Casinos are high-stakes environments with the odds in favor of the house, but gambling stocks represent calculated risks that can pay off big if you choose the right ones at the right time.
Below, we examine the three best stocks in the gambling sector. All three companies should experience fatter coffers in coming quarters, as consumers feel wealthier and more in a mood to travel and spend.
These stocks are poised to deliver strong upsides, if you can wait out the inevitable ups and downs. They should be a part of your long-term investing strategy. Let's take a look.WYNN data by YCharts
Spearheaded by Steve Wynn, Wynn Resorts boasts a portfolio of integrated resorts.
In Macau, it operates the Wynn Macau and Encore at the Wynn Macau resort. In Las Vegas, it runs the integrated Wynn Las Vegas and the Encore at the Las Vegas resort.
The stock's jaw dropping 59% price drop and the paltry dividends offered in 2015 have taken the wind out of its sails. The reasons behind the slump?
Critics have been worried about the Macau business and the upcoming $3.1 billion Wynn Palace integrated casino resort in the Cotai area (the second Macau property). The opening has been pushed to 2016, not a good sign. What's worse, the local government placed table caps on casinos, among other restrictive regulatory policies.
In the third quarter, revenues for the company took a sharp fall, spiraling to $996.3 million, compared to the $1.37 billion for the third quarter of 2014. Macau revenues and EBITDA margins were down to 60%.
The Las Vegas business, however, was flattish with a slight downward bias as table games and slot games weren't faring well but food, beverage and room sales maintained the usual numbers.
Analysts expect Wynn Resorts' earnings to recover next year with a projected earnings-per-share (EPS) growth of 60%, after the 23% drop this year. Trading at a forward earnings of 15 times, the stock shows all the signs of a revival.
Steve Wynn and his four decades of experience is why you can rely on Wynn Resorts to come right back, bigger and stronger.
2. Melco Crown Entertainment Limited (MPEL)
Melco Crown Entertainment Limited is an operator of casino gaming and entertainment resort facilities in Asia. Most of these are based out of Macau and Manila. Macau's gambling market is already almost eight times larger in size than Las Vegas.
Like Wynn Resorts, Melco, led by CEO Lawrence Ho (son of Macau gambling-industry legend Stanley Ho), has had a difficult year, with its Macau operations witnessing a rough patch.
The stock, as a result, has lost over a third of its value in 2015. However, it still trades at a forward earnings of nearly 23 times. Analysts suggest EPS this year is set to fall by 70% and should then rebound by 57% the next year, driven by a 20% pick-up in revenues. The fate of the recently opened $3.2 billion Hollywood-inspired Studio City resort is the key element in Melco's recovery story.
The company's also trying to manage its costs scenarios, with a strategy that would help prune expenditures by $50 million. That said, the bottom line for the Melco stock is the resurgence of its Macau arm, integral to the stock's gradual upward movement, driving the growth curve and reinforcing its premium valuation.
Las Vegas Sands Corp. has slightly better margins than its peers. The stock trades at 17-times forward earnings because its dividend pay-outs and share repurchases have delivered significant value to its shareholders -- nearly $600 million in the third quarter alone. Since the inception of the company's share repurchase program in June 2013, Sands Corp has returned $2.38 billion to shareholders through repurchases. Another $1.62 billion remains under current authorization.
EPS growth is estimated to plunge this year by about 28%, better than Wynn Resorts and Melco. However, there's no hint of a rebound in 2016 with a flat 1%-to-2% drop in EPS, as suggested by analysts.
Singapore and Las Vegas are holding up but the company's Macau business is again under a cloud. The company's global growth strategy is also robust and effective with an expected minimum of 20% return on total invested capital and 25%-to-35% of total project costs that will be funded with equity.
At a dividend yield of 5.3%, sustainability is the big question that Sands Corp needs to address. Operating free cash flows have so far held their ground; the company should soon resume its future trajectory.
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