A U.S. Supreme Court ruling has opened the door for increased legal sports betting, and several contributors to MoneyShow.com are now placing wagers on which companies will benefit.
Here's a look at select gaming technology plays, an ETF, a media giant and two reviews for a well-positioned regional casino operator:
On May 14, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a decision that struck down a 25-year old law, which was known as the PASPA (the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act). That law largely outlawed sports betting anywhere in the country other than Nevada. It had been challenged in the courts by several states with the lead plaintiff being New Jersey. Now the Supreme Court has had the final say and the states have won.
As a result, any state that wants to allow betting on professional and college sports is free to do so. A number of them are planning to get started right away. A racetrack in New Jersey intends to have betting windows open as soon as possible. Mississippi and West Virginia are likely next, followed by New York and Illinois.
It's estimated that as many as 32 states will have legalized gambling over the next few years. Of these, 20 states have already introduced bills that would legalize sports betting.
This ruling is a big deal for the gambling industry. A number of companies saw share prices jump on the news and by the time you read this they will surely have moved higher. But this is an enormous market. Some estimates run as high as $150 billion in the illegal sports betting market that exists today.
In Nevada alone, gamblers spend $5 billion (figures in U.S. dollars) betting on football, both college and professional, along with basketball and other sports. Because this is likely to be a bonus for the states in terms of increased tax revenue, it is unlikely at this point that many will refuse the opportunity.
There's still a chance that Congress will act to establish some federal guidelines. In fact, some participants hope it will do so in order to smooth out the differences that will emerge by allowing a free for all state-by-state implementation.
However, whether Congress acts or not, it is entirely likely that legalized sports gambling is now a reality. Of course, there continues to be concern that this rollout of sports gambling will lead to corruption on a massive scale and result in athletes being ensnared in various forms of gambling scandals. Be that as it may, it's going to happen, and the question now is who is going to benefit and how can we profit from it.
Interestingly, two of the biggest movers were technology stocks. Scientific Games Corp. (SGMS) - Get Report and International Game Technology PLC (IGT) - Get Report , which is located in the United Kingdom, did very well.
These companies provide the technology platforms that will be popular as the sports betting projects take off. Scientific Games spiked 11% on the news whereas International Game Technology was up a more modest 3.1%.
These companies are interesting for different reasons. SGMS is more leveraged to the technology sector whereas IGT gives you some exposure to Europe, particularly Italy, in that they provide a number of business-to-consumer gaming products in that country.
Both companies are involved with state lottery systems, which should help them when they are proposing gaming solutions as the states begin to roll out these new programs.
Another technology stock that did very well after the announcement was Canadian-based The Stars Group Inc. (TSG) - Get Report . I don't closely follow this stock, but it appears to be well positioned to benefit from this new opportunity in that it offers a number of poker sites and sports betting programs known as Sports Book, which would seem to be a natural under this new regime. It bounced up over 9% when the news was released.
The easiest way to play this whole sector is through the VanEck Vectors Gaming ETF (BJK) - Get Report , which holds many of the securities mentioned. It is now trading at slightly below its all-time high. The units pay an annual dividend in December (it was $1.077 in 2017).
This ETF owns 45 gaming stocks, with Galaxy Entertainment Group (GXYEF) Las Vegas Sands (LVS) - Get Report , Caesars Entertainment (CZR) - Get Report and MGM Resorts (MGM) - Get Report among the top positions. It's an international fund, with about 42% of its assets in U.S. companies, 17.5% in China, 12.5% in Australia and the rest widely distributed. Return for the 12 months to the end of April was almost 22%. The expense ratio is on the high side for an ETF at 0.65%.
This fund should start to see fairly strong cash inflows as the impact of this Supreme Court decision becomes well known and more investors rush to get on board. Action now: Buy VanEck Vectors Gaming for broad exposure to the gaming sector.
The U.S. Supreme Court recently handed down a decision that, in effect, permits states to legalize sports betting. Prior to the decision, the state of Nevada had a virtual monopoly on legal sports betting in the U.S.
While the ruling was hailed as a big win for established casino and gaming companies, the ruling presents some interesting opportunities for media companies.
For example, at Disney (DIS) - Get Report , its ESPN broadcasting business represents a potential beneficiary. Indeed, it's not a stretch to see that down the road, individuals watching a particular sporting event on their TV would have the ability to place bets directly via the programming.
Also, gambling-related advertising could be a new revenue stream. Disney has shown the ability to monetize its brand and assets, and sports betting presents a number of intriguing ways to drive revenues for the company.
While Disney stock will likely remain under wraps until its takeover battle with Comcast (CMCSA) - Get Report is resolved, I like the company's long-term prospects. I would feel comfortable owning Disney, but patience will be required. Disney offers a direct-purchase plan whereby any investor may buy the first share and every share thereafter.
Gambling is a huge business, and it's about to get even bigger thanks to the recent Supreme Court decision. Yet not all gaming companies are created equal, and some are going to benefit from this court ruling more than others.
One gaming company particularly positioned to profit from the decision is Penn National Gaming, Inc. (PENN) - Get Report . The firm has a widespread portfolio of regional casinos and racetracks across North America, as it operates 29 facilities in the United States and Canada, many under the Hollywood Casino brand.
Technically speaking, the shares have just broken out to new highs, a move that we suspect will attract even more fast money going forward.
Given the newly favorable legal climate following the Supreme Court ruling, PENN's expansion via Pinnacle, as well as its positioning in the United States, likely will add big revenues from sports betting. Let's buy Penn National Gaming at market and set a protective stop at $28.15.
Industry insiders see several states moving quickly to open sports books within a few months. The prevailing wisdom is that this is terrific for Penn National Gaming (PENN) - Get Report , which is already the biggest domestic, non-Las Vegas gambling play out there. Including the soon-to-be-acquired assets of Pinnacle Entertainment, the company would have 41 properties in 20 jurisdictions, with a total of 53,500 slot machines, 1,300 tables and 8,300 hotel rooms.
The truth is Penn was doing just fine without the court ruling, but there's no question it offers huge upside-some believe Penn could grab around 10% of the estimated $2 billion to $6 billion sports gambling market by 2025, with that revenue being the icing on the cake of what's already a story of growth through steady and solid management.
The latest batch of data highlighting management's progress was the first quarter report on April 23; revenue of $816 million (up 5%) and EPS of $0.48 both beat expectations and top brass raised guidance.
The stock caught fire in March of last year and, other than a summer consolidation phase, rallied through the end of the year. The shares topped out around $33 in January, then slid back into the mid-$20s in February. That healthy retreat, and subsequent base-building phase, set the stage for a pop to $30 after first-quarter results came out in late-April.
Demand for shares remained elevated in the days after the earnings report, and the jolt from the ruling sent the stock to an all-time high. You could nibble here, though further retrenchment wouldn't surprise us.
(This column originally appeared on May 31 on Real Money, our premium site for active traders. Click here to get great columns like this from Jim Cramer and other writers even earlier in the trading day.)