Tribes Continue to Launch Free-Play Gaming Sites to Attract New Casino Customers


This month alone, two tribes jumped on the social gaming trend.

Last week the Prairie Island Indian Community announced its partnership with Greentube, a developer and provider of i-gaming solutions, to create a custom social casino platform for the tribe’s Minnesota-based Treasure Island Resort and Casino. The free-play platform, slated to go live in early 2017, will be powered by Greentube Pro.

“The new online gaming platform we’re rolling out early next year includes an unparalleled user experience that engages players with our brand on and off the casino floor, amplifying our social impact and reach,” said Shelley Buck, Prairie Island Tribal Council president, reported

Also this month, Pala Casino, Spa and Resort unveiled its MyPalaCasino, offering slots, blackjack, roulette, video poker, craps and Texas Hold’em poker.

The free-play MyPalaCasino online social casino is available on a stand-alone website, as well as Facebook, iOS and Android. The Pala Band of Mission Indians additionally owns a real-money online gaming avenue through Pala Interactive, founded in 2013 and offered in New Jersey through a partnership with Borgata.

While online chips to enjoy the Pala Band’s free-play site have no value, social play can earn a participant points to use at the brick-and-mortar casino through its loyalty program. It also gives casinos unique access to player demographics and interests. “Our platform allows Pala to integrate the social game experience into its land-based loyalty system thereby extending its brand beyond the physical casino and providing guests the opportunity to earn rewards towards their next visit,” said Jim Ryan, Pala Interactive’s CEO.

Social gaming was initially perceived as an intermediary step — a soft-launch for a future real-money platform, while casinos waited on online gaming legislation to be passed. (Online poker legislation has been a hot topic in California for the past decade.) But these days, many tribal casinos are turning to online gaming to market to current and new casino patrons, hooking them through loyalty programs. Social gaming has proven to be advantageous on its own.  

Among other tribes that have recently launched social gaming sites are:

Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians

The Pala Band’s online social casino comes on the heels of nearby Pechanga Resort & Casino in Southern California’s  social casino gaming partnership with Nevada-based Ruby Seven Studios in February 2016. “This new and exciting social casino will bring the unique Pechanga experience to a global audience,” Pechanga Development Corporation president Patrick Murphy said. Pechanga tribal chairman Mark Macarro hinted at an expansion in the future, saying that the social casino launch is “just the first step in that long-term initiative.”

Pascua Yaqui

In 2012, Casino Del Sol paved the way for online gaming, becoming the first U.S. Casino to offer DoubleDown Interactive online gaming — a move the tribe hoped would help the casino reach a new demographic of gamers (and future casino gamblers). Launched in the spring of 2010, DoubleDown Casino is the world’s largest virtual casino and one of the top four social media games of 2011 as rated by Facebook.

RELATED: Casino Del Sol Becomes First U.S. Casino to Offer DoubleDown Online Gaming

Kumeyaay Nation

The Campo, California-based Golden Acorn Casino & Travel Center, owned and operated by the Kumeyaay Nation, also hosts the free-play DoubleDown Casino application on its website.

The revenue-sharing partnership provides DoubleDown and Golden Acorn an avenue to offer players extended social entertainment on multiple platforms while also targeting marketing messages to Golden Acorn's players. Players can now participate in social games through DoubleDown on the Golden Acorn website, branded with the Golden Acorn logo. IGT’s DoubleDown Casino offers free-play blackjack, slots, slot tournaments, video poker, and roulette to social gamers around the world. New games will be added automatically to the virtual casino, and first-time users of the application will receive copy million in virtual chips to start their play.

RELATED: Kumeyaay Nation’s Golden Acorn Casino Partners With DoubleDown Casino

Iowa Tribe

In December of 2015, the small, 800-member Iowa Tribe of Oklahoma announced its intention to become the first tribe in the state to launch an international gaming website with cash payouts. is intended for players in states that have legalized online gambling, such as New Jersey and Nevada, and to the international marketplace. Players will additionally be able to access the website on some cruise ships and airline flights. The Iowa Tribe of Oklahoma operates two brick-and-mortar casinos in Perkins and Chandler, Oklahoma.

Now is anticipated to begin offering real-money play in winter 2016/2017. The tribe additionally intends to release its international in-flight, real-money online casino in summer 2017.

“The Iowa Tribe Government is in process of getting all of their international gaming licenses & successfully doing so. On that note enjoy our free play site so you can test before the real money play launch,” the website states.

RELATED: Real-Money Gaming at Postponed to Secure More International Licenses

Chickasaw Nation

In April 2016, the Chickasaw Nation announced it partnered with London-listed gaming software supplier GAN to build out a social gaming platform. The Chickasaw Nation is GAN's biggest multi-property U.S. client to date. The tribe operates 20 casino properties across Oklahoma, the largest being WinStar World Casino and Resort in Thackerville, attracting droves of visitors from across the Texas border, largely from the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area.

"By combining traditional casino marketing with a multi-million dollar digital marketing commitment, we believe the Chickasaw Nation will quickly secure significant market share online in the region already well served by their land-based gaming enterprise," said GAN CEO Dermot Smurfit.

RELATED: London-based GAN, Chickasaw Nation Partner on Social Casino

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