Melvin Ritsema: Staying true to Royal Panda’s sportsbook roots

In the second of an exclusive three-part series for SBC News, Royal Panda CMO Melvin Ritsema discusses his company’s takeover by LeoVegas, staying true to its own sportsbook roots despite the acquisition, why the UK market remains the principal target, and how pricing ploys around the World Cup will be taken forward into future high-profile tournaments.

SBC: Was the Royal Panda sportsbook impacted by the LeoVegas takeover? Or do the two effectively still run as separate businesses?

MR: We had just launched our sportsbook a couple of months before being acquired by LeoVegas. They were very impressed by what we had achieved on our sportsbook in such a short amount of time, and the decision then was to keep our own sportsbook. This still holds true today.

We are happy to operate completely independent from LeoVegas, with our own platform, our own sportsbook and our own operational teams. This allows us to grow in our own unique way instead of becoming the exact same product under two different brands.

SBC: You estimate that 80% of your sportsbook business comes from the UK market; is this by design, or just a reflection of where your casino business was strongest?

MR: It’s a representation of our casino business as well. Casino already had the majority of our business from the UK, and when we launched the sportsbook, we decided to focus mostly on the UK.

We also had our UKGC license before the MGA one, so we went live in the UK before other markets. A main reason is that we want to focus and grow in regulated markets, since these markets are more sustainable long-term.

SBC: How much of an increase would it take to consider moving the sportsbook tab ahead of either Casino or Live Casino? Do you anticipate that the casino side will always take prevalence?

MR: We want to be a one-stop-shop for any online betting and gambling. While casino is currently the homepage, the idea is to ensure every customer can easily find what they want on the website. I don’t think we would shift to a sportsbook first, but definitely a sportsbook equal to casino is the aim.

SBC: Looking back on the World Cup, how successful was it for the Royal Panda sportsbook? Did you turn to LeoVegas for advice given their experience of launching ahead of Euro 2016?

MR: The World Cup was a huge success. We went all-in on getting our name out there in the UK. We joined the Oddschecker odds grid + offered top price match odds on England in all games + outright markets. We also had a lot of top price on Harry Kane and other England markets. This has worked well for us, though with England winning a lot more than anticipated, and Harry scoring quite a few goals, this came at a price.

Still we managed to make a healthy profit over the world cup while attracting a lot of new punters, so we are very happy with the result. Now our sport and CRM teams are working on keeping these newly acquired players active for the new football season as well.

SBC: What will you take from the marketing ploys you deployed this summer? Is going top price on core markets for England matches something you would revisit in tournaments to come?

MR: I definitely prefer it over an inflated price at a max cap. A lot of companies boost 2/1 to 20/1 for instance, with a max bet of £1. We prefer to boost our odds slightly, just being (joint) top price. We’ll lower our spread and margin by doing this, but allow players to win as much as £5000 per bet. That seems much more interesting to a genuine punter than a £1 bet to win £20, doesn’t it?

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