Santa Ysabel Poker Site to Offer Real Money Play This Month

Posted on August 22nd, 2014 by Alana Markoff
Santa Ysabel Casino

The Santa Ysabel poker site will offer real money play later this month. (Image:

California online poker is supposed to be dead this year, but apparently nobody told the Iipay Nation of Santa Ysabel. Last month, the tribe decided that they didn’t have time to wait for a legislative solution, and announced that they’d be launching a poker site on their own. Now, the Santa Ysabel site has announced an approximate date for real money poker to launch.

According to an interview with Card Player, the tribe is now hoping to launch real money play somewhere between August 26 and 28.

The site,, has been up since last month, but until now has only offered play money versions of their games. The site will initially allow players to participate in what sounds like a limited number of cash game variations.

While many have predicted a reaction from either the state itself or competing tribes and other gambling interests, so far there hasn’t been much pushback

“We have limited offerings right now because we want to make sure everything checks out reliability wise from beta testing,” said Santa Ysabel Gaming Commission Chairman Dave Vialpando in the Card Player interview. “It will be a slow roll-out. We will be adding new features and tournaments, and promotions as we move down the road and gain experience.”

Tribe Believes Site is Legal

The bigger question on the minds of poker observers is whether the tribe will be able to get away with their launch even without any regulation from the state of California.

While many have predicted a reaction from either the state itself or competing tribes and other gambling interests, so far there hasn’t been much pushback. And Vialpando says he believes that federal law gives the tribe the right to launch a site if they wish to do so.

“Our authority to offer class II gaming from our reservation is not prohibited by any statute,” Vialpando said. “In fact, we believe it is covered by IGRA. We have been fully cooperative with all the government agencies that have asked us questions, in fact with anyone who has asked us questions. Most of our regulations are public documents, so it’s pretty much full disclosure for us.”

Could Other Tribes Follow?

While Santa Ysabel may be the first tribe in the United States to try and launch an intrastate online poker site, Vialpando isn’t sure they’ll be the last.

“We have received inquiries from tribes throughout the state asking us questions,” he said. “We are encouraging other tribes to follow us because we feel our product is solid and economically viable.”

Access to the real money poker tables at will be fairly restricted. Only California residents who are 18 or older will be allowed to play on the site. In addition, players must be located within the state while they are playing. The site will be regulated and overseen by the Santa Ysabel Gaming Commission.

Santa Ysabel has had a gaming compact with the state of California since 2005. For some time, the tribe ran a small casino on their reservation. However, the gaming hall was in a fairly inconvenient location and struggled for years, building up more than $50 million in debt before finally closing earlier this year.

The Santa Ysabel reservation is located in northeastern San Diego County, covering about 15,000 acres of land near the towns of Santa Ysabel and Julian.

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