Pala Tribe Opens Online Casino For Beta Testing in New Jersey

2014-11-23 02_13_04-San Diego's Casino Resort and New Jersey's Online Poker and Online Casino DestinOn Wednesday, Pala Interactive opened its online casino in New Jersey for a select number of beta testers, making it the first regulated iGaming site operated by an Indian tribe to launch in the US.

The first 100 players who signed up received $25 a day for their participation and were reimbursed up to $50 per day on all deposits. Known as a soft launch, users took a crack at PalaCasino.com and were later required to answer a questionnaire and give suggestions to the company to help improve the product at the end of the testing period on Friday night.

The venture is backed by California’s Pala Band of Mission Indians, who filed for a casino license back in July 2014. This October, the company was issued a transactional waiver allowing it to accept online gambling wagers in a partnership with the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa.

Pala CEO’s checkered past

Pala Interactive is headed by controversial CEO Jim Ryan, who once served as chief of Excapsa, a firm which worked closely with Ultimate Bet during the site’s superuser cheating scandal. The New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE), however, has already completed a preliminary investigation into Ryan’s past and seems satisfied that he had no part in any wrongdoing.

In a letter made available by the DGE, the agency states that it will continue to investigate the matter before granting Pala a full license. “While the facts revealed that the superuser cheating scandal occurred while JR was the Chief Executive Officer of Excapsa, at this time the Division has no evidence that he was aware of, or complicit in, this fraudulent activity,” it wrote. The DGE also referenced the Kahnawake Gaming Commission’s investigation into the matter which identified Russ Hamilton as the main perpetrator of the fraud.

New Jersey as a software testing ground

Currently, PalaCasino only offers casino table games, but plans to launch its proprietary online poker product in the first quarter of 2015. The pickings in New Jersey will likely be slim due to the state’s small population and saturated online gambling market.

While Pala may not make a killing in the Garden State, they will be able to use the market as a proving ground for their software, which they hope to deploy in California. Analysts believe that the Golden State’s gambling interests will iron out their differences and come together to back a poker bill in 2015.