The last year hasn't been very forgiving to investors. The broader S&P 500 index has fallen close to 13% in the past 12 months, with many individual stocks losing as much as 25% to 50% of their value. But not all stocks are hurting.

Casino-focused real estate investment trust (REIT) Vici Properties (VICI -1.05%) is up almost 15% in the past year. Its recent gains have led many investors to wonder if this dividend stock is a solid buy at today's prices or if it is a stock to steer clear of. Let's take a closer look and see.

A closer look at VICI Properties

Vici is a net lease REIT that specializes in buying and developing casino and gaming properties. Rather than operating the hotels and casinos themselves, the REIT leases them to big-name operators in the industry such as Caesars, MGM Resorts, and the Venetian, making its money from rents over the long-term lease periods. The tenants bear most of the operating costs in net-lease deals.

At the end of 2022, the company owned and leased 50 casino properties, the majority of which are located in the U.S. -- with a heavy concentration along the Las Vegas strip. Additionally, the REIT has a small portfolio of assets in Canada after its acquisition of PURE Canadian Gaming resorts in January. Its properties are centered around the casino industry, but the hotels and resorts have a diverse income stream from their restaurants, event and conference facilities, entertainment venues, and retail properties.

In 2022, Vici's revenue rose by 72%, and its adjusted funds from operations (AFFO) per share, a metric that works similarly to earnings per share, increased by nearly 62% from the year before. Much of its growth can be traded to its acquisition and mergers, including the purchase of the Venetian Resort Las Vegas  and acquisition of MGM Growth Properties. It also doesn't hurt that the casino industry is booming in the post-pandemic world.

Is Vici a buy right now?

Vici's focus on a niche industry has certainly helped it grow at a rapid clip, but it also means it has notable exposure to macroeconomic events, including a potential recession, or changing gaming regulations. A recession might hurt the casino and gaming industry more than some others as consumers cut leisure spending and travel.

The REIT's portfolio is 100% occupied, and 100% of its rents were collected last year, a testament to the health of this industry right now. But there's no guarantee it will stay that way. The REIT's debt ratios are slightly higher than the REIT industry average at 5.9 times its earnings before taxes, interest, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA). Which isn't a great spot to be in as recession worries increase.

The good news is that the company has no major debt maturities until 2024, and its dividend coverage ratio of 76% leaves it plenty of room to maintain its payouts for the foreseeable future.

VICI Dividend Yield Chart

Vici Dividend Yield data by YCharts

One of the most alluring things about this stock aside from its strong recent performance is its yield. The REIT's shares yield almost 5%, and it has raised its payout by 143% since its initial public offering in 2018. Despite its rapid growth during the past year, Vici is still trading at an attractive valuation of roughly 15 times its forward 2023 AFFO. 

The company realizes market saturation isn't far off for the North American gaming industry. So it plans to expand its core business into other nongaming experiential investment opportunities (things like wellness resorts) and international markets. This opportunity for growth could put the company ahead over the long term while also addressing its biggest risk: lack of diversification.

Investors who prefer to err on the side of caution and look for safety and reliability in their dividend stocks might be better off investing their money in a more diversified company for the time being. But for those who are willing to take on a slight risk to potentially benefit from big rewards in share price growth and high-dividend yields, Vici is a worthwhile buy today.