Instead of waiting for the California General Assembly to enact regulations for online poker in the state, an Indian tribe in the state has taken the bold step of opening up their own online poker room that will test several state and federal laws.
Late last week, the Iipay Nation of Santa Ysabel Indians announced through a press release that today they would open up PrivateTable.com, an online poker room available for real money cash play that would be open to California residents over the age of 18. Poker journalist Marco Valerio obtained the press release in which Santa Ysabel spokesman Dave Vialpando stated, “We’re looking forward to the opportunity to expand upon (our) successful track record in the regulated gaming industry.”
According to the press release, the Iipay Nation has teamed up with the Kahnawake Gaming Commission to host their site through an inter-jurisdictional agreement. The duo are looking to move forward with PrivateTable.com due to the factor that they, as sovereign nations in their respective countries (the Kahnawake are in Canada, Iipay in the United States), are free to enact laws regarding gaming on their tribal lands. Even though the Ilpay are firmly in support of California’s efforts to enact legislation regarding online poker, Vialpando stated that the tribe, “has decided to rely on the tribal sovereignty and the provisions of the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) to offer online poker from the Tribe’s reservation.”
There could be several facets of the new Iipay Nation’s online gaming operations that could come under fire. On the state level, legislators have pushed for a 21-year old minimum gaming age for online operations. Additionally, the software for PrivateTable.com is provided by IG Soft and currently is being used by the Winning Poker Network. That could fly in the face of the “bad actor” clause that is currently under debate as the software has been used in the United States since the passage of the Unlawful Internet Gaming Enforcement Act (UIGEA) of 2006. That clause says that anyone who has provided “intellectual property” such as software would be ineligible to operate under a regulated California system.
This will also be a test of the federal government’s resolve on the online gaming and poker question. For the past three years – since the “Black Friday” indictments of 2011 – various online poker only bills have come before the House of Representatives but none have even made their way out of a conference committee. The Department of Indian Affairs, which has oversight of the Tribal nations, has held hearings also regarding online gaming, but it hasn’t set a firm policy yet regarding the question.
There might also be a question of suitability for the Iipay Nation to be operating the site. Although they opened a full-fledged casino in 2007, it was closed by a bankruptcy filing in 2012 when they allegedly couldn’t pay an estimated $50 million in debts. While poker might be the way to step into the fray for the Iipay Nation, they also may enter into an online casino operation, although Vialpando stated in the press release, “Santa Ysabel Interactive currently has no plans to offer internet-based slot machines or banked games through its website, but will consider offering other gaming consistent with the IGRA.”
Valerio has created an account on PrivateTable.com and was greeted with the following announcement on the website: “PrivateTable.com was designed for the enjoyment of adults over the age of 18 and may be accessed for “free play” fun from many jurisdictions. Any approved withdrawal may be cashed out from anywhere in the world but player deposits will only be accepted from California.
To be eligible to participate in tournaments or cash games, you must be a California resident and be located in the state of California. Any attempts to circumvent these rules may result in the closing of your account.”
There is no word yet from the Golden State as to whether the switch has been thrown to activate PrivateTable.com, but there could be an online “poker rush” if and when PrivateTable.com goes live.