All of you who have ever wondered what it’s like running the show at a major online casino, here’s your chance to find out. Exclusively for AskGamblers members, Mark Podd, CEO at Royal Panda sat down and answered all the questions we had thrown at him. Read on and learn all about their casino bonuses, wagering requirements, new games, and how Royal Panda grew to become the casino we all love.
Hi Mark! Thank you for setting out some time for us, in spite of your busy schedule. For starters, could you tell us a bit about yourself and what’s it like to be in charge of such a successful online casino?
MP: No problem, I’m only too happy to help. So, I’m Mark, and I’m the CEO of Royal Panda. We’ve a relatively new casino still – we launched in March 2014 – so it’s been a big challenge getting everything off the ground. But I’ve been very fortunate in that we’ve got a great team here at Royal Panda, and some amazing players. So it’s been immensely rewarding so far.
2. You have actually started your career as a journalist in the video game industry. How did the switch to the gambling industry happen? Have you managed to find some connections between video games and online slots?
MP: Videogames journalism was something I’d always wanted to do since I was a kid, but after a good few years I felt it would be good to work in other areas that interested me. So I got into iGaming instead – initially working in the affiliate website sector, before moving on to Royal Panda.
Videogames and iGaming are both entertainment mediums, so yeah, there are definitely similarities there - particularly in the levels of expectation consumers have, and how committed both industries are to providing the quality, variation and sophistication of product and experience in turn.
3. Your brand’s mascot is a very friendly, cartoonish panda and we have noticed that this fury animal become a core part of your identity. This made us wonder why Panda?
MP: Because everyone loves pandas! In fact, in a lot of cultures, the panda symbolizes fun. So the notion of a royal panda tied in nicely with our “have a royal good time” mentality.
4. And don’t get us started on how much we love your logo. Is there a story behind it too?
MP: If you’re referring to the crown that looks like a panda’s face, I believe that was our designer’s idea. The guy is, without a doubt, an absolute genius. He just comes up with ideas and concepts nobody would’ve ever thought of – such as our logo.
5. You’re famous for hosting incredible promos where players can win a trip to space, meet and greet with the royal panda baby, or drive off in one-of-a-kind BetMobile. Where do you get such imaginative ideas?
MP: We’re very lucky to have a marketing team that can pull these ideas from out of nowhere, and with such frequency. And that’s good, because we feel that being able to offer players the shot at experiencing the extraordinary is very much in keeping with the thrill of playing online casino.
6. What’s next? A journey to the center of the Earth?
MP: Ha ha! I’m not sure about that one – anything potentially involving contact with magma might be a bit too dangerous. But we’re always discussing new ideas, such as our recent Guns N’ Roses launch promotion. We’d heard the rumors about a Guns N’ Roses reunion tour in 2016, so we thought giving people the chance to win tickets to that would be popular – and it was! And we’ve got more stuff in the pipeline, so watch this space.
7. Another thing that is important to mention is that your promos are not based solely on fiction, but for example you have really adopted a panda cub. So how’s the little fellow doing?
MP: Unfortunately, the little guy died a few months ago. Which is a shame, but it’s actually quite a common occurrence (even for panda cubs reared under the expert supervision of Pandas International). This really highlights the scale of the challenge facing these magnificent animals. I’m not sure if we’ll adopt another panda cub, but we’ll continue to help the panda in its fight against extinction.
8. Last December Royal Panda hosted an iPad Giveaway just for AskGamblers members. Are you satisfied with the player response and could we perhaps expect more exclusive promos like this?
MP: The response has been brilliant, and we’re really happy with how the promotion went. So yeah, it’s something we could look at doing again in the future. As much as anything else, exclusive promotions such as these are a nice way of saying “thank you” to the AskGamblers community for all the support it’s given us.
9. Your games portfolio includes NetEnt and Microgaming titles, which are without a doubt the best there is. Still have you given it any thought to partnering up with other software providers, let’s say Betsoft for example?
MP: Absolutely. In fact, I’m happy to announce that we’ve just started rolling out our first NextGen games in the UK, as part of our all-new partnership with NYX (with the rest of the world to follow soon).One of Royal Panda’s core aims is to bring our players the best selection of games possible – that’s why since we launched, we’ve also added game suppliers such as Evolution and Rabcat, as well as NYX.
Naturally, we’re always keen to make deals with casino game companies offering great games. And while we can’t go into specifics, do keep an eye out for more announcements in 2016.
10. What’s the most popular game among your customers?
MP: It varies from month to month, but right now our live casino games, provided by Evolution, are doing very well – particularly Live Blackjack and Live Roulette. And of course, Twin Spin slot, Game of Thrones slot, and Starburst slot continue to perform very strongly for us. However, there have been some interesting newcomers as well, such as Pyramid: Quest for Immortality slot and Guns N’ Roses slot.
11. And what about you, are you a slot player yourself? What is your favourite game?
MP: I tend to go for a mixture of table games and slots. Blackjack Professional Series is the game I’ve probably played the most recently, but of course, you always have far more slots launching relative to table games. As a rule though, I like to have spent a bit of time playing most of the games we offer.
12. What is the biggest win that Royal Panda Casino has seen so far?
MP: We had a slots player from Australia who put together an incredible run playing games like Jack and the Beanstalk. He won over $100k with a single spin, and was up over $250k at one point. Which was an incredible performance.
13. The fact that you have no withdrawal limit is great and attracts a lot of players definitely. And it would be even better if you offered manual flushing too. Have you considered adding this feature and giving players more control over their funds?
MP: It’s not something we’re planning on doing right now. But as far as withdrawals are concerned, our payments team is usually very quick to process withdrawals (especially if the player has already been successfully verified).
14. AskGamblers members just love your welcome bonus. Why do you think they find it so appealing?
MP: One of the things we wanted to do early on is offer a bonus that makes it easy to get at your winnings, with the key points being that you always start off playing with the money you’ve deposited, and that the wagering requirement only applies to the initial bonus amount received.
So let’s say you deposit €100, and claim the bonus. You play 15 spins on Jack and the Beanstalk, and win €50. Well, because you’re playing with your cash balance (the money you’ve deposited), that means those winnings are credited to your account as withdrawable funds.
Or let’s say you play through your cash balance, then win 5k on Jack and the Beanstalk with your bonus balance. Because the wagering requirement is 35 times the bonus amount received (i.e. 35 x €100 = €3,500), all you need to do is deposit again, then place bets worth €3,500 to get those winnings.
15. But on the other hand, there is this one thing about your wagering requirements that tends to confuse players, makes it difficult for them to clear the playthrough, and often discourages them from claiming other bonuses at your casino – The wagering requirements can be met with cash balance bets only. What is the reason for such a policy and have you thought about changing it?
MP: We don’t have any plans to change that requirement. The way we’ve structured the bonus is such that it’s always worth taking the bonus.Because you’re always playing with your available cash balance first, it’s always worth taking a bonus – because even if you never actually use it, your cash balance bets always count towards the wagering requirement, meaning that if you keep going with your cash balance, you’ll clear it.
And likewise, if you do play with your bonus and land a win, you only need to meet the wagering requirement on the initial bonus amount you received – which in the case of big wins, as described in my last answer, can be easily worth doing.
We have found that for some players, it can take a little while for the concept to ‘click’ if they’ve been playing at other casinos. But when it does, the majority of them really like the way it works.
16. You offer top notch support to your customers, but have you considered leveling up and making your live chat available to players 24/7?
MP: Thanks! Our customer service teams goes to great lengths to ensure our players have a royal good time, and I’m sure they’ll be delighted to hear such positive feedback. And we are very selective with the agents we hire, and ensure they’re properly trained.
We don’t have any specific plans to go 24/7 at the moment, but we do our best to ensure our service levels and availability grows in-line with customer demand. In fact, we’ve recently extended our opening hours to 09:00 to 00:30 (GMT+1) daily.
17. Do you have any other ways of getting feedback from players? For example, how valuable do you find the user reviews you get on AskGamblers? And in general, are you satisfied with the cooperation you have with us?
MP: As a relatively new online casino, communities such as AskGamblers are really useful sources of feedback, principally because they bring together people who are passionate and knowledgeable about online casino. So the quality of feedback is of a very high standard.That’s also a big reason why our social media team is quick to respond to customer questions and comments in the user reviews.
18. What sets you apart from the competition? Why should a newbie choose to play at Royal Panda Casino?
MP: Unlike a lot of casinos, we’re not just interested in getting you through the door – we want to make your stay as long and enjoyable as you want it to be. That’s why all of our regular bonuses, and our promotions (big and small), are available to new and existing players alike. And we also like to reward our regular players with things like random cash drops, free spins for new games, and suchlike. And of course, should you have a question or want to discuss anything, our customer service team is always happy to help.
19. We’re wondering what we can expect in 2016 from Royal Panda?
MP: Obviously, there was our recent Guns N’ Roses promotion, which was very popular. We’ll also rolling out more games from NextGen (and other NYX-provided games), which should increase our game count dramatically. Looking further ahead, we’ll have some exciting new features for players around the world. And of course, we’ll no doubt have a few more out-of-this-world promotions, too.
20. Before we wrap up, we want to take this opportunity and thank you once again for this exclusive interview. We wish you the best of luck in all your future endavours.
MP: Always a pleasure. Thanks for your support.