CA Weekly Gambling Report: Santa Ysabel Faces Federal Lawsuit; Legendary Gambler Caught Cheating

Written By Robert DellaFave on November 21, 2014 - Last Updated on March 30, 2023
Many news stories regarding poker coming out of California.

Home to over 38 million residents and boasting a Gross Domestic Product comparable to that of Italy’s, California owns a long and storied gambling history that predates the gold rush of the mid-19th century.

Gambling has become such a fixture of Californian culture that these days one can hardly drive 15 minutes in any direction without stumbling upon one of the hundreds of tribal casinos and cardrooms sprinkled throughout the landscape.

So it comes as little surprise that more gambling news comes out of the great state of California than any other.

And now, with only weeks to go before government officials reconvene for the 2015 legislative session, California’s efforts to legalize online poker will once again be stealing headlines – only this time around, it’s exceedingly more likely that the session will end with Governor Jerry Brown inking an iGaming act into law.

Exciting times.

This past week was yet another eventful one on California’s gambling front, marked by federal lawsuits, thievery and tribal factions jockeying for position.

And yeah, a famous ex-baseball player’s finger fell off while playing in a poker tournament.

Federal lawsuit filed against Iipay Nation to halt iGaming operation

On Wednesday, California’s Attorney General filed a federal lawsuit against the Iipay Nation of Santa Ysabel on the grounds that the tribe is violating the tribal-state class III gaming compact by offering online bingo to participants located outside the confines of its reservation.

Santa Ysabel’s online bingo site, which is operated in conjunction with iGaming company Great Luck, began taking real-money wagers on November 3, 2014.

The site employs proxy play to route all wagering information to tribal grounds, thus technically bypassing the mandates of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. But apparently, Ysabel’s cleverly devised loophole wasn’t enough to satiate lawmakers, who deem that the “Tribe’s conduct materially breaches the tribal-state class III gaming compact between the Tribe, and the State.” This, as per the Statement of the Case.

Lawmakers also suggest that online bingo poses an immediate threat to the welfare of California’s residents, who may fall prey to gambling addiction. To be fair, this point holds little water, as live bingo operations already run rampant throughout California.

That, and is hardly a smash hit. At last check, the site was averaging about 3-5 new registrations per day.

Regardless, the suit calls for a temporary restraining order against the site. A court hearing, presided over by Judge Anthony J. Battaglia, is scheduled for December 4 in the U.S District Court for the Southern District of California.

Based on the arguments outlined in the lawsuit, it appears that any attempt by the Santa Ysabel to launch an online poker site, despite poker’s distinction as a skill-based game, will also be met by heavy resistance.

Turtletalk has released both the Complaint and the TRO Motion. They can be found here.

Pala opens beta-testing for NJ online casino

The California-based Pala Band of Mission Indians have become the first tribe to launch a regulated online casino in the United States – one located more than 3,000 miles away from its 12,000 acre reservation in San Diego County.

A beta version of Pala Interactive’s browser-based casino software went live in New Jersey on November 17. New signups are entitled to $10+$5 in free play, a daily $1 million bonus spin and a 100% match bonus up to $100 on initial deposits as part of the casino’s welcome package.

In addition, from now until November 21, the site’s first 500 registrants will have the opportunity to vet in exchange for a daily refund up to $50 and earnings of $25 per day, paid out in the form of casino credit.

More details here.

Pala Interactive was approved for a transactional waiver by the NJ Division of Gaming Enforcement in early-November, effectively ending a one-year application holding period in which the tribe was unable to secure a b&m partner. It will operate as part of NJ market share leader the Borgata’s iGaming operation.

However, due to recent amendments to iGaming regulations, the Pala will not be required to spread the same games as Borgata’s flagship online casino site or

The Pala have plans to expand into online poker by early next year, further crowding an industry that appears to be in greater need of consolidation. Which begs the question: “Why is Pala Interactive so eager to set up shop in a an already saturated market?”

There’s likely two reasons, the first being the aforementioned freedom to spread the games it feels will attract consumers. Secondly, and more importantly, New Jersey’s regulated market will serve as a real-world staging ground for Pala Interactive, as the company preps for entry into California’s presumably much larger online poker industry.

Archie Karas sentenced for cheating

Self-proclaimed “King of Gamblers” Anargyros Karabourniotis, known more commonly as Archie Karas, was sentenced to three years probation after pleading guilty to one count of burglary.

The 63-year-old was suspected of marking cards during a Blackjack session at Barona Casino in San Diego County. This marks the fifth time that the legendary gambler has faced criminal charges, and it’s also the fifth time he’s managed to elude an extended jail sentence.

As part of the sentencing, Karas is also required to pay $6,800 in restitution fees to Barona Casino.

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Robert DellaFave

Robert DellaFave writes for a variety of online gaming sites and is also working on programming a poker simulation creative enough to beat the best. Follow Robert on Twitter @DivergentGames and on Google+

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