CA Weekly Gambling Report: Santa Ysabel fights back, Pala goes live, L.A. Poker Open concludes

Written By Robert DellaFave on November 26, 2014 - Last Updated on March 30, 2023
LA Poker Open, Santa Ysabel, and Pala in New Jersey

The gambling industry tends to grind to a near halt around Thanksgiving, when even the most dedicated slot junkets temporarily find themselves consumed by thoughts of family, turkey, football and door-busters.

But not in California, where the industry was as ripe with gambling headlines as it’s ever been.

This week in California gambling lore was marked by the Santa Ysabel’s continued plight to offer online gambling, the launch of the first tribal operated online casino in the regulated market and the usual smattering of substantial tournament payouts.

So don’t trade in your comp card for a turkey leg just yet, California gamblers. There’s still plenty to discuss.

The Santa Ysabel responds

Santa Ysabel Interactive spokesman Cruz Bustamante has offered a response via press release to a federal lawsuit filed against the Iipay Nation of Santa Ysabel.

The suit, which claims that the Iipay Nation is violating the tribal-state class III gaming compact by offering online bingo to California residents located outside reservation grounds, asks the Court to issue a temporary restraining order against the site’s gambling operation,

View the full complaint and TRO motion here.

In the release, Bustamante calls the suit “a thinly veiled attempt to weaken tribal governments as the State prepares to negotiate compacts with many of the California Tribes.” Tribal factions are expected to play a significant role in the state’s prospective regulated online poker industry; an industry that could go live as early as next year.

Cruz defends that the Santa Ysabel are well within its sovereign rights as per the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, and that the Santa Ysabel Gaming Commission (SYGC) has “constructed a business model that is completely transparent and compliant with all applicable SYGC and NIGC regulations.”

He concludes by stating that federal officials have been invited to the Santa Ysabel’s reservation to “review operations,” yet “no representative from the office of the California Governor has accepted the invitation.”

The Santa Ysabel’s claims that the suit is little more than a conspiracy theory designed to undermine Tribal gaming influence comes across as a bit of tough sell, but we’ll see what happens during a preliminary court hearing, scheduled for December 4 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California.

More details here. goes live in New Jersey

After a successful trial period, the Pala Band of Mission Indians received permission from New Jersey’s Division of Gaming Enforcement to open its gambling site,, to the masses.

With the launch, the Pala become the first federally recognized tribe to enter the regulated iGaming landscape. The tribe’s November 22 entry came just days before the one year anniversary of Internet gambling in New Jersey; a year that was marred by failed revenue expectations, glaring software issues and payment processing troubles.

Despite the industry’s tough outing, Pala Interactive CEO Jim Ryan is optimistic that the tribe is entering the “New Jersey market at the perfect time.”

Mere days before was given the go-ahead, state regulators pronounced that Ryan had no involvement in Ultimate Bet’s 2006 cheating scandal. Ryan was a previous employee of the disgraced site.

For more on Ryan and Pala’s plans in New Jersey, check out Chris Grove’s interview with the Pala Interactive CEO.

The Pala Band of Mission Indians operates the Pala Casino and Spa in San Diego County, and is using one of the Borgata’s Internet gaming licenses.

As part of its welcome package, the online casino is currently offering patrons a $10 free sign-up bonus, 100% match bonus up to $100 on initial deposits and a $1,000,000 bonus spin.

L.A. Poker Open concludes with $500,000 guarantee

The Commerce Casino hosted 2014 L.A. Poker Open culminated in a $1,600 entry, $500,000 guarantee last weekend.

As expected, the ever popular event drew an influx of locals (469 in total), in creating a $680,050 prize pool.

In the end, the tournament resulted in a three way chop with Northridge’s Emil Mactal receiving the lion’s share ($112,735) of the remaining funds. But it was Larry Quang that would be the lucky recipient of the $10,000 entry into the WPT L.A. Poker Classic Championship, to be held at the Commerce from February 28 – March 5 2015.

Quang also received $75,000 in cash for his efforts.

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Robert DellaFave

Robert DellaFave writes for a variety of online gaming sites and is also working on programming a poker simulation creative enough to beat the best. Follow Robert on Twitter @DivergentGames and on Google+

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