Macau has brought casino companies incredible profits over the last decade since its gaming growth story began in 2002. The years to come should continue to reward Macau-focused companies and their investors. Las Vegas Sands (NYSE:LVS), Melco Crown (NASDAQ:MLCO), and Wynn Resorts (NASDAQ:WYNN) are each preparing for new resorts at Macau's Cotai Strip in the next 18 months to take advantage of this continued growth.
The three casino resorts are under construction now and Melco Crown's Studio City and Las Vegas Sands' The Parisian could open as soon as summer 2015. Wynn Resorts' Wynn Palace is likely coming by the end of 2015. However, Wynn Resorts' coming Wynn Palace may be in a bit of hot water following the announcement of a local investigation by Macau authorities into Wynn's initial purchase of the property where the resort is being built.
Trouble for Wynn ahead of its new casino
Wynn Resorts is hoping for a surge in revenue from the addition of its $4 billion Wynn Palace Cotai, which could open as early as the end of 2015. This amazing new resort will help Wynn host more guests in Macau.
In its most recent quarter, one highlight reported by the company was that its mass-market operations resulted in its room occupancy rate increasing from 93% in the first quarter of 2013 to 98% during this year's period. This new casino will help Wynn to gain even more from the rising number of visitors to Macau.
However, the company has recently been put under investigation by the anti-corruption agency of Macau. This issue involves the small company that originally gained possession of the land that Wynn subsequently picked for its new resort. This issue involves the way in which Wynn initially purchased the land rights from this company for $50 million.
According to a report by the Wall Street Journal, Wynn did disclose its dealings with this small third party in a SEC filing when it first struck this plan in 2009. Wynn has stated publicly in the past that its dealings with this particular party have complied with US and Macau laws. Now, the company has stated again that it is cooperating with authorities to resolve the issue.
Is this reason to stay away?
Don't shy away from Wynn Resorts and its new Wynn Palace because of these regulatory issues (though that may be an added concern). Instead, shy away from it because better options will come online sooner. Before Wynn can open the doors to the Wynn Palace, Melco Crown's Studio City resort will already be open. This cinematically-themed integrated resort on the Cotai strip is set to be better than anything Melco Crown has produced yet, with 500 gaming tables, more than 1,500 slot machines, a five-star hotel, shopping mall, and more.
Analysts have said that Studio City will be the "best situated" resort on the Cotai strip, as it will be directly adjacent to the Lotus Bridge that connects the strip to mainland China via Hengqin Island, and is on a proposed stop for the new intercity light rail coming next year.
Better looking still is Las Vegas Sands and its newest integrated casino resort, its fourth resort and fifth casino on the Cotai Strip. The Parisian, which will open in mid-2015 in a race with Melco Crown, is set to be a major advance for gaming in Macau.
This resort will be the biggest of the new resorts put up by either Wynn Resorts or Melco Crown with over 3,000 hotel rooms and suites, roughly 450 table games, 2,500 slots, a retail mall, and an impressive replica of the Eiffel Tower at 50% scale.
Foolish move for investors: Bet on the best play
For investors who really want to get in on Wynn Resorts ahead of the coming Wynn Palace, this item of regulatory concern is probably not a major issue. It doesn't seem that there was wrongdoing on Wynn's part, even if some shady business deals took place. The company will likely have the issue sorted out relatively easily. However, with three casinos coming, Wynn looks less appealing than its peers because its casino will open last. Melco Crown and especially Las Vegas Sands look like better bets right now, and that's more reason to look for opportunities other than Wynn Resorts, regardless of this regulatory issue.