Yesterday, we discussed how virtually every casino operator in the game has been posting record results quarter after quarter after quarter. But there has been another underlying theme this current earnings season: While these companies are still setting records and showing impressive growth, they are no longer blowing away expectations. And not only that, but many of the top names in the business are also merely meeting analyst estimates, or even missing expectations entirely.

The thing is, with the success that casino operators have been having, stock prices and expectations are at an all-time high. It is a little difficult to blow away an earnings estimate when you are expected to blow it away. As such, MGM Mirage (NYSE:MGM) is the hero of the bunch, beating the analyst estimate by a couple of pennies. Las VegasSands (NYSE:LVS) beat by a penny, while Wynn Resorts (NASDAQ:WYNN) managed to only meet the analyst estimate.

But then Wednesday afternoon, regional player Ameristar Casinos (NASDAQ:ASCA) posted earnings that missed the analyst estimate by a penny and then forecast third-quarter earnings that were also a penny or two (or three) short of estimates. And Harrah's Entertainment (NYSE:HET) -- the casino giant that owns the World Series of Poker currently being shown on Disney's (NYSE:DIS) ESPN -- missed estimates by three cents.

As a result, Ameristar shares traded down 10.8% to $26.43 Thursday, and Harrah's shares dropped 3.9% to $75.50.

Casino Operator Q2 Earnings


Estimated EPS*

Actual EPS**

MGM Mirage



Las Vegas Sands



Boyd Gaming



Penn National



Wynn Resorts



Ameristar Casinos



Harrah's Entertainment



*Analyst Estimate
**Adjusted EPS

But really, who cares?

Beating quarterly estimates and being a Wall Street champion is not the litmus test for a winning stock. Ameristar, for example, has been anything but a Wall Street darling -- the company has missed estimates and guided lower twice over the past two years since I did a six-page write up on the company in March 2003. Yet the stock has clearly been a winner: Despite yesterday's 10.8% haircut, the stock is still up 388% from its split-adjusted stock price of $5.42 per share since March 26, 2003.

The day after Ameristar disappointed on earnings in Oct. 2003 (see Ameristar Gets Cheap), the stock dropped 17% to a split-adjusted $10.59 per share. Since then, the stock is up 150%. And the day after the company disappointed in July 2004 (see Sizing Up Ameristar and Ameristar: Time to Buy?), the stock dropped 16% to a split-adjusted $12.83 per share; the stock is up 106% since.

Ameristar Casinos Missed Twice


Stock Price Then*

Stock Price Now

Gain Since













*Adjusted for 2-for-1 stock split

The difference between then and now is that the stock was cheap then. At its current price, I believe Ameristar is fully valued and is a hold for the time being.

But the bottom line here: Don't waste your time or energy throwing fits over whether your company missed earnings this quarter or that quarter. Instead, focus on quality, value, and the long term.

Fool contributor Jeff Hwang owns shares of Ameristar Casinos.