Santa Ysabel Temporarily Forgoes Real-Money Online Poker for…Bingo?

Written By Robert DellaFave on October 8, 2014
Is bingo the best option on the grand scale for CA?

As first reported by Chris Grove via his daily newsletter OPR Quick Take, the Santa Ysabel tribe is putting its real-money online poker plans on temporary hiatus. In the interim, will supposedly launch as an Internet bingo parlor.

This, as per sources close to the tribe.

The Santa Ysabel first made headlines back in mid-July, when it announced via press release that it would be “exerting its sovereign right under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act to regulate and conduct Class II gaming from the tribe’s reservation.”

Interestingly enough, Class II gaming spans both poker and bingo, although based on tweets from Private Table is was assumed that SY Interactive was committed to launching just an online poker site.

Hidden Agendas And Delays

Shortly after SY’s announcement, members of the poker media (myself and colleague Steve Ruddock included), cried foul, citing that the tribe’s intention to launch real-money online poker was nothing but an elaborate hoax designed to satisfy the interests of California’s smaller tribes.

Those interests? Namely a form of revenue sharing similar to the stipend they already receive from larger tribes, only this time with regards to online gambling.

Short version: They wanted money.

Given Santa Ysabel’s shaky financial history and current dealings with the former regulators of online poker, namely Absolute Poker and Ultimate Bet, not to mention its association with a payment processor no one has ever heard of (FinPay) there was something off about this whole ordeal.

Additionally, of course,  the questionable legal grounds on which it stands, the situation seemed plausible that the threat of what essentially amounts to a pre-Black Friday online poker site would nudge California legislators to consider small tribes in the next iteration of its iGaming bill.

And up until today, we’ve had no reason to believe that was nothing more than that – a thinly veiled threat.

Time and time again, the launch of real-money poker on was delayed. And with each delay was an appended promise, citing that real-money cash games and/or tournaments would be operational in X amount of days, with X typically equaling seven or less.

Yes, in just the span of one season, the Santa Ysabel became online gambling’s own boy who cried wolf. It was laughable.

But with its announcement that bingo will launch before poker, suddenly it becomes plausible that the tribe may actually follow through on its promise to offer online gambling. And that’s a problem.

SY Interactive Poker Vs. Bingo: Both Unregulated, But One More Realistic

By comparison to poker, bingo is an exceedingly simple game. Everyone gets a board, numbers are called randomly and whoever is the biggest luckbox wins a prize. It’s really that simple.

So simple that even a small tribe desperately in need of money following the closure of its casino could do it.

Perhaps my naivete regarding the technical processes involved with launching an online bingo site are on full display here, but in my estimation it’s a substantially more plausible goal than putting together something that even resembles a second rate poker product.

The problem is, the fallout of an unregulated gaming site, bingo or otherwise, making its way onto US soil will be devastating.

Why? Because:

  • It would be exempt from the safeguards and regulations put into place in states where gambling is regulated.
  • It would promote other tribes to launch their own operations, be it a standalone bingo product, poker, or an all inclusive virtual casino.
  • It would permit “bad actors” from reentering the US without the need for approval.
  • It would provide fodder for anti-online gambling advocates, of which there are many.

So yes, now that the Santa Ysabel have adapted a more conservative (i.e. realistic) online gaming strategy, I am a bit concerned. Let’s hope its just part two of their fairy tale.

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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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