Gaming Update: Wynn Set for Boston Opening and Why Penn Looks Dirt Cheap

A lot has been going on with Wynn Resorts (WYNN) since my last post about six months ago so I figured it was time for an update. In addition, I recently significantly increased long holdings in regional gaming operator Penn National (PENN) and will share some brief thoughts there.

Shares of WYNN have continued in seesaw fashion, as the Massachusetts Gaming authorities held hearings to determine if it would allow the company to keep its gaming license in the state and open its Encore Boston Harbor property on schedule this summer. After a lot of tough talk, WYNN was fined $35 million for how it handled its former CEO amid inexcusable behavior, but got the green light for the Boston resort, and the stock has firmed up with the uncertainty cleared up.

It will take some time before we know exactly how profitable the new property will be, but I have been sticking with my $2 billion EBITDA target for 2020 throughout my holding period, and there is no reason to think that figure will be materially off base at this point.

If we apply an EV/EBITDA multiple of between 12x and 13x on that cash flow number, fair value for WYNN shares would be in the $155-$175 range, compared with the current price in the 130’s. On a free cash flow basis, a 15-18x multiple on my $1.1 billion estimate (once Boston has stabilized), gets us to a fair value range of $154-$185 per share.

As a result, the stock is still well priced for longs, but given that it moves up and down a lot quite quickly, there could be an exit point approaching near the bottom end of that range if one can find other opportunities with even more upside.

On that front, I really like shares of Penn National Gaming and have been buying a lot more at $18 and change this week. PENN is the nation’s leading operator of regional casinos, with more than 40 properties in nearly 20 states. Competition is typically intense, as jurisdictions often grant additional licenses in order to try and maximize tax revenue, but PENN has proven to be as solid an operator as they come, and does not shy away from accretive M&A deals when given the chance.

PENN shares have been cut in half from their 52-week highs despite a highly accretive merger with one of its largest peers (Pinnacle), and continued single property acquisitions – such as Greektown in Detroit.

The stock has been crushed lately and in the high teens fetches an EV/EBITDA multiple in the mid 6’s. The free cash flow multiple is even more extreme at sub-6 times. With sports betting now legal, the company should benefit over the long term, as more and more states pave the way for taking bets. While the margins on betting won’t be huge (the house takes a 10% cut and then gives a nice chunk to the state via taxes), it should be an incremental positive, and ancillary revenue such as food/beverage and hotel stays should get a nice bump as well.

Regional gaming assets typically fetch around 8x EV/EBITDA in private transactions and I see no reason a diversified operator like PENN, with a long track record of impressive capital allocation on behalf of shareholders, should not trade at a similar multiple, if not a slight premium. The market does not agree at the moment, but there is a great chance that at some point in the next couple of years that sentiment will change.

If we assume further deleveraging in 2019 and into 2020, my financial model shows a per-share fair value as high as $30 per share, assuming a valuation of 8x EV/EBITDA and a net leverage ratio of 2.5x excluding lease obligations.

3 thoughts on “Gaming Update: Wynn Set for Boston Opening and Why Penn Looks Dirt Cheap”

  1. WYNN fell after US increased tariffs on Friday and again today when China did the same.

    What would be a logical explanation between tariffs on physical goods shipped in either direction and stock value of a gambling company that doesn’t ship anything in and out of either country?

    1. There is no obvious strong direct link. The best one could do would be to argue that if economic growth slows by 0.5-1.0% of GDP, that will impact spending in general, gaming and entertainment included. The better short-term explanation is that since WYNN gets more than half of their EBITDA from Macau, the computer algos have labeled it a “China stock” and so it is included in the China basket that the computers sell viciously based on news headlines.

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