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Santa Ysabel Tribe Launches Real Money Bingo in California

This past summer, the Iipay Nation of Santa Ysabel promised to launch real money online poker in California, despite the fact that lawmakers and stakeholders in the state had yet to craft and pass any legislation establishing a regulatory regime. And though it has come much later than expected and is not actually poker, the tribe has made good on its promise to an extent, launching real money bingo.

Desert Rose Bingo is open to residents of California who are 18-years of age and older. Though online gaming has not been explicitly legalized and regulated in the Golden State, the Santa Ysabel tribe believes its offering is completely legal. In a statement posted on the Santa Ysabel Gaming Commission’s website, it is explained, “In offering online gaming through Santa Ysabel Interactive, the Tribe is exerting its sovereign right under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) to regulate and conduct Class II gaming from the tribe’s reservation.”

Class II gaming, the site explains, includes poker and bingo, but not house-banked games such as blackjack – those are considered Class III games. IGRA states that a tribe must have a compact with the state to offer Class III gaming and while Santa Ysabel does, it does not plan to offer those games. desert rose bingo

Of course, that part about Class II gaming being conducted from the tribe’s reservation can pose a problem, since what is the point of offering internet gambling if the customers have to be physically located on Santa Ysabel territory? The tribe actually came up with a fairly clever workaround for this. In a press release, the tribe explained how it works:

The Great Luck/Iipay Nation agreement allows registered users to engage a “proxy” to play Class II bingo games under the sovereign jurisdiction of federally recognized Iipay Nation of Santa Ysabel. After the completion of a comprehensive registration and approval process, real time live bingo game action is played by a “proxy” of the web-browser enabled device user who has accessed the tribe’s Class II bingo gaming system. At no time is live bingo game action performed by the user. This ensures that all game play takes place on Tribal lands, under the jurisdiction of the Tribal government and is in compliance with all applicable laws and regulations.

Even on banner ads on the Desert Rose Bingo site itself, references are made to the “proxy” purchasing bingo cards or the “proxy” playing bingo, rather than an actual person located off the reservation engaging in those actions. It is kind of like when a bidder calls into a live auction. He will give bidding instructions to a proxy bidder, someone who is actually present at the auction, over the phone and that proxy will be allowed to represent the bidder, even though that bidder is not there. Now, each gambler logging into the Desert Rose site is not represented by an actual human – it is all automated – but it still a clever way to make sure that players are technically gambling from within the reservation’s borders.

Desert Rose Bingo is initially sticking with low stakes bingo games. Bingo cards can be purchased for $0.01, $0.05, $0.25, $0.50, and $1.00. One would imagine that if the site got popular enough, higher denomination cards would be added, but there is no indication yet that that would necessarily be the case.

“Today’s announcement represents the future of gaming,” said Great Luck LLC CEO Joe Valandra in the press release. “With states like Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware already implementing online gaming, our VPNAPS technology is an anticipated next step for an industry in high demand. This technology will play a critical role in transforming the gaming landscape, bringing a myriad of games, starting with Class II bingo, to a whole new generation of enthusiasts. We look forward to announcing more licensing agreements with more Sovereign Nations in the very near future.”

David Chelette, President of Santa Ysabel Interactive, also expressed his excitement, explaining the importance of the site’s launch. “As the owner-operator, this licensing agreement not only underscores the sovereignty of Santa Ysabel to offer Class II bingo, it also represents the use of innovative technology to reach users,” he said. “The Desert Rose Bingo enterprise will offer this small rural community and the Iipay Nation a positive economic impact.”

As mentioned, the Santa Ysabel tribe also intends to launch real money online poker at some point and had expected to have done so already. It currently operates the site, which currently only offers play money poker, though some tournaments do reward players with gift cards. It does appear that real money poker on is still in the works, but it is just taking longer than anticipated to get going. A site spokesperson told that it expects real money poker to launch within “the next week or two.”


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