This Month in Gaming


The gaming world has been relatively quiet this month, but there may be some interesting changes brewing. Expansion in Asia is looking more and more likely by the day as countries look for new sources of revenue. But before we get to that, let's catch up on what's going on in Las Vegas and Macau.

Loathing in Las Vegas
The slow Las Vegas recovery has been a drag on most operators there and the news doesn't seem to be getting better. Total gaming win in Nevada dropped 6% in September and The Strip saw a 5.7% drop in gaming.

Despite rising room rates and more travelers arriving in Las Vegas, casinos can't seem to get them to gamble. MGM Resorts (NYS: MGM) , Las Vegas Sands (NYS: LVS) , and Wynn Resorts (NAS: WYNN) will have to rely on nongaming revenue to drive Las Vegas results for the foreseeable future.

The party rages on in Macau
China's only gaming market continues to perform better than I could have imagined. In November, gaming revenue grew 32.9%. The downside is the 32.9% growth rate was the slowest growth rate for the year, and eventually these incredible rates of growth are going to slow.

The thing to keep an eye on in 2012 is how traffic trends change with more casinos opening on Cotai. Last year, MGM and Wynn performed extremely well on the Macau Peninsula, growing revenue at 72% and 43%, respectively, in the third quarter. But Las Vegas Sands will begin opening Sands Cotai Central and Galaxy just opened Galaxy Macau, giving the area more critical mass. The Macau Peninsula has held up remarkably well, but I still think Cotai is the future.

Speaking of Galaxy, its new Cotai casino generated $306.6 million in revenue in the third quarter and $48.4 million in EBITDA.

Macau envy sets in
In the ever-expanding world of gaming, we have rumblings around the world about new potential casinos. And it was the actual rumbling of the earth that may force Japan into gaming. The earthquake and subsequent nuclear meltdown may have softened legislators to the potential of building a casino there. Sheldon Adelson, CEO of Las Vegas Sands, has long coveted a casino in Japan, and he may just get his wish.

One hundred fifty lawmakers are planning to introduce a bill that would allow companies to build integrated resorts, likely modeled after Singapore. Details like tax rates and the bidding process are short right now, but I would expect there to be a couple of giant developments, limiting the opportunity to a small number of major operators.

Casinos in Japan are a double-edged sword for other Asian operators. Obviously, Las Vegas Sands, Wynn, and even Melco Crown (NAS: MPEL) would jump at the chance to build a casino in Japan. But one of the great benefits of casinos in Macau and an extremely limited number in Singapore is that supply is constricted. Short supply means higher profits to pad investors' wallets.

U.S. expansion
We've seen this in the U.S. as gaming has expanded over the past two decades. Almost everyone in the country now lives within a few hours drive of a casino, eliminating some of the mystique of Las Vegas and Atlantic City.

And the gaming expansion in the U.S. doesn't appear to be stopping. Robert Kraft, owner of the New England Patriots, and Steve Wynn are trying to build a casino in Foxborough, Mass., next to Gillette Stadium. This goes along with a potential new casino in Miami.

None of this expansion should be welcomed by Boyd Gaming (NYS: BYD) , Penn National (NAS: PENN) , and Ameristar Casinos (NAS: ASCA) , which have had financial results hurt by ever-expanding gaming in the U.S.

A giant gamble
To close out this month in gambling, I thought I would mention a poker tournament that caught my eye. The World Series of Poker announced that it had received 22 commitments to play in a $1 million buy-in tournament that may end up being the biggest single payout ever. If another seven players throw their names in the ring, it would surpass the $12 million payout Jamie Gold got from the Main Event a few years ago.

Now that's a lot of dough.

Interested in reading more about gaming stocks? Add your favorites to My Watchlist, and My Watchlist will find all of our Foolish analysis on the stocks.

At the time thisarticle was published Fool contributorTravis Hoiumhas sold put options in Melco Crown. You can follow Travis on Twitter at@FlushDrawFool, check out hispersonal stock holdingsor follow his CAPS picks atTMFFlushDraw.Motley Fool newsletter serviceshave recommended buying shares of Ameristar Casinos. 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.

Copyright © 1995 - 2011 The Motley Fool, LLC. All rights reserved. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.