May seems to be a weak month in the East for gaming and we are hearing similar things across the country. Here are our notes from our 2 day trip.
Sands Bethlehem (5-24-2010)
- Table games should be up and running by mid-July. The state is looking to open 3 properties at a time over a 3-week period.
- The hotel is scheduled to open in May 2011 with 300 rooms. Think that the hotel will help them keep growing their business.
- Busing program:
- Focusing on busing Asian customers. Have 5 runs per day from Chinatown/Flushing and Port Authority NYC. Most of the busing is from PA and NJ.
- On busy days, they bring in 1,500-1,800 people and on slow days, they bring in 500-800 people.
- Customers pay for their own bus tickets (roughly $15/day from NY for example). The cost to Sands gives customers $30/day in free play and a $5 coupon for food.
- When tables go in, they can increase busing programs to Chinatown & Flushing to 15-20 tables per day.
- Pulling out most of the electronic tables when they go live with tables. Of the 28 tables they have now, they are only keeping 6 E-tables.
- Slots mix: IGT- 45%, BYI - 24%, WMS- 13%, Konami – 4%, ALL- 6.5%, Speilo/ Atronic less than 2%
- There are no participation games in PA, only leased games.
- 6% of Sands slots are leased.
- Have 780 employees at the facility and will add 400 more when tables games are added. 330 of the employee additions will be dealers.
- 50% of business is local.
- May could be their best month, primarily due to the ramp in their database. Tables 16% tax rate decreasing to 12% in 2 years.
- Sands may have the most incremental growth from the addition of table games in PA.
- Will be the closest casino with table games to NYC
- Big Chinese population in NYC
- Will offer a significant number of Baccarat tables
- Efficient busing from Chinatown and Flushing - the two Asian centers
PENN MGMT meeting notes: 5/24/2010
- Not building to get a mid-teen return, but rather to optimize returns as much as they can on each project.
- Columbus - will be a home run.
- Downtown vs westside. Westside supports the construction / downtown doesn't. Prefers new site - more suburban - can expand if there is capacity.
- Own Beal racetrack outside of Columbus - if slots at tracks get passed, they will try to move the license.
- Columbus should be the best ROI on their return.
- Think that Vegas will have underperformance for another 6-18 months of softness, so they may get another bite at the apple. They are following City Center very closely. Like Mirage for their customer base.
- Aqueduct came out with an RFP - they submitted questions and are waiting for answers. Bids are due at the end of July and decision will be made in August.
Harrah’s Chester 5-24-2010
- Struggling in May because of construction disruption to make room for tables and overall demand weakness. They are moving 2,200 games.
- How they deal with the AC vs. PA conflict:
- Don’t see a conflict-- view it as “Earn here, play there” mentality
- Get a lot of trip frequency in PA but less spend per visitor
- PA will have credit for the first time with the intro of table games.
- Think that they will get $75-$78mm of incremental table revenue. Think that the table margins are going to be a little higher then slots even after taking into account for the lower tax rate.
- With tables, Chester can get up to 20% margins.
- Will begin to seed their database with communication about table games in June and use their Philly/AC database to market to them.
- Will only keep 4 electronic table games or 20 out of 120 seats for now.
- Don’t need a hotel
- Racing business makes a couple hundred thousand
- Only have 100 or so leased games.
Tim Wilmont, CEO of PENN (5/25/2010)
- Iowa and WV are the only 2 states that have previously allowed tables to be added to slot-only facilities. On average, slot revenues increased 6-8% when that happened. Table games generated 10-15% of total revenues in competitive local markets.
- Cecil County: 1,500 VLTs, 95mm of capex, 1600 parking spots. Hollywood Perryville will be located 30 miles NE of Baltimore. The investment in Cecil is targeting an addressable population of 375k – however, until other facilities open, its addressable population will be more like 1MM - so the initial returns should be very good.
- Ohio: Thinks gaming will be a $2bn industry in Ohio; 33% tax rate; $50mm upfront fee per casino; $250mm min spend; 34k new jobs (19k construction 16k permanent jobs). $1bn of gaming revenues is currently generated by Ohio residents gambling in neighboring states.
- City of Columbus voted no on issue 3 so they had to move one of their sites. They decided it was easier to go to a new site that was cooperative then a contentious one. The facility will have 2,000 permanent employees.
- Toledo - hope to break ground in 3Q 2010. Area has 71% of the population of their Penn National Race Course (PA) location.
- Ohio Timeline:
- June 3: Deadline for enabling passing of gaming legislation
- Fall 2010: Effective date of legislation
- 4Q 2010/1Q2011: Appointment of a gaming commission
- 1Q2011: Licensing investigation
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Position: Long Germany (EWG); Short France (EWQ)
As part of our Q2 theme Sovereign Debt Dichotomy, we advised that one possible play on sovereign debt risk in Europe is to be paired off long Germany and short Spain. Our bullish thesis on Germany included a tighter fiscal balance sheet than many of its European peers, the advantage of a weaker Euro for an export-heavy economy, low inflation, and a stable rate of employment. While we’ve seen significant divergence in the underlying German and Spanish equity markets over the last weeks, including a spread as wide as 2000bps between the DAX and IBEX 35 on May 7th, the increasingly larger share of the ‘bill’ that Germany will bear for the Eurozone’s collective bailout is bearish for German capital markets (see chart 1 below).
Since our initial conference call on the dichotomy on 4/16 we’ve traded around Spain on the short side (we are current short France in our model portfolio) and recently have seen weakness in reported German fundamentals. Further, from a tactical position, our TAIL line of support for the DAX at 5,639 could soon be tested with a close today of 5,758.02, and our TREND line of support at 5,928 is already broken (chart 2).
Today, the GfK German Consumer Confidence survey for June fell to 3.5 from 3.7 in May (chart 3). Last week German PMI contracted; services fell to 53.7 in May from 55.2 in April and manufacturing dropped to 58.3 versus 61.5 in the previous month. Also, earlier last week, the ZEW economic sentiment survey, which forecasts for 6 months ahead, fell to 45.8 in May versus 53.0 in April.
While the German unemployment rate remains positive, declining in the latest reading to 7.8% (versus the Eurozone average of 10% and 20% in Spain) and is underpinned by the government’s successful part-time labor programs, contagion from European sovereign debt risk persist despite the $1Trillion European loan/debt buy-up facility issued on 5/9. Additionally, Germany’s unilateral ban on naked short selling on 5/25 is adding fuel to the fire and enhancing market volatility.
On the margin, the fundaments we’re following in Germany and the broader stock market suggest a downward reversion to the mean, especially as risk in Europe (and globally) is pushed further out. One area to look to for confirmation of this is the bond market (chart 4), where we’re starting to see German yields rise.
This morning, I’m the one getting squeezed. On the SPY short position I put on into yesterday’s close that is. That’s what we You Tuber’s of America call a mistake and that’s no one’s fault but my own.
When you make a short term mistake, the goal is to not immediately make another one. Over the immediate and intermediate term, compounding your mistakes gets easier if you don’t have a proactive risk management plan.
My plan in shorting the SPY yesterday was to short strength up to the two lines in the chart below:
- Immediate term TRADE line resistance = 1101
- Intermediate term TREND line resistance = 1144
While the long term TAIL line of support has held (1074), that doesn’t mean it can’t be broken. When markets that are broken on short and intermediate term price momentum rally to lower-highs on decelerating volume, the probability of long term support being broken increases.
Probability and scenario analysis needs to be measured dynamically if you want to have a shot at winning this game. I personally learn a lot more from my losses than I do from my wins. Today’s mistake is different than ones I’d make 3 and 5 years ago, in that time and mistakes help a man’s risk management model evolve.
If SPX 1074 breaks and VIX $26.19 holds, there will be a very high probability that we see 1048 in the SPX in the very near term. We shorted QQQQ on this morning’s opening market strength as well.
Keith R. McCullough
Chief Executive Officer
Sell side analysts not only follow stocks but their contrived – sorry I mean derived – price targets also seem to follow stock prices.
We’ve written a little about the shaky methodology and assumptions that have been used by the sell side recently to justify hotel stock valuations. The gaming sell side seems to be equally as momentum oriented. Maybe it’s a function of the 2008 stock market crash followed by a huge recovery. If it’s working, then stick with it, right?
The problem is who is paying the sell side for momentum calls? I never did. Anna never did. Keith never did. Adjusting price targets up or down following big stock moves to maintain a 25% spread to justify ratings does not seem to be much of a value-added service. Rather, the sell side should be about providing unique fundamental research and analysis.
Case in point, GS lowered its price target on MGM and took the stock off its Conviction Buy List today. MGM was added to the List in late April at roughly $14 after a monster move up. The removal today at $11.95 follows a 28% three week decline. The analyst’s price target was taken down from $17.50 to $14.00. Some investors have made a lot of money in a momentum oriented way. I’m fine with that but let’s call a spade a spade.
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