California’s online poker bill may be dead for this year, but Californian poker players can legally play poker online in their state starting next week because of the Ipay Nation of Santa Ysabel.

The Ipay Nation of Santa Isabel has already launched, a free online poker room, but wants to convert it into a real money online poker room. The tribe is sure that it can offer real money online poker services legally even before the state of California changes its laws.

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Recently, the tribe stated that it is “exerting its sovereign right under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA)” in offering online gambling services through Santa Ysabel Interactive. The IGRA permits Native American tribes to offer Class II gambling services on their reservations. According to the IGRA, Class II gaming includes bingo and poker, but not blackjack and slots.  The latter, referred to as Class III games, can be offered only after signing a compact with the state. Although Santa Ysabel signed a similar compact with the state of California in 2005, it does not plan to offer Class III games online.

Santa Ysabel launched a month back. At that time, the tribe criticized California’s poker bills as beneficial only to richer Native American Tribes. Dave Vialpando, a spokesman for Santa Ysabel, said: “The current proposed legislation excludes all but the wealthiest gaming tribes from engaging in state-regulated online gaming. Smaller or remotely located tribes, like Santa Ysabel, would not be able to meet the financial prerequisites for participation in online gaming as currently proposed, in spite of their years of experience conducting and regulating brick-and-mortar Class I and Class III gaming.”

He further said that several tribes feel that the proposed online poker bills gives the state of California too many regulatory powers over gambling businesses run by Native American tribes, thus marginalizing and discounting several years of experience the tribes have in operating gambling businesses and favoring the state’s regulatory body, which does not have that experience.

Santa Ysabel says that it plans to launch a real money poker room at the end of August. When asked why Santa Ysabel is the only tribe planning to offer real money online poker, Vialpando said that some small tribes feel that online gambling sites will cannibalize their existing land-based gambling businesses. Smaller tribes are also happy with their traditional casino profits. is one of the skins on the Winning Poker Network (WPN).

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