After spending much of the past year at a less-than-impressive two-star rank, Boyd Gaming (NYSE: BYD) has impressed enough top-performing members of our 160,000-strong Motley Fool CAPS community to climb all the way up to three stars. A total of 393 members have given their opinion on the casino operator, with many of them offering analysis and commentary explaining the recent optimism.

The recession dealt a tough blow to the casino industry, leading to the demise of many casino projects like the Fontainebleau Las Vegas and projects from Pinnacle Entertainment (NYSE: PNK) in Louisiana and Atlantic City. Even investment bank Morgan Stanley (NYSE: MS) lost $932 million on its failed Revel Casino project in Atlantic City. But as the economy has shown some early signs of improvement, and gambling revenue recently showed an uptick in Las Vegas, some investors think Boyd may be in a good position to capitalize on a return to gambling.

Wynn Resorts (Nasdaq: WYNN) added to the optimism, as it saw a jump in fourth-quarter Las Vegas revenues, and news of increasing gambling revenue on the Las Vegas Strip in February helped bump up shares of Wynn, Las Vegas Sands (NYSE: LVS), and Boyd Gaming. Las Vegas Sands is also showing more confidence in U.S. gaming outside of Las Vegas by restarting its idled casino project in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

Many CAPS members also like Boyd's approach to managing its assets -- while other casino operators are putting up properties in fire sales, Boyd is still holding on to its partially built Echelon project. The project should eventually become a highly sought-after presence on the Las Vegas Strip -- a place where Penn National Gaming has tried to stake a claim. Boyd also maintains the right of first refusal on the Borgata and expects "business as usual" at the Atlantic City casino despite MGM Mirage's (NYSE: MGM) plans to sell its 50% stake in the casino. Boyd also still sees good opportunity in the bankrupt Station Casinos' assets and is aggressively pursuing an acquisition of its properties.

Do you think Boyd Gaming deserves its raised status? Add your thoughts in the comments box below on this page, or head over to CAPS to rate the company and check out all the information and opinions the community offers, absolutely free.

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Fool contributor Dave Mock recently upgraded his craps strategy so that he has more fun losing all his money. He owns no shares of companies mentioned here. The Fool's disclosure policy was recently banned from several casinos for an uncanny ability to roll elevens on cue.