The journey for the gaming stocks has been smooth so far this year with performance indicators going up in most parts of the world. Notwithstanding the common macroeconomic hurdles, the gaming sector would continue its recovery trail this year thanks mainly to the casino boom in Macau and an improving Las Vegas market (read: Make the Ultimate Consumer Bet with the Gaming ETF).
Macau, one of the biggest gaming destinations in the world, is the only Chinese city where gambling is legal. After experiencing some weakness in the last three quarters of 2012, the business seems to have rebounded thanks to high rollers.
In fact, VIPs, who hardly added to the business last year, began spending more in casinos this year. In September gross revenue in Macau’s casino grew 21.4% braving a typhoon that thumped southern China at the month end.
Macau’s gaming demand is highly vulnerable to the domestic spending. As per Reuters, two-third of visitors comes from the Mainland China. We presume that a severe typhoon on September 22 that left Macau and Hong Kong in disarray lowered revenues in the month. However, analysts expect the month of October to garner considerable revenues thanks to a week-long national holiday.
Over the longer term, the Cotai Strip in Macau is going to be a major attraction for visitors. While Las Vegas Sands (LVS - Analyst Report) has already started operating in that area, Wynn Resorts (WYNN - Analyst Report) and MGM Resorts (MGM - Analyst Report) are likely to come online by 2016. In fact, one Chinese company SJM Holdings Ltd also won a land grant in October 2012 to build its first hotel-casino in the Cotai Strip as well.
Las Vegas Back on Track
The improved gaming scenario in Las Vegas thanks to the gradual recovery of the U.S. economy is a bright spot in the sector. Visits to the Las Vegas market remained strong, ensuring a speedy recovery from the damage from the recession five years ago.
Online gaming is another point of resurgence in the sector. Nevada was the first state to legalize online poker earlier this year, with New Jersey sanctioning the online gaming law in February. Reuters reported that analysts estimate online gambling to generate up to $1 billion annually in New Jersey and $50–$250 million in Nevada every year.
Also, Delaware's three casinos started the first phase of the state's online gambling operation in August.
Overall, this winning trend can be further validated by the latest earnings report from one of the sector bellwethers Las Vegas Sands.
Results in Focus
Las Vegas Sands earned $0.82 per share breezing past the Zacks Consensus Estimate by 9.3% as well as year-ago level by a whopping 78.3%. On the revenue front as well, the casino-operator pleased us. Its net revenue jumped 31.7% to $3.57 billion while beating the Consensus Estimate by 3.2%.
The company’s solid Macau business and growing Singapore as well as Las Vegas operations led to this massive beat.
Notably, Las Vegas Sands’ integrated resort properties and other assets in Macau are owned and operated by one of its majority-owned subsidiary – Sands China Ltd. Revenues leaped as much as 43% which gave the stocks record highs on October 18, after it reported.
Also, with the earnings release, Las Vegas Sands raised its quarterly dividend by 42.9% to $0.50 per share for 2014 thus bringing the annualized dividend to $2.00 per share.
Given this bullish trend in gaming arena, the related ETF is expected to forge ahead at least in the near term.
BJK in Focus
Both these companies – Sands China and Las Vegas Sands – have more than 17% exposure in Market Vectors Gaming ETF (BJK - ETF report) which provides investors a direct exposure to the casino gaming market.
The fund’s third component – Wynn Resorts – accounting for about 7% share, Wynn Resorts is also a huge beneficiary of the upturn in Macau and the U.S. market. Meanwhile, yet another constituent of BJK – MGM Resorts – also returned to profitability in the first quarter of this year making the fund worth a look.
The product is expensive as it charges 65 bps in fees per year which is on the higher end of the expense ratios prevailing in consumer discretionary ETFs (read: Is This ETF a Better Bet in the Consumer Space?).
The product has so far been overlooked by investors as evident from its paltry volume of about 16,000 shares daily. Lower volume might also increase the trading cost in the form of a wide bid/ask spread. The fund has so far attracted $61.4 million in assets this year.
Presently, the fund is hovering extremely close to its 52-week high of $51.79 per share. It added more than 51% so far in 2013. We believe there is scope for upside for the product, based on current supply-demand dynamics.
Not only BJK, another fund consumer discretionary ETF, PowerShares Dynamic Leisure & Entertainment Portfolio (PEJ - ETF report), also benefited from the exposure of WYNN and LVS. PEJ gained 48.8% in the year-to-date frame.
As such, most of its components have a favorable Zacks rank, with LVS and WYNN carrying Zacks Rank #2 (Buy) and MGM having a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold). In such a scenario, there is reason to be bullish on this gaming ETF, suggesting that the near future and the long-term path could be enticing for investors.
However, investors should note that the sector is vulnerable to various regulatory issues and slowdown in either the Chinese or American economies, though the trend is certainly strong right now in the space.
Want the latest recommendations from Zacks Investment Research? Today, you can download 7 Best Stocks for the Next 30 Days. Click to get this free report >>