A native tribe in the United States, the Iipay Nation of Santa Ysabel, had hoped it would be able to offer an online poker and bingo site but wasn’t ready for the battle that would ensue. The California tribe has been fighting over the launch of its Desert Rose online bingo site with federal regulators for years, but a court has now decided that the site will have to go.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit upheld a decision by a lower district court, which had sided with California in trying to force the tribe out of the picture. The chances of the tribe winning the fight were never good, but the case is still considered key to providing additional clarity to gambling laws across the U.S.
Indian tribes in the U.S. are governed by the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, as well as state and federal gambling laws. According to the Iipay when the case first hit the courts in 2014, “Tribes are considered sovereign nations in the United States and inter-tribal gaming employing the Internet has been legal for several years. Class II gaming, such as poker, have been exclusively regulated by tribes in California since 1999. Absent a specific state prohibition on this type of gambling activity, which does not currently exist in California, tribes are free to engage in this activity as long as the activity is regulated by the tribe as described in the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.”
Unfortunately, the courts didn’t see it that way. Ninth Circuit Court Judge Carlos T. Bea said, “The panel held that Iipay Nation’s operation of Desert Rose Casino violated the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (“UIGEA”). The panel held that the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act protected gaming activity conducted on Indian lands, but the patrons’ act of placing a bet or wager on a game of Desert Rose Casino while located in California, violated the UIGEA, and was not protected by the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.
“The panel further held that even if all of the ‘gaming activity’ associated with Desert Rose Casino occurred on Indian lands, the patrons’ act of placing bets or wagers over the internet while located in a jurisdiction where those bets or wagers were illegal made Iipay Nation’s decision to accept financial payments associated with those bets or wagers a violation of the UIGEA.
“Because Iipay’s operation of DRB violates the UIGEA, the Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit affirmed the district court’s order granting summary judgment to the Government.”
It’s not the end of the road for the Iipay. New Jersey tried a number of times to have PASPA repealed before it finally succeeded, and look where we are now.