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Judge Bets Against the Iipay Nation of Santa Ysabel


Last updated 12/21/2016 at 5:27pm

It has been a year since the U.S. government and California authorities joined forces in its battle against the Iipay Nation of Santa Ysabel over the tribal nation’s online gambling operations. In 2014 a coalition of California’s politically powerful American Indian tribes began pursuing ways to legalize online poker, the plan was to launch real-money online poker and bingo websites as Class II gambling permitted under federal law. The arguments were based on the fact that servers were located on tribal land and virtual tables would be by invitation only.

The Ipay Nation of Santa Ysabel declared its website would be taking wagers on poker, although the launch was delayed several times due to legal waivers. A coalition of seven tribes in Northern California, Oklahoma and Michigan, known as the Internet Tribal Online Gaming Alliance (ITOGA), also announced the launch of a real-money bingo website called ‘Desert Rose Bingo’. Santa Ysabel, Alturas and the other California tribes believed they could legally offer online poker and bingo as Class II games regardless of legislature. Tribes contended that with internet servers located on the reservation, wagers legally take place on Indian land and are subject to regulation by the National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC).

The U.S. government and California authorities alleged that the Iipay Nation of Santa Ysabel’s various gambling operations failed to protect patrons who were physically located outside of the tribal grounds from accessing the platforms. Therefor they ruled against the tribe offering Class II bingo games to people living in California, and Desert Rose Bingo has been suspended indefinitely by violating the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 (UIGEA). This has meant that the tribe has been ordered to immediately stop “offering or conducting any gambling or game of chance played for money or anything of value over the Internet to any resident of or visitor to California who is not physically located on the tribe’s Indian lands.”

The tribe have also been told to stop “accepting any credit, or the proceeds of credit, extended to or on behalf of any resident of or visitor to California who bets or wagers over the Internet in connection with, any gambling or game of chance offered” by the tribe. The order includes payments made using credit cards.

Despite the Iipay Nation initially managing to win a minor victory when a first case was dismissed where California’s claim that the tribe breached its gambling compact with the state. In that instance, the Iipay Nation triumphed in its argument by stating that the online bingo offered at Desert Rose Bingo, was rightly categorized as Class II tribal gaming—not Class III—which means that it was legal under the U.S. government’s Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.

That victory was short lived when the federal government brought the UIGEA ban into play.

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