At a time when the gaming industry is in turmoil, one of the only ways to hear about what's really going on within a business is through a company's earnings conference call. For investors, this is one of the rare times they get to hear from Wynn Resorts (NASDAQ:WYNN) CEO Steve Wynn, one of the biggest icons in the industry.
After fourth quarter revenue tumbled 25% and earnings fell 49% there were more questions than answers, even inside Wynn Resorts. But we did get a few nuggets of information from Steve Wynn and here are the top five things I learned.
Wynn Macau is in the midst of a transition
"January last year was a month in which we had extremely low hold percentage and this year we had a high hold percentage. So surprisingly we made more money in Macau in January, for example, than we did a year-ago ... without any adjustment for hold percentage, but making normal hold percentage comparisons, which we had last January and this January our mass business was up 26% [in Macau]." -Founder and CEO, Steve Wynn
Among all the bad news in Macau, Wynn wanted to let investors know that they were starting to figure out how to attract mass-market players. A program to attract premium mass market players is under way, transitioning from the company's traditional VIP junket market.
With Macau's overall VIP business down 30% Wynn is transitioning to the premium mass market, rearranging its casino. That work is being completed right now and some of the fruit from those efforts began to pay off in January. The hope is that Q1 will be much better than Q4 if Wynn can attract the cream of the crop that's still coming to Macau.
Las Vegas had a record year
"In Las Vegas, I mentioned in our third quarter announcement that if we had a legitimate November, December, we'd be the first company to exceed $500 million in profitability probably not only in the history of Las Vegas, but also in America. And in fact, we did do $515 million in EBITDA in Las Vegas." -Founder and CEO, Steve Wynn
While Macau struggles, Wynn Las Vegas continues to be a steady contributor, despite being less flashy than its Asian counterpart. Driving Las Vegas results were steady growth in room revenue, food & beverage, and entertainment. Actually, everything but the gaming floor grew steadily in the fourth quarter and that was partly a spillover from Chinese gamblers not traveling to Las Vegas, just like they're not going to Macau.
Wynn Palace will be delayed
"We were notified by our builder last night that because of a problem in the timing of our construction labor permits they thought they were going to miss the Chinese New Year next year as the opening and they would be late with regard to that date that we have used in these calls." -Founder and CEO, Steve Wynn
One of the most notable, and negative, developments from the conference call was revelations that Wynn Palace likely wouldn't be ready for Chinese New Year in 2016. Wynn has hoped all along that the resort would be ready for the biggest gaming time of the year but labor shortages in Macau will likely make that impossible.
Wynn actually didn't have a lot of information about the delay, except telling investors that its builder had notified him the night before that the resort wouldn't be ready. There's a possibility that Wynn could do a soft opening or make some other adjustments but exactly what they'll do is currently unknown, so stay tuned.
China plays by different rules
"We have learned in the last 12 years, the way to behave in China and that is to listen very carefully to what the leadership says and to do our best to be helpful, and to conform with the program as we are their guest." -Founder and CEO, Steve Wynn
This was maybe the most telling statement from Steve Wynn during the conference call and echoed comments Sheldon Adelson made about Las Vegas Sands in Macau. In short, the government runs the show in Macau and the level of gaming play, number of visitors, when casinos get finished, and more is at the whim of the government. That's something not only operators, but investors need to know.
There's only so much a company like Wynn Resorts can do to improve results under these circumstances, but the region is so profitable that they'll take the restrictions given the upside.
Steve Wynn is pumped about Boston
"To be in Boston, Massachusetts and in the metropolitan area in Everett and have almost four million people where we're the only game in town is scintillating." -Founder and CEO, Steve Wynn
It gets lost in the Macau downturn and even Las Vegas' big year, but winning the bid to build a casino in Boston is a big deal for the future of Wynn Resorts. It will diversify the company's business and be the only gaming option near downtown Boston, which has some 4 million people.
The resort in Boston is also another chance for Wynn to spread its brand beyond the gaming hubs of Las Vegas and Macau. Most people may not know that Wynn Las Vegas makes more than half of its revenue off the gaming floor and in Boston the company will have to focus on non-gaming offerings with the casino being a bonus. Wynn, for one, thinks the resort will be a huge success.