their belief that they are within their legal right to operate online bingo and poker in California.
Last week, the attorney general of California filed a lawsuit in federal court seeking to put an end to Santa Ysabel’s operation by proxy of DesertRoseBingo.com. Citing the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA), Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA), and the state-tribe compact that is over a decade old, the lawsuit surprised no one after the Iipay tribe began accepting Internet wagers earlier this month.
Santa Ysabel released a statement regarding the lawsuit, with tribal spokesman Cruz Bustamante calling the legal action lacking in
both substance and merit, and further took offense by stating that the pleading
attacks tribal sovereignty. It appears that lawyers for each side will now go a few rounds in the skirmish, as Bustamante added that the Iipay tribe
look forward to having the opportunity to demonstrate the legality, regulatory veracity and consumer safety of their online bingo site.
As many are aware, online bingo is not the ultimate goal of the tribe. Its aim is to offer online poker through its PrivateTable.com website that currently allows free-play poker. Santa Ysabel insist that real-money online poker is coming soon and the tribe firmly believe that their tribal sovereignty permits such an enterprise.
It also appears from the Iipay statement first published at Pechanga.net that other California tribes are invited to join in the legal action versus California because, as Bustamante sees it, the lawsuit
is attacking the sovereignty of all tribes. There has as of yet been no public statements offered by other California tribes with regard to whether or not they side with the tribe from Santa Ysabel.
Online poker legislation has been discussed for more than five years in California, yet lawmakers have never even voted on a proposal. With billions of dollars in revenue at stake, the state’s tribes, racetracks and cardrooms have been unable to find common ground.
Further muddying the situation is PokerStars’ alliance with the Morongo Band of Mission Indians and the state’s three largest card clubs, to which the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians recently signed on as partner. A host of other tribes want desperately to keep PokerStars out.
The IIpay Nation are seemingly perturbed that they may be excluded from participating in the state’s eventual ipoker regime. Santa Ysabel is concerned that state officials will
negotiate compacts with many of the California Tribes with respect to new online poker legislation, but only with the largest and most powerful.
This battle appears to be just beginning and may impact another legislative effort at online poker regulation in 2015. Santa Ysabel aims to be included in those efforts and are seemingly waging a fight on behalf of all state tribes, even though a number of those tribes may not be in their corner.
Let’s hope that it’s not a long, drawn-out legal contest that further hinders online poker legislation in the Golden State. But it very well may be just that.