Indian Tribe May Have Overstepped Bounds with Online Casino

Published on: September 7, 2008 

The Pauma Band of Mission Indians has recently launched a new online casino gambling website that they claim is a marketing aid that offers players free play for redeemable credits at their land casino.  The online casino website is powered by GameLogic and it offers players video slots, table games, and card games.  The website has also become a very hot topic among professional gamers and anti-gambling persons alike.  The land casino is located in North County close to San Diego, California, and players will also receive a special card during their time there that can be used online for points that are transferred onto the card and then used on the live casino’s gambling floor.  They are hoping to attract online players to the land casino and the concept is similar to one being utilized by Foxwoods Casino.

The reason why the website is such a hot topic is that the state gambling regulators have yet to determine whether or not the games are legal, and one gambling watchdog group claims that the online casino and its games are not licensed correctly.  Professor I. Nelson Rose, an online gambling legal and academic expert, however, states that the online gaming site is within the law, stating that players who cannot lose at the games are not considered gambling.  Since the games are offered for free, under Rose’s definition, it is not gambling.

The tribe owns and operates the Casino Pauma which provides employment to tribal members and the surrounding communities.  The revenue enhances the tribe’s ability to meet ‘the essential needs of the membership’.  According to the California attorney general’s office, they were not aware that the tribe had launched an online gaming website when first asked about it.  According to one of the office’s representatives, they are now "looking at the Web site to see if the games violate the terms of a gambling agreement signed by gaming tribes and the state. Under that agreement, tribes are not allowed to offer gambling outside their reservations."

There is also the possibility that the tribe launched the website without applying for and receiving the proper licensing.  Whether or not this is true remains to be seen as there is evidence that GameLogic, Inc. submitted a vendor’s license application in an effort to comply with the legal requirements surrounding state licensing.  Under California state law, GameLogic must be licensed in the state in order to sell the games to the tribe.  The application, including a background check, is still being processed.

According to Cheryl Schmit, the executive director of Stand Up for California, the gambling watchdog group, she states that she believed the games are legal but that the tribe should’ve have waited until they had the license in place before allowing the site to go live.  The tribe and the website should be vetted by the Bureau of Gambling Control – which is under the auspices of the Attorney General’s Office – and approved by the Gambling Control Commission before allowing players online to play.

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