California Files Lawsuit vs. Iipay Tribe’s Online Bingo Site

California Files Lawsuit vs. Iipay Tribe's Online Bingo SiteIn a move that virtually everybody saw coming, California filed a lawsuit in federal court to shut down the Iipay tribe’s online bingo site.

The Iipay Nation of Santa Ysabel launched real-money online bingo earlier this month at by employing technology commonly referred to as virtual private network (VPN). The tribe contends such play by proxy conforms with all laws and regulations pertaining to Class II gaming, which permits non-house banked games such as poker and bingo.

The attorney general of California strongly disagrees, insisting in the lawsuit that Santa Ysabel’s actions violate the Unalwful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA), the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA), and the compact agreement between the state and tribe that was brokered in 2003. In short, California contends that wagers must be placed on Indian land and Desert Rose Bingo does not.

Online Poker is Ultimate Plan of Santa Ysabel

While the legality of online bingo will be sorted out in federal court, the Iipay Nation’s real aim was the promised launch of real-money online poker at The tribe rolled out a free-play online poker site over the summer and has repeatedly insisted that a transition to real-money was coming.

The Iipay Nation cite the same argument made with their online bingo endeavor as to the legality of Internet poker. However, that real-money launch has been delayed several times, with many observers speculating that the tribe is bluffing, perhaps with hopes of being included in any [geolink href=””]online poker legislation enacted in California[/geolink].

Santa Ysabel has scoffed at the idea of a bluff, and continues to maintain that a real-money roll out is in the offing. Should the Iipay Nation go ahead with that plan, you can bet another legal challenge from the state attorney general awaits.

Iipay Nation’s Financial Woes

A look at the history of the forward-thinking tribe reveals that it previously provided land-based gambling at its Santa Ysabel Resort and Casino. But debt in the neighborhood of $50 million led to a bankruptcy filing in 2012 and the casino closed its doors last February.

The tribe is on the small side in comparison to other California tribes such as the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians that are much greater in number. The Iipay’s size may preclude it from inclusion in the state’s eventual online poker regime.

Those who would perhaps be interested in wagering on the outcome of the federal lawsuit filed by the state of California to prevent Santa Ysabel from offering online bingo would be well-advised to put money on the attorney general to win this dispute. The same holds true for a possible online poker launch, as the Iipay Nation appears to be reaching quite far in their interpretation of the legality of such gambling websites.

Jacqueline Packett
Jacqueline Packett