Sands Shares On a Roll

Updated from 10:29 a.m. EST

Talk about jackpots.

Las Vegas Sands Corp. ( LVS) shares jumped 65% on their first day of trading in very heavy volume.

Shares were up $18.80 to $47.80 from the initial public offering price of $29 a share. Some 21.4 million shares changed hands. The IPO price was well above the $24-to-$26 price target set last week, which was in turn higher than an earlier range of $20 to $22 a share. The offering of 23.81 million shares raised $690.5 million.

Investors are betting Las Vegas Sands shares will benefit from a continuation of the good fortunes that have driven other casino stocks higher. Strong Las Vegas business has helped lift the Dow Jones Casinos Index more than 25% year to date. By comparison, the S&P 500 is up about 7%, and the Dow Jones Industrial Average has gained only about 1%.

Las Vegas Sands' properties include the Venetian Casino Resort on the Las Vegas Strip, which features gondola rides and a replica of Venice's St. Mark's Square, and the Sands Expo and Convention Center, a 1.15 million-square-foot convention and trade show complex.

With its big Las Vegas properties, the company competes with MGM Mirage ( MGG), which is working to close its acquisition of Mandalay Resort Group ( MBG), and Harrah's Entertainment ( HET), which is in the process of acquiring Caesars Entertainment ( CZR).

But the company's Sands Macao Casino and its plans to build a Macao version of The Venetian also position it to benefit from torrid economic growth in Asia. A former Portuguese colony, Macao is the only area in China that permits casino gambling.

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