Here we are, just two days away from Christmas morning, but the only Santa stirring up Cali dust these days is the Iipay Nation of Santa Ysabel. The California Tribe has been making headlines ever since the soft launch of a free-play online poker site over the summer, said to be transitioning to real money ‘very soon’. The developments in this story just keep coming, with the latest being a swing and a miss for the tribe.
Backing up just a bit, Santa Ysabel never did quite get their online poker site off the ground – not in a real money sense, anyway. With all of the regulatory matters seemingly shored up and preparations to go live appearing to be days away, at best, the California tribe chose to forgo the pay-to-play launch of PrivateTable.com, instead initializing a real money online bingo site, Desert Rose Bingo. That was in early November.
The state wasted no time in suing the tribe on grounds that DesertRoseBingo.com was an illegal operation. Anticipating a lengthy court case, California first asked for a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) against the online bingo site. US District Judge Anthony J. Battaglia granted the TRO on Friday, December 12th.
It took the Iipay Nation three days to comply with the order before reluctantly pulling the plug on its real money online bingo site; surely under the presumption that to capitulate now would be to accept the demise of the tribe’s original ambition to launch real money online poker. But while the games at Desert Rose Bingo may no longer be accessible by California residents, by no means were Santa Ysabel ready to surrender.
The statement that appeared in place of the online bingo room’s original homepage proffered a message of unremitting defiance in the face of adversity. Note that I’ve bolded some of the quoted text below to emphasize the tribe’s evident indignation.
|“·Santa Ysabel Interactive regrets to inform our loyal customers in California that the operations of DesertRoseBingo.com are temporarily suspended.·This is due to a U.S. District Court granting a request by the State of California for a Temporary Restraining Order against the Iipay Nation of Santa Ysabel and its government agents.
·The Santa Ysabel Tribe looks forward to vigorously defending its legal, well-regulated VPN-aided Class II bingo enterprise in federal court.
·The District Court’s mistaken reliance on outdated case law and its misinterpretation of the construct of Santa Ysabel’s bingo games resulted in issuing its misguided decision. This decision threatens the tribal sovereignty of all tribes, and sadly denies the Iipay Nation of Santa Ysabel the ability to provide vital services and opportunity for its Tribal membership.
·We appreciate your support and encouragement against unreasonable government interference and restraint of the exercise of Tribal jurisdiction and self-reliance.”
The mention of “outdated case law” was a reference to the IGRA of 1988 that gives US tribes the right to offer certain forms of gambling, based on state-by-state laws. However, the IGRA was passed a year before mankind was introduced to the World Wide Web. And while the state’s argument is that visitors to the online bingo site not located on tribal lands at the time of play, Judge Battaglia’s decision was based on the classifications of gambling in that “outdated” law.
In granting the TRO, the judge quoted the text of the IGRA, which states that any game traditionally deemed Class II, but represented as a “facsimile” of its standard form, constitutes Class III gaming. Tribes are only permitted to offer Class II gaming in the state of California.