California Tribe Claims Sovereignty, Launches Online Poker Site

Posted on: July 15, 2014, 05:30h. 

Last updated on: October 11, 2022, 04:18h.

Santa Ysabel Interactive hopes to make California's first regulated online poker room., launched by Santa Ysabel Interactive, is set to become the first regulated poker site in California, according to the tribe’s claims of sovereign law. (Image: Marco Valerio/

For years now, California has been rumored to be the next state to approve online gambling. With an already thriving casino and gambling industry, plenty of interest and the population to support a strong online poker scene, the state is a natural host for Internet gaming. However, battles between competing interests have stopped the state from ever passing an online gambling bill.

One California tribal group has decided that these delays have been going on for far too long. The Iipay Nation of Santa Ysabel has launched an online poker room at, and says that the site will soon offer real money poker games to residents of California.

That news was first reported on Marco Valerio’s blog, and was based on a press release from Sacramento lawyer Martin Owens.

Regulated Under Tribal Sovereignty

“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,” the statement read.

According to the press release, the tribe has decided to offer online poker based on its own tribal sovereignty and provisions of the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) that they say allow them to offer such games from their reservation.

“The Tribe supports the effort by the Legislature to enact interactive gambling legislation in the State,” said spokesperson Dave Vialpando, though the tribe has decided to go it on their own. At the moment, Vialpando says that no other casino games will be offered through their site, though that may be considered in the future if the tribe feels the IGRA allows them to do so.

Only for California Residents

The site will only be available for real money play to residents located inside the state of California, though play money games will be accessible from many more jurisdictions.

“To be eligible to participate in tournaments or cash games, you must be a California resident and be located in the state of California,” the site reportedly said after Valerio made an account there. “Any attempts to circumvent these rules may result in the closing of your account.”

At the moment, real money games aren’t readily available at However, it appears that such games could appear at any time, with the site saying that deposits and withdrawals can currently be made at a Smoke Shop on the tribe’s reservation. This is obviously extremely limiting for an online gambling operation, and the site says they will soon offer online banking through Finpay, an e-wallet company.

According to early reports from players that have downloaded the software, it appears to be the same software used by the Winning Poker Network. Santa Ysabel Interactive has also signed an agreement with the Kahnawake Gaming Commission to allow the KGC to host some of their interactive gaming structure.

While the tribe may benefit from being the first in California to regulate an online poker site, it’s unclear whether the move is actually legal. That means that challenges to the site are likely to emerge soon, either from the state or from other gaming interests in California who have been long lobbying for online poker legislation.

And the Not-Always-So-Civil-Wars-of-Online-Poker continue.