There's still a pandemic in the U.S., but you wouldn't know it by the gambling numbers coming out of Las Vegas. In July 2021, gamblers lost $793.7 million on the Strip, up 140.5% versus a year ago and an all-time record for the gambling hub. 

The figure was a swift departure from the slow pandemic recovery that casino companies talked about in the first half of 2021. MGM Resorts International (MGM -1.86%), Caesars Entertainment (CZR -1.10%), and Wynn Resorts (WYNN -1.17%) all saw a recovery in gambling on weekends, but didn't see a return in convention bookings and were hesitant to say the recovery was complete. That tune might be changing. 

Las Vegas Strip skyline view.

Image source: Getty Images.

A perfect storm and what we don't know yet

July's figures were bolstered by a number of factors like five weekends in the month, the Fourth of July, and a major boxing match on the Las Vegas Strip. But that doesn't take away from the fact that the gambling numbers were simply astounding. 

But it's not yet clear that the other revenue streams in Las Vegas have recovered. And non-gambling sources account for well over half the revenue on the Las Vegas Strip in a normal year. 

We'll get the full numbers when third-quarter earnings are released, but we know that in the second quarter of 2021, MGM's revenue per available room was $115, down from $150 in 2019. Food and beverage revenue in the second quarter was $302.7 million, down from $520.3 million in the fourth quarter of 2019. Both room revenue and food and beverage sales could have increased alongside gambling in July, but we don't know yet. 

Why 2021 could be an outstanding year in Las Vegas

Even though we don't know exactly how good results will be, we can see the second half of the year is trending in the right direction, and I think it will be outstanding in Las Vegas. The numbers we've seen so far are before the corporate convention business that normally fills out weekdays comes back in any meaningful way. When it does, record results could continue. 

There are three stocks that have the most to gain from the recovery. MGM and Caesars together control a vast majority of the Las Vegas Strip. They're already at or near profitability, and if revenue surges in the second half of the year, they could see record profitability. 

The other stock to watch is Wynn Resorts, which has long had the most profitable resort on the Strip. Wynn Las Vegas recently added a 400,000-square-foot conference center that has yet to be used, and is currently undergoing a full remodel of guest rooms. This may be a resort that takes longer to ramp up than others, but later this year and into 2022, it could be more profitable than ever. 

MGM, Caesars, and Wynn Resorts have recovered nicely since early in the pandemic, but if Las Vegas recovers more quickly, they could be growth stocks for the next few years. And it looks like the second half of 2021 and into 2022 could be a boom time for the Strip.