This Month in Gambling

The gambling world has had a busy week since I last posted a monthly recap. We saw Las Vegas Sands (NYSE: LVS  ) blow our minds with earnings, MGM Resorts (NYSE: MGM  ) post another loss, and Melco Crown (Nasdaq: MPEL  ) take strides in Macau. But you may have missed some other news that slipped under the headlines.

An old friend is back
Harrah's Entertainment
is getting ready to become public again. The offering of 31.3 million shares will be priced between $15 and $17 per share, and proceeds will be used to develop a retail and entertainment complex on the Strip. And by the way, the company would now like to be called Caesars Entertainment Corp., thank you very much.

I used to be a shareholder of Harrah's back in the day, but the investment story has changed a lot since then. Harrah's used to be viewed as a diverse operator with a solid record of profitability. A leveraged buyout, years of losses, and debt shenanigans to stay out of bankruptcy have changed all that. If the debt load at MGM scares you, how about $20 billion of debt saddling Harrah's/Caesars and a quarterly loss of $164.8 million in the third quarter to boot. This IPO has me scratching my head already.

Macau shows aces; Las Vegas playing a draw
Las Vegas Strip gaming isn't exactly booming like Macau, but after jumping 21% in August gaming revenue was up a more modest 2.8% in September. This is probably closer to the rate of growth we will see going forward, and it looks as if we're seeing a little positive momentum.

Macau, on the other hand, can't seem to count money fast enough. October gaming revenue in Macau was up 49.8% from last year to a record $2.37 billion. We've seen most of that growth on the Cotai Strip, and with Las Vegas Sands opening Sites 5&6 in 2011, we should see that momentum continue.

Don't forget the little guy
Of course there were earnings from small casino operators who don't have flashy casinos in Asia or Las Vegas.

Motley Fool Hidden Gems pick Ameristar Casinos (Nasdaq: ASCA  ) posted flat revenue, and earnings fell 17% to $0.21 per share after adjusting for special items. The company is being hit by weak gaming demand around the country and increased competition in St. Louis.

Pinnacle Entertainment (NYSE: PNK  ) had $0.10 in adjusted earnings per share blasting past an expected loss of $0.07 by analysts. Revenue was up 14.9% as the company stole share in St. Louis from Ameristar.

Monarch Casino (Nasdaq: MCRI  ) reported results that were better across the board. Revenue was up 8% to $37.7 million, and earnings per share were up 30.8% to $0.17. I've been watching Monarch because it has the best balance sheet in gambling and continues to report solid results despite little growth in Nevada gaming revenue.

An online gambling update
The hopes for an online gambling bill are in limbo after the Republicans won the House last week. But the good news (according to gaming executives) is Harry Reid will remain in the Senate. The Nevada Democrat has been a friend of the gaming industry and would be supportive if an Internet gambling bill moves forward in Congress. If nothing passes during the lame-duck session, I have my doubts we'll get online gambling legalized, but I've been surprised by Congress before. Let's keep our fingers crossed.

Looking forward
Wynn Resorts
(Nasdaq: WYNN  ) should be announcing plans for its Cotai Strip property some time in the next month. The casino won't be ready until around 2014, but it will be fun to see what Steve Wynn has up his sleeve for his next project. I hope he tops the extravagance of the three towers topped by a huge SkyPark at Marina Bay Sands, but his recent developments have been more about class than showy attractions.

Interested in reading more about gambling? Add one of these stocks to My Watchlist to find all of our Foolish analysis on this stock.

I'll raise:

Fool contributor Travis Hoium does not have a position in any company mentioned. You can follow Travis on Twitter at @FlushDrawFool, check out his personal stock holdings or follow his CAPS picks at TMFFlushDraw.

Melco Crown Entertainment is a Motley Fool Global Gains recommendation. Ameristar Casinos is a Motley Fool Hidden Gems selection. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.


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