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California Santa Ysabela Indian Tribe Launches Real Money Bingo Site

The Iipay Nation of Santa Ysabela announced 4 months ago that they would be bringing Internet poker to California. They followed through on their promise this week, with a twist. Instead of virtual poker, online bingo is now available for real money play in the Golden State. Santa Ysabel Interactive Director of Marketing Chris Wrieden stated in an interview that it takes a lot of effort and time to “put all of the pieces together” to deliver any type of online gambling operation. The Santa Ysabela tribe still plans to deliver online poker to California residents, in addition to the real money bingo site they just launched.

DesertRoseBingo.com is the name of the virtual bingo hall catering to citizens of and visitors to California. Technically, Wrieden said the launching of the online bingo product was less challenging than coordinating all the virtual and physical requirements for a cyber poker operation. The opening of the real money bingo site defies California state gambling law.  But if it runs successfully without being stopped by any serious legal challenges, online poker will surely follow.  This is currently the only state based bingo site, expanding options for players seeking California online bingo gaming.

At the time the Iipay Nation of Santa Ysabela announced their plans to offer online poker to Californians, many thought it was simply a posturing ploy. The tribe was in negotiations with the state of California on several non-related matters, and the announcement was seen as a negotiating tool. With the launch of the DesertRoseBingo.com site, the tribe’s plans for creating a viable real money gambling industry in California now seem legitimate.

Although current California law outlaws any type of online gambling, the tribe’s legal advisory team believes they are within their rights because of current state legislation. The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) of 1988 allows Indian tribes recognized by the California government to regulate Class II gambling games, as long as they take place on tribal property. IGRA classifies bingo and poker as Class II games.

In an attempt to appease California legislators, the tribe placed the following statement on its website:

“Santa Ysabel has had such a compact with the state since 2005, but has no plans to offer Class III gaming through its interactive website.”

Class III games include slot machines and house-banked offerings, and require a specific agreement between any Indian tribe and the state of California. Four months ago, when the tribe announced its real money online poker intentions, California lawmakers alerted Santa Ysabel elders that they would follow through with legal procedures to shut down any such website. It remains to be seen if this real money bingo offering will be allowed to operate. In the public’s eyes, bingo is seen as a more socially acceptable game. And since the stakes are usually very low, many people do not see it as a form of gambling. Check back for updates on real money gambling in California as they happen.