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The Best Casino Stock So Far in 2017

By Travis Hoium – Jun 28, 2017 at 9:09AM

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A recovery in VIP gaming is driving one stock higher, faster than the rest.

2017 has been a surprisingly good year for the gaming industry, with every major gaming stock up well into double digits. Boyd Gaming (BYD -0.10%), MGM Resorts (MGM 0.24%), and Las Vegas Sands (LVS 0.94%) are up nicely on the year, but Melco Resorts (MLCO -0.22%), Penn National (PENN -0.20%), and Wynn Resorts (WYNN 0.14%) are a cut above the rest. 

The biggest gainer on the year is Wynn Resorts, which had a rough couple of years as it dealt with the decline in Macau's gaming market. Here's a look at why the stock has recovered and why its run higher may have just begun. 

MLCO Chart

MLCO data by YCharts.

Macau's surprise recovery

Macau is the biggest gaming market in the world, but in 2015, gaming revenue dropped 34.3% and it fell another 3.3% in 2016 . What's really boosted stocks like Melco, Wynn, and Las Vegas Sands is that in August 2016 the monthly year-over-year comps turned positive and haven't looked back. Through the month of May, gaming revenue was up 15.8% in 2017 and shows no sign of slowing down. 

The growth in gaming is a tide that lifts all boats (or casinos in this case) and it came just as new resorts were coming on line. Melco's Studio City, Las Vegas Sands' The Parisian, and Wynn Palace are all new resorts in the Cotai region of Macau, and they could have cannibalized existing resorts when they opened had the region not been growing. As it stands, there's more revenue to be spread around to these new resorts.

Rendering of Wynn Palace in Macau with water features in the front.

Image source: Wynn Resorts.

The new cash cow for Wynn Resorts

The biggest reason Wynn Resorts is leading the gaming market in 2017 is Wynn Palace. The resort is a $4.4 billion bet on Macau's Cotai region and the high-roller market in particular. And with just 302 table games and 91 games in their VIP area, the casino didn't have a lot of room for error when it comes to gambling volume. The recovery in Macau over, highlighted by a 16.8% jump in VIP play in the first quarter, has helped drive shares higher. 

What's incredible is that the $111.9 million of EBITDA generated at Wynn Palace in the first quarter may just be the beginning. MGM Cotai's construction across the street and the light-rail construction going on around Wynn Palace makes it difficult to get into the property. But long term, the construction should be an advantage because Wynn Palace is the first stop on the light rail from the airport and ferry terminal. It may not even be too much to ask that the resort eventually generates around $250 million in EBITDA every quarter. 

Wynn's growth days aren't over

On top of the impact of Wynn Palace, the company has Wynn Boston Harbor and the Paradise Park development on the Wynn Las Vegas golf course to look forward to. So, the days of growth may not be over, particularly in the U.S. 

If new construction can generate a solid return on investment and Macau continues to grow, Wynn Resorts' stock may have a lot more room to run despite already being the best gaming stock so far in 2017. 

Travis Hoium owns shares of Wynn Resorts. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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