The real-money online bingo site of California’s Iipay Nation of Santa Ysabel tribe was the subject of two court actions this week as both state and federal agencies sought to shut the site down. Thursday saw the state Attorney General’s office argue its case before a US District Court judge while Wednesday saw the US Department of Justice accuse the site of violating the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA).
The tribe made waves this summer by announcing plans to launch a real-money online poker site that never actually materialized. Instead, the tribe teamed up with Great Luck LLC to launch Desert Rose Bingo, a real-money bingo site that utilizes ‘proxy play’ technology to get around limitations that restrict gambling to tribal lands. The tribe says it’s allowed to offer bingo, which is defined as Class II gaming under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA), while the state insists the site is an ‘electronic facsimile’ of bingo and therefore a prohibited form of Class III gaming.
On Thursday, the state made its case to US District Judge Anthony Battaglia for a temporary restraining order against the Desert Rose site. Deputy Attorney General Bill Torngren played a video showing one of his investigators playing a five-cent game of bingo on the site while not physically present on the tribe’s land. U-T San Diego quoted Torngren saying that if the site “looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s probably a duck” and probably an illegal online gambling site, as well.
Tribal attorney Little Fawn Boland countered that the site should remain operational, at least until an actual trial can be held. Shutting down the site now would result in loss of employment for tribal members and loss of revenue for the “one of the most impoverished” tribes in the state. Battaglia declined to issue a ruling on Thursday, saying only that he would make his wishes known soon enough.
Meanwhile, the feds filed their own legal papers against the site on Wednesday, arguing that the tribe is “engaged in the business of betting or wagering” online with individuals not physically present on tribal land. The UIGEA prohibits funding of unauthorized betting sites and the DOJ wants an injunction preventing the tribe from accepting any payments that would permit gamblers to utilize the Desert Rose site. No date has been set for a hearing on the DOJ’s filing.