California Poker Site Likely to Face Legal Challenges

California Poker Site Legal ChallengesSometime next week, will be offering real-money online poker to players within the state of California.

The poker site, which is currently online with a play-money format, is run by the Iipay Nation of Santa Ysabel. That California tribe happens to be on the small side in comparison to other tribes in the state, many of whom hold considerable influence when it comes to gambling.

But Santa Ysabel is taking steps to be the most powerful of all by launching a poker site before legislation is passed that would allow them to do so. The tribe believes they are well within their right to offer real-money online poker and have cited the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) in support of their endeavor.

The online poker pie in California is projected to be worth billions of dollars due to the state topping the list in population throughout the U.S. The reason that Internet poker legislation has not yet been approved in the Golden State despite more than five years of trying is due to the fact that the gaming interests within the state cannot come to an agreement on how to slice that pie.

Certain tribes seem to want a bigger slice than their rivals, in addition to keeping potential players such as racetracks and bad actors from getting any piece at all. The bickering has passed the half-decade mark and has all the earmarks of dragging on even longer.

The upcoming real-money launch by Santa Ysabel seems certain to muddy the already muddy waters even more. With so much money at stake, it is almost certain that papers will be filed in state court by any number of interested parties seeking to prevent the Iipay Nation from carrying out its plans.

Two online poker bills were withdrawn from consideration earlier this month with supporters of each bill citing a lack of time to gain the required approval with this year’s legislative session set to expire on August 31. Work is already under way to rewrite one of those bills and to introduce it in December in time for 2015.

But between September and December, it is likely that a judge will be asked to decide whether or not tribes can go ahead and offer real-money online poker as long as the servers are located on Indian reservation land. Santa Ysabel claims that operating Class II gaming that includes poker and bingo, games that are not house-banked, are not prohibited in any way according to IGRA statutes.

The state’s gaming interests that includes other tribes will likely be running into each other at the courthouse when filing temporary restraining orders in an effort to keep Santa Ysabel from executing their plan. Or perhaps those gaming interests – racetracks, cardrooms and tribes – will get together in a unified effort to file the legal documents aiming to stop Santa Ysabel.

Wouldn’t that be ironic? Those parties have not been able to agree on ipoker legislation for more than five years. But they will almost certainly be in agreement that Santa Ysabel should not be allowed to get a head start on offering real-money online poker before legislation to that effect is actually approved.

Jacqueline Packett
Jacqueline Packett