The casino industry doesn't have the kind of growth stocks it once did, but now it's a cash-generating machine. Multibillion-dollar casinos are expensive to build, but once they're completed, they can spit out hundreds of millions of dollars in cash every year. And with very few places to spend money on new casinos, giants like Las Vegas Sands (NYSE:LVS) are returning that money to shareholders. 

Recently released third-quarter results don't show a lot of changes in operations, but rather just how strong this company's ongoing performance is. And if you're looking for a dividend stock, this is an area of the market you shouldn't overlook. 

Venetian Macao from over the pond.

The Venetian Macao. Image source: Las Vegas Sands.

The cash machine

In the third quarter alone, Las Vegas Sands generated $1.28 billion in adjusted property EBITDA, a proxy the industry uses for cash flow. That's an incredible number for a single quarter and shows just how profitable it is to be in the world's best gambling markets: Macao, Singapore, and Las Vegas. 

What jumped out in the results was that Sands China's net revenue was down just 2% to $2.11 billion while net income was flat at $454 million. Macao casino revenue overall fell 4.1% in the third quarter, so Las Vegas Sands gained a little market share. That's despite the fact that Sands Cotai Central is under construction and resorts like Wynn Resorts' (NASDAQ:WYNN) Wynn Palace are taking high-roller market share. But the mass-market play was strong across Las Vegas Sands' network of Macao properties, rising 7.6% at the Venetian Macao, 7.3% at the Parisian Macao, and 23.4% at the Plaza and Four Seasons Macao. 

Where the money is going

There are two ways Las Vegas Sands is using its cash to help shareholders. The first is buybacks, which it spent $100 million on last quarter at an average share price of $54.90. Since 2013, the company has bought back $4.2 billion of stock. 

The bigger use of cash is a dividend, which will be increased by $0.02 to $0.79 per quarter, or $3.16 annually, in 2020. Since 2012, the company has paid $16.6 billion to shareholders in dividends and has increased its payout every year. 

The implied 5.1% dividend yield is very strong given the consistent cash flow coming into Las Vegas Sands. A decade ago, dividends were unheard of in the casino industry, but now they're arguably the best reason to own casino stocks. 

The opportunities for growth that still exist

As much as the casino industry has stagnated with Las Vegas, Macao, and Singapore having matured, Las Vegas Sands has a few growth projects that may keep cash flow and dividends growing. 

In Macao, it's building the Londoner, an update to Sands Cotai Central that could reinvigorate the property. The Grand Suites at Four Seasons Macao is another smaller addition that could provide a boost to results. 

The bigger impact will be a $3.3 billion expansion to Marina Bay Sands in Singapore, with 1,000 hotel suites being added and more meeting and convention space constructed. But there won't be much casino space in the new project, so the impact on the property will be incremental rather than transformational. 

What CEO Sheldon Adelson really has his sights set on is Japan and one of the three casino licenses being bid on there. Las Vegas Sands has as good a shot as any to win the right to build a casino, which could cost over $10 billion. The company has plenty of cash flow to fund the project, which probably wouldn't open for four to five years, but if Japan is the $10-billion-plus casino market companies hope it is, the investment would be worth it. 

At the end of the day, Las Vegas Sands isn't so much a growth stock as it is a cash-generating machine. And with a great dividend and buybacks continuing, it's a stock worth owning for the long haul. 

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.