Pala Interactive has beta-launched its New Jersey-facing online casino site, PalaCasino.com. On Wednesday, the California-based Pala invited Garden State guinea pigs to take a stab at the newest site in New Jersey’s regulated online gambling market. Pala has teamed with Atlantic City’s market-leading Borgata casino, which operates its own gambling site in addition to hosting the New Jersey-facing operation of UK-listed online gambling operator Bwin.party.
Pala Interactive is majority owned by California’s Pala Band of Mission Indians, which operates the Pala Casino Spa and Resort on their reservation outside San Diego. PalaCasino.com goes into the history books as the first real-money online gambling site operated by tribal interests in New Jersey. Pala plans to launch its proprietary poker site sometime in the first quarter of 2015.
Pala’s arrival comes nearly one year to the day that the state launched its regulated online gambling market and brings the roster of New Jersey-licensed operators back up to six. In September, Ultimate Gaming announced it was exiting the market after its brick-and-mortar casino partner Trump Plaza shut down. Ultimate Gaming has since closed its Nevada-licensed site, citing an “extremely cost-prohibitive” regulated US market.
Pala isn’t likely expecting to make a pile of dough in New Jersey’s already tight market but it will serve as a good testing ground for its software. The plan appears to be to ensure the software’s up to scratch before legislators in the Pala’s home state finally get around to passing their own online poker legislation.
Last week, Pala announced it had inked a deal with online payment processor Optimal Payments to allow the Pala site to utilize the Neteller payment option in New Jersey and any other US state that hops on the legalization bandwagon.
SAVING PALA RYAN
Pala Interactive is led by Jim Ryan, the former co-CEO of Bwin.party who left the company in December 2012, allegedly to spend more time with his family, only to resurface with Pala the following year. Many observers believe Ryan fell on his sword in order not to jeopardize Bwin.party’s chances of passing muster with New Jersey gaming regulators.
Prior to joining the PartyGaming half of Bwin.party, Ryan served as CEO of Excapsa, the parent company of online poker site Ultimate Bet (UB). That site went belly-up following the 2011 Black Friday indictments, taking millions of dollars in player deposits with it. Ryan was long gone by then but was at UB’s helm when company insiders engaged in the infamous ‘superuser’ scandal. Ryan left UB shortly after the chicanery came to light and while there’s no evidence to suggest he played an active role in the scandal, secret recordings from 2008 implied that he was at least aware of the attempted coverup.
Many observers were surprised that Ryan’s history apparently posed no great concern to the DGE, yet PokerStars’ New Jersey application continues to languish in regulatory limbo. Questions have also been raised as to the Pala poker software’s suspected links to the defunct UB’s software and its infamous ‘god mode’ that allowed Russ Hamilton and others to pick the pockets of unsuspecting players.