In early November 2014, the Iipay Nation of Santa Ysabel, an Indian tribe in California, began offering internet bingo over a website to patrons age 18 and older, regardless of whether they were located on tribal lands.  The State of California sued, claiming that the authority to offer online bingo off of tribal lands was not within the scope of the compact between the tribe and the state, was not permitted under California law, and violated UIGEA.  The tribe has stated its intention to expand beyond bingo and into poker.   The tribe has justified its activities by stating that it is authorized by IGRA to offer and regulate Class II gaming (poker and bingo) from its tribe.

Today, the Department of Justice filed its own lawsuit against the tribe, alleging that the tribe is violating UIGEA and seeking an injunction.  The DOJ argues in its complaint that the tribe is necessarily “engaged in the business of betting or wagering,” which is a UIGEA predicate.  As a result, the DOJ argues, when someone places a wager from outside tribal lands, the tribe is participating in “unlawful Internet gambling” as defined in UIGEA.  The DOJ argues that lotteries and bingo games are prohibited by California law unless authorized for charitable purposes, and that the bingo offered by the tribe is not a bingo game authorized for charitable purposes.  Accordingly, according to the DOJ, because the tribe’s gaming activities are not authorized by law, any gaming activity that crosses tribal lines violates UIGEA.

Because UIGEA relates primarily to payment processing, the DOJ seeks an injunction prohibiting the tribe from accepting any credit, EFTs, checks, or proceeds of other financial transactions to be used in any online bingo account by any patron.

This matter could ultimately be consolidated with the State of California’s lawsuit.  That case is set for a hearing on California’s motion for a temporary restraining order today (12/4) at 2:00pm Pacific.