The chief executive officers of Las Vegas Sands (NYSE:LVS), MGM Resorts International (NYSE:MGM) and Wynn Resorts (NASDAQ:WYNN) remain constructive on Macau despite lingering headwinds there caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
Sands CEO Rob Goldstein, MGM CEO Bill Hornbuckle and Wynn CEO Craig Billings made the remarks earlier in a wide-ranging interview with CNBC’s Contessa Brewer from the CNBC Evolve Global Summit. The companies are the three US-based Macau operators and combine to run nine integrated resorts there — five of which are controlled by Sands China.
The chief executives’ comments arrive as the world’s largest casino hub is in the midst of another temporary shutdown of its gaming venues due to China’s COVID-19 policy, prompting some analysts to speculate that the third quarter is likely a wash for concessionaires.
I find it funny that people question Macau’s return,” said Goldstein in the interview. “And it’s a tough time. You got to basically hunker down and wait for it to turn. But the idea it doesn’t turn is kind of hard to imagine it’s going to turn probably this year or next.”
MGM CEO Hornbuckle is similarly optimistic about the only Chinese territory where casino gaming is legal. His company controls about 56% of MGM China, which runs two Macau integrated resorts.
“Macao was seven, eight times Las Vegas in scale. I mean, okay? So it comes back half to begin with and then some and then some,” he said. “It’s the largest gaming market in the world bar none, and it will forever be.”
Billings, who assumed the top spot at Wynn in February, said his company used the COVID-19 crisis to reinvent itself.
“We spent much of the Covid period really just continuing to invest. Invest in our people, invest in our business, and that’s borne fruit,” he said in the CNBC interview. “And I think we see that every day both in our customer satisfaction surveys and in our numbers.”
The CEOs also discussed the possibility of a recession materializing in the US. Under such a scenario, MGM would be particularly vulnerable owing to its status as the largest Strip operator and its extensive regional portfolio. Wynn has three domestic venues while Sands, at least for now, doesn’t have any casinos in the states.
Recession concerns are amplified after the Labor Department said earlier today the Consumer Price Index (CPI) jumped 9.1% in June. That’s stoking speculation the next interest rate increase from the Federal Reserve could be 1%. While interest rate hikes may serve the end of damping inflation, those moves can also trigger economic contraction. Still, Hornbuckle is cautiously optimistic.
“Is there a recession around the corner? Time to tell,” he notes. “You wouldn’t know by looking at this place (Las Vegas) last night, or what we’ve experienced over the last couple of quarters. And I think about the environment we’re in today in employment and getting people to come to work.”
Wynn’s Billings highlights the company’s nimbleness as an advantage should a recession arrive.
“So I think that reflects within the team, whether we start talking about recession, or geopolitical events that are changing, you know, changing the demand profile — if that happens at some point. I think that that nimbleness particularly as we flexed it during Covid will pay dividends,” he told Brewer. “And so I really believe we are more wired as a company, particularly here in Las Vegas and in Boston than we ever have been.”
Sports Betting Impact
Among the three operators, MGM’s sports betting footprint is by far the largest owing to the dominance of its BetMGM unit while Wynn is in the middle and Las Vegas Sands has only recently waded into the internet gaming space with modest, passive investments in smaller companies.
Goldstein notes that the late Sheldon Adelson was opposed to online casinos, but somewhat softened that stance later in life. The Sands boss adds that due to the company’s concentration on Asia — a region that largely bars internet gaming — it’s not a major priority, but he’s not closing doors to the right opportunities.
“And if it’s profitable and we saw the right path, we would pursue it. I’m watching it. It’s fascinating to watch what Bill’s going through and Craig’s been through it and the people at Caesars,” said Goldstein. “And it’s fun to watch and see where it goes. I believe it will be very profitable in the long term but there’s some impediments to getting there.”
Wynn’s Billings says it’s encouraging that the online sports wagering industry is evolving from the acquiring-customers-at-any-cost model that was so pervasive in the early days and that there are attractive opportunities in the space for omnichannel operators.
“I think the industry is becoming increasingly more disciplined in terms of how they approach that, which is great, you know, for us to see. But that omnichannel relationship is important. And I really believe it’s a winner in the long run,” notes the Wynn boss.
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