California-based Pala tribe becomes first to launch Internet gambling site in New Jersey

Industries Associated Press

California's Pala Indians have launched their Internet gambling site in New Jersey following a test period last week, becoming the first tribe to do so in the state.

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The Pala Band of Mission Indians received permission late Friday from New Jersey gambling regulators for a full launch of the website in a partnership with Atlantic City's Borgata. PalaCasino.com started taking bets Saturday morning, said Jim Ryan, CEO of Pala Interactive, the tribe's Internet gambling arm.

"We had a solid weekend and we have yet to start marketing," he told The Associated Press Monday. "We believe we are breaking into the New Jersey market at the perfect time."

The tribe's entry into New Jersey's online market comes at the anniversary of Internet gambling, which has not produced nearly the amount of revenue state officials had hoped. When it began on Nov. 25, 2013, New Jersey officials were projecting a $1 billion a year industry in its first year; to date, only about a tenth of that, or $111 million, has been won online by the casinos.

The tribe, which runs the Pala Casino and Spa in San Diego County, California, is using one of the Borgata's online gambling licenses. Like other New Jersey Internet gambling providers, it can only take bets from customers within New Jersey's borders.

It plans to launch an online poker site in the first quarter of 2015.

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The site's full debut came days after New Jersey gambling regulators said they had found no evidence Ryan was involved in a 2006 cheating scandal at his previous employer.

The report determined the UltimateBet scandal occurred while Ryan was head of Excapsa Software. That firm's software was used to cheat players by revealing their hidden cards to other users, resulting in losses of nearly $20 million to players. But the software was developed by a different company that predated Ryan's employment at Excapsa, according to the report. The money was ultimately refunded.

The Pala site uses an entirely different platform, Ryan said Friday.

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Wayne Parry can be reached at http://twitter.com/WayneParryAC