Which were the main effects of the COVID-19 global crisis on End 2 End and the gambling industry?
End 2 End has always been a software development company and we are used to working remotely with our clients and partners. This experience has allowed us to adapt to the current situation very rapidly. We were also able to accommodate financially; we are really solid, strong and prepared to fulfill our commitments.
That said, we acknowledge we are dealing with a global and generalized crisis and we are all, to a greater or lesser extent, going to be affected by it.
As regards the global gaming industry, we are already witnessing the consequences of the pandemic and, unfortunately, it is likely that the impact will deepen. Just like other sectors in the economy and especially the entertainment industry, the suspension of sporting events worldwide has subsequently generated a complete halt in sports betting activities, one of the major verticals in our industry. The land-based sector has, of course, been severely hit by the pandemic.
Which were the main measures adopted by End 2 End or imposed by local governments in light of the pandemic?
In Argentina, a national lockdown was imposed on March 19. End 2 End was ahead of that measure, in the sense that we sent all of our employees so they could work from home a week before, on March 12.
Even though we are used to working remotely, a big part of our business development still remains in our offices. We began a process to migrate every aspect of it to a Cloud, so we can be fully independent of our headquarters.
We do not know how long the shelter-in-place measures are going to last nor how the pandemic is going to evolve, so we made the necessary efforts to be able to work remotely for a long period of time.
What do you think about the authorities' approach regarding this issue in the jurisdictions you operate? Do you believe the measures adopted have been adequate given the circumstances?
In Argentina, I think authorities had a quick reaction to what was going on in the rest of the world, particularly in Europe. I believe the measures taken were adequate; some mistakes were made in the process, which is something understandable in carrying out the difficult task that is making important decisions in the highly complex economic context that Argentina has been undergoing.
That said, I believe there is always something to improve. Personally, I think in certain specific situations, authorities should have been stricter.
In Argentina, the government made available to Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) —the business category End 2 End falls into— loans to help us cover payroll costs and tax authorities are also giving leniency to SMEs to pay certain obligations later. I believe many companies, here and in the rest of the world, are going to need much more financial aid than that.
Could you detail in which ways the current situation has changed your short- and long-term strategies and business plans?
End 2 End is a supplier, both for the online and retail sectors. On the one hand, we see that land-based operations have been completely suspended, so naturally, many projects have been postponed. On the other hand, it seems as if the online vertical has begun "shining" once more. In the last two weeks, we have received numerous requests and closed plenty of new projects, some of them very innovative and in line with the current situation.
As regards the gambling industry, both on a local and a global level, do you think there will be changes in tendencies and customer behavior this year?
Yes, without a doubt. Not only in our industry —people's behavior will change for a very long time, longer than a year. The evolution of the pandemic and the eventual discovery of a vaccine or treatment will guide the way in which human beings are going to interact from now on.
Land-based casinos full of patrons, stadiums filled with 70,000 or 80,000 sports fans are scenarios that are not likely to be seen in the next few months or even years. We are all going to have to adapt to that.
How much time and resources do you believe the global industry is going to need to recover from the coronavirus impact?
I don't think anyone has an answer to that question. In order to recover, we need to get past the pandemic stage, and today, that is far from happening.
For instance, for the sports betting sector to be back on track, sporting events would have to resume, and that will depend on many other social factors, so I don't believe it is likely to happen any time soon.
Is there a bright side to this situation?
The global crisis is really profound so it is hard to find a hopeful side. We could mention that now we are able to value many things we previously took for granted. Another positive aspect could be the increasing solidarity we are seeing these days. Hopefully, when the state of emergency is gone, we will continue helping each other out and valuing things that are truly important.
Argentina has gone through economic crises that could, in some ways, be compared to the situation the industry is currently experiencing...Which were the strategies or plans you developed at those times and which lessons have your acquired from them that could be useful now?
Argentina was hit very hard in 2001 by a profound economic, political and social crisis, which resulted in many citizens moving abroad. I personally was one of them, as I migrated to the United States in 2002. However, I am not sure we could compare that situation to what we are experiencing now, as the 2001 crisis only affected Argentina, and was mainly economic. What have a learned from that experience? I believe I learned to adapt to new scenarios and develop the so-called "survival instinct" necessary to deal with extreme situations like the one we are dealing with now.