Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Recovery Is Here? Goldman Sachs Turns Bullish on MGM Mirage As 12/09 Casino Winnings Rise

I guess today is the day to toss out the doom & gloom! Look at the big news today!

Nevada casinos' gambling revenue in November rose for the first time in nearly two years, as casinos won nearly $873.2 million from bettors, state regulators said Tuesday.

Revenues this fiscal year, from July through November, were down 7.9 percent from a year earlier.

State revenues collected in December based on the winnings topped $57 million, up 28.3 percent from $44.4 million in December 2008. Taxes paid on casino winnings account for about 30 percent of the state general fund. [...]

More than half of the November 2009 revenues came from the Las Vegas Strip, where casinos won $473.8 million, up 8.3 percent compared with November 2008. The Strip is down 5.5 percent for the fiscal year through November, gambling regulators said.

And hey, that's not the only good news for today...

November marked the third consecutive year-over-year increase in monthly visitation, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority announced today.

More than 2.9 million people visited Las Vegas during November 2009, an increase of 2.9 percent from November 2008.

Hotel occupancy fell 0.8 percentage points compared to last November, the smallest year-over-year decline since January 2008, the LVCVA said in its monthly report. Citywide occupancy was at 79.2 percent in November 2009 compared to 78.4 percent during the same period last year.

November also brought a year-over-year increase in weekend occupancy for the fourth time in 2009, according to the LVCVA.

Oh, and this news couldn't have come at a better time for MGM Mirage!

Shares of MGM Mirage climbed in premarket trading Tuesday after an analyst upgraded the casino operator, saying its fortunes could be poised to improve if an early recovery in Las Vegas' economy continues.

Goldman Sachs analyst Steven Kent told investors in a research note that he was boosting his investment rating on the company to "Buy" from "Neutral," and that its shares have fallen to a point where investors could reap a tidy profit if the company's earnings begin to recover.

"Our expectation (is) that Las Vegas trends will start to get 'less bad' over the next several quarters," Kent wrote in a research note. Corporate finance activities could prompt a relief rally for the shares, as balance sheet issues lessen, he said. [...]

"For the long term, we believe in Vegas and its ability to transform itself and attract more customers," Kent said.

So is everything looking up from here? Apparently.

But is all the bad news over yet? Not so fast. Room rates are still hovering under $93 per night, and total spending is still down.

But at the very least, more signs are finally appearing and telling us that the worst is over and recovery is arriving. This is the third month in a row with year-over-year gains in tourist volume, and this is the first time since 2007 that Nevada casino winnings have actually seen year-over-year gains. Also remember that this is for November 2009... Before CityCenter opened!

And now with Wall Street giant Goldman Sachs betting on MGM Mirage's and Las Vegas' overall success, it's no longer looking so "crazy" to invest in Southern Nevada's future.

And btw, I bet Harry Reid is also breathing a sigh of relief over these new numbers. This also couldn't have come at a better time when the "nothingness scandal" needs to drop off the radar and Nevadans want to see results on the economy.

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