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A Big Winner in Gaming

By Jeff Hwang - Updated Nov 16, 2016 at 4:47PM

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Mandalay falls short as gamblers lose less; Shuffle Master's winning streak continues.

Even the best gamblers sometimes lose.

A pair of leading players in the gaming industry reported quarterly earnings yesterday with varying degrees of success. Casino operator Mandalay Resort Group (NYSE:MBG) came up a little short, as gamblers lost less than expected and one-time events bumped up health care costs in the quarter. On the other hand, the winning streak at top-dog table games and card shuffler maker Shuffle Master (NASDAQ:SHFL) continued.

In the second quarter, Mandalay saw operating cash flow climb 10% to $188.7 million, as revenues rose 11% to $713.8 million. Though the Las Vegas Strip player grew earnings by 38% to $58.2 million, or $0.85 per share, the latter figure came in well short of the analyst expectation of $1.03 per share. Unexpected health care costs took a $7.3 million, or $0.07 per share, bite out of earnings. A lower-than-expected hold percentage at the company's flagship Mandalay Bay casino had a short-term cost of $3.2 million, or $0.03 per share.

Once again, Mandalay's Vegas Strip properties drove results, helped by the new convention center and hotel tower at Mandalay Bay. Even so, operating cash flow at Mandalay Bay climbed only 10% from last year's quarter because of the lack of a major convention event that "fell in last year's second quarter."

Back in June, Mandalay agreed to be acquired by MGM Mirage (NYSE:MGG) to create the dominant mid-to-high-end Strip hotel operator (see Mandalay Says "I Do" and The Logic of MGM-Mandalay). Rival heavyweights Harrah's Entertainment (NYSE:HET) and Caesars Entertainment (NYSE:CZR) have similarly agreed to merge and are in the process of selling off properties to appease federal and state regulators (see Smooth Sale For Harrah's?).

Unlike Mandalay, Tom Gardner's Motley Fool Stock Advisor pick Shuffle Master has no peer. The company saw second-quarter revenues climb 50% to $23.1 million, boosted by a pair of acquisitions. Meanwhile, income from continuing operations jumped 37% to $6.2 million, or $0.26 per share. And while you might know Shuffle Master for its automatic card shufflers, it's the company's mighty table games business model that keeps pumping out eBay (NASDAQ:EBAY) and Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT)-like margins.

Shuffle Master expects this growth trend to continue. The company bumped up its full-year earnings forecast to between $0.88 and $0.90 per share, up from $0.86 to $0.89 per share. I'm still a little mystified at what makes Shuffle Master's Three-Card Poker, Let It Ride, and recently released Four-Card Poker as popular as they are -- but even the worst gamblers sometimes win.

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Fool contributor Jeff Hwang owns eBay shares.

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