The Pala Band of Mission Indians is a very tiny tribe with just under one thousand enrolled members who live on a reservation that spans 12,273 acres and is located approximately an hour’s drive to the north of San Diego.
More than 10,000 square feet of gaming area is available at the Pala Casino Resort and Spa, which was the tribe’s first attempt at opening its own land-based casino. The Pala Casino Resort and Spa debuted in April of 2001. After building Pala Casino into one of the most popular gaming sites in the state of California, the tribe decided in 2013 to turn its attention to the online gambling market.
In the same year, Pala Interactive LLC was established in order to provide the tribe with a legitimate presence in the online casino industry. The “anticipation of burgeoning social and real money gaming opportunity in the United States” is listed as the key motivator for the establishment of Pala Interactive on the portion of the company’s website devoted to its Mission Statement.
At the time, states like Nevada and New Jersey were becoming the first to adopt laws legalizing internet gambling.
This created a regulatory framework and invited significant firms to compete inside sectors that were exclusive to each state. The formation of an internet gambling organization by the Pala tribe was undeniably premeditated with the intention of capitalizing on such legislation in the state of California, where the topic has been the subject of intense discussion over the course of the last ten years.
Legislation pertaining to internet gambling in the state of California, however, has been stalled for years with very little forward movement because state legislators have been mired in a protracted standoff with a coalition of conservative tribal organizations.
It was at the end of 2013, when New Jersey finally entered the fight of online gambling, that Pala Interactive reportedly made the decision to expand outside the limits of California.
Pala Interactive was able to negotiate a license arrangement with the Borgata Hotel Casino and Spa, the most prominent land-based gambling establishment in New Jersey, exactly one year after the opening of the online gaming business in the state. In accordance with the new legislation that was just passed, casino owners in the state of New Jersey are able to collaborate with third party software suppliers like Pala Interactive.
Even though Borgata had a greater agreement with software supplier bWin.Party, which is the parent company of the Party Poker online poker room, the property decided to increase its internet presence by partnering with Pala Interactive. This decision was made despite the fact that Borgata had a larger partnership with bWin.Party.
Soon after, Pala Casino New Jersey became one of the platforms falling under Borgata’s licensed umbrella with Borgata Casino, Borgata Poker, and Party Poker New Jersey.
Even though it is one of the more modest online casinos in New Jersey at this time, the simple fact that it exists is evidence of the creativity and tenacity of the Pala folks. While other California tribes continue to argue over specifics of their current gaming compacts, allowing opportunities for internet gambling to “wither on the vine,” the Pala tribe has shown initiative by venturing out on their own to pursue opportunities in this space.
The majority of industry insiders consider Pala Interactive’s expansion to New Jersey as a testing phase. This provides the tribe with the opportunity to test out its software platform in advance of any regulations that may be enacted in California. However, while being referred to as a “third wheel” by Borgata’s larger licensees, the site’s concentration on casinos and bingo (Pala’s poker product is not yet available in New Jersey) has enabled it to establish itself as one of the state’s more successful mid major performers.