n his opening remarks, JD Duarte said the industry is going through a time of uncertainty that is having a strong impact on online gaming: "Undoubtedly, the ongoing crisis is especially challenging for the sports betting sector as most sporting events have been suspended across the globe, so we had to make the necessary adjustments to expand our gaming offering and business strategy to be able to provide bettors with an entertainment alternative in spite of this."
"At the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak, we adopted several measures to be able to continue to operate at full capacity. Our full workforce was sent to work from home to ensure their safety and integrity. Then, we set up an aggressive communication strategy with our customers to offer them alternatives to sort out the difficulties they are experiencing," he added.
Alberto Alfieri said that at Vivagol, they also had to implement a home office policy but as opposed to other operators, Vivagol is 100% focused on the online vertical so his business was not affected by the massive shutdowns within the retail sector.
Gonzalo Pérez explained that the operations of Apuesta Total in Perú were profoundly hit by the coronavirus crisis as a result of the closure of their retail betting shops, which are a key part of their comprehensive sports betting offers throughout Peru. "We have many retail shops in the country, so the negative impact of the pandemic has been very significant on our operations. This situation poses a serious challenge because we are currently out of any source of income from the land-based channel. Locally, we have reached agreements with our employees who understood the situation and we have taken the necessary steps to guarantee that the company stays afloat. Similarly, we have taken an aggressive approach toward the migration of our operations to the online channel, something that has been really challenging to all of us"
Alessandro Fried (BtoBet) explained that in light of the crisis, it is necessary to expand to other verticals, like casino, live casino, and lottery gaming in some jurisdictions.
"This situation has come in handy the demonstrate the importance of diversifying business strategy and expanding alternative and complementary verticals and cross-selling these expanded verticals to target players."
"Every operator and regulator should know how to adapt to this situation and take advantage of the tools and technology available to get over this crisis better than before. A little more than a month ago, sportsbooks were the main focus of the operators offering and, now, they are beginning to understand the importance of diversifying and expanding into other verticals whenever possible.
Pérez highlighted the complexity that the recovery period will carry in every market, taking into account not only the ongoing restrictions but also the difficult economic situation players are going to experience after the crisis: "Many of our customers are experiencing serious financial difficulties and that is why recovery should be viewed under a long term perspective. In light of this, we have launched free bingo options, so players can have access to free entertainment options and in this way, we are able to keep in touch with them and fulfill our responsibilities towards them. In Peru, moving to the online channel will be a long and complex process, so we will have to learn in the way and adapt our strategies."
JD Duarte commented: "I don’t think changing our business focus overnight is such a good idea. I do acknowledge the importance of diversifying our offering and following up on certain changes in consumer behavior, but I think it is important to do it step by step, without losing our identity. After all, we must not forget this is a temporary situation and once the world recovers, we will have to be back to our usual business activities."
Duarte also explained that while they intend to continue in their expansion strategy “entering new markets will be much more complex now, since our industry is not a priority for most of the governments in the region. Still, we will continue to monitor closely potential opportunities in Argentina, Brazil, Peru, and Mexico, to name a few, but we do know that we are going through an uncertain path."