A couple of years ago, Boyd Gaming (NYSE:BYD) offered little for an investor to get excited about. But since then, several factors have transformed Boyd's image dramatically and have helped the stock more than triple to its $51.41 share price at Monday's close. The company's fantastic first-quarter earnings release after the bell yesterday reflects those improvements.

For one thing, the July 2003 opening of the Borgata, a 50-50 joint-venture with MGM Mirage (NYSE:MGG) that is dominating the Atlantic City market, marked Boyd's first real foray into premium hotels. Second, the explosion in the popularity of the Las Vegas Strip in general -- as well as the highly anticipated opening of Wynn Resorts' (NASDAQ:WYNN) Wynn Las Vegas this week -- has pumped up the value of Boyd's aging Stardust property and the 63 acres of land it sits on, situated just across the street from Wynn Las Vegas. And third, the company's strategic acquisition of Las Vegas locals rival Coast Casinos significantly boosted both the value and quality of Boyd's operations in the fast-growing Las Vegas locals market.

Revenues in the first quarter climbed 72% to $567 million year over year, mostly factoring in last year's additions of the Coast Casinos properties in Las Vegas, in addition to the purchase of the Sam's Town Shreveport property from Harrah's Entertainment (NYSE:HET). Similarly, earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA) also more than doubled to $170 million. But it wasn't just acquisitions: Same-store revenues were up 3.2% over last year's first quarter, driving same-store EBITDA up an impressive 17.1%.

With that, earnings more than doubled to $0.64 per share on an adjusted basis, smashing the $0.52 per share analyst estimate.

The growth came across the range of Boyd's operations. The 50%-owned Borgata saw EBITDA increase by 42% to $40.1 million, while the Boulder Strip properties in the Las Vegas market gained 12.8%, and the Coast Casinos properties grew EBITDA by 29% to $68.2 million. Meanwhile, the Central Region, which includes the Sam's Town property in Shreveport, La., reported a 27% EBITDA increase, while the downtown Las Vegas properties improved EBITDA by 13.5%. Even the old Stardust property on the Vegas Strip got into the game with a 30% EBITDA gain to $7.1 million. (All figures represent the increase over the comparable period last year.)

So in the past couple of years, Boyd has made itself over from a pure value player into a company with a couple of premium assets (Borgata and Coast Casinos' The Orleans) and a collection of pieces in the right place (the Las Vegas properties) to go with a portfolio of value operations in the riverboat markets. In addition, the company has attractive growth opportunities with the upcoming addition of the South Coast casino to the Las Vegas locals market, the pending re-development of the Stardust, and expansion opportunities at its riverboat properties.

Boyd Gaming's transformation is remarkable. That said, in my opinion, the company still doesn't fit the bill for investment consideration, since the vast majority of the company's operations don't qualify as best players, and since the stock now carries premium value.

Fool contributor Jeff Hwang owns none of the companies mentioned above.