Iipay Nation Loses Legal Battle to Offer Online Poker and Bingo

The Iipay Nation of Santa Ysabel violated the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act when it launched a real-money online bingo site, DesertRoseBingo, in 2014.

That was the opinion of a federal judge in California this week, whose judgement effectively put an end to the tribe’s go-it-alone online poker ambitions.

Iipay Nation Loses Online Poker Battle

The Iipay’s DesertRoseBingo which was shut down in 2014 by a federal restraining order. This week a judge ruled that the site was in contravention of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act. (Image: Santa Ysabel Interactive)

The Iipay Nation was determined to offer online poker and bingo from their reservation in San Diego County, California, regardless of whether the Golden State ever got round to legalizing it or not (they didn’t).

What’s more, the tribe believed it was its sovereign right to do so, in accordance with Indian Gaming and Regulations Act 1988 (IGRA).

IGRA permits federally recognized tribal nations to operate class II gaming, like poker and bingo, without special dispensation from the state, provided the games take place on tribal lands.

But since IGRA predated the internet, the rules on the online varieties were open to interpretation.

Restraining Order

To test the water, the nation launched DesertRoseBingo and promised that a poker site would follow imminently, but it never got the chance. Legal action came swiftly and a federal restraining order took the bingo site offline until the matter could be resolved in the courts.

Both the federal government and the State of California argued that because participants in the games were not necessarily based on tribal lands, the operation violated UIGEA.

The State of California also argued that the tribe was in violation of its compact with the state because, while bingo and poker were defined as class II gaming, the online versions, unforeseen by IGRA, were something different.

They were, argued California, more like “electronic facsimiles” which fall into the class III category.

No Violation of Compact with California

While Judge Anthony J. Battaglia of the US District Court for the Southern District of California Judge Anthony J. Battaglia, dismissed the latter claim, he agreed with the former.

“When IGRA and UIGEA are read together, it is evident that the phrase ‘on Indian lands’ was intended to limit gaming to those patrons who participate in the gaming activity while in Indian country,” he wrote.

“Were the Court to give IGRA the broad construction Tribal Defendants urge, under no circumstances would the United States be able to enforce UIGEA where some portion of the activity originates from servers located on Indian lands.”

The Iipay Nation is yet to issue an official statement on the ruling. In the past, it has been defiant in the face of its various legal challenges, claiming, for example, that the State of California was attacking not just its own sovereignty “the sovereignty of all tribes.” But now, having received full legal clarification, it has little recourse but to comply with the rules.

Written by
Philip Conneller
As part of the team that launched Bluff Magazine back in 2004, and then as Editor of Bluff Europe, Philip Conneller has (probably) written thousands of articles about poker and has travelled the globe interviewing the greatest players in the world, not to mention some of the sexiest celebrities known to man in some of the world’s sexiest destinations. The highlight of his career, however, was asking Phil Ivey (as a joke) how to play jacks, and emerging none-the-wiser. Philip once won $20,000 with 7-2 offsuit. He has been told off for unwittingly playing Elton John’s piano on two separate occasions, on different sides of the Atlantic Ocean. He became a writer because he is a lousy pianist. He lives in London where he spends his time agonizing about Arsenal football club, yet in Wenger he trusts.


Paul R. Jones wrote...

This article is an astonishing piece of a deplorable lack of journalist curiosity regarding U.S./State citizens with “Indian ancestry/race” since The Indian Citizenship Act of 1924! That single Indian Citizenship Act of 1924, made moot all previous common law-state and federal-including Presidential Executive Orders, Commerce Clause and Treaty Clause alleged Indian Treaties (if any U.S. Senate confirmed Indian treaties actually existed pre-1924 Citizenship) regarding U.S./State citizens with “Indian ancestry/race” so often touted by politicians and Indian advocates as being legitimate law.

And yet, MSM continue to perpetuate willful blindness to the Constitutional absurdity that Congress, Presidents/Governors, Initiatives and Referendums can make distinguishable the metes and boundaries of a select group of U.S./State citizens with “Indian ancestry/race” post citizenship.
The Constitution makes for no provisions for:
1. Indian sovereign nations. None of the asserted tribes possess any of the attributes of being a ‘sovereign nation:’
a. No Constitution recognition
b. No international recognition
c. No fixed borders
d. No military
e. No currency
f. No postal system
2. Treaties with its own constituency
3. Indian reservations whereby a select group of U.S./State citizens with “Indian ancestry/race” reside exclusively and to the exclusion of all others, on land-with rare exception-that is owned by the People of the United States according to federal documents readily available on-line that notes rights of ‘occupancy and use’ by these distinguished U.S./State citizens with “Indian ancestry/race” only with the land owned by the People of the United States.
4. Recognition of ‘Indian citizenship’ asserted by various tribes. There is no international recognition of “Indian citizenship” as there is no ‘nation’ from which citizenship is derived.
A simple question for politicians and MSM to answer…a question so simple, it is hard:
“Where is the proclamation ratified by 1/3rd of the voters of the United States that amends the Constitution to make the health, welfare, safety and benefits of a select group of U.S./State citizens distinguishable because of their “Indian ancestry/race?”

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