Iipay Nation Defiant in the Face of Lawsuit

November 29th, 2014 | by Brian Corlisse
Seal of the Iipay Nation of Santa Ysabel

California’s lawsuit sets a “dangerous legal precedent that could be used in other jurisdictions to undermine and attack tribal sovereignty,” according to the Iipay Nation. (Image: en.numista.com)

The Iipay Nation of Santa Ysabel has blasted the federal lawsuit filed last week by the State of California that challenges the tribe’s right to offer real-money online gaming. The go-it-alone tribal operator, which went live with its online bingo site DesertRoseBingo.com several weeks ago and plans to launch an online poker site shortly, called the legal challenge “misguided” and “lacking in substance and merit.” Furthermore, stated the tribe in a press release, it “attacks tribal sovereignty,” not just that of the Iipay but of all tribes.

“With this lawsuit, the State of California is attacking the sovereignty of all tribes,” states the release. “The suit is intent on obstructing the rights and economic vitality afforded to federally-recognized Indian tribes under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA). 

Misguided Attack

“The State’s misguided attack completely ignores existing federal regulations and guidelines encompassed in the Cabazon Decision of the United States Supreme Court, which remains the law of the land. It is a thinly veiled attempt to weaken tribal governments as the State prepares to negotiate compacts with many of the California Tribes. This action by the State should be of great concern to all Tribes in California and elsewhere because it reflects a tactic that, if successful, would set a dangerous legal precedent that could be used in other jurisdictions to undermine and attack tribal sovereignty.”

The Iipay Nation, which ran a land-based casino until it was forced to closed in 2007 leaving the tribe with millions of dollars of debt, believes it is its tribal right to offer Class II gaming, which is defined as bingo and poker, and that it is backed up legally in this conviction by the Indian Gaming and Regulations Act 1988 (IGRA). However the California Attorney General’s Office believes that the Act only permits it to offer Class II gaming on tribal land and that there is no provision for internet gaming. The lawsuit requests a temporary restraining order banning the operation of DesertRoseBingo.com until the matter can be settled in court. 

Completely Transparent

But it’s clear that the nation is in no mood to back down and is determined to defend the integrity of its operation. “Santa Ysabel Interactive and the Santa Ysabel Gaming Commission (SYGC) have constructed a business model and regulatory structure that is completely transparent and compliant with all applicable SYGC and NIGC regulations” it said.

“The transparency is such that the SYGC regulations are and have been available to the public for months on the SYGC website. The Tribe has invited various California state and federal officials to review operations on a government-to-government basis. As of today, no representative from the office of the California Governor has accepted the invitation to visit the reservation to discuss Santa Ysabel Interactive.”

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