Rogue California Tribe Further Complicating Online Poker

Written By Steve Ruddock on July 14, 2014
Unregulated new poker site for California

The Santa Ysabel Band of Diegueño Indians in California (commonly referred to as the Iipay Nation) have decided to give the old Spaceballs salute to the other tribes in California as well as the state legislature and launch their own online poker room even though California has yet to pass online poker legislation.

The story was first reported by Marco Valerio who received a copy of a press release (the full press release can be found at the bottom of this article) from Sacramento-based attorney Martin Owens detailing the legal opinion the Iipay Nation feels it is operating under as well as the logistics and regulations that their rogue online poker room will operate on.

The poker room goes by the name and uses IG Soft software, which is the same software in use at the Winning Poker Network (which operates several unlicensed online poker rooms in the US). The site is live for play-money games as we speak, and could offer real-money games as soon as today – assuming this isn’t some type of bluff by the Iipay Nation.

The tribe’s decision to make this bold leap seems centered around the capability of offering Class II gambling (peer-to-peer such as poker and bingo) under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act on the tribe’s reservation. We’ll have to see if California agrees.

Interestingly, the site will offer real-money games only to California residents located in California, who are over 18 years of age.

Some concerns

The largest concern I see is a further fracturing of California’s tribes, as the lipay Nation has for lack of a better analogy thrown sugar in the gas tank by saying that there is no need for an online poker bill and tribes can offer online poker legally as the law is now written.

Assuming this is not a bluff, I’d expect plenty of legal filings in the coming days and weeks.

Another serious concern is over the entities involved.

The Iipay Nation aren’t what you would call stellar performers with plenty of legal battles and debts in its past, and they have enlisted the Kahnawake Gaming Commission as their regulators – for those that are unaware, the Kahnawake’s were the regulators during the Absolute Poker and Ultimate Bet Super User scandals and have licensed many offshore sites illegally operating in the US.

Another troubling aspect is the payment processor the tribe has settled on, Financial Payment Network (or FinPay for short) which John Mehaffey researched and found to be a new company with almost no track record to speak of.

Comparing the website with the established and licensed Optimal Payments (Neteller) will give you an idea of why this might be a problem.

A big picture problem

My biggest fear is that this website, which is unlikely to have any type of legitimate player verification system both in terms of geolocation and Know Your Customer checks will be propped up by online gambling opponents as the current state of the technology and the types of safeguards in place.

I don’t think this site will be good for anyone, not even the Iipay who are likely to get very little traffic from it.

Some unanswered questions that could be extremely damaging to online poker expansion are:

How many players will register with a false California residence, use a VPN and play on the site?

What type of age verification is in place other than checking a box stating you are over 18?

In my opinion, this online poker website should be derided by the entire industry as it is not an example of what licensed US online poker should be; in fact it is simply a version of the same unlicensed sites (right down to the software being used) using sketchy regulators located in other countries (the Kahnawake Tribe is located in Canada) who are themselves not accountable to anyone.

There is literally not a single entity involved in this endeavor that doesn’t have skeletons in their closet: from Iipay’s, to Kahnawake’s, to IG Soft, to FinPay.

As promised, here is the full press release:

Santa Ysabel Interactive Launches Online Poker Site in California

San Diego, California -July 10th, 2014 – Santa Ysabel Interactive, an enterprise of the Santa Ysabel Tribal Development Corporation, launched the first legal, tribal regulated interactive poker website from the Tribe’s reservation located east of San Diego, California. The Tribe’s I-gaming poker website,, accessible to adult California residents who register through the website, will be a legal alternative to the unregulated, illegal Internet-based gambling websites, operated from off-shore locations by operators of questionable character.

“We’re looking forward to the opportunity to expanding upon the lipay Nation of Santa Ysabel’s successful track record in the regulated gaming industry,” commented spokesperson Dave Vialpando. “The Gaming Commission has applied its years of experience to ensure the integrity of the games when designing the framework for Santa Ysabel Interactive’s I-poker website.”

California Tribes have been actively involved in gaming in the state since the passage of Proposition 1A in 1999. The Iipay Nation of Santa Ysabel successfully negotiated a Tribal-State gaming compact with California in 2003 and operated the Santa Ysabel Casino from the Tribe’s reservation. The regulatory structure implemented by the Santa Ysabel Gaming Commission is more stringent than the regulatory requirements contained in either of California’s proposed I-gaming legislative proposals currently under consideration by the California Legislature.

“The Tribe supports the effort by the Legislature to enact interactive gambling legislation in the State, but has decided to rely on the tribal sovereignty and the provisions of the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) to offer I-poker from the Tribe’s reservation, “continued Dave Vialpando.“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 IGRA.”

Santa Ysabel Interactive has partnered with the Kahnawake Gaming Commission, establishing an Inter-Jurisdictional Agreement, to host a portion of Santa Ysabel’s interactive gaming structure within the Mohawk Territory of Kahnawake. The Kahnawake Gaming Commission is recognized internationally as the gold standard of interactive gaming regulation and has demonstrated uncompromising integrity in I-gaming hosting.

The Iipay Nation of Santa Ysabel, whose membership has struggled with high unemployment and a lack of economic opportunity, is looking forward to applying the revenues generated from Santa Ysabel Interactive to further the economic goals of the Nation. It is the Tribe’s goal to increase the standard of living for the Nation’s members, invest in tribal infrastructure improvements, and achieve economic self-sufficiency through multiple, different and diverse business ventures.

It is Santa Ysabel Interactive’s goal to offer a safe, exciting, and secure quality interactive gaming experience for California adult residents, employing cutting edge technology, customizable to the customer’s personal preferences.

Contact: Dave Vialpando [email protected] PO Box 558 Santa Ysabel CA,92070 USA (619) 888-2536

Photo credit: Marco Valerio via

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Steve Ruddock

Steve Ruddock is a longtime member of the online gambling industry. He covers the regulated US online casino and poker industries for variety of publications, including,,, and USA Today.

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