With continuing quarter over quarter growth of the Cotai strip in Macau, China, investors have flocked to the companies owning real estate on the Macau Peninsula. The most popular of these companies are U.S. behemoths like the Las Vegas Sands (NYSE:LVS) running The Venetian Macau, the world's largest casino. Wynn (NASDAQ:WYNN) takes a close second with their massive Wynn Macau resort, which has been reported as a major helping factor in the company's recent Q3 earning estimates beat of $1.79 revenue per share.
As a whole, the Macau gaming industry has seen incredible growth in revenue in the past decade. Goldman Sachs research estimates that the growth will continue through 2017 at least.
As investors have seen the splendor of the Macau gaming world, as well as the splendor of those companies' income statements, the stocks have been gobbled up as fast as the famous Macau/Portuguese cheese tarts that line the streets outside of the casinos. If you are just now getting to the Macau table, many analysts will say that you might have missed the big draw. Don't fold yet, investors can bet on other Asian growth factors that may still come from outside of Macau.
2014 hotspots for casino growth in Asia
Singapore : Already well developed and continuing to grow
Already the second most profitable gaming area in Asia behind Macau, Singapore still has room to grow. This country has an interesting gaming history. Two casino resorts account for all of the gaming in the country, due to government restrictions limiting the amount of casino licenses available. Because the government is very strict with licenses, these two casinos will have this oligopoly on the industry until at least 2020, according to Singapore's Casino Control Act.
Marina Bay Sands (operated by Las Vegas Sands) and Resorts World Sentosa (operated by Genting, a Malaysian company, and including a Universal Studios theme park) are the two casino resorts allowed to operate in the country. Though reports at the beginning of 2013 showed fear of growth slowing due to the government tightening controls to decrease the number of locals visiting the casinos, Las Vegas Sands reported great 2013 Q3 earnings with a sizable portion of their revenue increase coming from Singaporean growth. The contributing factor is foreign tourism. Thanks to comfortable year round weather, easy accessibility, and great marketing, tourism is abundant in Singapore. This is good news for Comcast Corp. [Nasdaq:CMCSA] as well, the parent company of Universal Studios, as its theme park is currently the only one of its kind in Singapore and a popular destination for families traveling to Singapore.
Japan: potential regulatory easing could mean a new casino and resort hub more profitable than Singapore
The most talked about gaming news in Asia in 2014 will likely be that related to Japan, as the government continues to hint at lightening regulations on gaming to allow casinos to operate in the country. If the proposed legislation passes, legalized gaming in Japan could be even more profitable than that of Singapore. MGM Resorts International (NYSE:MGM) has already declared that, if allowed, it will invest $5 billion in a Japanese casino resort.
Japan was recently selected to host the 2020 summer Olympic games. In preparation, the government seeks upgrades to the country's infrastructure and visitor accommodations. This could weigh positively on the government's decision to say yes to the casino bids, which would undoubtedly provide an update to both. The government could make a formal decision about the proposed gaming legislation as early as the first quarter of 2014.
Fitch Rating agency gave a positive rating of the Asian casino outlook for 2014, posting that "The APAC competitive landscape will continue to intensify. The potential for Japan casino legalization will be the most anticipated event in 2014. Japan has the potential to rival if not surpass Singapore as the second largest gaming market in the APAC region."
Take aways: Macau is still very attractive, and so are other SouthEast Asian locations
Macau continues to be a strong bet for investors for the foreseeable future. With the strength of Singapore, and the potential for Japan, gaming companies operating in the region have a positive outlook in 2014 and beyond.
For your portfolio, here are three things to watch in the first quarter of 2014:
- Singapore gaming revenue growth: Las Vegas Sands has a strong hold in Singapore, one that is defended by government regulation for at least 6 more years. If the company can continue to draw tourists from around neighboring Asian countries, Australia, and beyond, then the company will continue to enjoy positive long term prospects in Singapore.
- Japan casino regulation: MGM Grand, Las Vegas Sands, and Wynn Resorts have all made claims about the billions they will invest in Japan if allowed. If the government gives good news to gaming companies in the next few months, as is expected, get ready for a lot of movement from these companies, and from their investors.