2011 has been one of the most exciting years in the history of Las Vegas Sands (NYSE: LVS). The company has watched Marina Bay Sands become one of the most profitable casinos in the world and seen the growth of Macau add to the company's profitability. It has also made progress on its next gaming complex, Sands Cotai Central.

But the company's stock performance hasn't been strong in 2011. The stock is down for the year compared to a 37% rise in Melco Crown's (Nasdaq: MPEL) and a 6.8% bump in Wynn Resort's (Nasdaq: WYNN) shares. But that doesn't mean Las Vegas Sands had a bad year operationally.

Leading the way in Macau
Sheldon Adelson was the visionary behind the Cotai Strip and opened The Venetian Macau when Cotai was an undeveloped plot of reclaimed land. For a time Las Vegas Sands was alone in exploiting Cotai's potential. Fast-forward to 2011, and Las Vegas Sands has had to share some of that success with competitors on Cotai.

In the most recent quarter, Las Vegas Sands saw revenue grow just 8.6% at The Venetian Macau and fall 1.2% at Four Seasons Macau. This was partially due to Galaxy Macau opening on Cotai, but also by Melco Crown's City of Dreams growing at a 33.8% rate.

These numbers aren't good considering Macau's explosive growth, but they aren't red flags for the long-term success of Las Vegas Sands' casinos on Cotai. They're more a testament to how quickly the company was able to ramp up resorts to peak operating conditions while competitors built casinos and slowly ramped up operations. Melco Crown was in the latter category, struggling with margins, but as 2011 moved along, the competitor started to catch up with its Cotai neighbor.

After Sands Cotai Central is opened, Cotai won't have any new capacity until Wynn, MGM Resorts (NYSE: MGM), and Melco Crown can build their new developments. So the slow growth Las Vegas Sands saw on Cotai this year should be a short-lived phenomenon.

Cashing in on Singapore
The first full year of operations at Marina Bay Sands can be described as nothing but a success. The company has generated $1.1 billion in property EBITDA through three quarters and had an incredible 52.2% EBITDA margin in the third quarter.

The best part is that the company also owns the entire resort in Singapore, compared to owning just 70% of its operations in Macau after completing an IPO under financial duress. The cash Marina Bay Sands continues to spit off should have investors smiling as the calendar turns to 2012.

Adelson's gambles are paying off
The bets Sheldon Adelson made years ago are starting to show up in the company's performance. This year Las Vegas Sands made a lot of progress operationally even though the stock didn't keep up. I look at this as a catch-up year for profitability that was already baked into the stock.

One of the major transitions on the market, however, may be the company's transformation from a very volatile stock to a relatively stable one. That comes from experiencing operational success and slowly reducing debt, something I expect Las Vegas Sands to continue in the future.

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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.