The Iipay Nation of Santa Ysabel, the go-it-alone tribal gaming operator that has vowed to launch a real-money online poker site whether California legalizes it or not, began offering real money online gaming this week. But it’s not poker, it’s bingo.
While the tribe’s proposed real-money online poker venture, PrivateTable.com, has had several false starts, with various provisional launch dates passing without a hint of a shuffle and a deal, DesertRoseBingo.com appeared to launch this week without a hitch.
However, the tribe continues to affirm its commitment to offering real-money online poker to residents of California, through Internet servers based on tribal lands.
The tribe believes that by offering what it called Class II gaming, defined as poker and bingo under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) of 1988, it is exerting its sovereign rights, regardless of whether it is legal at the state or federal level.
The tribe has made clear that it is interested only in poker and bingo.
“House-banked games and slot machines are defined as Class III games, and can only be offered in a tribal casino upon agreement with the state through a Tribal-State Gaming Compact,” it says on its website. “Santa Ysabel has had such a compact with the state since 2005, but has no plans to offer Class III gaming through its interactive website.”
Certainly, the tribe’s efforts to launch online poker in the California may depend on the success, or lack thereof, of the new bingo site and whether it receives legal challenges. And it’s likely that there will be legal challenges. The Iipays believe they have discovered a legal loophole in IGRA that defines bingo and poker as Class II gaming, but that assumes that bingo and poker are the same as online bingo and online poker, in a legal sense.
It’s a about as gray as areas get, but with the Golden State likely to push through some form of meaningful online poker regulation and legalization next year, it’s doubtful that lawmakers will appreciate the Iipsay’s attempts to muddy the waters at this juncture.
Will IGRA be Amended?
“Some legal commentators believe that limitations in tribal-state regulatory compacts and provisions in the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) limit the ability of tribes to accept wagers from off Indian lands,” gaming lawyer Ian Imrich told Online Poker Report recently. “They also argue that IGRA must be amended in order to address internet gaming in this setting.”
The last time we heard about the imminent launch of PrivateTable.com was a tweet on July 24. “Welcome to our new followers! We will be adding LIVE cash games very soon. For now, try out the games and enjoy!”
Since then, nothing, but the launch of DersertRoseBingo.com suggests that the tribe really does mean business, and not the funny kind.