While investors have mostly put Las Vegas on the back-burner in favor of the more profitable Macau, things are starting to pick up again in Las Vegas, to the benefit of gaming companies that have a lot to gain from the Vegas rebound.
However, a new competitor is coming to Las Vegas. It's not an American company -- Malaysia's Genting Group may make things more difficult for Las Vegas gaming companies like Boyd Gaming Corp. (NYSE:BYD) that don't need any more competition to drive profits down further.
After another dismal first quarter with lower income as the US gaming sector struggles to reach its pre-2008 peak, Boyd exemplifies how US gaming investors have been disappointed over the last few years.
Yet this development could result in gains in the US because Genting has partnered with media companies like Universal Studios of Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA) to add theme parks to its resorts in Asia, this Vegas play gives investors an opportunity for an interesting bet on a company that will likely partner with Genting on the Vegas theme park. That company is likely to be Twenty-First Century Fox (NASDAQ:FOX) with its theme park Twentieth Century Foxworld. (To clear up confusion: Twentieth Century Fox is a film studio subsidiary of the Twenty-First Century Fox parent company.)
Genting's coming bet on Las Vegas
Genting, the Malaysian company that runs Resorts World casinos in Malaysia, Singapore, and soon other Asian countries, has been rapidly expanding in Asia and the US. Genting already runs a gambling operation in New York City with Resorts World New York, and boasts the highest-grossing US slot machine parlor. Now, US investors should closely follow the company's coming development in Las Vegas, even if they can't easily get Genting into their portfolios (as it's traded on the Malaysian and Singapore exchanges).
The company announced in 2013 that it would buy and take over a half-finished project on the Vegas strip that has been sitting vacant since Boyd Gaming Corp. abandoned construction on it in 2008. Genting will use the land to build a Resorts World Las Vegas. The first phase is set to open as soon as 2015.
The initial plans for the resort include 3,000 hotel rooms, a mega casino with over 3,500 slot machines and table games, and a 4,000-person theater. The beautiful Asian-themed resort will also include an elaborate garden, one of the largest aquariums in the world, potentially a live-panda exhibit, and a 674 foot tall roof-top observatory that required the company to get permission from the Federal Aviation Administration.
If investors don't buy Genting, its theme park partners might be a good play instead
Resorts World casinos have a unique way of partnering with media and entertainment companies to build theme parks attached to these casino resorts. In Singapore, Resorts World Sentosa is attached to Universal Studios Singapore, licensed by Comcast under NBCUniversal. Comcast made $2.2 billion in total theme park income during 2013 from its Universal Studios parks in the US, Japan, and Singapore, so this is a very profitable arm of its overall business. It's no wonder that more media companies are looking to diversify their income streams with theme parks.
With that, Twenty-First Century Fox announced plans to build its first-ever theme park, which will be attached to Resorts World Malaysia. In an effort to gain from the growing theme park demand as Comcast and other major media companies have done, with Twenty-First Century Fox World Fox hopes to start a successful line of theme park operations. The park is planned to open in 2016.
Foolish investors' final bet: Nothing is certain but this could be a good bet
Genting President and Chief Operating Officer Kong Han Tan, while talking about the partnership between Genting and Twenty-First Century Fox in Malaysia, was questioned on his plans for Resorts World Las Vegas. He said the company is considering adding the same partnership to one of the next phases of its already enormous plans in Las Vegas.
While concrete plans for a Twentieth Century Foxworld in Las Vegas have not been created yet, since the company already has a partnership with Fox to build its first theme park in Malaysia this is already an interesting bet. Just as Comcast has reaped huge benefits from the Universal Studios location attached to Resorts World Singapore, Twenty-First Century Fox may be at the start of something special. Investors who are looking for exciting trends should keep watching Genting while waiting for it to announce an official partnership in Vegas.