SAN DIEGO (Legal Newsline) – California Attorney General Kamala Harris’ decision to sue an Indian tribe over online bingo attacks the sovereignty of all tribes, a spokesman for the defendant said Monday.

As previously reported, Harris sued the Iipay Nation of Santa Ysabel, also known as the Santa Ysabel band of Diegueno Mission Indians, in November. She claims that the tribal nation began offering a “facsimile of bingo” to people off of the tribe’s land, which is a violation of the compact the nation signed with California.

The tribe announced it would offer bingo online on Nov. 3 to individuals 18 years or older.

“The suit is intent on obstructing the rights and economic vitality afforded to federally recognized Indian tribes under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act,” said Cruz Bustamante, a spokesman for Santa Ysabel Interactive.

“The State’s misguided attack completely ignores existing federal regulations and guidelines encompassed in the Cabazon decision of the United States Supreme Court, which remains the law of the land.”

The 1987 decision in California v. Cabazon Band of Mission Indians held that because California law did not consider gambling a criminal act, the State had no power to regulate it on Native American tribal lands.

With her lawsuit, Harris contends the tribe has violated the compact it signed with the State.

The lawsuit states the compact allows the tribe to conduct gambling on gaming devices and “any devices or games that are authorized under state law to the California State Lottery, provided that the (Tribe) will not offer such games through use of the Internet unless others in the state are permitted to do so under state and federal law.”

Bustamante said the lawsuit is a thinly veiled attempt to weaken tribal governments.

“This action by the State should be of great concern to all tribes in California and elsewhere because it reflects a tactic that if successful would set a dangerous legal precedent that could be used in other jurisdictions to undermine and attack tribal sovereignty,” he said.

Bustamante is a former state lieutenant governor and speaker of the Assembly.

From Legal Newsline: Reach editor John O’Brien at

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