Thursday, January 14, 2010

Lucky Levers of Profit

By Eric Jackson

RealMoney Contributor

1/14/2010 1:48 PM EST

Click here for more stories by Eric Jackson

Instead of rolling the dice with casinos, pull the lever at the slots.

The gaming industry is facing long odds these days: a slow recovery after a brutal recession, cash-strapped consumers and expense-shy businesses. Some of the bigger players, such as Las Vegas Sands (LVS - commentary - Trade Now) and MGM Mirage (MGM - commentary - Trade Now), have placed big bets on growth in Asia's gambling Mecca, Macau -- but carry huge debts. Smaller outfits such as Boyd Gaming (BYD - commentary - Trade Now) are focused on Las Vegas and other smaller locales at home, with the attendant limits of potentially disappointing results if consumers stay cautious.

There are hints of a turnaround, but a shaky one. Nevada's recent November gaming numbers told that conflicted story well. Gaming revenues were up for the first time in nearly two years, yet room rates fell. It's good to know the people who came were big spenders, but bigger volumes would mean more dependable levels of cash flowing through. And that's the conundrum for investors in casino stocks in 2010: sector stocks could double if the recovery keeps rolling, or they could half if it turns up snake eyes.

Gaming is a niche sector with sub-niche players, and the slot companies offer investors another angle of play, one I believe deserves a closer look. The slot suppliers have two trends working for them in 2010: orders for upgrades from existing casinos and growing demand from state and local governments.

The Contenders

[This post is an excerpt of the full article, available by clicking here to go to Note: subscription required.]

Sphere: Related Content
blog comments powered by Disqus