As expected, the Iipay Nation of Santa Ysabel in California are fighting back against the state shutting down their online bingo site.
The small tribe recently filed a Motion to Dismiss in the legal battle initiated by the state Attorney General. The Iipay’s argument in seeking a dismissal centers around its perceived sovereign right to do so under the Indian Gaming and Regulatory Act (IGRA).
Many will recall that the Iipay tribe launched Desert Rose Bingo several months ago, an online bingo site. The tribe were apparently testing the waters prior to rolling out their ultimate goal, a California poker site called Private Table.
But the California Attorney General put a halt to the online bingo (and poker) aspirations by convincing a judge to issue a temporary restraining order against Desert Rose Bingo. Undeterred, the tribe from Santa Ysabel, California are now asking for that lawsuit to be dismissed.
Such a filing is standard practice in the legal arena on civil matters, as the first strike of defense attorneys is to request a dismissal of all charges. It’s typically one of many steps in the legal process, as the lawsuit combatants seek to convince a judge to see things their way.
The Iipay Nation appear concerned that California lawmakers will eventually enact online poker legislation and fail to include the state’s smaller tribes. Not wanting to be left out, the tribe took a proactive stance by launching PrivateTable.com for play-money and repeatedly insisting that real-money wagering would follow.
It has not followed as of yet, although the website continues to make preparations headed in that direction. The latest modification at the site is promoting the use of Bitcoin as a payment processing alternative. An interesting development, as Bitcoin is an unregulated virtual currency.
At issue in the legal skirmish is whether or not games such as online poker and bingo – games that are not house-banked – fall under Class II or Class III gaming standards under the IGRA. That Act allows tribes to operate Class II gaming on tribal lands.
But the IGRA is somewhat outdated, having been put into effect before online wagering became available. So it remains up to a judge to determine the meaning behind the law as it is written.
California lawmakers have introduced online poker bills for half a decade without so much as a vote being taken on the matter. However, many believe that 2015 may be the year that the state’s powerful tribes, racetracks and cardrooms are able to find common ground on the issue.
Tribes such as the Iipay Nation, whose size pales in comparison to larger tribes such as the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, do not have the same footing, it seems, in the eyes of lawmakers. Forming state-tribe compacts is part of the process prior to ipoker legislation, and that process is being further muddied by Santa Ysabel in their desire to have a stake in the matter.
Although it is difficult to determine how a judge will rule, the odds seem to be against the Iipay Nation. But the tribe certainly must be given high marks for effort.