This might sound shallow, but my first impression of Royal Panda Casino was positive because their website looks great and the logo cleverly and subtly manages to make a crown look like a panda’s face, or should that be the other way around? This casino is one of a seemingly endless batch of new web-based casinos featuring games from Net Entertainment and Microgaming’s Quickfire platform. These games are everywhere these days, and it takes something more special than a well designed logo to make a new casino stand out from the crowd. We took a look to see how Royal Panda stacks up.
Software and game selection
The game collection at Royal Panda is very good. The Microgaming Quickfire platform integrates a selection of the best games developed by Microgaming over the last decade. Some of Microgaming’s more well know slot machines include Playboy, Jurassic Park, Immortal Romance, Avalon, and Thunderstruck II. These first class games are bolstered by fresh new titles from smaller independent developers such as Quickspin, NextGen, Leander Games and more. There are also a full collection of Net Entertainment slot machines, which are up there with the best on the market today. New and popular titles include South Park, Starburst, Gonzo’s Quest, Jack Hammer, and Aliens. In all I counted over 200 slot machines to pick from, mostly 5 reel video slots, but also including 20-odd 3 reel classic-styled machines.
The majority of the table games at Royal Panda are provided by Net Entertainment. This is a good thing as the games are more modern and polished than Microgaming’s offerings. There are multiple variants of Roulette and Blackjack, along with Baccarat, Caribbean Stud, Texas Hold’em, Casino Hold’em, Red Dog, Craps, and Oasis Poker. Those of you that prefer your action dealt by a live dealer have the choice of live Blackjack, Baccarat, Casino Hold’em and Roulette. The studio-based tables are suppled by specialist live gaming provider Evolution Gaming. Table limits go as high as 500 per hand on blackjack for the virtual games, and up to 5000 on the live dealer tables. There are also 12 different video poker games to choose from, along with a few miscellaneous parlour games and scratchcards.
Compared to the many similar web-based casinos that I have played at recently, I was not blown away by the interface at Royal Panda. It uses a standard grid layout of game logos, and categorises the games into sections using tabs. There are two sorting options that you can apply to each tab: by popularity and alphabetically A-Z. The site has a search box, but despite not having an accompanying submit button, it is not “live” like many other sites and instead relies on you to hit enter to perform your search. I was a little miffed the first time I typed something there and waited while nothing happened (yeah sure, first world problems). When you change the tab, sort preference, or perform a keyword search, the site re-lists the games without reloading the entire page which is nice, but the indicator that tells you it is working is so small and inconspicuous that a couple of times I missed it and thought that the site had not registered my clicks. So overall it is not the best user interface I have seen, but it is far from the worst.
Banking and support options
There is an extensive list of payment methods that you can use to deposit your money into a Royal Panda account. Almost all of them credit funds to your account instantly and allow you to be playing without delay. The options for withdrawal are not so varied though, basically consisting of Neteller, Skrill, refund to a credit or debit card used to deposit, and a bank wire transfer. My test withdrawal was held while I was asked to provide proof of identification via email. Once this was supplied and approved, the withdrawal to a Skrill account was paid in a little over 24 hours, which is very good.
There is a useful help tab located on the right of your browser window everywhere you go on the website. One click of that and a sidebar slides out with the option of contacting support via live text chat, email, or telephone. The customer service at Royal Panda operates on a schedule oriented toward European customers, with help available between 9am and 10:30pm CET. Outside of those hours you are able to submit an enquiry via form that will be responded to via email or the handy telephone callback. This last option is a great idea since the only phone number provided by the casino is an international call to Malta. The live chat facility is one of the better ones I have ever seen at an online casino. The chat client keeps a history of your discussion even after you close the window, so there’s no chance of accidentally closing it and losing the transcript that you wanted to copy and paste or refer to. My talk with the staff via the live chat was handled politely and professionally, even when I tried the old “cranky player who wants to argue about the rules” routine.
Security, fairness, and responsible gaming
Royal Panda’s website is protected by an encrypted SSL connection that ensures the privacy of your gameplay and financial transactions. As mentioned earlier, identity verification is carried out via email, instead of the preferable upload over an encrypted SSL connection. The casino is licensed and regulated by the Malta Lotteries and Gaming Authority, and it has a provisional license to accept UK players from the UK Gambling Commission. The Net Entertainment games all publish their theoretical RTP numbers in the game help files, but apart from that I was unable to find any audited payout reports or RTP figures for the other games on the site.
The bonus system used at Royal Panda is worth commenting on because it is a little unique. When you deposit, you may be given a bonus, but when you start playing you will play with your cash deposit first. Should you hit a big win and want to withdraw while playing with your cash deposit, you can forfeit the bonus right there and then, and withdraw your cash winnings. I have seen similar systems at other casinos, but what makes this one different is that only wagers made with your cash deposit count towards meeting the bonus wagering requirement. This means that once you dip into the bonus funds, you can keep playing and win more bonus money, but your wagering requirements will never go down until you deposit more cash and wager that. In that sense the bonuses at Royal Panda are more or less post-wager rewards, rather than up front bonuses.
There are comprehensive responsible gaming controls available in your player account settings. You have the ability to set daily or weekly deposit limits, loss limits, and wager limits, or you can self exclude yourself from the casino up until a specific date, or forever. There is also a unique session limit feature that allows you to set a reminder that will appear on the website at a defined interval, which presents you with the option of stopping and logging out or to continue playing. It is impressive to see a casino giving its customers options such as these, rather than just talking about how they care for their players’ welfare.