This Month in Gambling

The winter doldrums appear to be setting in a little early for casino stocks as most companies went sideways for the past month. But that doesn't mean the industry has had a bad month from a performance standpoint.

The return of Las Vegas
There hasn't been much good news coming out of Las Vegas for a few years, but the Strip is starting to turn the corner and get some real momentum heading into 2011. Nevada's Gaming Control Board said Strip gambling revenue was up 16% in October and has seen double-digit gains in two of the past three months. Conventions are driving the growth with a 20% increase from last year.

The positive comments from Wynn Resorts (Nasdaq: WYNN  ) and MGM Resorts (NYSE: MGM  ) in last quarter's conference calls look to be holding up as Las Vegas comes back slowly but surely.

The rest of Nevada wasn't quite as strong, but gaming revenue in the state did grow at 11% giving a boost to casinos off the Strip. Smaller operators like Boyd Gaming (NYSE: BYD  ) and Monarch Casino & Resort (Nasdaq: MCRI  ) will be helped by the statewide growth as Nevada starts a slow and painful recovery.

But will the growth continue? Not everyone is so sure, and at the recent Governor's Conference on Tourism some executives saw a tough 2011 coming despite the recent growth. Investors should make their bets wisely on any recovery in Nevada.

The online gaming bill that could help casino companies throughout the country is hanging on by a thread. But with every passing day, it is looking less and less likely that an online poker bill will be passed this year. MGM would be the most disappointed, but Boyd, Monarch, and other small operators wouldn't be shedding too many tears if the bill doesn't go through.

Turmoil in Macau
Macau continues to grow quickly, posting a 42.1% jump in gaming revenue during November. But some red flags have started popping up in the gambling enclave that investors should keep an eye on.

Las Vegas Sands (NYSE: LVS  ) had its plans for two sites in Macau rejected this month. The high horse that Sheldon Adelson has been riding lost a little of its luster, and Sands' grandiose plans for the Cotai Strip are coming a bit into question.

Five building sites have been recalled overall, and there's no word right now if these sites will remain casino developments or be zoned for something else. Stanley Ho is reportedly interested in the sites, and with $495 million of cash, Melco Crown (Nasdaq: MPEL  ) would have the capital to add another casino if the opportunity arose.

And then there was word from Xinhua News Agency that regulators are looking to tighten control on Macau's gaming market. It's been more than a year since Macau lifted travel restrictions for Guangdong residents, and gaming companies have benefited from the free travel, but regulators think it may be going too far. The reports this time suggested the government is looking to control the number of table games, slot machines, and new casinos. This could limit the development plans of Las Vegas Sands and Wynn Resorts going forward.

What's next for gambling?
Wynn Resorts should be announcing its new Macau development sometime soon, adding to the growing list of casinos on the Cotai Strip. Could recent developments in Macau be putting those plans into question?

The Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas is only two days from opening its doors. The resort sandwiched between CityCenter and Bellagio is the latest casino to open in the market and may be opening at just the right time. With Strip gaming revenue coming back, it will be easier for the area to absorb another new casino without getting into a price war. Owner Deutsche Bank (NYSE: DB  ) probably doesn't want to be in the casino business for the long term, so getting the resort off to a good start will be key.

Interested in reading more about gaming? Add one of these companies to My Watchlist, which will find all of our Foolish analysis on the stock.

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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 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.


Read/Post Comments (4) | Recommend This Article (3)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On December 13, 2010, at 3:08 PM, termin8r03 wrote:

    Someone has to say this because I have seen too many articles talking about the 16% bump in October revenue.

    October Strip Revenue:

    2010: $494.812 M

    2009: $426.290 M

    2008: $475.005 M

    2007: $784.521 M

    So while we are up from 2009, we are still a good 37% off from 2007 when the casino industry was booming. I'm long LVS & MGM, but it looks like it might be a while before we see some real improvement in the strip.

    My guess would be that with the cost cuts during the recession, we do not need to see the same revenue as 2007 to see a big bump to the bottom line.

  • Report this Comment On December 13, 2010, at 4:05 PM, tradarr wrote:

    You left out the fact that LVS has 3 sites still under construction! Man you guys must have a huge short position to keep omitting facts !

  • Report this Comment On December 13, 2010, at 7:32 PM, TMFFlushDraw wrote:

    @tradarr

    I don't think that's news this month. Those have been under construction/halted for years. I've talked about that project many times but the vision for LVS has always included control of a major portion of the Cotai Strip. Losing two sites would be huge.

    http://www.fool.com/investing/international/2010/11/23/get-y...

    Travis Hoium

  • Report this Comment On December 13, 2010, at 9:18 PM, Chartel wrote:

    There is a new style of socially conscious investor afoot -- a small but notable movement of sharp-witted traders dedicated to sucking the lifeblood out of gaming stocks and profiting by the transfer of your wealth to theirs. Which is not to admit that I am, personally, of such an ilk. Honestly, that's the short and the long of it.

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