2019 was a turbulent year for casino operator and developer Leo Vegas, with many ups and downs for the Swedish giants.
In the latter part of last year, they received a massive fine from regulatory body the United Kingdom Gambling Commission, won two operator of the year awards, settled a court case against the Swedish gambling authority Spelinspektionen, and sold one of their subsidiary live casino developers, Authentic Gaming, for €15 million ($16.5 million).
So far, it looks like 2020 isn’t going to be much quieter—this week, they announced the closure of one of their biggest UK brands Royal Panda.
A €60 Million Flop?
Despite Leo Vegas’ overall successes as both a casino and an umbrella operator, Royal Panda clearly wasn’t pulling its weight within the rest of the company (or at least their UK customer base).
Royal Panda was only bought up by Leo under three years ago at a princely sum of €60 million. At the time, the deal was considered a great stepping stone for Leo’s expansion into the UK online casino market.
Fast forward to 2020, however, and things have changed considerably in the UK. More fines and more regulations have been put in each year since then, and there’s now even more regulatory change on the horizon.
Add to that the ubiquitous uncertainty around Brexit or post-Brexit trade deals, and the UK market (despite massive revenue potential) is becoming a much less attractive prospect for many online casino and sports betting operators.
Just in the past few months, French brand Betclic and Maltese operator Maxent closed their UK-facing operations. Now, we can put Royal Panda on that list, too.
“The UK is profitable at group level but remains challenging, where Royal Panda, in particular, had a poorer performance during the quarter,” said Leo Vegas Group CEO Gustaf Hagman in a press release.
Strategies and Deadlines
Royal Panda will continue operation in its other European markets as usual. However, the creation of new UK accounts and deposits from existing UK-based customers ceased on January 8th.
UK account holders now have until the end of the month—January 31st—to set up any payment methods required and start the withdrawal process.
Before that, any UK players’ remaining funds will be usable for casino or sports bets—until January 20th, when bets from British players will no longer be accepted.
Any unused UK-based funds not requested for withdrawal by the 31st will then be locked for two months while Royal Panda and the UKGC attempt to contact the account owners. If a transfer can’t be facilitated in that time, leftover funds will be given to problem gambling awareness group GambleAware as a charitable donation.
Players will be able to withdraw anything above the value of £1 after the 20th, meaning even those with small amounts leftover can still get their money returned.
“Once again, we’d like to thank you for playing with Royal Panda, remind you that you should withdraw your cash as soon as possible, and wish you every success in the future,” said the official message on the Royal Panda website.
Leo Vegas group’s main site, the mobile-focused and award-winning Leo Vegas, will stay open for UK customers. Royal Panda’s farewell message encourages their ‘Loyal Panda’ customers to open an account there instead.
Leo recently appointed a new marketing director, experienced native Swede Johan Rikner, and last year announced their intention to move into both Spanish and various South American markets.
Their future might not include the UK branch of Royal Panda anymore, but you shouldn’t expect Leo Vegas Group to be going the same way anytime soon.