News From The Casino Scene

Interview with Mark Podd Royal Panda

Interview with Mark Podd – Royal Panda

1. How did it all start for Royal Panda? What was the vision?

The vision really was to create an online casino that’s different to the usual ones players frequent – something with a strong, easily identifiable brand, underpinned by a quality experience with a nice twist. That’s what we set out to do when we launched in March 2014. And going on the basis of how strongly we’ve grown in the two-and-a-bit years since, it looks like our approach has struck a chord with players.

2. What are the biggest challenges that you think the online casino industry faces, and how are you trying to overcome them?

As has been the case for several years now, online gambling regulation continues to be a challenge. It’s pleasing to see more and more countries regulating (or seeking to regulate) their domestic markets, to deliver the sort of framework that protects players and companies alike. But of course, that also presents a challenge in the near-term, because different countries will always take different approaches with their regulations – which as an operator, can mean having to adapt the manner in which you operate substantially. But it’s usually a price worth paying.

It will also be interesting to see what the implications of Great Britain’s forthcoming exit from the European Union will be for iGaming companies – especially those that hold UK licences, but are based in other EU member states. And that’s not just a regulatory conundrum either, as many of us have British nationals working for us.

3. Many online casinos set up and disappear within 12 months, but Royal Panda has been growing from strength-to-strength. How have you managed to achieve this?

I think like any successful venture, you want to start by bringing together the right elements. And that’s something we’ve worked hard at doing from the outset. We’ve managed to put together a team that not only has the vision and understanding to come up with great concepts, but also the energy, professionalism and attention to detail to turn those concepts into a successful product. And we’ve also been fortunate to team up with some great partners, whether that’s game companies like Evolution, NextGen, Microgaming and NetEnt, or the graphic artist who came up with our panda mascot.

Then you have to manage your product effectively. Obviously, the start is a massively important phase, and ensuring everything is set up properly and fully functional – from your early promotions and marketing drives, through to operational elements such as customer service and compliance – is vital. But you need to keep that up beyond the launch phase as well, analyze your successes and failures, and use the knowledge gleaned to help you make sound decisions in the future.

And now that we have a couple of years’ worth of data, key decisions can be made on the basis of solid research and knowledge.

4. With so much competition in the online casino market, what makes Royal Panda stand out from the crowd?

Well, for one thing, there’s our panda mascot! He’s an integral part of our brand, and is the sort of thing you just don’t see anywhere else on the internet. And that’s actually a very important thing to have, particularly in a competitive entertainment sector – so whenever you see our furry guy on a website somewhere, you’ll know it means “Royal Panda”.

And obviously, if you’re going to go for a readily identifiable symbol like that, you need to make sure the product people associate it with is not only of a high quality, but also different to its competitors. That’s why we do our utmost to deliver a “royal good time” to our players – whether that’s through a first-rate game selection, frequent free spins and bonuses, wacky and wonderful big promotions, or a bonus system and reward program that rewards a player’s loyalty.

5. What type of games does Royal Panda offer, and how do you choose which ones to host?

We offer a broad range of casino games – video slots, classic slots, jackpot games, everyone’s favorite table games (of both the RNG and live varieties), scratch cards, video pokers, and other softgames – from the likes of NextGen, Thunderkick, Rabcat, NetEnt, Evolution and Microgaming.

Now, as any casino fan will know, some games are better than others. So rather than slapping them all on the website, we like to be selective to ensure we offer players only the best and most interesting versions of each. For instance, does anyone really want 16 versions of standard RNG blackjack? Of course not. So we’ll look at the versions each of our suppliers offers us, select the best one, and offer that.

That being said, if a games company comes up with an interesting twist on the basic formula we think our players will enjoy, we will offer that alongside it.

6. Which are your most popular slots, and what do you think makes them so popular?

It can vary a lot. Of course, we have some that are always popular with our players, such as Starburst and Twin Spin. But what we often find is that some games will spike in popularity when we have a big winner. Last summer we had a player, Henry, who landed two big wins on Jack and the Beanstalk within the space of a few days. And after we posted up news articles about each win, we found a sudden surge in popularity for that game. And this is by no means the only time that has happened.

7. The Live Casino experience has become immensely popular with players. Why do think that is?

Live casino is definitely big business nowadays. In fact, it’s become so big at Royal Panda that we recently launched our own dedicated Royal Panda live blackjack tables, in conjunction with the live casino experts at Evolution Gaming.

I don’t think there’s a massive secret behind its appeal – it’s the authenticity of the experience that’s key. That prospect of seeing a professional, human dealer dealing actual cards (or dropping a proper roulette ball into a wheel) on a genuine table is something players respond positively to.

We’ve found this is especially true of our VIP players, which is why Royal Panda’s live casino has some of the highest table limits around. This is one of the reasons players love playing at our live casino, and I can’t remember the last time we had a week pass without several players winning tens of thousands at our tables.

You do need to ensure you team up with a good partner though, as the sophistication of the technology required is considerable. Which is why Royal Panda works exclusively with Evolution when it comes to live casino. From the quality of the video streams and stability of the platform, to the standard of the dealers, Evolution sets the standard in our industry.

8. How important do you feel bonuses and promotions are for your players?

It’s varies from player to player, but we’ve found our player base on the whole likes what we offer. Our bonus system is, of course, designed to be different to what you find at other casinos, in the sense that you always start playing with any deposited funds you have on your account first, and only switch to playing with your bonus balance once that’s gone (with any winnings won being added to the balance you’re playing with at the time).

Although it takes a little while for some to adjust to this, we find most of our players ultimately like the flexibility it offers. So if you deposit and win a nice amount with those deposited funds, you can withdraw those funds. And even if you win big using your bonus, because the wagering requirement is 35 times the initial bonus amount received, you can simply redeposit and play on until you’ve met the wagering requirement.

Our promotions are something everyone loves though. Our marketing team has an uncanny knack for being able to dream up some pretty wacky promos that always grab the headlines, whether that’s a trip into space (which was our big launch promo), giving away a car that’s been modified to look like a panda, or the 1 million calories’ worth of food we gave away to celebrate International No Diet Day – proper “once in a lifetime” stuff.

But we also do smaller promotions that everyone can get something out of. For instance, on each match day of the recent Euro 2016 football tournament, every player who deposited that day got a free spin for Football: Champion’s Cup for each goal scored. That included penalty shootouts, so you can imagine how popular the Germany-Italy game was!

Striking a balance between those once-in-a-lifetime big promotions, and ensuring players have the opportunity to get something regularly, is important. But our customers seem to be pretty happy with how we’re doing things.

9. Do you have a favorite story or anecdote about one of your prize winners?

Plenty of them! But I think my favorite one would be Phillip, from the UK. We ran a big promotion to celebrate our second birthday in March, which he won. But to get his hands on the prize money – which was £5k in total – he had to do various things dressed in a full-sized panda suit!

These included going shopping, riding a train, doing sports and walking the dog (in public, naturally), but he did it in style, and supplied us with a video of it (which you can see in the news story on the Royal Panda site). It was hilarious to watch, and kudos to Phillip for being such a good sport.

10. What measures does Royal Panda take to ensure that gambling is fair and user data is secure?

As far as keeping everything fair and proper is concerned, we only offer games from reputable suppliers who are themselves licensed in the jurisdictions we’re licensed in, the UK and Malta. Both offer robust regulations that are designed to keep gambling fair for the participants, and where the game suppliers and operators are themselves vetted, licensed and audited accordingly.

And regarding our data security, we use state-of-the-art encryption, and a complex array of other technologies and techniques, to keep your details safe. It’s also worth noting that Royal Panda undergoes an annual ISO 27001 audit.

11. Do you have any tips for players who gamble online?

It should be a no-brainer, but is always worth reiterating – play responsibly. Always gamble within your means. Sure, it’s great if you win a nice amount, and amazing if you win big, but it’s still boils down to luck. Limit your bankroll to an amount you know you can afford to lose, and set an upper limit you’ll cash out at if you win, and stick to them.

Also, explore the responsible gaming options available to you – they’re there for a very good reason – and don’t be afraid to use them. And if you have any concerns, stop playing and ask for help.

12. What can you tell us about Royal Panda’s plans moving forward?

One thing you can expect to see more of in the future is games, and plenty of them. We recently rolled out our NextGen games globally, and have just added Thunderkick and Elk’s games to our games portfolio as well – with a $40 bonus promotion to celebrate.

We’re looking to add new language versions of the Royal Panda website too. And of course, you can expect to see more great promotions as well!

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