Vice, Depravity, and a Few Good Stocks

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Ah, gambling. Catering to that fundamental human need to take chances, to roll the dice, both literally and figuratively. Where there's gambling, there's money. Where there's excess money, there's excess gambling. And there are few places on earth today where there's as much excess money as in China. That money is being spent in the publicly held casinos of Macau, and Foolish investors should take a look at the action.

Have your cake, eat it, and then pretend you didn't
One of today's great economic dichotomies exists in China. While it still employs a command economy in the classic communist style, it's also a capitalist powerhouse that wants to sell goods and make money like the rest of the world.

Macau is a microcosm of this phenomenon, and is the only place in the country where the prudish-when-it-suits-it Chinese government allows gambling.

The Monte Carlo of Asia
Gambling was legalized in Macau in the 1850s, when it was still a Portuguese colony. The island has since become China's gambling mecca. Visitors are primarily Chinese nationals from around the mainland, as well as from nearby filthy-rich Hong Kong.

Macau is also a worldwide gaming destination, and in the global casino space it's where the action is. It's the biggest operation in the world in terms of total-gaming revenue, having knocked Las Vegas from the top spot in 2007. And it's where the biggest gaming companies are making their biggest money.

Wynning big in Macau
Wynn Resorts (NAS: WYNN) is a major player in both Las Vegas and Macau, but Macau is Wynn's growth driver. For second quarter 2011, total revenue was up an exceedingly healthy $334 million, or 32%. Wynn Macau saw a 37% boost in revenue.

Net income was $122 million, or $0.97 per share, up a staggering 133% from the same quarter last year. More widely followed in the industry, adjusted-property EBITDA was $447 million, an unholy 58.9% more than last year.

Who needs Nevada?
Las Vegas Sands (NYS: LVS) is another big player in Macau. For the second quarter, revenue was up a record $760 million, with much of that coming from Macau. (Singapore also drove revenue and cash flow.) Net income for the company was $367.6 million, or $0.45 per share, compared to a loss last year. Adjusted-property EBITDA was $901.6 million, for a more-than-comfy EBITDA margin of 38.4%.

The other big player on Macau, Melco Crown Entertainment (NAS: MPEL) , hasn't reported second-quarter earnings yet, but if Wynn's and Las Vegas Sands' earnings are any indication, it should have gangbuster revenue growth to chalk up to Macau as well.

Place your bets, Fools
Sin. Iniquity. Ungodliness. Whatever you call it, vice is reliable. And as long as Macau remains open for business and China continues to boom, so will any gaming stocks that have an operation there.

A judge friend of mine is fond of saying, "When in doubt, follow the money." He didn't intend it as stock advice, but I think it applies perfectly here.

At the time this article was published Fool contributorJohn Grgurichgambles with his life every day driving to and from work on the Washington, DC, beltway, but doesn't own shares of any of the companies mentioned in this article.Motley Fool newsletter servicesformerly recommended Melco Crown Entertainment. Try any of our Foolish newsletter servicesfree for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe thatconsidering a diverse range of insightsmakes us better investors. The Motley Fool has adisclosure policy.

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