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Gaming index reveals industry still suffering

2 July 2009

LAS VEGAS, Nevada –- Two months after picking themselves up off the floor, stocks in gambling-related companies are losing steam again.

On Tuesday, Applied Analysis of Las Vegas reported stocks in its monthly gaming index lost 2.9 percent of their value in June, the first decline since March.

"The V-shaped recovery is off the table," Rich Moriarty of Union Gaming Group said, describing stock market charts. "I think even the U-shaped recovery is off the table at this point."

The June index of 10 gambling companies fell 7 points to 233.03. The index hit 667.09 in October 2007 and fell as low as 189.50 in March.

"The worst is over, but we're certainly not out of the woods yet," Moriarty said of gambling stock values.

The stock index covers major Las Vegas companies such as MGM Mirage, Wynn Resorts Ltd., Boyd Gaming Corp. and Las Vegas Sands Corp. and is important because stock values can dictate how much money the companies can access to invest in their businesses.

With visitation to Las Vegas declining and room inventory increasing, the law of supply and demand is working against companies' desires to push up room rates.

Consumer confidence, although not at the lows seen early this year when it appeared several major banks were on the verge of collapse, fell slightly in June just like the gambling stocks, an indication that consumers are less likely to spend on luxuries like Las Vegas vacations.

"Home prices and employment, in my opinion, matter more than anything else," Moriarty said.

The index itself showed a disconnect between values for casino operators and gambling equipment manufacturers, with operators faring worse.

Casino operators' collective stock value fell 10.2 percentage points and manufacturers' increased 3.2 points.

Analyst Brian Gordon of Applied Analysis, who compiled the index, said investors might be betting manufacturers will benefit from governments approving new gambling jurisdictions to generate taxes and alleviate budget problems.

According to a recent analysis by Bank of America and Merrill Lynch, there are 12 gambling proposals in 11 states that could be good for manufacturers.

Combined, the proposals, if fully implemented, could result in demand for 173,000 new gambling devices in 2010 and beyond, which would bode well for manufacturers.

On the index, International Game Technology, up 8.4 percent on the month to $16.23 per share, and Bally Technologies, up 6.3 percent to $28.57, were the only stocks that increased in June.

Two of the three biggest falling stocks belonged to Las Vegas-dependent companies MGM Mirage and Boyd.

MGM Mirage stock fell 25.4 percent to a $6.91 average price in June. Boyd Gaming fell 13.6 percent to $9.08.

Shares of Pinnacle Entertainment, with casinos in Indiana, Louisiana and Reno, among other locales, lost 10.1 percent in June, falling to $10.64.

Moriarty and Gordon said managing casinos will continue to be a challenge as long as consumers are hoarding cash and in fear for their jobs.

"From an operator's perspective, the depth and breadth of the national recession is continuing to impact investor expectations," Gordon said.