The past few years have been extremely challenging for gaming company Wynn Resorts (WYNN -0.42%). A huge decline in the Macau gambling market hit Wynn and its peers very hard, and some of those following the company feared that its investments in global growth would prove to have been ill timed. Yet so far in 2017, the stock has soared, and investors are finally coming to grips with the idea that Wynn will be able to generate growth from its massive capital investments in recent years. Indeed, with plenty of future potential, the best is still to come for Wynn Resorts.
How we got here
Despite the typical U.S. investor's focus on Las Vegas as the capital of gaming domestically, Macau has grown to be a vital component of success for Wynn and its peers. As the Asian gaming capital became increasingly important, Wynn tied more of its future success to its coattails. The stock responded favorably during the early 2010s, and the company announced new investment there in what would eventually become the Wynn Palace resort and casino.
In 2014, however, the bottom started falling out of the market. Changing conditions in Macau led to big drops in traffic, especially among key high-stakes gamblers known as VIPs. Like many gaming companies, Wynn had catered to VIP visitors to drive much of its business in Macau, and the clampdown affected the company more than some of its rivals. That emphasis showed up in Wynn's stock price, which plunged as much as 75% from its highs.
Why things are looking up in Macau
Now, Wynn is seeing more favorable conditions in the former Portuguese colony, and that's due to several factors. First, prospects in Macau generally are starting to turn. VIP gamblers are coming back to the market, and efforts across the industry to cater to mass-market visitors have also finally started to pay off. The net impact has been a rise in traffic, and Wynn has captured at least its fair share of those visitors along the way.
Second, the opening of Wynn Palace has turned out quite well. The move more than doubled the number of hotel rooms that Wynn properties have in Macau, and the timing has turned out to be perfect as it accompanied an uptick in interest in the Asian gaming capital. It's true and inevitable that Wynn Palace is cannibalizing some business away from the older Wynn Macau property, but the net impact from the region has still been positive. Moreover, Wynn has traditionally done well against its competitors, and optimistic investors expect Wynn to gain market share and draw people away from the casinos that its rivals have opened in the region.
Where Wynn has more growth potential
In addition, Wynn Resorts is working hard on growth prospects elsewhere. The Paradise Park project around the Wynn Las Vegas complex is a dramatic reimagining of the area at the north end of the Las Vegas Strip, with the likelihood of a new tour, a lagoon, pools and poolside attractions, and convention space. CEO Steve Wynn sees "an absolute certain return on that investment in excess of 10% or 15%," and that could help propel more interest in Las Vegas at a time when few investors have been paying much attention to Nevada's gambling mecca.
Wynn also has high hopes for the Boston Harbor project. Some have criticized the development's price tag, especially in an area with unproven demand. But the success of Foxwoods -- which draws Bostonians in droves despite a two-hour commute -- points to the attractiveness of a resort in the city. With all the amenities that Wynn visitors take for granted, Wynn Boston Harbor has plenty of potential to add to the overall company's growth over time.
Wynn has already seen its stock climb 150% from its lows, responding favorably to the good news the casino giant has enjoyed lately. But with a pipeline of further development in the works, Wynn Resorts has more room to run, and the best is yet to come for the resort specialist.