Although we don't believe in timing the market or panicking over market movements, we do like to keep an eye on big changes -- just in case they're material to our investing thesis.

What: Shares of regional casino operator Penn National Gaming (NASDAQ:PENN) soared 30% today, after announcing plans to split into two public companies by putting 17 casinos into a game-focused REIT, which will be known as PropCo.

So what: Management is making the move to directly unlock the value of its real estate portfolio, as well as to distribute profits on a more tax-efficient basis. The split marks the first time a gaming company has ever broken itself up into independent entities; but, given how its peers are also rallying on the news -- Ameristar Casinos (NASDAQ:ASCA.DL), Boyd Gaming (NYSE:BYD), and Pinnacle Entertainment (NYSE: PNK) are up 14%, 7%, and 10%, respectively -- Wall Street believes it's the start of a new trend within the sector.

Now what: The spin-off of PropCo shares to Penn National shareholders is expected to occur in the second half of 2013, with REIT election effective by January of 2014. According to Chairman and CEO Peter Carling:

Our plan is to create two well capitalized companies with strong free cash flow that are positioned for growth in the gaming and REIT sectors. The transaction and new ownership structure would permit both companies to best address market and growth opportunities in their respective industries.

So, while today's big share-price spike should give Fools some pause, Penn National is certainly a special situation worth following.

Interested in more info on Penn National? Add it to your watchlist.

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.