The Iipay Nation of Santa Ysabel made the bold move to launch an online poker site despite the fact that California hasn’t yet regulated the industry (and won’t be doing so this year).
This led to plenty of questions over whether or not the site could be viable, whether they had any legal ground to stand on for offering real money play, and whether competitors or the state would try to shut them down.
But so far, Santa Ysabel online poker hasn’t been seriously challenged, and it appears that they’ll be moving full steam ahead to give players in California the change to wager their cash on the game.
“Our authority to offer class II gaming from our reservation is not prohibited by any statute,”
Santa Ysabel Gaming Commission Chairman Dave Vialpando has told Card Player that they’ll be activating real money play on their site “sometime between the 26th and 28th” of August.
The tribe first announced that they were interested in offering real money Internet poker last month, but started with a soft launch and a play money site. According to Vialpando, real money play will only be available to California residents aged 18 and over who are physically within the state while they play.
When asked by Card Player’s Brian Pempus about their decision to go ahead with offering poker online without a bill from the state legislature that expressly allows them to do so, Vialpando said that such a bill “doesn’t really affect [the tribe’s] plans.”
“Our authority to offer class II gaming from our reservation is not prohibited by any statute,” Vialpando said. “In fact, we believe it is covered by IGRA. We have been fully cooperative with all the government agencies that have asked us questions, in fact with anyone who has asked us questions. Most of our regulations are public documents, so it’s pretty much full disclosure for us.”
Vialpando also said that the initial real money options will be limited, but will expand over time.
“We have limited offerings right now because we want to make sure everything checks out reliability wise from beta testing,” he said. “It will be a slow roll-out. We will be adding new features and tournaments, and promotions as we move down the road and gain experience.”
Vialpando speculated that other tribes in California could have also launched online poker, but didn’t do so for a variety of reasons: perhaps they feared losing revenue at their brick-and-mortar casinos, or they didn’t feel such a site would be viable. Other tribes, he said, might want the state to create the regulatory framework rather than form one on their own.
He also said that expanding play to other international jurisdictions was a possibility in the future, but they were unlikely to allow players from other states to try real money play on the site.
“I would imagine the federal government would have something to say about [this] if the activity expanded beyond the bounds of the state,” Vialpando said.
The tribe’s site, PrivateTable.com, is currently offering free money play. The Santa Ysabel Indian Reservation is located in northern San Diego County, covering over 15,000 acres of land near Lake Henshaw. The tribe has said that they hope the online poker site will be able to generate enough revenue to offer economic opportunity on residents who live on the reservation.
Previously, the tribe operated the Santa Ysabel Casino, but that was eventually closed after accumulating more than $50 million in debt.