California’s Pala Indian Tribe Wins Approval For Online Gambling In NJ

2014-11-07 01_50_23-Pala InteractiveCalifornia’s Pala Band of Mission Indians has received approval from New Jersey regulators to partner with the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa and open its own online gambling site in the state.

Through its Pala Interactive venture, the tribe will launch its iGaming offering in the next few weeks and will be eligible to become fully licensed after six months. The Borgata already has a deal in place with bwin.party, who operates the PartyPoker website and shares liquidity with the casino’s own branded poker room. Some reports state that Pala will create its own network of poker players apart from bwin.party and Borgata, but those claims have not been confirmed.

Skeletons in the closet

The agreement has troubled some in the poker community who worry about Pala CEO Jim Ryan’s involvement with the company. Before hooking up with Pala, Ryan served as CEO of bwin.party, and was surely the catalyst for the Borgata/Pala deal. But before heading up bwin.party, Ryan held the role of boss of Excapsa, parent company of the infamous online poker site Ultimate Bet.

Ryan was tapped by the now defunct site to lead the company in its public offering on the London Stock Exchange. But Ryan was also a prominent figure in the company during the years in which UB founder Russ Hamilton was allegedly busy cheating his own players out of millions of dollars.

Ryan later left the company under mysterious circumstances, and some find it hard to believe that he didn’t know what was happening behind the scenes during his years there.

Pala, however, has already passed muster with the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement  (DGE), which takes its job very seriously. If the DGE has already allowed the company to move forward, then it’s clearly ok with Ryan’s participation in the venture.

What happened to Phil Ivey?

The deal is also interesting for the fact that Phil Ivey was hired to be Pala Interactive’s main spokesman last year. But after beating the Borgata for $9.6 million at the baccarat tables using the controversial method of edge-sorting, the casino wants nothing more to do with him. In fact, Borgata is suing Ivey to recoup the millions which they say the 10-time bracelet winner won by “cheating.”

Insiders say that Ivey has been quietly dropped from the company, but Pala hasn’t made any comment on the issue.

California dreamin’

With its entry into New Jersey, the Pala tribe is setting itself up for the possible legalization of online poker in California. By earning the DGE stamp of approval and ironing out the kinks in its software now, Pala can prepare for what analysts predict will be a successful California online poker bill in 2015.

Legislators are set to return to work in December and assemblyman Reginald Jones-Sawyer has promised that introducing an Internet poker bill would be his number one priority.