Moderator: Kristal Rovira, Legal and Research Director, Americas at VIXIO Regulatory Intelligence
JD Duarte, CEO Betcris
Alberto Alfieri, COO Vivagol
Gonzalo Perez, CEO Apuesta Total
Alessandro Fried, Chairman BtoBet
KR: How has the coronavirus outbreak impacted on operations and your companies?
JDD: Definitely a different situation for sports betting companies such as ourselves. As sporting events are at a halt, there are very few events happening in the world. We find ourselves having to find a new routine as far as what products we can offer, and keeping our customers active, considering they will have other things on their mind right now as they navigate through the situation, keeping health as the number one concern.
We’ve gone through phases at Betcris but luckily as a company, we’ve put in place different measures already. We’ve been working for a couple of years on implementing agile work practices which really helped us. We’ve also been working on communication and transparency with our staff and that has proven to be gold. The next phase was reacting to the first things that hit us, with having to move people to work from home, then looking at all our financial obligations and how they might be renegotiated in a way which doesn’t affect our suppliers and business partners.
Also keeping in mind the customers would want to withdraw their funds which didn’t happen in our case, then we focused on the product; what’s still available and what we can add to our offering and how we communicate with our customers, which is a challenge right there, because most of them cannot go to one of our shops and aren’t visiting our website. Most of them don’t read emails so how we communicate with our customers is also a big challenge we’ve been working on overcoming. The current phase is waiting for the sports leagues to return and waiting to see what will happen with the different economies in the different countries we operate in.
AA: It’s definitely a unique series of situations coming from the coronavirus. For us, in both our cases for Portugal and international markets, it’s meant adapting the daily operations to the new reality. I’m proud to say we managed to switch the full company to remote working in a matter of a few days.
We are lucky because we do work only online, so we don’t have any land-based activities. The first challenge was maintaining communication at an internal level and in a new reality where people weren’t used to working from home are facing uncertainty and fears of the virus. We had to review the whole business, which was tougher in Portugal because there’s less events available there compared to the rest of the international market, which is a challenge within a challenge. We can’t offer virtual sports, esports or live casino in Portugal so we have less alternative options available to our players there.
Both our brands are mainly sports driven, while Vivagol is our new recently launch brand in the market; we were waiting for the kick-off of local football in Brazil which changed our plans completely from one day to another and we had to put off several things we had planned, including casino because it doesn’t make much sense releasing casino right now. Currently there’s a big series of challenges.
GP: We were mainly retail focused so there has been a huge impact in our operations considering the current situation. In total, 85% of our revenue comes from shops; and there is no light at the end of the tunnel to when we will be able to open again. It’s a big challenge for us because we want to keep as many jobs as possible, because we invest a lot of money training these people and we don’t want to lose them. The reality is we have no income in this channel, therefore we have to be responsible or our financial situation will be in jeopardy. Luckily our staff understood and we have been able to reach an agreement with them. We have a challenge taking our retail customers from a retail channel to an online channel. We have to learn to adapt to the situation but luckily our staff have been able to move to their homes very fast, so we have been able to take on the job as usual.
AF: Our situation is a bit different to the operators because of course we are a platform supplier; but indirectly we are affected because it’s obvious that a reduction of revenue from our operators affects our revenue too. It’s a pandemic which is affecting all businesses but it’s a strong opportunity. The reason is all the technology operators now have, means they can improve the product to contain the situation they are facing now. And they believe when sport resumes, the final product will be a better one. That means increasing the quantity of verticals but for many operators, the volume of live casino has doubled in some cases.
So they started to increase the level of verticals. Some operators in Colombia activated immediately the casino where previously it was focused on sportsbooks. Depending on the country they operated in, they activated casinos, live casinos, virtuals and in some countries lotteries. In my opinion this has helped operators create a better product and also they understood the importance of online. This situation will affect retail but will change the behaviour of customers. They are becoming more acquainted to the use of internet and mobile and the online service will become natural to use in the future.
This includes online marketing, acquisition, retention, activation and understanding the metrics in customer acquisition and so on. It’s knowledge we have so we worked hard with our partners to transfer this knowledge. We understood as well, retail is something that will come back soon and be important. We saw a reduction of our revenues but we consider this a temporary situation, where operators can continue to work on their product, rather than a damage limitation of activities.