Wynn Exterior Image

Image: Wynn Resorts.

Everyone knew the third quarter was going to be rough for Wynn Resorts (NASDAQ:WYNN), but in many ways, the third quarter was even worse than expected. Overall, revenue dropped 27.3%, to $996.3 million, and net income dropped 61.4%, to $73.8 million.

Most of the decline was due to abysmal results in Macau, where VIP gaming has come to a halt. For investors, it's unknown when gamblers are going to come back, or if they even will in the numbers we saw a little more than a year ago.

Macau is becoming a thorn in Wynn's side
Macau's gaming revenue as a whole was down 34.4% in the third quarter, which is the benchmark we should compare against. That's why Wynn Macau's 37.9% decline in revenue, to $585.1 million, is so disappointing. As the company loses VIP customers -- down about 50% -- it's losing market share in Macau, and that's really the big story for Wynn Resorts. 

To be clear, Macau is still a highly profitable location for Wynn Resorts and all of the other operators there. After all, adjusted EBITDA -- a proxy for cash flow -- was $162.8 million at Wynn Macau, far more than the $117.1 million earned in Las Vegas. But with revenue and earnings down significantly from a year ago, the comparison is a tough one, and that's what investors often look at. 

Wynn Palace Macau Image

Rendering of Wynn Palace, which is scheduled to open in early 2016. Image: Wynn Resorts.

Wynn Cotai faces many unknowns
What's concerning for investors now is the uncertainty surrounding Wynn Palace on Cotai. The $4.0 billion resort will be completed next spring, but Wynn still doesn't know how many table games the project will get. It planned for around 500 tables, but Melco Crown (NASDAQ:MLCO) just received 200 table games for Studio City after planning for 400 table games, and got that allocation just three weeks before opening.

Most of the conference call on Thursday centered around Steve Wynn's frustration with the government's limit on tables, and late approval for the tables that are allotted. The uncertainty makes it hard for Wynn to plan for its opening, and may make the property less profitable than it would otherwise be. With $4 billion on the line, and potentially $1 billion in EBITDA annually, there's a lot on the line in Cotai, and no one knows exactly what to expect when it comes to table games.

Las Vegas is a big strength
While Macau struggles, Las Vegas is the bright spot for Wynn Resorts. Revenue was down 3.9%, to $411.2 million, on weakness from international gaming customers, but non-gaming revenue was fairly strong. Non-casino revenue was up 1.9%, highlighted by a 4.5% increase in food and beverage revenue, to $142.6 million. That's barely short of the $152.1 million of revenue generated in the casino.

Las Vegas won't be a big-time growth engine, but it consistently generates solid cash flow for Wynn Resorts. That's exactly the stability the company needs right now.

More uncertainty ahead
Unfortunately, there are just as many unknowns in Macau today as there were six months ago. No one knows quite where the bottom of the market is, and now there's uncertainty around table games for new resorts, and even questions about if there will be enough labor to operate them. Melco Crown's underwhelming table allocation has Wynn and everyone else wondering what curve balls they'll be thrown next.

Long term, I think this is still a great buying opportunity for investors, partly because of the uncertainty being priced into the stock. But the timing of an improvement in operations is uncertain, and investors should expect a wild ride for at least the next year or two with Wynn Resorts.

Travis Hoium owns shares of Wynn Resorts, Limited. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.