WEEKLY FEATURE: No Stinkin’ Compact: California Tribe Launches Online Poker Site

The Iipay Nation of Santa Ysabel Indians has launched a real-money online poker site despite no state regulations in California for online gambling being in place. The tribe has already launched a free online site and its move to real-money gambling could be a test of state’s rights to regulate tribal gaming.

The Iipay Nation of Santa Ysabel Indians has apparently decided not to wait for California to approve online poker and announced it will be launching its own real-money poker site.

The tribe has already launched the free-play PrivateTable.com and according to reports was saying it could start real-money gambling least week. So far, however, the site has not launched real money gambling.

California has been considering two proposed pieces of legislation to regulate online poker, but none have been passed by the state legislature.

According to a press release, the Iipay Nation has partnered with the Kahnawake Gaming Commission to host their site through an inter-jurisdictional agreement. The site appears to be using software from IGSoft that is similar to what is used on the Winning Poker Network, according to published reports.

The tribe is relying on tribal sovereignty and the provisions from the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act to offer online poker from their reservation. The tribe cited a provision of the 1988 Indian Gaming Regulatory Act that defines poker as Class II gambling, thus allowing it to be offered on tribal land.

 “California Tribes have been actively involved in gaming in the state since the passage of Proposition 1A in 1999. The Iipay Nation of Santa Ysabel successfully negotiated a tribal-state gaming compact with California in 2003 and operated the Santa Ysabel Casino from the Tribe’s reservation,” the release said.

“The regulatory structure implemented by the Santa Ysabel Gaming Commission is more stringent than the regulatory requirements contained in either of California’s proposed I-gaming legislative proposals currently under consideration by the California Legislature,” the release said.

The release also said the tribe supports the state’s move to enact online gambling legislation, but feels it already has the right to offer online poker. The tribe said it has no plans to offer slots or casino games online.

Still, some analysts warn that live poker and online poker may not be considered interchangeable legally. The question would be whether online gambling is the same as offering gambling on tribal lands.  

Also, advocates of online poker in California have been pushing for 21 to be the minimum age for online gambling, not 18 as the tribe has proposed. Analysts also note that the small tribe has had previous financial problems and saw the closing of its land-based casino in 2012 in bankruptcy.

State and federal officials have not commented on the plan. Dan Little, a commissioner with the National Indian Gaming Commission, however, commented last week that poker is clearly a Class II game, the heart of the Iipay Nation’s argument.