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Howard Stutz

Gaming stocks continue rally in October

2 November 2007

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- Stock prices of the major casino companies and slot machine makers continued their upward trend in October, based on investors expectations of Macau casinos generating profits and potential expansion into new domestic markets.

An index that charts the financial performances of nine gaming companies hit another record in the month. Meanwhile, the average daily share prices of five of the companies had double-digit increases comparing October with September.

"Investors are seeing opportunity," said Brian Gordon, a partner in Las Vegas-based Applied Analysis, a financial consulting firm that authors the Gaming Index. In October, the index hit 667.09.

Las Vegas Sands Corp., which operates the Venetian, two casinos in Macau, and is opening $1.8 billion Palazzo in December, has seen its average daily stock price climb more than 81 percent from October 2006. Last month, shares of Las Vegas Sands traded on average at $134.50 daily on the New York Stock Exchange.

With a market capitalization of $50 billion, Gordon said Las Vegas Sands often drives the performance of the Gaming Index. Interest in Macau, where the company is spending upwards of $12 billion to develop nearly a dozen hotel-casinos on the Cotai Strip, continues to intrigue investors. In August, Las Vegas Sands opened the $2.4 billion Venetian Macau.

"The expectations on Macau remain strong as the new supply is absorbed," Gordon said.

Deutsche Bank gaming analyst Bill Lerner said Wednesday a media outlet in Macau reported that gaming revenue in the Chinese enclave increased 54 percent in October and its up 50 percent over 2006.

Lerner said visitation to Macau, where Wynn Resorts operates the Wynn Macau and MGM Mirage is opening the $1.25 billion MGM Grand Macau in December, is up almost 30 percent.

"Historically, the initial gaming revenue numbers have been close to actual results reported by the government, usually released about a month later," Lerner said in a note to investors. "September represented the first full month of Venetian Macau, which generated a reported 2.5 million visitors since opening through mid-October."

During October, shares of Wynn Macau averaged $157.46, almost 12 percent higher than September. The figure includes a two-day price drop of more than $11 Tuesday and Wednesday. Shares of MGM Mirage, traded up 11 percent during October.

Gordon said MGM Mirage's joint venture deals with the investment arm of government of Dubai, the announcement the company would build a $5 billion resort in Atlantic City, and several other deals helped spur investors' interest in the company.

"MGM Mirage's deals provide a view of the company's long-term expansion plans in Las Vegas," Gordon said.

Slot makers are generating interest from investors thanks to increased speculation over the past few months about gaming expansion into Maryland, Massachusetts, and other states.

WMS Industries and Bally Technologies, two slot machines builders who were challenged financially a year ago, have rebounded. Both posted double-digit increases in their average daily stock prices in October and are far ahead of their stock prices from a year ago.

Bally Technologies averaged $38.32 a share in October, 105.9 percent higher than October 2006.

WMS shares traded on average at $34.08 during the month, 63 percent higher than a year ago.