The Chairman of the Iipay Nation of Santa Ysabel Tribe has called on California to legalize online gaming, warning that failing to do so would be “counterproductive to consumer demand.”
Dave Vialpando, who is due to address iGaming conference GIGse in San Francisco next month, is locked in a bitter legal dispute with the State of California over the tribe’s determination to offer online poker and bingo to Californians whether the state chooses to legalize it or not.
The tribe believes it is its sovereign right to do so and that it is justified under the Indian Gaming and Regulations Act 1988 (IGRA).
The Iipay have long vowed to go live with a real-money online poker room, PrivateTable.com, and several months ago tested the legal waters by launching their online bingo offering, DesertRoseBingo.com.
But the California Attorney General’s Office acted swiftly, filing legal action that accused the Iipay of breaching of their compact with the state and of violating federal law, and immediately sought a temporary restraining order from a federal judge to ban the operation of DesertRoseBingo.com until the entire matter could be settled in court.
Chances of Legalization are Slim
The tribe has filed a motion to dismiss, calling the legal action “a thinly veiled attempt to weaken tribal governments as the State prepares to negotiate compacts with many of the California Tribes.”
The California legislature has been debating the legalization and regulation of online poker for several years, but has so far failed to find a bill with language that all the stakeholders can agree on. A powerful coalition of tribal operators is adamant that California’s racetracks and PokerStars, as so-called “bad actors,” should be excluded from a regulated market.
Meanwhile a smaller coalition, allied with the state’s biggest cardrooms, are anxious to include PokerStars, with whom they have a commercial agreement. Despite the emergence of three bills so far this legislative session, Vialpando believes that the trenchant position of the opposing stakeholders means that the chances of online poker becoming legalized this year are “slim.”
Iipay Would Support State Regulated Market
“Too many potential entrants to this market, including the state, are too busy trying to guide the structure of legislation to maximize the benefit to the constituency they represent, often to the exclusion or detriment of others, rather than concentrating on crafting a framework which best serves the needs of the gaming public,” he said.
But despite the Iipay’s maverick, go-it-alone philosophy and belief in the sovereign rights of the tribe to offer online gaming, they would support a state regulated market, says Vialpando, albeit one that was inclusive. “I fully support legal, well-regulated online gaming in California, as long as all potential entrants are afforded the opportunity to enter the market and artificial legislative barriers which serve no other purpose than exclusion to limit competition are kept out of the legislation,” he said.
“All of the relevant stakeholders need to concentrate on the areas of common ground, recognize that there will be plenty of business advantage to go around, rely on proven experienced experts in the industry to help craft a well-regulated (not over-regulated) industry which will benefit everyone.”