Viva Lost Wages: 8 Casino Stocks That Are on a Roll
"The casino and gaming business may be poised for a high-rolling 2012, thanks to signals both domestically and abroad that may bode well long term for the sub-industry," in particular, Asia's gambling appetite, said S&P Capital IQ, in a research note.
The Standard & Poor's composite casinos and gaming index is up 12% this year, versus the S&P 500's 10% gain.
Most big casino companies are diversified, with hotel and resort components to go along with their various betting games. And, increasingly, they've come to rely on Asia, and in particularly Chinese bettors to fuel most of their growth, which is why they've been building new resorts there.
"The Chinese gambling market, which is limited to the tiny region of Macau, grew over 32% annually in the last five years, driven by a steady increase in China consumer spending and the ascent of tens of millions of consumers into the middle and upper classes," writes Morningstar casino industry analyst Chad Mollman. "We do not expect a major slowdown in growth, as market penetration for gaming in China is low relative to more developed markets, and as discretionary spending is less than 8% of income in China, compared to approximately 15% in the U.S. In addition, we expect major infrastructure investments to provide a growth tailwind. We currently project that the Macau gaming market will grow at an 18% (compound annual growth rate) the next five years."
Macau's gaming revenues rose 42% in 2011, according to its own government's statistics. It is now estimated to be a $23 billion business.
Standard & Poor's said that "despite fears of a hard landing in China, we think Macau gaming revenue growth will stay healthy in 2012. In February, Macau gaming revenue jumped over 22% on a difficult comparison (with the prior year)."
Esther Kwon, an S&P Capital IQ equity analyst, reported that the professional-services firm PricewaterhouseCoopers said that "Macau is set to become the world's biggest gaming market in 2013 and it expects Macau to almost double its revenues over the next five years, accounting for about a third of total global casino earnings."
Morningstar's Mollman says Wynn "has positioned itself as the premier luxury brand in the casino market in China, providing the company with the highest-spending gamblers and resort customers, who pay the highest room rates and bet the most per hand in the industry."
While Las Vegas Sands has a different approach. "It possesses one of only two casino licenses in Singapore and one of six licenses in China," says Morningstar's Mollman. "The company is focused on mass market customers in Asia, a market that has higher margins, lower volatility in results, and better growth prospects than the VIP (high-roller) market."