High-end hotel/casino operators Wynn Resorts (NASDAQ:WYNN) and Las Vegas Sands (NYSE:LVS) reported second-quarter earnings Tuesday and Wednesday afternoons, respectively. Both companies revealed disappointing bottom-line results in Las Vegas as gamblers were a little luckier than normal, and both companies were hurt by high operating expenses. Otherwise, the demand side of the equation at the Las Vegas Strip properties remained favorable.

On the other side of the world, the exploding Macau gaming market continues to blow investors away. Las Vegas Sands' Sands Macau delivered impressive results in the second quarter, while the upcoming opening of Wynn Macau in September has many investors' mouths watering.

Macau buoys Las Vegas Sands
For the second quarter, Las Vegas Sands saw revenues increase 30%, helping adjusted property EBITDAR (operating income before depreciation and amortization, preopening expense, development expense, gain on disposal of assets, stock-based compensation, rental expense, and corporate expense) climb 18.9% to $180.1 million. Meanwhile, adjusted net income rose 27% to $121.3 million or $0.34 per diluted share, meeting the analyst estimate.

The star in the quarter was the Sands Macao ("Macao" and "Macau" are synonymous). Casino revenues at Sands Macao jumped 52.7% to $307.1 million, while adjusted property EBITDAR rose 44.3% to $116.9 million. Impressively, despite the fact that table capacity in the Macao market had increased 59% year over year and table capacity at Sands Macao itself had increased by almost 30% from expansion, Sands Macao still managed to show an increase in win per table per day. By comparison, win per day per table in the overall Macau gaming market declined by 28%.

The property is set for another expansion next month, which will leave the casino with over 700 table games and 1,200 slot machines.

Performance at The Venetian in Las Vegas, however, disappointed, as EBITDAR at the property dropped 10.3% to $63.2 million primarily because of a few factors. The first is that the table games' hold percentage (the percentage of the player buy-in the casino keeps as revenue) slipped to 17.6% from 18.6% in the same quarter last year, and both figures are well below the company's expected range of 20% to 22%. Based on normalized hold percentage of 21%, the impact on EBITDA was $5.2 million. In addition, stock option expense (not accounted for in the previous year's results), a rise in headcount related to non-gaming amenities, and "a spike in high dollar medical claims" hurt results.

The table games drop at The Venetian inched up only $1 million to $254.2 million, likely because of the high-end competition from Wynn Las Vegas next door, which opened last April. Combined with the lower hold percentage, casino revenues actually fell $2.7 million to $71.3 million.

Otherwise, business in Las Vegas was booming. While the new poker room was a drag on both margins and earnings, and the addition of 450,000 square feet of meeting space opened somewhat prematurely to accommodate heightened convention demand (it was slated to open along with the company's second Las Vegas property next year), the additional traffic and other non-gaming amenities helped food and beverage revenues at The Venetian jump 26.6% to $35.2 million, and retail and other operating revenues climb 23.6% to $28.3 million.

Hotel revenues increased 6% to $88 million on a 5.7% increase in RevPAR (revenue per available room), as both the average daily rate (ADR) and occupancy rate were up. The occupancy rate was a ridiculous 99.5% for the quarter, though down slightly from an even more absurd 99.9% occupancy rate in the first quarter.

Low hold drags Wynn Resorts
Tuesday afternoon, Wynn Resorts posted net revenues of $273.4 million and adjusted EBITDA of $73.2 million in the first full second quarter of operations at Wynn Las Vegas (the property opened in April 2005). EBITDA was impacted by an estimated $5 million to $7 million for the quarter, as gamblers got particularly lucky in the month of June, after being relatively unlucky in April and May. Overall, the casino's hold percentage (the percentage of player buy-ins the casino keeps as revenue) for the quarter was 19.8%, toward the low end of the property's expected 19% to 22% for the quarter.

For the quarter, the company posted a disappointing adjusted net loss (excluding certain items) of $0.05 per share, compared to the analyst estimate calling for an adjusted net profit of $0.05 per share.

Still, non-gaming revenues rose 2.4% sequentially to $196.3 million, while RevPAR (revenue per available room) remained impressive at $280 -- up from $279 in the first quarter -- based on an ADR of $293 and occupancy of 95.7%. The net revenue figure actually came in ahead of expectations as well. That said, the disappointing profit doesn't appear to be for any lack of demand.

And for the third quarter, investors have a second casino to look forward to. The $1.2 billion Wynn Macau project will open in two phases, the first of which will open September 5, 2006. The first phase will feature 600 hotel rooms, along with 210 table games and 380 slot machines over roughly 100,000 square feet of gaming space, retail space, meeting space, a spa, a salon, and entertainment lounges. The second phase will open by the end of 2007 (and perhaps well before), with plans for an additional 135,000 square feet of gaming space, other attractions, and one super attraction which apparently will be like that which the industry has never seen (or something along those lines) -- like the volcano, pirate ship, and dancing fountains at MGM Mirage's (NYSE:MGM) The Mirage, Treasure Island, and Bellagio, respectively.

Most of the project will be funded by the $900 million sub-concession that Wynn sold to Australia's PBL in a deal announced in March.

Final thoughts
Despite the disappointing profit figures in Las Vegas, I think the non-gaming growth shows that overall demand is still on the rise at The Venetian. Meanwhile, Wynn Las Vegas appears to be gaining steam as well. Moreover, Macau gives investors in both companies a lot to look forward to in the current third quarter and beyond.

Both companies have obviously bright futures. However, from an investment standpoint, the value of both companies is based mostly on operations that don't yet exist. And when other top players such as Harrah's Entertainment (NYSE:HET), Station Casinos (NYSE:STN), and Motley Fool Hidden Gems selection Ameristar Casinos (NASDAQ:ASCA) are trading at fairly attractive prices backed substantially by existing operations, I don't think there is any question that the risk/reward ratio is squarely in favor of the latter three companies.

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Fool contributor Jeff Hwang owns shares of Ameristar Casinos. The Fool has an ironclad disclosure policy.