On Sunday, Marco Valerio broke the news that the 300-member Iipay Nation of Santa Ysabel tribe is planning to launch a real-money online poker site as early as next week. The original announcement was made via press release, in which the tribe’s Commission Chairman David Vialpando justified the move by stating that the Santa Ysabel were “exerting its sovereign right under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act to regulate and conduct Class II gaming from the tribe’s reservation.” While most table games are considered Class III, poker – which is a non-house banked game – falls under Class II. As of now, Santa Ysabel’s PrivateTable.com, which utilizes the same software as U.S-facing offshore network WPN, is offering players access to a play money version of the software. In short, PrivateTable.com is up, it’s running and it at least looks real. Yet, given the Santa Ysabel’s shaky history in the casino industry, the current condition of the software and the inevitable legal implications it would face by going rogue, I’m just as inclined to believe that Santa Ysabel’s foray into the online gaming biz is more an elaborate ruse to satisfy its own interests, or at best a move to facilitate the passage of one of the state’s existing iGaming bills, than it is a(n) (il)legitimate attempt to generate long-term revenue as an independent online poker company. Who is Santa Ysabel? A post by PokerXanadu on the Two Plus Two forums, sums up Santa Ysabel previous dealings in the casino industry quite sufficiently: A few points of clarification: The casino that PokerXanadu is referring to was The Santa Ysabel Casino, which opened in 2007 and closed this past February. The tribe cited local government’s unwillingness “to renegotiate its financial agreement with the Tribe in the face of economic hardship” as one of the primary reasons behind the closure – a claim which County Supervisor Dianne Jacobs called “absurd.” Santa Ysabel Casino’s closing left the tribe tens-of-millions of dollars in debt, with little means to pay it off. An attempt to declare chapter 11 bankruptcy prior to the closure was denied by the court. Point number two: Despite its assertions, the legality of the Santa Ysabel launching a casino with servers based on its grounds is questionable at best. The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act does not address Internet gambling, suggesting that it would have to be amended before the Santa Ysabel could roll out their operation. Along the same lines, while sovereign nations are more than permitted to accept real-money wagers within their lands, some legal experts “believe that limitations in tribal-state regulatory compacts and provisions in the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) limit the ability of tribes to accept wagers from off Indian lands.” This according to an email from LA-based gaming lawyer sent to industry expert Chris Grove. The obvious point of contention here is that the Santa Ysabel are readying to offer all California natives access to its real-money poker site, not just those geo-located within the reservation’s boundaries. In short, even though there is no specific language necessarily prohibiting the Santa Ysabel from conducting iGaming operations, there’s no clause allowing it either. Moving on, the payment processor mentioned is the Financial Payment Network, a company no one has ever heard of and which features a website that is currently under construction. Enough said. And finally, the Kahnawakee Gaming Commission, which acted/acts as the regulatory committee for just about every online poker site that operated in the United States despite being in violation of the UIGEA, was in fact likely involved in the super user scandal that saw Absolute Poker and Ultimate Bet steal millions from its customers. Given this, it’s hard to place any weight into Santa Ysabel’s claims that it’ll be launching a real-money poker site that abides by a similar set of regulations to those set forth by Delaware’s regulatory committee by next weekend. And I have to think that on some level, the Santa Ysabel realizes this too. Either that or its level of ignorance is unfathomable. So what’s really going on? A few possibilities:
PrivateTable.com is a shady attempt by a desperate tribe to generate some sort of short-term revenue. Given the aforementioned legal murkiness of Santa Ysabel’s supposed real-money online poker site, it’s probably only a matter of time before the tribe would find themselves embroiled in a legal battle. But until then, the tribe will be happy to generate whatever income it can. Should this be true, the Santa Ysabel will endanger the future prosperity of the US regulated market, and give iGaming opponents just another reason to oppose its expansion – all in the name of its own preservation. Way to go Santa Ysabel.
The whole thing is a ruse. California’s smaller tribes, especially those facing debt, will hardly be able to prove that they can pay a $5 million deposit. Recognizing this, the Santa Ysabel threaten to launch its own site, and encourage other sovereign nations to the same, in the hopes that the licensing requirements are relaxed. The Santa Ysabel’s poker offering is so grossly in violation of everything the regulated markets stands for (identification verification, strong authentication, responsible gambling etc.) that the proposed bills are amended as to be more amenable to smaller tribes. Admittedly, this theory is a bit of a stretch, but the idea that the Santa Ysabel are merely posturing is not.
The Santa Ysabel are doing this to facilitate the passage of an iGaming bill. Likely not, if only because government and the state’s most influential tribal factions are already in favor of iGaming legislation, with the “bad actor” language the only true dividing point. At best, Santa Ysabel’s announcement may encourage the Morongo and the state’s other tribes to settle their differences before other tribes go rogue. But even if the Santa Ysabel manages to launch its site by next week, its chances of drawing a significant user base are so low that it will likely not instill lawmakers with any sense of urgency. More to the point, how would the faster passage of an iGaming bill necessarily help the Santa Ysabel? Short answer: it wouldn’t. But it may spark a legal conflict that eventually sees sovereign nations gain the right to legally offer online poker, and that could certainly benefit the Santa Ysabel, as it would position itself as the pioneer of an alternative gaming market. Who knows, maybe by then the tribe would be in a position to host you know, a credible site. In either case, here’s a warning to California poker players: Don’t play on PrivateTable.com – especially if it launches under the current conditions. Previous Post Next Post private table|santa ysabel About 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+

So it’s Tuesday, and with each passing day I’m more and more convinced that the Santa Ysabel’s promise of launching a real-money online poker site in California was just a ploy to get lawmakers and industry experts talking about the issues that face the state’s smaller tribes. Well played, Santa Ysabel. Well played. Since the Santa Ysabel’s announcement last week, several debates have propped up, most of them revolving around whether the tribe is within their right to generate revenue from an unlicensed site. To recap:
According to the Santa Ysabel, the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988 categorizes poker as Class II gambling. As such, the tribe’s representatives believe that by generating revenue via online poker, they would not be in violation of the law. However, the Act makes no specific mention of poker, only of non-banked games.
The bigger issue is that the IGRA does not define legal parameters for games that are based in tribal lands but played from outside the host’s confines (i.e. servers housed in Santa Ysabel lands but accessible to anyone in California).
The parties behind Santa Ysabel’s real-money poker site, namely the Kahnawake Gaming Commission, Financial Payment Network and the Santa Ysabel themselves, would all have their suitability questioned by any legitimate gaming commission. Should sovereign nations have the right to just let anyone, regardless of worthiness, back into the United States? Underlying these more immediate issues, is one that could affect the landscape of California’s iGaming industry for years to come, and that’s whether or not tribes should be required to pay what will probably amount to a $5 – $10 mm iGaming licensing fee, and if they are, should the tribes that can’t afford it be entitled to a revenue share, similar to the existing Revenue Sharing Trust Fund. In all likelihood, it’s this debate that the Santa Ysabel hoped to spark when they made their surprise announcement. And to that end, they have succeeded. Again, well played. Breaking the California debate down Colleague Steve Ruddock nicely sums up the arguments for a new revenue sharing agreement in his recent post, and for the most part I agree. Steve would then expand upon his argument in an exchange on Twitter. Let’s break it down: The concept of a network where small tribes are permitted to leech off larger ones is an interesting proposal, yet could only function if the licensing fee were drastically lowered or removed entirely. Furthermore, the network model comes with its own share of issues. First off, those likely to set up shop in CA (PokerStars, FTP, Party and to an extent 888) function primarily as standalone sites. Assuming online poker’s big guns will latch on to the state’s largest tribes and cardrooms, the small tribes will be left scrambling to forge their own network – a network that would probably feature substandard software, poor organization and little free-flowing capital. It wouldn’t stand a chance, and could actually cost the tribes more money than their real-money poker offering would generate. Admittedly, that’s a pessimistic outlook, but it’s also a likely one. More rooms DOES NOT equate to equivalent revenue. By fracturing an online poker community, each individual site has less power to offer more attractive promotions, better tournament guarantees and more cash-game / SNG playing options. In turn, would-be players looking for value may opt out entirely. Look at it this way, does anyone really think that the combined revenue of Party / Borgata, WSOP and 888 in New Jersey would exceed that of PokerStars if Stars were the only operator in the state? No shot. Regarding Steve’s point, it would certainly be easier just to give the smaller tribes a kickback. The odds of a solitary small tribe, even if it were part of a network, generating more revenue from online poker than any reasonable stipend would provide them is so minuscule that it can be discounted. That, and they wouldn’t have to work to earn their share. That, and it allows tribes like the Santa Ysabel to reliability pay off their existing debts. That, and it’s better for the poker community. And so on. I’m hard pressed to believe that any small tribe would have the resources to launch much of a marketing campaign. One needn’t look much further than New Jersey to see what good a half-baked marketing roll-out does for traffic. Compounding matters further, it’s already been proven that there’s little demographic overlap between b&m casino patrons and online gamblers. If smaller tribes attempt to market their b&m casinos through advertising its online poker site, they’ll end up broke and scratching their heads. Again, Steve is right: But maybe there’s a way around that… An alternative approach? What our new friend PokerXanadu is suggesting is that we keep the proposed $5 – $10 mm licensing fee in place, toss in a revenue sharing model for smaller tribes and allow them to operate real-money poker sites. That’s sounds like a fair compromise, except that for such a system to work the unlicensed tribes would have to be subject to the same regulatory confines as the licensed ones. Otherwise, some of them would run afoul, greeting every shady partner with a wink and a handshake, much like the Santa Ysabel. And again, would these rooms actually be able to turn a profit? In business, for every potential upside there is a downside. The downside potential of a heavily marketed poker skin that fails miserably would be hefty enough to consume the tribe’s revenue share and more. What about nixing the licensing fee entirely? That way, tribes would be free to pursue their own iGaming interests without having to first prove that they could ante up at least $5 mm. Alright, sounds great, but if given the choice of aligning with the Pechanga or Joe’s Tribe who is Party or 888 going to prefer? They’re going to preference tribes with strong b&m casino interests and more importantly, money. Any tribe that currently receives a revenue share can only host a maximum of 350 gaming machines – hardly enough to entice online gaming’s big guns. On the plus side, sans a licensing fee, the mid-sized operations would have more money to spend on marketing, promotions and welcome bonuses. And let’s face it, if PokerStars is part of the scene, its competition will need all the help it can get. The answer for Cali iGaming is…? So to conclude, while on paper ditching the licensing fee appears to help smaller tribes, it would benefit the 888’s and Party’s of the world significantly more (at the expense of the state). By contrast, a revenue sharing program would allow smaller tribes to build value and eliminate debt. And despite my points to the contrary, I’m generally in favor of sites being allowed to conduct their own operations, in so long as the conditions in which they are permitted to do so are air tight. Just don’t say I didn’t warn you if your operation fails. Previous Post Next Post 888 poker|party poker|pechanga|pokerstars|santa ysabel About 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+

Last week in California, the talk over two major topics heated up even further. And neither one of them revolves around the actual drought that the state is experiencing. The August 31 deadline for the passage of some form of online poker bill in California is little more than one month away, and the discussions surrounding bill requirements seems to be pushing any possibilities of a concrete bill even further behind. Horse tracks want a piece of the online poker pie, and according to the Poker Players Alliance, lobbyists for those establishments could be the ones who hold up the bill indefinitely. While everyone else is talking about the bad actor clause, horse tracks could be the ones leading the charge to stop the bill, right out of the gate. Meanwhile, Santa Ysabel and its PrivateTable.com real-money online poker site still insists it will launch regardless of said bill. With lawyers on their side, the company is standing by its view that the site is legal and doesn’t need no stinkin’ authority to operate. But will they put their money where their opinions are? Giddyup, Online Poker The bad actor clause has been at the center of most discussions regarding the possibility of passing an online poker bill in California. Last week, a group of 25 card rooms penned a letter to State Senator Lou Correa to indicate that their participation in any online poker regime is necessary in order for them to support the cause. Most recently, the horse racing tracks of the state are speaking up. PokerNews spoke to PPA Executive Director John Pappas after the GiGse conference, and he chimed with his impressions. He sees some middle ground on the bad actor clause, and he feels that differences can be resolved. Pappas said that a representative of the horse tracks spoke at GiGse and said that any bill that excludes them from the regulated online poker industry is “wholly unacceptable.” The representative “made it clear that they still have powerful allies in the Assembly and Senate.” Meanwhile, tribal representatives, such as those involved with the tribal alliance that includes the 13 powerful tribes with major influence over online poker in the state, have noted that they will not accept the participation of horse tracks in the new industry. There may be too many horses on the track for a race to happen at this point. Even if the bad actor clause isn’t the impediment that it once was, the road is still not smooth. If New Jersey allows PokerStars into its online poker setup, it may change the minds of some lawmakers in California. But the tribes remain firm on the exclusion of PokerStars, and the now-added friction between tribes and horse tracks may be too much for the debate to handle. Pappas seemed to think that there is simply no interest in overcoming all of the obstacles this year. “I think the prevailing concern is that some of these tribes aren’t really interested in getting a bill done this year,” he told PokerNews, “and that some of the lawmakers would like to see it delayed as well. They’d like to push it off another year to build alliances, fundraise, and kind of assess the situation as it develops in other states and with the federal government.” He may be right. With just one month to go and no hearings on the Assembly or Senate schedule, as well as the state legislature on recess until August 4, the momentum for California online poker has slowed tremendously. It may be stopped altogether for 2014. PrivateTable Assertions Could Be Tested If no online poker bill passes in 2014, the promise of the Iipay Nation of Santa Ysabel to launch real-money online poker on PrivateTable.com could be put to the ultimate test. The site was supposed to launch in July but has yet to do so. The tribe has been working with California legislators to enact online poker legislation in 2014, but the aforementioned reasons may keep it from happening. PrivateTable may need to put its real-money gaming where its mouth is and launch. Santa Ysabel Interactive President and Casino General Manager David Chelette has repeatedly asserted that the online poker website does not violate any laws. But in a recent interview with Online Poker Report, Chelette noted that the tribe’s primary goal is to work with legislators and be included, along with other small tribes, in any legislation that moves forward. PrivateTable is ready for launch, with servers established and set up in the Mohawk Territory of Kahnawake and an inter-jurisdictional license from the Kahnawake Gaming Commission. Secondary servers are actually located on the Iipay Nation’s tribal reservation. The site itself is operated by Santa Ysabel Interactive and regulated by the Santa Ysabel Gaming Commission. For now, Chelette asserts that PrivateTable is “designed and implemented to be in compliance with current federal law and California state law.” Gaming attorneys have been chiming in on the situation and seem to feel that Santa Ysabel is well within its rights as a tribal entity to operate online poker in California without the formality of a new online poker law. Casino City Times interviewed Martin Owens, a gaming attorney who works on behalf of Santa Ysabel, and he noted that the servers being located on Native American land puts the tribe in full compliance with California law. He claimed that online poker falls under the Class II category of gaming in the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA), which doesn’t require the consultation of any state authority for operation of the activity. In addition, Owens contended that Santa Ysabel and California signed a Class III gaming compact in 2005, which authorizes the tribe to offer gaming. Now, it’s PrivateTable’s turn to act. Are they confident enough in their arguments and legal research to launch the site and begin accepting real-money wagers for online poker play in California? All eyes are on one tribe in California to see if they do it. Previous Post Next Post pokerstars|private table|santa ysabel About Jennifer Newell Jennifer has been writing about poker for nearly a decade, including extensive work as a freelancer, where Jennifer has worked for numerous gaming-related websites, magazines, and blogs with a focus on players, news, and interesting stories. Follow Jennifer on Google+ and Twitter.

Any debate on any topic should welcome all pertinent voices into the fold. Generally speaking, more points of view will lead to a fuller discussion of the topic and a well-rounded solution. Such is the case for California online poker. The GiGse Totally Gaming conference was held this week in San Francisco and highlighted many voices in the online poker debate. Some, like Former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, expressed a very pro-online gaming stance, while Former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown spewed so many contradictory points of view that he likely confused even himself. Meanwhile, a California tribe tried to go rogue and launch its own real-money online poker site, the California gaming regulator finally chimed in to the broader online gaming debate, and a group of card rooms expressed their views regarding online poker. For a state that has yet to regulate online poker, California was quite busy with the subject matter this week. Can Someone Paraphrase Willie Brown? Most people who spoke at GiGse this week in San Francisco had fairly firm ideas of where they stood on the Internet gaming issue. Mr. Willie Brown, on the other hand, seemed to confuse himself the more he spoke. Brown did admit that he has switched sides on the Internet gaming issue a number of times during his 15 years as California State Assembly Speaker, but he has settled on the Sheldon Adelson side of the issue since his retirement. However, he seemed to lack basic knowledge of the industry, stating that online gamblers’ identities can’t be reliably verified and children can’t be kept off the gambling sites because they have the skills of computer hackers. He went on to assert that people in land-based casinos would lose their jobs and criminals could launder money through the Internet gambling sphere. And then, Brown added that Internet gaming should be regulated by the federal government. Ed Rendell took the other side of the argument at the conference, discussing tax revenues that will help address addiction problems and actually help land-based casinos in states like Pennsylvania. He asserted that gambling creates jobs and states must legalize online gambling to secure those jobs. “Gambling exists,” he said. “Pennsylvania should have its share.” Santa Ysabel Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Bill The Iipay Nation of Santa Ysabel in California is not the largest tribal nation in the state, but it sure made a splash in the news this week. They launched PrivateTable.com, an online poker room that was prepared to offer real-money games for California residents. The tribe asserted that tribal sovereignty gave it the authorization to operate as noted in the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, and more specifically as referenced in the compact between Indian tribes and the state of California passed in 2003. Under the oversight of the Santa Ysabel Gaming Commission, the site was deemed legal. Going even further, the tribe noted that other forms of online gambling were in the works as well. The press release announcing the site noted that Santa Ysabel Interactive partnered with the Kahnawake Gaming Commission, the famed regulator that delayed and (some say) botched the investigation into the Ultimate Bet scandal years ago. Santa Ysabel, however, regarded the KGC as the “gold standard of interactive gaming regulation” that has shown “uncompromising integrity in I-gaming hosting.” The site used the same software as the Winning Poker Network and offered play-money games immediately after the notice. Most players within the state said that real-money games never materialized throughout the week. What is the plan? Only the tribe knows, apparently. Head of GCC Speaks Richard Schuetz is the Commissioner of the California Gambling Control Commission, the regulatory body that remained silent as the above-mentioned tribe promised to launch online poker in the state in the absence of any state bill authorizing such a move. But he did write an editorial piece for GiGse about the general state of online poker in the United States. Among his points was the notion that regulating online poker by state will create complications for which there will be no easy fix. With that in mind, he pleaded with those pushing for regulation in the gaming industry to work with regulatory organizations and legislators to push for harmonized platforms so that states may eventually work together without too many inconsistencies to get in the way. Schuetz then disappeared behind the curtain in a puff of smoke. Card Rooms Want More Say in Online Poker Debate The only card rooms that have been at the forefront of the online poker debate in California thus far are the ones partnered with PokerStars and the Morongo Band of Mission Indians. Those facilities were Commerce Casino, the Bicycle Club, and Hawaiian Gardens Casino. Another 25 of the card rooms decided they wanted a voice in the game as well. A total of 25 of them, including Hustler Casino and Hollywood Park, sent a letter for State Senator Lou Correa, one of the sponsors of pending online poker legislation in California.They noted that they wanted to participate in online poker, should it be legalized, but feared being left out because of the size of their rooms and the partnerships already being formed. The coalition of rooms also stated that they supported a bad actor clause in any legislation, which put them in line with the majority of the vocal Indian tribes in the state in wanting to keep Rational Group companies out of the game. In essence, the card rooms want to be included in the discussions and play a role in developing final online poker legislation for California “to protect our existing poker business, jobs, and tax base.” The letter went further to say, “Legislation that pretends to include card rooms but handicaps or otherwise restricts their effective participation is not good policy.” With little more than a month before the August 31 deadline for an online poker bill to move forward in the state before being tabled until 2015, more voices in the debate makes it less likely that anything will materialize in 2014. Previous Post Next Post bike|commerce|hawaiian gardens|iipay nation|morongo|pokerstars|santa ysabel About Jennifer Newell Jennifer has been writing about poker for nearly a decade, including extensive work as a freelancer, where Jennifer has worked for numerous gaming-related websites, magazines, and blogs with a focus on players, news, and interesting stories. Follow Jennifer on Google+ and Twitter.

One of the hottest topics in online gambling is the previously little-known Santa Ysabel tribe of California. The tribe made headlines by boasting to the world it was prepping to launch a real money online poker room in California (a state that has not legalized online poker) under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) which allows tribes to offer Class II gambling. Poker is considered Class II gambling, but there hasn’t been any distinction made on online poker, and it raises several potential problems, as I pointed out here, and as Martin Shapiro points out in this article. There has been a lot of speculation as to the motives of the Santa Ysabel tribe’s supposed decision to launch a real money online poker site even though California has not passed a bill legalizing online poker in the state. Some have called it a legitimate challenge to the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) and under the umbrella of tribal sovereignty and Class II gambling, while others (like myself) have called it posturing and a bluff to make sure a new revenue sharing agreement is included if online poker legislation is passed. So which is it? The PrivateTable.com marketing campaign PrivateTable.com, the proposed online poker room of the Santa Ysabel tribe may have more bite to it than I originally thought, but I’m still not sold, as everything thus far has been “small potatoes,” including their marketing efforts. California residents (and perhaps even outside of California) have reported seeing PrivateTable.com appear in Google ads since the site was first announced a couple weeks back. While some see this as a sign of a potential launch, this development actually makes it more likely that PrivateTable.com will remain a play money site for the time being, since Google doesn’t accept advertisers of real money online gambling in markets that do not allow for it. In the U.S. Google doesn’t allow online gambling ads per their policy: “Google doesn’t allow advertising for Internet-based games where money or other items of value are paid or wagered in order to win a greater sum of money or other item of value.” Furthermore, this isn’t necessarily what I would call a major marketing campaign, and here is why. How Google ads work Google ads are generally found on smaller sites (sites hosting Google ads are paid a nominal amount per clickthrough) and target customers by using their search history to display ads that should appeal to them — If you’ve been shopping online for a new computer chair you’re likely to be bombarded by adverts for computer chairs on certain sites. Google ads are usually those little ads in the sidebars of websites or in between forum posts that are screaming “click me click me! I know you’ve been Googling couches.” In the case of PrivateTable.com, people who have searched for online gambling information, or people who have visited poker websites will likely be targeted. It’s unclear if they are geotargeting these ads to California and surrounding areas. How much Google ads cost As an advertiser on Google ads you are charged by the number of clickthroughs your ad receives. Google charges advertisers based on a Cost Per Click (CPC) model with the price dependent on the category/keywords the ad is using. Some keywords can cost as much $50/click, but most are much cheaper, such as the keywords PrivateTable.com would be using. Additionally, advertisers can set daily limits on the maximum amount they wish to spend. For example, if Google is charging PrivateTable.com $1/click the company can set a limit of $20 per day before their ad is taken out of the rotation. Under these circumstances, even if PrivateTable.com maxed out their CPC, their ad campaign would only cost about $600 for the month. So even though their presence in Google ads may make it seem like PrivateTable.com and the Santa Ysabel tribe are ramping up their marketing efforts (perhaps in a run-up to launch) it could just be more posturing. That being said, PrivateTable’s Twitter account has repeatedly said that this is not a bluff. Previous Post Next Post private table|santa ysabel About 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 OnlinePokerReport.com, PlayNJ.com, USPoker.com, and USA Today.

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